Your Ultimate in Depth Review for the Powerblocks Adjustable Dumbbells
Carrying on in our series on adjustables dumbbells, we take a look at the Powerblock dumbbells. Powerblocks have been around for years and are a staple among the home fitness industry. In this in depth review we'll take a deep dive into what makes them so good and what shortfalls they have.
Table Of Contents
The Powerblocks are overall an excellent choice for adjustable dumbbells. The extendable range give you a huge scale to work so it scales nicely; downside being that there are a few 5lbs increments that are unavailable with such a large scale. The current line is the result of years of product development and continuous improvement on line ups. The result of which becomes clear when you look at build quality; which holds up to a high standard indeed. They also stand behind that standard as the minimum warranty is 10 Years with the Urethane getting a LIFETIME warranty.
- Replaces a large number of Dumbbells
- Easy to prep, easy to store
- Adjustable mechanism is quick enough for most quick changing exercises
- The adjustable mechanism, while fast enough for most quick change uses, can be quite finicky. Particularly if you're exact with your weights. Most user, just round up or down to avoid moving the center weights
- It does not have that "traditional Dumbbell" feel it. While the sports model removed the two bars at the front to give you a more free feel. It still doesn't geel like a dumbbell (and the sports doesn't extend all the way to higher weights)
- They are Expensive! Particularly if you're looking for the highly scalable model (Urethane) Considering the long term value, the build quality, and the warranty. It is worth only i fyou end up using them for 1 or more.
Conv. of PreP
Conv. of Use
Conv. of Storage
Warranty & Support
Total Score: 88/ 100
The Makki K Review Promise
- My aim to help you decide on whether the item is best for you
- They are going to be Honest
- They are to be of products that I would use, or looking to buy
- I am going to provide the good, the bad, and the downright annoying
- I will be as detailed as I can, while still looking at the overall picture
- I will my expertease to filter out the dishonest reviews, or those geared towards purchase
- I will take into consideration what others have said about it with a critical eye
I Do Not own a Pair of Powerblock dumbbells. I have not tried any either. I am, in fact, looking for a pair of adjustable dumbbells hence my putting up this review. It can be daunting doing this research for those who don’t have the skill set I do. This review is intended to help you sort through all the rubbish out there and find a real unbiased review.
The Problem with Reviews on the Internet
We all know that the internet can be a fickle place for information. The web's openness is its biggest strength and its biggest weakness; allowing misinformation to perpetuate just as well as true information. Making it very difficult to ascertain which is which. This becomes more true when looking for reviews. Below I'd like to outline the different sources for my information and why/why haven't I included them.
Amazon has lost it’s power as a review powerhouse,as products sellers offer money for verified reviews, reviewers selling their reviews, and companies paying for positive reviews. It has become a competition of who has the bigger budget for reviews. This is abundantly clear when you start looking at the recent reviews section of this product on Amazon. Every review is either a 5 star review or a 1 star review.
Adding to the confusion is that anyone can go in and decide that the review is useful and move it up across the rankings. Essentially making it a mess of an area with users not able to decide which one is real and which is fake. For this reason I will not be taking amazing reviews into account. I may glimpse ideas from one or another, but I will not be basing my information on it.
Anonymous Reviews & Contributors
There are plenty of sites for anonymous reviewers to go and have their say about anything they want. This end up creating a space where the lack of reputation and long term importance have vanished. I have found countless contributors that either push up or push down the dumbbells without really much value to what they are providing. Luckily these contributions can be seen from a mile away and have been avoided as such.
Marketeers & Content Mills
Another aspect you will come across, particularly if you look at site-specific reviews is what I call the “marketeer review”. They usually state that they are unbiased and honest, upon further reading however, you can see that they are overly positive and the objective is drive you to click their affiliate link which is plastered all over the site.
Some content mills have churned out articles that are just a reiteration of the specification sheet or my personal favorite “I really cannot see a single bad thing about them!” which is a surprisingly popular statement to make in a “Con” section.
Most of the links in this review are affiliate links as well. So I make some money if you click & buy through my link. My intent , however, is not to drive you to click. My intent is for you to find this review useful and truly unbiased. You will see as you go along that I go in extreme detail in my review to help you sort out the fact from the fiction. I want to be sure to upfront and completely transparent about that. You can see my full Disclaimer Page
Where To Get Useful Information
The simples way to get valid, useful information from the internet is actually to read lots and lots. The more you read, the more you familiarise yourself with some of the actual good and bad things that the dumbbells offer, knowing to distinguish the marketeers from the genuine writers. The below are my main sources.
