Your Ultimate in Depth Review for the Bowflex Selecttech 552/1090 Adjustable Dumbbells
If you're anything like me, you've come to the conclusion that a simple home-gym is the most time-efficient solution to getting and staying in shape. Dumbbells are an essential part of that setup. In this series, I look at each adjustable in depth and why, or why wouldn't you, want to buy them. This Bowflex Selecttech Adjustable Dumbbell Review will take through the various elements of the Bowflex and their usability and if they fit it with your objectives.
The Bowflexs are an overall good adjustable dumbbell. Best suited for quick weight change applications such as P90x, HIIT, or strength circuits. They are easy to use, look great, convenient to prep, use and store. The major downfall is with long term durability and future scalability
- Replaces 30 Sets of Dumbbells
- Easy to prep, easy to use, and easy to store
- Very quick weight change mechanism, just turn the dial and pull it out
- Look great, with a traditional dumbbell feel
- Its size is its biggest issue. It gets pulled out at max length from the start. This extra length may prevent full extensions on some exercises. The good side is that this extra length engages more stabilization muscles and nets you a bigger workout
- Build quality is not great and the moving parts means that it is more delicate than you average dumbbell. Long term use may require effort and time to maintain and repair/send for repairs
- If you've outgrown one pair, you will have to fork out for an entirely new pair as they are not expandable.
Conv. of PreP
Conv. of Use
Conv. of Storage
Warranty & Support
Total Score: 76/ 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 Bowflex 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 (Fitness Almanac’s Bowflex Selecttech 552 Review (Fitness Review) Vs Best adjustable dumbbells Bowflex 552 Review 2016 (Keyword/Marketer Review)). After reading several I came 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.
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
I was only able to find one site which tested the Bowflexs thoroughly. In fact his is a review that covers all the major adjustable dumbbells brands and types. It is no small read but it was professionally tested by a fitness instructor and six of his customers. The compiled result are by far the most thorough and comprehensive review of adjustable dumbbells I have found.
Without further ado, Let us begin 🙂
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 Bowflex Selecttech Adjustable Dumbbells.
Models & Specifications
5lbs to 52.5Lbs
2.27 Kg to 23.8 Kg
Increments: 5 Lbs & 2.5 Lbs / 2.3 Kg & 1.1 Kg
Lbs: 5, 7.5, 10, 12.5, 15, 17.5, 20, 22.5, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 52.5
Kg: 4.5, 6.8, 9, 11.4, 13.6, 16, 18.1, 20.5, 22.8, 25, 27.3, 29.5, 31.8, 34.1, 36.4, 38.6, 40.9
16.9” L x 8.3” W x 9” H
43 cm L x 21.2 cm W x 22.8 cm H
58 lbs / 26.3 Kg
Red Numbers on Dial
Metal Grip with Sharp Edges
White Numbers on Dial
Soft Plastic Grip to Protect Fingers
Structural Improvements that lessened chances of breaking (they won't tell me, I asked!)
10 lbs to 90 Lbs
2.27 Kg to 23.8 Kg
Increments:5 Lbs / 2.3 Kg
Lbs: 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90
Kg: 2.27, 3.4, 4.5, 5.7, 6.8, 8, 9, 10.2, 11.4, 13.6, 15.9, 18.2, 20.5, 22.7, 23.9
17.5” L x 9.5” W x 10” H
44.4 cm L x 24.2 cm W x 25.3 cm H
Assembled Package Weight: 98 Lbs / 44.5 Kg
Shipped Package Weight: 105 lbs / 47.6 Kg
5 lbs to 60 Lbs
2.3 Kg to 27.2 Kg
Increments: 5 Lbs & 2.5 Lbs / 2.3 Kg & 1.1 Kg
Lbs: 5, 7.5, 10, 12.5, 15, 17.5, 20, 22.5, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60
Kg: 2.27, 3.4, 4.5, 5.7, 6.8, 8, 9, 10.2, 11.4, 13.6, 15.9, 18.4, 20.4, 22.7, 24.9, 27.2
15.8” L x 9.3” W x 8.6” H
40.1 cm L x 26.6 cm W x 21.9 cm H
62 Lbs / 28.1 Kg
For the purpose of this review we will not be looking/mentioning the 560s. This is because they are a combination of ridiculously expensive and ridiculously useless with their features.
2 Years Limited
The adjustable mechanism works by selecting the appropriate weight as you turn the dials. The dials at either end of the dumbell have an arrow which you can twist and select what weight you want, the dials control hooks that attach to the appropriate weights and lock once you pull it up.
A big plus is this is one type of dumbbell that allows for unbalancing of either side. This may some extra time to switching weight as you have to change both sides. However, it open up a whole avenue of exercises to be done with unbalanced dumbbells.
