Adjustable dumbbells might just be the best investment you could ever make when it comes to home gym equipment. They’re the perfect all-in-one free weight solution, offering easy weight adjustability and a super compact size which makes them perfect for home use. Free weights are absolutely vital when it comes to fitness, giving you countless exercise opportunities and the ability to workout every muscle on your body. In order to find the best adjustable dumbbells, we tested all of the highest-rated models and wrote down notes about the pro’s and con’s of each. Everyone’s fitness goals are different, so we put together this detailed adjustable dumbbells buying guide to help you find the perfect set for your own needs.
Before we go into the real details of our adjustable dumbbells reviews, here’s an easy comparison guide to see the differences between each model.
- Bowflex SelectTech 552
- 5-52.5 lbs
- 2.5 lb
- 2 years
- Bowflex SelectTech 1090
- 10-90 lbs
- 5 lb
- 3 years
- PowerBlock Elite
- Selector Pin
- 5-50 lbs
- 2.5 lb
- 10 years
- Ironmaster Quick-Lock
- Locking Screw
- 5-75 lbs
- 2.5 lb
- StairMaster TwistLock
- 5-50 lbs
- 5 lb
- 2 years
- Universal Power-Pak 445
- 5-45 lbs
- 5 lb
- 1 year
Why Adjustable Dumbbells?
There are hundreds of reasons why adjustable dumbbells are considered to be one of the best home exercise equipment, but for the sake of this post, we narrowed it down to the four most important points to give you an idea of why these are a must-have in any home gym.
Convenient, All-In-One Free Weight Solution
Adjustable dumbbells are one of the most versatile pieces of equipment in the fitness industry, allowing you to easily adjust a single dumbbell between several different weight amounts. Most sets adjust from 5 pounds to around 50 pounds and will have between 10-15 different weight settings, giving you a ton of flexibility to get the exact amount of weight you’re looking for. In the old days, if you wanted dumbbells in your home gym, you’d have to buy a separate set of dumbbells for each amount of weight. Well, you can imagine how that probably took up a ton of space (and cost a lot too). Adjustable dumbbells offer a super convenient and compact way to have an entire set of traditional dumbbells right at your fingertips. Most of us have limited home gym space to work with, so rather than having 15 sets of traditional dumbbells taking up half of your gym room, you now have those 15 sets packed into one.
Free weights (or more specifically, dumbbells) are absolutely crucial when it comes to fitness; the physical benefits they offer cannot be matched by any other machine or system. Because they’re completely free and unrestricted, they can be used in nearly any exercise to workout nearly any muscle group. Use them in basic strength-training exercises like curls or presses, or add them to the mix with more unique workouts like cardio or kickboxing. The possibilities are truly endless.
But those are benefits of dumbbells in general, let’s talk about the variety of specifically adjustable dumbbells. The fact that a single dumbbell is adjustable between 15 different weight settings just amplifies the workout opportunities we highlighted above. No longer do you have to reach for different weights on every set or exercise; simply slide each adjustable dumbbell back into its cradle, adjust the weight, and when you pull it back out of its cradle you essentially have a brand new dumbbell. This quick weight adjustment is what makes adjustable dumbbells perfect for fast-paced routines, whether you’re doing your own thing or following a pre-set workout like P90X. If you wanted to perform a heavyweight exercise like bench press or rows, simply adjust the weight up and you’re ready to go. Or, if you wanted to do something light like concentration curls or kickbacks, one quick adjustment and you’ve immediately got the perfect amount of weight. Adjustable dumbbells are by far the best and easiest way to add the variety of free weights to your workout routine.
But you won’t be able to take advantage of all the benefits if you don’t have a good weight bench to help you do the moves. Check out our Best Adjustable Weight Bench article to find your best bet.