Actual Useful Site Reviews
My first port of call was trawling through the plethora of reviews out there. At first the objective is familiarise myself with the major issues and positives of the dumbbells. Making me aware of what to look for in a genuine review. After this point, A quick read can tell me what kind of writer is writing the review and for what purpose. A lot of them are marketers & content mills.
The real reviews come usually from Fitness sites rather than marketer sites. After reading several I come to recognise the real issues people were having and started looking for people who went deeper into detail than most marketers. I have compiled a list of useful reviews below.
Fitness Site Title
Bowflex Selecttech 552 Review
Best Adjustable Dumbbells Bowflex 552 Review 2016
Reputation Based Sites
The best places for honest opinion are those based on reputation. This ensures that the people posting aren’t paid and have spent significant time contributing to one cause or another. Even when someone has a good reputation, a black statement of endorsement either way without any real value would be met with animosity. Communities such as reddit and Bodybuilding.com forums are such places. With anything valueless gets downvoted accompanied by insults and shill accusations. While you may see this as mean, being critical is actually an integral part of being part of a “good” community. Sorting through piles of paid marketers is no easy task, and if you all go through it together it becomes better for everyone.
For some reason or another, marketers and content mills don’t think about producing video reviews. So the people that do are usually genuine and you can see them in the video handling their wares and talking comfortably about it. So video reviews are a good consideration. I suspect because the impersonal nature of the content that marketers put up.
This reviewis by no means a scientific test of products, this is me trying to decide whether to buy these and going through all the details of researching them.
The Most Comprehensive Review
Unfortunately, I was unable to find a review that satisfactorily test these dumbbells as I had with the Bowflex. The closest one I found was useful enough to warrant a reference, but not useful enough to call it comprehensive.
He also provides a thorough overview of the powerblock, if you are looking for a product overview.
Considerations Before Buying
A Wide Range of Weights
An important question to ask yourself is why you want adjustable dumbbells. First amongst those should be that progress is the key to improvements. Keep moving forward! Increasing the weights lifted is the only way to make real progress. Lifting the same weight of dumbbell over a year will net you nothing. Past that it depends on your individual limitations. So in the interest of progress, you will want a wider range of weights.
For the purposes of this review, The term adjustable dumbbells refers to those who are engineered to advanced adjustable dumbbells. The other type of dumbbells I will just refer to as “traditional adjustable dumbbells". Those which are just a bar, some free weight, and some type of locking mechanism at either end.
If you’re short on space, then these types of adjustable dumbbell are ideal. They are designed to replace a large number of individual dumbbells with only one. Saving you a ton of space. If space isn’t an issue and you have a large dedicated gym room, I don’t suspect the space saving would bother you. Although the convenience of using an adjustable dumbbell might appeal to you more.
Money is a big consideration for many as these types of adjustable dumbbells are not considered cheap. Their monetary selling point is that one of these 250$ - 1000$ adjustable dumbbells will replace 1500$- 2500$ worth of individual dumbbells. So it makes sense in that regard.
The other trade off with money is convenience. The best adjustable dumbbells for value are the traditional adjustable dumbbells. Review a few screw dumbbell bars with several free weights will be the cheapest option available. It will however be an absolute pain to prep, change weights, and store.
Your next consideration should be your fitness objectives. Specifically what type of exercises you will be doing. This is to help decide if speed or quick weight changing is important to you.
If you are doing HIIT, Circuits, P90x or any other quick change exercise:
A Quick Changing Mechanism is Important
If you are doing standard weight exercises with several minutes between sets,
Speed of change is less important
Those are the major considerations to think when looking to buy adjustable dumbbells. Now lets take a look at the individual characteristics of the Powerblock Adjustable Dumbbells.