Unbalanced dumbbells are used as a variation of unilateral work. Where you wish to strengthen specific muscles by engaging them in different ways and engaging more stabilisation muscles to make a workout more difficult. This is to emulate real life as it is rare for objects to have uniform weight distribution. However, you’d still need to equal out both sides by switching the dumbbell around and doing an equal number of reps with the same hand. It is important to get this equality as you will end up with one side bigger/stronger than the other. Which nobody likes or enjoys.
The mechanism combines ease of use with versatility at the cost of durability. The fact that it contains moving parts means that by definition it becomes more fragile. Compare it to you standard dumbbells who are more likely to break your floor than break themselves.
So if you’re the type that throws dumbbells around, they will break sooner rather than later. You will have to become extra careful with the Bowflexs as a general rule. The adjustable mechanisms are not of the best quality and is one of two reasons why durability is less than ideal, hence you have to always be mindful of how you treat them.
The build quality of the Bowflexs is the second reason its durability comes into question. It feels a little cheap. The hardened plastic doesn’t give it the rigidity or durability of its competitors. Coupled with the fragility of the moving parts this is the main reason people dislike the bowflexs.
There is a bright side to it’s build quality and design though. The bowflex are super easy to disassemble, tighten, and even repair by yourself. All you need are some basic tools and you would be able to repair them easily. Even changing faulty parts can be really simple and cost effective.
One of my major source of information and opinions on the bowflexs (and general bodybuilding/fitness information) is the bodybuilding.com forum. It is a reputation based forum for meatheads and fitness aficionados alike. I found it very strange that most people on that forum ripped the Bowflex selecttech to shreds because of its build quality This included veteran members as well as some medium engagement members (I did not consider any fresh member’s input). That’s the most cited reason for bashing them. Spending ~400$/~600$ dollars for something that isn’t going to last you two years is apparently not a good investment. That coupled with very obvious attempts to peddle the bowflex by fresh members make it seem very negative, hence the continuous bashing from the members.
Having thought about it, I think the combination of an average products and the abundance of fluffy marketers on the forums have made people very skeptical about the bowflexs. They are probably better than what most people think, but the shadiness of the marketing strategies and a few other issues paint it in a few negative light.
They are very great to look at, having a certain sense of symmetry that makes them aesthetically pleasing and quenches the thirst of my inner OCD. I would not mind keeping them in the open if I had the stand as well.
When it comes to space saving, the bowflexs are great as they replace 30 pairs of individual dumbbells for you. Saving you a lump sum of money in the process. When compared to other similar type adjustable dumbbells they are around the same size (when not in use)
The major draw back is their length. It occurs by design; even if you put them on the lowest weight setting, the full length of the dumbbell will be pulled out as you can see from the picture below. So the max length is pulled out from the start. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. The two photos below she the bowflexs at both maximum weight, and minimum weight.
Images courtesy of Homegymr, who has plenty more photos if you are interested
It is a bad thing because some people complain about not being able to fully extend on some exercises, such as shoulder press. Even the instructional video bowflex has made shows the model doing the press with the dumbbells at a different angle (which is a slightly different exercise that targets slightly different muscles)
They truly become an issue for those people with slightly shorter stature. I would not have even thought about this had I not seen this particular review about it. Read Jess's review here
See how he isn't able to get a full extension on the shoulder press? It isn't really a showstopper and you can (and should) manage with a plethora of different ways to compensate.
The good things about their size is two fold. For one, it doesn’t get any longer. You pull it out at max length at the lower weights and it will never increase, so all your exercises and your muscles adjust to that length eventually and adapt to it.
Secondly, the extra length engages more stabilization muscles than you normally would. While this makes regular exercises a bit more difficult, it will benefit you in the long run. All of Mark Bixby’s testers confirmed that at the same weight setting, the bowflex are more difficult to handle than other adjustable dumbbells due to this. I am of the opinion that this is a great pro to have, as more muscles engaged means more results and definition for the user.
The Fitness Almanac Adjustable Dumbbell Score (FADS)
I'd like to take a moment to introduce my adjustable dumbbells scoring system. " Fitness Almanac Adjustable Dumbbell Score (FADS)".
There are 10 criteria, each with worth a maximum of 10 points. Giving a total possible FADS score of 100!
This is a scoring system I've invented for the sole purposes of rating adjustable dumbbells. It contains ten criteria that will each be scored out of ten, with the total being the sum of all of them. These Criteria are:
For functionality, we're score its ability to be as broadly function as a regular dumbbell, which is our frame of reference. If it provides you with the ability to do all exercises with minimal issue, then it would get a ten out of ten.
For functionality the Bowflex gets a 7 out of ten. You can perform the majority of exercises, perhaps one or two you will not be able to do a full extension, but alternative exercise are aplenty when trying to achieve a particular goal.
The other major downfall is that if you are of short stature, them the bowflexs are going to be a bit of a nightmare.
