Bowflex Selecttech 1090 Reviewed and Rated

9.0 score
[Editors rating (9.0)] = (Garage Gym Ideas - Ultimate Home Gym Design) score (9.0)/10

Editor rating: 9.0 / 10
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Bowflex Selecttech 1090 Reviewed and Rated Review Facts

Bowflex is now as well known for its selectorized dumbbells as it is for its famous multi-gym units.

Selectorized dumbbells differ from adjustable dumbbells. Those like the Selecttech 1090 use a button or switch to change the resistance. The dumbbells themselves are contained in a blocky housing with contoured grips for human hands. An adjustable dumbbell is any dumbbell with the weight you can change. This means all selectorized dumbbells are adjustable, but not all adjustable dumbbells are selectorized. We are pretty picky about the terminology, but only because we want our readers (that would be you) to be educated and make the best possible purchase decision. The only dumbbells that are not adjustable, of course, are solid one-piece steel, vinyl, or rubberized ones. Those take up quite a bit of room.

Traditional adjustable dumbbells, too, take up space and so they are often not practical for home gyms. That becomes truer when you factor in a metal storage rack and an assortment of plates, which you will need if you plan on getting stronger and lifting more over time. What’s a home gym junkie to do? The Bowflex SelectTech 1090 dumbbells present one possible solution. Keep reading to learn more.

Editor's Pros & Cons

Can add or remove weight in 5-pound increments (per dumbbell)

Up to 90 pounds of weight per hand, farmer carry ready

Pair of SelectTechs can replace 17 pairs of traditional dumbbells according to Bowflex

Changing resistance is fast and easy, no collars or locks to deal with

Bowflex has refined the design so that hands/wrists don't get cramped when you use the dumbbells

The 1090 is an upgrade/update to the Selecttech 552, with more weight

Bowflex offers 6-week money-back guarantee if you feel the 1090s are not effective


Steel handgrip can put pressure on hands--may want to wear gloves

Most exercises still possible, but the design means there is a learning curve and old exercises may feel awkward at first

Try not to drop the weights/invest in flooring, since dial selector is easily damaged from dropping

The Rundown

We are pretty impressed by the number of positive reviews for the Bowflex Selecttech 1090 dumbbells. We found them on professional fitness blogs, weightlifting forums, and various retailers including Bowflex themselves. People appreciate the extra space as well as how quick and convenient it is to change resistance. A quick turn of the dial does it. One consistent gripe--and it's not a deal-breaker for most--is that bench presses and pec flys are difficult. That is because the dumbbells are longer than traditional ones lifters are used to using. But Bowflex is quite amenable to customer feedback and is known to make improvements based on what users want most. So we are certain Bowflex engineers will find a fix for the length issue, and probably release an improved version soon.

We do have to say that these are not something you can be rough on. If you like to drop your weights, grunt during heavy squats, and just generally act in ways Planet Fitness does not approve of, hey, we are not here to judge. And we know from experience that grunting or expelling air, during heavy lifts, can actually give you a slight boost and is not meant to annoy others. Powerlifting can be a tough sport, with harsh treatment of equipment. So all we are saying is, you cannot do this with the Bowflex Selectorized 1090 dumbbells. They are more fragile and will not work properly if dropped very much (intentionally or otherwise). By "not work properly," we mean the plates can fall off during use. That will not happen under normal use and normal wear and tear. It shouldn't happen at all, but you can avoid it and keep the warranty intact by treating the dumbbells more gently than you would, say, a bar made just for heavy squats.

If you are interested in saving money on the 1090s, or perhaps pairing them with complementary products, we suggest stalking the Bowflex product page. At the time of this writing, Bowflex was offering a Black Friday bundle on the dumbbells and matching the 5.1S folding bench. This is a limited time offer, but we are certain there will be others. You may also want to look at the stands Bowflex makes, which are just for their SelectTech dumbbells. You will not be able to store these in a traditional plate or dumbbell rack. The 1090s do come with molded hard plastic trays, which you could use to place the dumbbells on a utility bench or sturdy table. So you do have options if you do not want to spring for a pricey storage rack that is only useful for storing this one fitness tool.


