Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells
Bowflex makes these selectorized dumbbells which allow you to replace hundreds of pounds of weight with a single package that takes up far less space. Adjusting the resistance is easy, and Bowflex provides stands that perfectly fir their dumbbells for storage purposes. They don't quite look like traditional dumbbells, but the SelectTechs are comfortable to use, allowing for a full range of motion without pinching or restricting movement. The dumbbells are usually well-received, with few complaints about the adjustment mechanism or the effectiveness of the workouts you can get from them.
Bowflex didn't invent the selectorized dumbbell, but it perfected and refined the technique to become one of the leading providers for home and gym use. We say “selectorized” instead of adjustable because any dumbbell with a collar and the ability to load weight plates is adjustable. You can change the weight, unlike a fixed dumbbell. A selectorized dumbbell is one that features a selector switch to make weight adjustments. That word “select” is even in the name of the 552. Read on to find out if this easy-to-use, space saving dumbbell set is right for you.
Construction is durable, and the dumbbells don't break down easily even with mostly plastic construction
Selecting weight is easy and fast, in 2.5 or 5 pound increments
Dumbbells come in pairs, with each one providing up to 52.5 pounds of resistance
Dumbbells do save a lot of space, and most traditional exercises are possible
Bowflex has a good reputation for customer service, and all products have warranties
You don't need a large metal storage rack for the 552s
The specialized stands sold by Bowflex are designed just for these dumbbells
Certain exercises will be hard or impossible because of the shape and handhold
The dumbbells overall length is longer and may put some users off
Dumbbells are only sold in pairs, with no ability to add weight above 105 pounds
The limited weight capacity, lack of accessories, and inability to perform certain lifts all point to one fact: the SelectTech dumbbells are less useful for dedicated long-term lifters, and more suited to the recreational lifter who may never approach lifting fifty pounds in a single hand. This is not an awful thing, it's just something to consider in a purchase decision. The Bowflex way may line up with your personal fitness practice and goals, or it may not. If it sounds like it will, read on to learn more.
From 5 to 25 pounds, you adjust the weight in 2.5-pound increments. After 25, the only increment is 5 pounds. But then, at 50, you can adjust to 52.5. Bowflex does not explain why the change, or why they didn't just max each dumbbell out at 55 pounds. We would guess allowing 2.5-pound adjustments all the way would involve too many extra parts and make the dumbbells cumbersome to use. The increment setting won't bother most people, but some lifters like to use precision adjustments and there are even fractional weights that let you make slow progress. It's a great way to get a sense of accomplishment when you are injured or facing a plateau. The SelectTechs hamper your ability to do that, but not by much.
The product page says there "32+" exercises you can do with the 552s. We dug up the user's manual, which illustrates all of them. There is also a workout guide, which is a standard issue for anything Bowflex makes. We're certain you can come up with your own exercises to add to the total. Exercises where you hold one dumbbell with two hands, like goblet squats or French tricep curls, are either out or will be a lot more difficult. That's because the bar is enclosed in the housing, and the housing is only big enough for one hand. Most chest exercises, like flys and presses, are still available. Bowflex sometimes offers package discounts with the selectorized dumbbells and adjustable incline benches that they make.
Each dumbbell is 15.75 inches long, 8 inches wide, and 9 inches tall. That's longer than some dumbbells, shorter than others. The height will take some getting used to, as most weight plates are not that tall. Anyone used to traditional dumbbells, looking at these for the first time, will wonder how in the heck their hand can fit and how they will get a full extension without pinching. But after using them for a bit, you get used to it. The housing opening, where you grab the bar, is wider and more open than previous models. This is one of the design improvements Bowflex made after listening to their customers.
Why It Is Different
You can set these dumbbells on top of a table or workbench, or even a utility bench. That keeps them off the floor and always at hand. You will want to use the molded tray that comes with the dumbbells to rest them in. This ensures they will not roll off a surface. Bowflex also sells metal stands that are a perfect match for the SelectTechs. The only problem there is that the stand is so specialized, you will not be able to use it for anything else.
There are some decent troubleshooting tips in the user's manual, and usually, you can fix basic problems without needing to contact Bowflex.
Often, the problem is a connection that needs to be made, not a defect or malfunction. If the dial is set between increments, the handle will not insert into the base, so that is something you can address that would otherwise make it impossible to use the dumbbells. After adjusting, you have to make sure the weights are locked in place before you start lifting. Otherwise, the weights could fall and injure you. The manual explains how to do a lock test, and the lock mechanism is a simple two-position lever on the side of the housing.
Maintaining the dumbbells is easy. You will want to wipe the base and other parts down with a wet rag and a bit of gentle dish soap. Then dry the dumbells off with another rag. There aren't any exposed steel parts that will be affected by rust. The working parts inside are lubricated before sealing, so that's not something you'll need to deal with. Again, Bowflex specifically warns not to take the housing apart and not to try and service the inner parts. Doing so can render the dumbbells useless, and will void the warranty.
The Final Word
It's really a trade-off. Can you use the extra space from not having a big metal rack with different sizes of plates and bars? If so, and if the limitations we pointed out are acceptable, then this product is for you. No matter what they look like or how they load, training with dumbbells will always make you stronger and increase your balance. The Bowflex SelectTech presents a different way to do that, which will be appealing to many of our readers.