Before adjustable dumbbells were introduced, you’d have to buy a separate set of dumbbells for each amount of weight you wanted, meaning one set for 10 pounds, one set for 15 pounds, one set for 20 pounds, and so on. The average set of adjustable dumbbells gives you weight options from 5-50 pounds, so for comparison purposes, let’s say you wanted to buy a traditional set of dumbbells from 5-50 pounds. Any idea how much that would cost? Upwards of $1,000. Want to know how much a good, quality set of adjustable dumbbells costs? Around $300. Thanks to their minimalist cost-effective design, you can now get all the same benefits of a traditional set of weights for almost a quarter of the cost.
Great For All Experience Levels
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve never worked out a day in your life or you’re training for your 5th fitness competition, adjustable dumbbells are an excellent tool for all experience levels. Beginners will find that the simple weight adjustability will help build their muscle and strength easier because they can take advantage of the small, precise weight increments, whereas stronger or more advanced weightlifters can utilize this all-in-one solution for all exercises whether it be lightweight and isolated or heavyweight and rigorous. Because of how much opportunity these offer (in terms of weight, exercises, and benefits), adjustable dumbbells are a great fit for anyone looking to add free weights to their routine, regardless of experience level.
Things To Consider Before Buying
There are a few variables to consider when looking for the best adjustable dumbbells. Everyone’s needs are different, so before we get into the real details on each model, here are some general considerations you should make to help you decide which set is right for you.
The most obvious thing you should consider before your purchase is how much weight you’re going to need. Adjustable dumbbells come in a variety of weight ranges, the most common being 5-50 pounds. Researchers have found that 50 pounds is the perfect standard amount of weight for the average athlete, and honestly, the majority of people will find that this provides all the weight options they need. But what if you need more? Several models we’ve reviewed below offer easy-to-install expansion kits that let you increase the amount of weight on your adjustable dumbbells. If you feel that you might need more than the standard weight that your model offers, make sure that it’s expandable before buying!
This isn’t a huge deal, but adjustment type is certainly something worth mentioning. There are several types of adjustment and each has their pro’s and con’s, which we go over in detail in each of our adjustable dumbbells reviews below. For example, a dial adjustment system is the easiest to use, but some people consider a traditional locking screw to be more secure and therefore more durable. For fast-paced workouts like P90X, you want something quick and easily adjustable. But if you’re lifting heavy and have adequate rest time, you might not be too concerned with having the fastest adjustment. At the end of the day, it’s really all in your personal preference and depends what type of workouts you’ll be primarily doing.
Durability is pretty much the key factor in determining how long a product is going to last, so it’s definitely something to consider when choosing the best adjustable dumbbells for you. Weightlifting is generally a little rough, so you’re going to want something that can withstand some typical gym abuse. When you’re exhausted at the end of a set, you’re not always going to want to delicately set your weights down. In fact, most of us will admit we almost never lightly set our weights down. Adjustable dumbbells will last you a lifetime if you go with the right model, so be sure to read our notes about the each model’s durability when making your decision.
Quality vs. Price
We put Quality and Price together in one category because these two points often tend to overlap a little bit. There’s always correlation between the two, and it’s important to know how and why. Because this is a rather competitive category in the fitness industry, there’s a pretty wide range of types and styles available, which means there’s also a pretty wide range in quality and pricing as well. Usually, you get what you pay for, but with adjustable dumbbells, we found that highest price doesn’t always mean highest quality. After conducting this guide, we actually found that the best adjustable dumbbells (highest quality) are on the lower end of the price spectrum, around $300, which was quite a pleasant surprise to us! You’ll see what we mean after reading our adjustable dumbbells reviews below.
It’s important to note that prices do vary greatly based on weight range, so be sure to narrow down the weight range you want first before comparing pricing and quality. There are quite a few different weight ranges available, so you don’t want to accidentally be comparing a 50 lb set to a 90 lb set. The only way you can truly compare price and quality is when you’re comparing equal products. At the end of the day, no matter which weight range you are looking into, you just want to make sure you’re getting a great value for your dollar. If you’re stuck deciding between two models in our guide, go for whichever gives you the best value.
