Powerblock evreything you need to know

Powerblock revolutionized the fitness industry more than twenty years ago with the introduction of their innovative all-in-one adjustable dumbbell set. The Powerblock allowed you to have the equivalent of a whole rack of dumbbells in a space that was about that of a small chair – and at a fraction of the price.

Since then, Powerblock has only gotten bigger and better. Today you can purchase a whole range of products that are built around the innovative Powerblock selectorized weight design, from kettlebells to barbells and, of course, a complete range of dumbbell options to suit your needs. In this article we will focus on their flagship product the Powerblock Urethane U90 Stage 3 Set

What Do You Get?


The Powerblock U90 Stage 3 set replaces 28 traditional dumbbells or 2565 pounds of free weight. Weight range is from 5 to 90 pounds in each hand (however the 90-pound weight will require purchasing two additional weight packs as the base unit only goes up to 50 pounds).

The cost per pound of the U90 Stage 3 comes to around 24 cents. Traditional urethane dumbbells generally come to around $2.99 per pound.

How Powerblock Works

Powerblock Adjustable Dumbbell

The center-piece of the Powerblock accounts for ten pounds. However, the handles have removable rods so that you can reduce it down to five pounds. Each of those rods is 2.5 pounds in weight, so that you can set it at 2.5, 5, 7.5 or 10 pounds. A lever at the top of each side of the base allows you to remove the weights on the bottom of the unit. It has close positions on either side and an open position in the middle. In the open position, you can remove the stainless-steel slugs which are each 2.5 pounds.

A selector tool or indexer allows you to pick the weight that you want. On the bottom of the base is a chart that indicates the different weights by way of colour coding. Each colour provides you with three weight options, depending on whether the handle rods are inserted or not. So, each colour provides you with an empty handle weight, a one rod inserted weight and a two-rod inserted weight. The weight options are as follows:

  • Black – 15, 17.5, 20 pounds
  •  White – 25, 27.5, 30 pounds
  • Orange – 35, 37.5, 40 pounds
  • Green, 45, 47.5, 50 pounds
  • Yellow – 55, 57.5. 60 pounds
  • Blue – 65. 67.5. 70 pounds
  • Red – 75, 77.5, 80 pounds
  • Purple – 85, 87.5, 90 pounds
Working of Powerblock

On the end bases are ten ridges that run the length of the base. The selector slots into these ridges to allow you to select the weight that you want. The center section has two parallel bars that are padded, while the handle in the middle of the unit has a rubber grip around it. The handle has a slight contour to provide ideal grip ergonomics.

To select your weight, you slide the selector into the color-coded area on the side of the Powerblock that corresponds to the weight you wish to use. Each of the plates which are housed on the ends of the units are ten pounds. When you lift the handle from the base, the selected weights come out along with it.

The Powerblock U90 is expandable up to 90 pounds, with the purchase of two additional weight packs. The base unit goes up to 50 pounds total (green). You can then buy an add-on pack that takes you up to 70 pounds (stage II) and another that gets you up to 90 pounds (stage III).

The Powerblock weight plates are ten pounds each. They have a smooth urethane finish (five pounds on each side) and metal pins connect the two sides. There is a little bit if flexibility in the plate end. This is a good thing when you are quickly changing between weights. The plates feel extremely solid.

The middle section of the block is completely reversible, so it doesn’t matter what direction you out it in. Overall, there are not a lot of moving parts, which is a good thing. This in contrast to the Bowflex adjustable dumbbells, which have more moving parts. The fewer parts, the fewer things that could go wrong.

Operation of the selector is pretty straightforward. You simply slide the selector into the color-coded section corresponding to your desired weight. However, this will only provide you with the heaviest weight in that color band. For example, if you are working with the green color code, the selector will give you a total of 50 pounds. If you are after either 45 or 47.5 pounds, you will have to also remove one or both of the steel rods that are in the handle. This takes extra time and may be a hassle for some people.

Another potential negative is that you may mistakenly place the selector into different color codes at each end when you are in a hurry or simply fatigued from your workout. If you do that, the weight will not come out and the selector may be damaged.