Models & Specifications
Classic 50: 10 - 50 lbs
Sport 24: 3 - 24 lbs
Sport 50: 10 - 50 lbs
Extendable Models - Urethane
Stage 1: 3 - 21 Lbs
Stage 1+2: 3 - 33 Lbs
Stage 1: 5 - 40 Lbs
Stage 1+2: 5 - 60 Lbs
Stage 1+2+3: 5 - 70 Lbs
Stage 1: 5 - 50 Lbs
Stage 1+2: 5 - 70 Lbs
Stage 1+2+3: 5 - 90 Lbs
Stage 1+2+3+4: 5 - 125 Lbs
Extendable Models - Sports EXP
Stage 1: 5 - 50 Lbs
Stage 1+2: 5 - 70 Lbs
Stage 1+2+3: 5 - 90 Lbs
Extendable Models - Classic Elites
Stage 1: 5 - 50 Lbs
Stage 1+2: 5 - 70 Lbs
Stage 1+2+3: 5 - 90 Lbs
Differences Between Series
Handles & Front
Firstly, let's talk about what I am going to review Vs what I'm not going to review. I will not be reviewing the individual series, however I do intend to point out the individual difference when there are some.
Powerblock have been in the business of making adjustable dumbbells for while (Since 1991 in fact), Since that time, they have released several model and have been particularly adept at getting feedback from their customers to adapt new products. Over the years, they have created new product lines, retired old ones, and continuously improve their existing line up. The result of these decade long process is a polished set of high quality products which address many of the requirements of their customers.
The result is a tried and tested high quality product. The build quality is high grade on the powerblocks. They will last you years. Powerblocks themselves are so sure their products quality that all items come with an extended warranty (10 Years, 15 Years, and lifetime warranty) XXLINKXX. So compared to its competitors you will rest assured they will last a long time.
By design, Adjustable dumbbells aren't as sturdy as traditional adjustable dumbbells (which are pretty much indestructible). The moving parts within the adjustable dumbbells make them more prone to breaking ( a feature share amongst all adjustable dumbbells)
Like most adjustable dumbbells, you should take care when dropping them on the floor. If you are the meat head type likes smashing dumbbells on the ground, these are not for you. Having said that though, they are not as fragile as others on the markets (such as the Bowflex). However, the warranty would cover damage. However it is limited to 6 feet drops on the sports series and 12 feet drop on the classic elite & urethane series.
As part of my research, I tried to look for people who had attempted to repair their own powerblocks dumbbells. I was genuinely surprised to find not a single mention of someone attempting to repair their own dumbbells. Most reference the 10 year or lifetime warranty and the easy of which the company provides replacements. The closest I ever got was this youtube video of a man who restored a pair of powerblock dumbbells that look they’ve been sitting out in the rain for ten years (realistically, it was on a pool deck for one year)
The powerblocks are some of the smallest adjustable dumbbells out there. Even when compared to traditional type dumbbells. The plates are quite thin and as you expand further and further into the heavier weights, that thinness comes in handy as it is going almost always be smaller than its regular dumbbell counterpart.
The incremental nature of the design means that the weights are organised in such a way that the minimum length needed is only and always the one that is pulled out. Saving you some of the hassle of pulling out the whole thing just to lift a few pounds.This small size means that almost(XXLINKXX) all exercises are accessible in their traditional form, unlike some of its larger competitors which need some exercises to be altered to account for its extra length
This design aspect comes in very handy when looking to store the powerblock. Their size footprint is quite small even in its full dimensions, making it easy to store in any drawer. Be warned however, they are quite heavy so not many drawers can take them. I personally suggest under a bed or on the floor. If you're really feeling like you want to splurge, you could go for the stand that they provide XXLINKXX.
The adjustable mechanism works by taking out the selector pin and moving up or down along the plates and sliding into the two hole on each plate.
Additionally, there are two adder weights in the base of the central piece. Each adder weight is 2.5 lbs and can be removed and added as needed with a handy lock switch on the front of the dumbbell.There is a chart on the front that shows all the possible weight combination color coded to match the colored pins. This makes weight selection easy.
While the mechanism is quick, it is somewhat fidgety. The pins’ in and out motion can sometimes be wrongly placed across two different plates, which will only stop the dumbbell from pulling out. Thankfully. The adder weights add another layer of fidgety-ness if you ever need to change them.
Here is a sample process for changing the weights (with adder weights)
- Remove selector pin
- Raise base piece
- Open lock switch for adder weights
- Remove one adder weight
- Lock Switch back
- Return base piece
- Select new weight with selector pin
- Raise and use
If you are looking for speed and ease of weight change the powerblocks aren’t in the top of that list. However it is quick enough if you are doing quick changes exercises to make it useful, as each change will take you around 20 seconds.