Each dumbbell can be adjusted from 10 to 90 pounds. There is no way to upgrade the weight or add more. The increment is 5 pounds, and this does not change as you go up in weight. Bowflex illustrates over 30 exercises in the instruction manual--you may be able to think of more if you have been lifting a while. Certain exercises will be more difficult than with a traditional dumbbell, or you may not be able to perform them at all. For example, goblet squats may be impossible. This is an exercise where you hold a single dumbbell horizontally, with both arms, and then do a squat. But you are still able to deadlifts, most rows, and traditional squats or Bulgarian split squats with the Bowflex Selecttech 1090 dumbbells.

1090 is longer than most traditional dumbbells. It is 17.5 inches long, 10 inches wide, and 10 inches tall. The 1090s come with a 3-year warranty on parts. Bowflex only sells the dumbbells in pairs; this is true of all their selectorized dumbbells. A pair of the 1090s will replace up to 34 traditional dumbbells, according to Bowflex. To arrive at this number, try counting by five from 10 to 90. Multiply by 2, and you get 34. But this is assuming you had 2 fixed weight dumbbells in each weight increment. Most of us who work out at home own one or two sets of dumbbells, with plates going up to our max working weight. Whether you are replacing 34 dumbbells or not, 1090 is a way to save and free up a lot of space in your home gym.

Another nice feature: there is plastic molding around the weight plates. This makes the Bowflex Selecttech 1090 quieter than iron dumbbells, quieter than competing selectorized units, and even quieter than other Bowflex dumbbells.

What Makes It Different

The main point of difference and the reason Bowflex dumbbells are so popular is the fact that they take up less room. You will not see them at a commercial gym, mainly because of the fragility factor. Gyms do not want to replace their equipment, and also do not want the liability in case someone is injured after a previous user weakened the dumbbell by being too harsh on it. And since gyms have to provide equipment for all their members, they would have to racks full of selectorized dumbbells. The cost and use of space would be similar or greater than the cost of fixed or adjustable dumbbells.

That makes the Bowflex 1090 perfect for a home gym. The other advantage is how quickly you can change resistance. Without having to stop to loosen collars and take plates off, you can get through your workout faster. The added speed and efficiency will help you get a cardio workout along with your strength session. And the 1090s, at lower weights, also lend themselves to step aerobics routines that include lifting for an extra boost.

If you do slip up and drop a plate or entire 1090 dumbbell on your floor, it seems more likely to damage the unit and leave the floor untouched. Bowflex plates are true zero bounce units, meaning that if you drop one, it will not bounce into a wall or other piece of equipment but will just lay still so you can pick it back up. Of course, you should still be using flooring or mats in your at-home gym, for safety and to protect your home.

The other great advantage, with the selectorized setup, is that you can do both heavy and light exercises with little to no setup and no downtime. For example, most of us can lunge heavier than we can do curls or rows. In lunges, the dumbbells are held still at arm's length like in a farmer carry. Since you do not have to either change your weight plates or take a fixed dumbbell off the shelf, transition times are lower and you can do more in the same amount of time.

Stick With It Factor

We think you will want to keep using these dumbbells once you start. They are quick and easy but give you the same tough, effective, muscle-building workout you would get from any set of dumbbells. Since they go up to 90 pounds, you will be able to progress and get a bit stronger with each session. The bench and storage rack are nice additions, but not necessary for effective training. In addition to the owner's manual, which gives directions for over 30 different exercises, you get a workout DVD that will guide you in using the Bowflex Selecttech 1090 dumbbells.

The Final Word

The Bowflex Selecttech 1090 dumbbells are easy to use and come backed by Bowflex's warranty and track record of customer service. Changing resistance is quick and painless, with a dial setting. Although the grip is different, since the shape of the dumbbell is different, the 1090s are not blocky and will not restrict your range of motion. Other competing products sometimes have more of a square shape. Bowflex is great about listening to customer feedback and making improvements to each successive model. We can recommend the Bowflex Selecttech 1090 dumbbells to anyone who wants to practice lifting in their home gym and does not have the space for a storage rack and several sets of traditional dumbbells.