In comparison to a standard sized hexagonal dumbbell, the Powerblock is a little larger. However, it is more compact in terms of overall length than the Bowflex 552. The length of the Powerblock is a little over 12 inches, with a 15-pound hex dumbbell being around 10 inches. Traditional cast iron adjustable weights (20 pounds) are about 13.5 inches in length. The Bowflex 552, in contrast, has a length of about 16 inches. The compactness of the Powerbock is a major advantage of the Bowflex, as it does not restrict your range of movement on such exercises as seated dumbbell curls and side lateral raises.

Do Powerblocks Feel Like Regular Dumbbells?

Powerblock Dumbbell Lifting experience

In a word, yes. However, the Powerblock is more compact and balanced than a ‘normal’ iron hexagonal dumbbell. It feels very solid. People who are not used to working out or who have weak wrists will also appreciate the Powerblocks. The area where you reach into the Powerblock is padded and these pads act to stabilize your wrists. The space between the grips it wide enough for even the largest hands.

A set of Powerblocks will feel just like any well-balanced set of commercial dumbbells. The handle is in the precise middle of the core to provide a great balance.

Powerblock Pros

Quick Adjustment – The Powerblock system allows you to adjust you weights in about 5 seconds. Once you get good at it, this can include adding or removing the steel rods that slide into the handle cavities. That makes them almost as fast as the Bowflex SelectTech system. However, they have fewer moving parts than Bowflex and are less likely to malfunction.

Compactness – The Powerblocks are the most compact of all the adjustable systems we’ve come across. They are considerably shorter in length than the Bowflex SelectTech 552. This makes the best functionally on the market as your path of movement should never be constricted.

Self-Contained – The Powerblock system houses itself within its own nested storage area. This means that its compactness and ease of storage are big plusses.

Weight Capacity – The Powerblock series covers all user needs from 5 pounds all the way up to 175 pounds per dumbbell. Of course, the highest weight range is pretty expensive, but you will still be saving big bucks off buying traditional hexagonal weights. The advantage that the Powerblock has over the Bowflex 552 is that Powerblock units are expandable, allowing you to buy extra weight packs for them, whereas, the Bowflex is a fixed weight system.

The Powerblock U90 Stage 3 goes up to a max weight of 90 pounds. If that is not enough for max dumbbell bench press weight you can graduate up to the U90 Stage 4, which takes the max up to 125 pounds, or 57 kg. For the super powerful, the U175 Cub Set takes your max weight right up to 175 pounds.

Solid Build – The Powerblock is a very solidly built unit. Its compactness, lack of moving parts and flexible plate design combine to ensure that the system is durable, rugged and long lasting.

Lifetime Warranty – Powerblock stand completely their products with a lifetime warranty, which is pretty impressive. However, this offer is voided if the Powerblocks are dropped from a height of 12 inches or higher.

Kettlebell Option – Powerblock recently introduced n interchangeable handle for their Powerblock series. Now you can transform your set of dumbbells into a set of kettlebells just with an easy swap out of the handle. Now, that’s pretty cool.

Powerblock Cons

Non-Traditional Design – let’s face it, Powerblocks don’t look like normal dumbbells. Other models out there, like the Bowflex 552 more readily resemble the shape and feel of a traditional bell. As a result, it takes a little time to get used to working with them. You are essentially lifting a square block and this may slightly impede your range of motion on certain exercises. However, the compact design and relatively short length of the Powerblock somewhat makes up for this.
Selector System – even though the selector system is relatively simple, it is not as tidy or fast as the simple selectorized system used by Bowflex. You have the risk of placing the selector pin the wrong slots or bending the pins. In addition, you may have to manually remove the iron rods that are in the handle to get the weight you want.

Can’t Throw Them Around – Traditional dumbbells can take a lot of abuse. If you have to bail from a set of dumbbells presses you can simply let them go. But you wouldn’t want to do that on a Powerblock. If you did, there is a possibility that it would break – and the warranty would probably be voided.

The Verdict

Adjustable Dumbbells (Pair)

The Powerblock system is a compact, easy to use adjustable dumbbell system that has been refined and developed over the last couple of decades. Its major advantages are its compact design and the ability to add to the weight stacks. We also love the new innovation of being able to switch to a kettlebell handle, though you will have to but this accessory. It’s a little more expensive than the Bowflex SelectTech system and its adjustment system is a little more involved. But if you are after the best range of exercise motion and the highest weight capacity, Powerblock is your choice.