One of the last things to consider while doing your research is product warranty. Adjustable dumbbells are generally pretty solid products, but they’re also somewhat complex by nature, so having a good warranty gives you peace of mind with your purchase and makes everything 100% worry-free if you ever experience an issue down the road. To make things easy for you to compare, we listed each set’s warranty in our reviews below so you can see every detail right here on our guide.
Adjustable Dumbbells Reviews
Adjustable dumbbells have become increasingly popular over the years due to their amazing versatility. There are several models to choose from, and they are not all created equal because of varying factors like adjustability, durability, and of course quality. Each have their pro’s and con’s, and we wrote a thorough review on each to help you find the best adjustable dumbbells for you.
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Review
Review Notes & Details
The Bowflex SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbells are one of the highest rated and best-selling adjustable dumbbells sets of all time. The concept of adjustable dumbbells has been around for years now, but when the Bowflex SelectTech series was introduced, it was a total game-changer. Bowflex took the existing concept and designed a dial-a-weight system which streamlined the adjustment process, making changing weights faster and easier than it had ever been before. The result was an adjustable dumbbells set that was both physically appealing and very functionally efficient, aka the Bowflex SelectTech 552.
For starters, the Bowflex SelectTech 552’s offer a great weight range, allowing you to adjust from 5 pounds up to 52.5 pounds per dumbbell. Each dumbbell is adjusted in small increments of 2.5 pounds, which gives you 15 different weight settings to choose from (5, 7.5, 10, 12.5, 15, 17.5, 20, 22.5, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, and 52.5 pounds). This is something I really like about the SelectTech’s; the fact that you can adjust in 2.5 lb increments gives you highly precise weight settings and therefore the best functionality out of your dumbbells, which in turn allows you to steadily increase strength at your own pace because you have the ability to customize the weight so freely. But besides the weight itself, my personal favorite part about the Bowflex set is how easy it is to change the weight. The patented SelectTech dial-adjustment system is totally effortless and switching between weight settings literally takes two or three seconds, making these perfect for fast-paced routines like P90X or for anyone who doesn’t like messing around with changing weights. Check out the video review below for a full demonstration.
Taking a deeper look at their design, I have to say I was really impressed by the general engineering of the Bowflex SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbells. The build is unique, and the entire structure is designed with safety and durability as top priority. The inner brackets (which hold the weight) lock each weight plate into place as soon as the dumbbell is removed from its tray, so there’s no rattling and no worries about a weight coming loose or falling out during your workout. That’s a big concern to a lot of people who aren’t familiar with adjustable dumbbells, so in case you were worried, now you don’t have to be! Looking further, I like that the soft-grip rubber handle is contoured to fit the natural shape of the hand because it gives you a nice comfortable grip when you hold each dumbbell. Something interesting I also noticed when holding the SelectTech’s was that the overall size of each dumbbell is a little long compared to other models, but not to the point where it’s inconvenient. I actually found that the longer size required me to use my stabilizers and therefore engaged my muscles more, so there’s an unexpected benefit for you!
Bowflex is pretty generous in that they offer a 2-year warranty on these, but what I think is really cool is their 6 Week Fitness Results Guarantee. Bowflex is so confident in the SelectTech 552’s that they offer your full money back if you’re not 100% satisfied with your fitness results. This is really important to consider because no matter which adjustable dumbbells you go with, you’ll be investing a few hundred dollars in these, and it’s nice to have peace of mind knowing you purchase is 100% worry-free thanks to their warranty and money-back results guarantee. And at a steal on Amazon, the Bowflex SelectTech 552’s are actually on the lower end of the adjustable dumbbells price spectrum, which just puts the icing on the cake for those that were concerned about the general cost of adjustable dumbbells.