Another issue with the adder weights is that it slightly imbalances the dumbbell. The adder weights are on the sides of the central piece so this imbalance comes from having one weight there while the other side is empty. This can be a beneficial if you want to do unbalanced unilateral work (most people don't however). Realistically though, it only makes a difference at lower weight and you tend to notice it less and less as the weight goes up.
One last drawback is that there are some weight options missing from some series. This is because the wide range of weight means they do not have the flexibility to include all weight options. In the long run however, these missing weight are somewhat inconsequential as the next weight up or down is usually one adder weight away
Below is an instructional video on how to use the powerblock
Feel Factor & Wrist Cage
The feel factor is one of the major (and in my opinion the only) downside that the powerblocks have. The clever design of the powerblocks means that It doesn’t feel like a dumbbell. I know it is a dumbbell, it just doesn’t feel like it. Mostly because of the wrist cage it forces you to.
A traditional dumbbell has a single handle and lots of free space around it. Allow a variety of movements and grips. The powerblocks do not offer this. They have what I call the "Wrist Cage".
The dumbells feels a little constricting when you hold it in your hand. It feels like your hand is hemmed in and contained. I have found many people complaining about the size of the wrist cage which is too small for their beefy hands.Powerblock themselves say that this is by design. The Elite and Urethan have padded handles that are designed to hold your hand in place and provide stability for when you lift the weights.
Difficulties arise when you trying to do two handed moves on single dumbbell moves with the powerblock, such as goblet squats or single tricep extensions. This is not a complete showstopper, you can hold it from one of the other handles, or hold one of each of the side handles. There are plenty of workarounds, however each change means a slight change in the muscles being targeted.
They have however tried their best to alleviate the wrist case issue within the various series. The sports series in particular was designed to have an open feel and remove you from this wrist cage feeling. Although it lacks the scalability of the urethane series, so not directly competing with it.
The powerblocks are expensive. Particularly if you want to expand and get the expanded sets or the stand. Setting you back a hefty tag for the setup. Having said that though, consider the lifetime of the product, even the lowest warranty setup gives you 10 years, so looking at the price tag over a 10 years period makes it ok to spend that much. It is still tough to fork out that amount in one go.
If you look anywhere on the internet about the powerblock you will find many a person speaking out about the noise. Often putting people off from the start. Reality is a little different however.
When they first started building adjustable dumbbells, some of the older models had a coating between the weight plates and over time that coating would wear and cause the plates to slide along each other creating the noise. Over the years, this protective coating was both developed, improved and even replaced in some instances. Fast forward to their latest line up and the noise problem happens rarely.
The urethan series was designed to solve the noise problem one and for all. The urethan coating itself will never wear down and protects the plates very well
I have yet to find any sports series with any noise issues.
The classic Elite series are the one that most of the complaints come from. There is no consensus as to after how much time does the coating wear off, but when it does, the scraping noises start when lifting or returning weights.
All PowerBlock dumbbells come with a warranty with lengths depending on the type of model you choose. Compared to other brands, PowerBlock offers one of the longest and hassle-free warranties of up to a lifetime.
- Classic Elites comes with 10 Year warranty
- Sports Series comes with a 10 Year Warranty
- Urethane comes with a Lifetime warranty
However there are some caveats to the warranty
Warranty Caveat 1: Drops
The warranty is voided if the dumbbells are dropped.
- Drops over 6 feet void the warranty on the Classic Elites
- Drops over 12 feet void the warranty on the Sports Series
- Drops over 12 feet void the warranty on the Urethane Series
Warranty Caveat 2: Warranty Applies only to Original Purchaser
All the warranty options are only available to original purchaser and are void if the goods are sold second hand. Making it a little difficult to get away from the expense if you were thinking of craigs list.
The Fitness Almanac Adjustable Dumbbell Score (FADS)
It's scoring time! The Fitness Almanac Adjustable Dumbbell Score (FADS) is scoring system I came up to help me assess the various types of adjustable dumbbells and provide I numeric comparison to the various elements I value in a pair of adjustable dumbbells
As a reminder, below are the scoring categories, each with a maximum of 10 for a potential total maximum of 100.
In term of functionality the powerblocks get a full 10 out 10! There is very little in the realm of dumbbells that they cannot perform. The only negative is that single dumbbell exercises can get a bit awkward. but that doesn't make it any less functional.
By far it's strongest feature. They are extremely durable and well built. They will last years and the company is willing to bet it's extended warranty on the fact that they will not break.
