Bowflex Adjustable Dumbbells Review – Garage Gym Builder
Since 1986, Bowflex has created innovative fitness equipment, forever tweaking their products to make them more functional and user-friendly. In the early 2000s, riding on the success of their multigym units, Bowflex turned its focus to the seemingly unchangeable dumbbell, a mainstay of resistance workouts for centuries. For recreational lifters, that means a single unit that can replace a full rack or more of plates, handles, and collars, freeing up valuable real estate in your basement or garage weight cave.
Bowflex didn’t create the first selectorized dumbbell- PowerBlock did–but Bowflex made theirs even more convenient and versatile, igniting a competition that runs on to this day. That competition has led to more and more features that benefit all of us who pursue a fitness lifestyle.
The main thing Bowflex did this was to introduce their patented SelectTech dial adjustment system. It is a dumbbell handle which has removable plates on each end. The unit sits on a plastic base and features a dial mechanism that lets you select your desired working weight. Once you dial in, the plates that add up to that resistance click into the handle and you can start lifting.
Bowflex selectorized dumbbells proved to be a real breakthrough for the home fitness enthusiast. They enabled everyone to get a full weight training rig at a much lower price, one that is easy to set up, transport, and adjust on the fly.
A quick word on terminology: we use the word selectorized, not adjustable when talking about Bowflex dumbbells. That’s because all dumbbells, other than fixed one-piece units, are adjustable. You can add or remove weight as much as you like. But only Bowflex, Powerblock, and a few others manufacture dumbbells that let you select the resistance with a turn of a dial. It is an important distinction, so we will be consistent in order to cut down on confusion.
The most popular Bowflex adjustable dumbbells are the SelectTech 552s, which give you a resistance range of between 5 and 52.5 pounds. With our research and analysis, we did the heavy lifting on the 552 specs, features, pros and cons, and other bottom-line factors for you. Our goal is to help you make a purchase decision, and we want you to be happy with that decision; so we have included the great, the not so great, and the just OK facts that we uncovered for you to peruse. Let’s get going.
User friendly and ergonomic design
2.5 or 5 pound weight increments
Contoured rubber grip handle
Easy to adjust with one touch dial
Design allows for full range of motion despite unusual shape
Stand sold separately
Adjustable in increments of 2.5 pounds for first 25 pounds
Adjustable in increments of 5 pounds after 25 pounds
15 clickable weight settings
Size of each dumbbell: 15.75X8X9 in. (LXWXH); 40X20X23 cm.
Shipping weight: 120 pounds for pair
Comes with workout DVD, 2-year warranty, owner’s manual
Owner’s manual includes about 30 different illustrated exercises
With that history in mind, we were a bit skeptical when we first approached the Bowflex SelectTech line. But we are happy to report that the product will deliver the same muscle-building results of a traditional dumbbell, with the added ease of use and space saving benefits.
The shape is different, and the spin/spring clip collars are gone, and the 552s won’t fit on any standard dumbbell stand. But the contoured handle fits your hand and reduces wrist pain as you’d expect from a handle. Overhead presses, chest flys, deadlifts, and rows burn just as much as they would otherwise. Though changing weights is easier, a SelectTech workout delivers solid and consistent results. The convenience and functionality make for a super useful tool that deserves a spot in any home gym.
Load up the plates to your comfort level, grab one in each hand, and farmer carry your heart out. Don’t let the blocky look fool you--these dumbbells allow you a full range of movement, and the handles have grip and contour to help you hold on. Just be careful about dropping them. The SelectTechs will cause damage to a hard floor, and the extra mechanical parts make them more prone to damage than an iron or vinyl plate would be.
This will void the warranty, too, according to the owner’s manual. It warns against dropping the weights as well as showing you how to lift the dumbbell from the base. If you damage the handle or plates, it will most likely be from dropping or from tilting it to try and get it back in the housing quickly.
Ease of Use
Just because it is easy to use, though, doesn’t mean Bowflex gives you an easy workout. You will sweat and push yourself to complete each rep and set with integrity, just like you would with any good piece of equipment. But you’ll be free of unnecessary pain, like handle pressure, faulty collars or locks, and having to handle the plates multiple times over the course of a routine. The design of the SelectTech lets you focus on completing your workout and giving your muscles a chance to rest and grow during active recovery.
You can isolate small muscle groups with curls or presses, and dumbbells allow you to follow a natural arc in a way machines and weight stacks don’t allow. Bowflex has created a product that will translate into more energy, stamina, and confidence, no matter how you spend your hours in between gym sessions.
Transporting the dumbbells doesn’t appear any harder than doing so with conventional dumbbells. You can get a stand, just for the SelectTech, but it costs extra and you may not need it. You can store the dumbbells on a utility bench, counter, or table when they are not in use, and they will be easy to access and adjust for each workout. If you use these for travel, you may have to make more than one trip from your car to the hotel room.
Stick With It-Ness
In addition to the app, Bowflex carefully designed the SelectTechs with molding around the plates. It helps with starting each rep of your chosen exercise and partially emulates the classic feel of a collar loaded disc weight plate.
Finally, and perhaps best of all, Bowflex correctly claims that this pair of dumbbells can potentially replace 15 sets of conventional dumbbells. The space-saving benefit is enormous, freeing up space that you could use for a power rack, weight bench, elliptical, or another piece of cardio equipment.
The Final Word
The unit comes fully assembled, so all you have to do is give it a once-over and start your first set. You can facilitate that set, and your larger whole-body strength program, with the training aids Bowflex includes as part of the standard package. Those include an owner's manual with illustrated exercises, a DVD, and an app with trainer-led workouts that also lets you manually set your custom goals.
The SelectTech 522 earned high marks for usefulness, versatility, ease of use, and functional fitness readiness. We have included a link below to the owner's manual for your convenience and research.
Check out the Bowflex SelectTech BD552 Owner’s Manual, by Bowflex. This is what you should get when you order a new set. It breaks down the parts and operation, safety precautions, technical information, and the warranty. This is also where you can find breakdowns of all the exercises, by muscle group. Each exercise has an illustration and step by step instructions. If anything goes wrong with your dumbbells, the manual has a basic troubleshooting guide. It lets you attempt to solve the problem before calling Bowflex customer service.