By far it’s most important downfall; the combination of moving parts and not-particularly durable plastic means that it is prone to breaking and needing repairs. The good news is that repairing it fairly simple and requires simple tools and little training.
The overall feel of the bowflex is a good one. It gives you a similar feel to that of a traditional dumbbell and exercising with it garners the same feeling. Some of the movements becomes slightly awkward when you try and compensate for its length by twisting this way or that way, which takes away from the dumbbell feel. Another negative aspect is that the plastic feels a little cheap to the touch
The bowflexs are aesthetically pleasing, nice to look at, symmetrical in all the right way and generally a very pretty looking dumbbell to have sitting around the house.
5) Convenience of Preperation
Preparation is almost an instantaneous action for the bowflexs. Walk up to them, turn the dials, and pick it up
Convenience of Preperation
6) Convenience of Use
They are extremely simple to use, it doesn’t take much time to learn how to use them either. It handily comes with a DVD that shows you best practises (alongside a guide on how to perform exercises) that will teach how to use them to the best effect. The adjustable mechanism is quick and simple to use, earning them extra points here.
Convenience of Use
7) Convenience of Storage
Storing the bowflex could not be simpler as they are very compact and store easily. Extra storage point points if you opted for the stand as it provides storage as well as functional use.
Convenience of Storage
You read that right! The Bowflex gets a Zero for scalability. Let’s say you bought the bowflex 5-50lbs and after a year of use you require heavier weights. Your only recourse is to buy a completely new pair of the heavier weights, rendering your older pair useless. There are no expansion packs, no return type program to scale up, or anything of that sort.
9) Warranty, Support, Repairs, and Customer Service
The warranty included with the bowflex is decent enough. It gives you two years of parts and plates (which are the most things that break) as well as labor for a year. Realistically however, you won’t need the labor . It would be far easier to just have them send you the spare parts and you can install them yourself, as it is very simple to be able to pull them apart yourself and replace the faulty parts.
The customer service as well isn't too shabby. Everyone who tried to get in touch managed to do so with minimal effort (self included), they are capable and tend to fix issues as quickly as they can.
Warranty, Support, Repairs, and Customer Service
As far as value goes, they are around the same price as it’s closest competitors in the particular weight ranges, which is still very high when compared to other, more traditional, options . It’s main drawback for its value is due to the fragility & scalability. For fragility, if you end up breaking them after the warranty, there will be extra associated cost . If you break them while under warranty, the cost will be the time and effort included in sorting that out. If not, then there will be some monetary cost associated with that.
Total Score: 76/100
By the most comprehensive review/buying guide out there. While Mark tested out a bunch of adjustable dumbbells and the Bowflex came on top, with a top option for both circuits and strength training. I will agree with him in that the Bowflex is the best overall adjustable dumbbell for everything, except long term value. Which is where his review falls short, it does not consider the long term implication of using them, including durability and scalability, which I scored very low. Nonetheless he is a professional instructor with lots of experience several people who were keen on testing the Bowflex's, so go over for a useful read.
While I'm pretty sure that Homegymr is run by an online marketer. He's a very good in depth writer. His review has a lot to offer and puts forward a very straight forward review.
A half decent review, has some great points and some cons I hadn't thought of while writing mine.
- Jess From Amazon (Verified Purchase)
This is the review that highlighted to me the difficulty of handling the bowflex for people of a shorter stature. What's important to note is that she managed to get around it and did not let it hinder her completely.
- W. Anderson From Amazon (Verified Purchase)
- Dapper Dave from Amazon (Verified Purchase)
- Lawrence H. Breiden From Amazon (Verified Purchase)
- Trive from Amazon (Verified Purchase)
Notable Video Reviews
I tried to provide the reviews with the most value to the buyer. Those that include impressions, issues, likes, and dislikes. They all include an element of "How to Use" as well.
Instead of your usual "Buy or Do not Buy", I'm going to present something a little different. Because that's how reality is, it's not as clear as "Buy or Do not Buy". There would be individual preferences and objectives that need to be considered
- You are generally very careful with dumbbells and intend to be extra careful with these
- You are handy and can repair things yourself, and don't mind when things break
- You are looking for something that combines a traditional dumbbell feel with quick weight changes
- You intend on doing P90x, HIIT, or any type of exercise that benefits from quick changing weights
- You find them on sale, discounted, or second hand. Provided you test them out for faults
Do Not Buy If...
- You are looking for something sturdy, well built that will last many years.
- You plan on only doing strength training only (no quick weight changes needed)
- You are incapable of repairing the simplest of things
- You plan on progressing past certain weight ranges
So I hope you've found this review useful. I'd to hear from you if you did it or not.
What Do You Think?
- Do you own a pair and want to share your thoughts?
- Do you have a question four me about the Bowflex?
- Do you have any ideas of things I should include
- Or you just want to share your ideas with us
Tell Us in the Comments