Here is where the powerblocks begin to lose their perfect score. Mostly because of the wrist cage. Although they addressed it as best they could with the different configuration within the series. The sports series among them that attempts to solve the wrist cage issue.
The other issue is that it does not have that dumbbells feeling. Not just because of the cage wrist, but also because of the shape and feel of them. They don't feel like regular dumbbells , if you are looking for and enjoy that.
While the all the powerblock series look pretty and well designed, they are particularly lack when it comes to looking like a dumbbell. I don't know if It is supposed to. I'm taking a few points off anyways.
5) Convenience of Preparation
Since it requires no preparation, we're giving them a full score on this. For preparing, all you need to do is slide them out or just walk up to the stand and use them.
Convenience of Preperation
6) Convenience of Use
Using the powerblocks can be very simple enough. It is however slightly fidgety when going through the weight changes, they are others out there such as the Bowflex which are quicker to change. For that it's getting a few minus points.
Convenience of Use
7) Convenience of Storage
Storage is very simple with powerblocks. Particularly if you buy the stand that the company sells which even has a space to store the adder weights. Even if you don't buy the stand it's very easy to store due to the design.
Convenience of Storage
When it comes to scalability the powerblocks get the full score. Their product selection provides you all the options you may need. Starting from the static small to expandable large scale. Their largest is expandable to 125 Lbs. So you have to make sure you figure out your goals and objectives before you buy your first pair.
9) Warranty, Support, Repairs, and Customer Service
Their warranty is by far the best out there. They are also very easy going with the warranty, quick to trigger it, and even quicker to get you a new unit. Overall the process seems a very quick and seamless one. So full score on this one.
Warranty, Support, Repairs, and Customer Service
The powerblocks are expensive. particularly if you for high end expandable items (such as urethane U90) and as I would recommend, go for the stand as well. However, I'm not giving a hugely low score for their expense because realistically, they are a good product. Also considering the minimum 10 year warranty I would consider them worth the investment if long term value is your goal (which is certainly should be).
Total Score: 88
Cole's review is an overly positive thorough review. He points out some of the good things about the powerblocks but also points out a few negatives as well.
Coach Justin Makes a noticeably thorough and well thought out review. He goes through a good number of points as they relate to the dumbbells and covers most of the important points.
By far the most thorough forum post aggregating information from various sources about the powerblocks. The only downside is that it includes a lot of their older models which have since either become obsolete or renamed and upgraded (such as classic elites). Still a good resource though.
While not a review in the traditional sense, this is a extremely long thread of discussion between the various members of the site. They compare a plethora of dumbbells and give personal opinions based on previous experience. I consider this one of the valuable resources when it comes to honest opinion. Only because the discussion is so long and the members of that particular forum have a knack for detecting paid marketers a mile away (it also operates a reputation system which helps greatly in weeding out the rubbish). What makes it handy is that it is only a discussion and you know the people discussing the powerblocks (in such details) have no interest in selling you anything, just simply discussing the various aspects of the dumbbells. This objectiveness is what makes it more valuable than for-profit reviews ( such as this one :-))
It's quite unusual that you find such a thorough review on amazon of a product, which is what pointed me to this review. It's very detailed and goes in to much of the nitty and gritty of using and handling the powerblock sports 24. Worth going through if only to know what it's like.
- Tips on Stand & Sizing, plus Elite is only PB still made in USA by WayneChicago - Verified Amazon Review
Another extremely in depth review by a top 500 Reviewer on amazon. He gave it three stars and write an extended review. He's very thorough and actually thinks about a lot of things in detail that other just gleam over.
Notable Video Reviews
- You're looking for something high quality that will last you years
- You planning on progressing regularly
- You do not mind a dumbbell that doesn't really FEEL like a dumbbell.
- You do not mind your hands feeling constricted in a "wrist cage"
- You don't plan on dropping them from extreme heights
- You plan on doing P90X, HIIT, or any other exercise that requires quick changing weights
- You're happy to invest a good amount of money into your fitness
Do not Buy if...
- You're looking for something that feels like a regular dumbbell
- You're short on cash
- You don't intend to progress in your lifting.
- You do not care about speed of change
I hope you found this review useful. I'd love to hear if you have any thoughts,questions, or comments about this review.
What Do You Think?
- Do you own a pair and have a thought to share?
- Looking to buy and have a specific question in mind?
- Have a topic you think I should Include?
- Just want to let us know what you think?
Tell Us in the Comments