We’ve done a full review of the Bowflex SelectTech 552’s, and they are incredible. Bowflex SelectTech 552’s are probably the best adjustable dumbbells on the market. Their dial adjustment system makes them very easy to use, they offer a great weight range with highly-precise weight settings, and are covered by a long warranty and even a money-back guarantee. You can’t really get much better than that. They’re priced very well at $299, and are considered a must-have by thousands of happy users.
Bowflex SelectTech 1090 Review
Review Notes & Details
Following the incredible success of their SelectTech 552 model, the Bowflex SelectTech 1090 adjustable dumbbells offer pretty much all of the same features but with a bumped up weight range for those that want more weight out of their dumbbells. The SelectTech 1090’s allow you to adjust the weight from 10 pounds all the way up to 90 pounds per dumbbell! For anyone that was concerned by the SelectTech 552’s max weight of 52.5 pounds, these are definitely for you. Think of the SelectTech 1090’s as the bigger, badder older brother to the SelectTech 552’s.
The Bowflex SelectTech 1090’s are adjusted in weight increments of 5 pounds, giving you 17 different weight settings (10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, and 90 pounds). Since the SelectTech 1090’s adjust in 5 lb increments, the adjustability isn’t as precise as the SelectTech 552’s tiny 2.5 lb adjustments, but then again that’s not what the SelectTech 1090’s were designed for. The SelectTech 1090’s were designed for people who wanted to lift heavier and therefore required more weight out of their adjustable dumbbells set, and the 5 lb adjustments allowed Bowflex to pack an extremely wide weight range into one tight, compact dumbbell set. Keeping that in mind, the Bowflex 1090’s are perfect for what they were designed for.
As far as functionality goes, the Bowflex SelectTech 1090 adjustable dumbbells work just as flawlessly as the SelectTech 552’s. They use the same dial adjustment system which gives you fast adjustability and overall just makes changing weights very easy to do, even with such a wide, heavy weight range. Thanks to this, the SelectTech 1090’s are also great for fast-paced workout routines or anyone who doesn’t like to mess around manually changing weights. That’s one of the biggest drawbacks of other adjustable dumbbells sets, the fact that they take longer to adjust the weight. The Bowflex SelectTech series (both the 552 and the 1090) really nailed the easy adjustability aspect of things, which is why they are so widely loved by the fitness community.
The Bowflex SelectTech 1090 adjustable dumbbells are covered by a 3-year warranty (compared to the 552 model’s 2-year warranty), and they offer the same awesome 6 Week Fitness Results Guarantee. If you aren’t totally satisfied with the results the SelectTech 1090’s have given you, you can return them and get your money back. Talk about a worry-free purchase! Since the SelectTech 1090’s are on the higher end of the adjustable dumbbells price spectrum with their $599 price tag, it’s really nice to know that you have these options in case you’re not happy with your purchase. However, with that being said, $599 is actually relatively well-priced when you consider that we’re talking about a 90 lb adjustable dumbbell set here (most 90 lb sets are $600 and up).
Overall, the Bowflex SelectTech 1090’s are one of the best adjustable dumbbells sets out there if you’re looking to lift heavy and utilize a wider weight range. You can read our full Bowflex SelectTech 1090 review to see why. These are perfect for advanced weightlifters because you get the higher weight benefit along with Bowflex’s painless dial adjustability system, which makes changing the weights between sets quick and easy. With a money-back guarantee, you really can’t go wrong with these.
PowerBlock Elite Review
Review Notes & Details
The PowerBlock Elite Dumbbells are another model that many people consider to be the best adjustable dumbbells set on the market. They’re rated very highly and are well-known for their extremely wide weight range and unique 4-bar design. PowerBlock was actually one of the first companies to produce an adjustable dumbbell set, with the very first PowerBlock “selectorized dumbbell” released in 1993. Over the past few decades, they’ve refined and perfected their design until they had the ultimate adjustable dumbbell: the PowerBlock Elite series.
We have a separate full review of these adjustable dumbbells. You can read more about the PowerBlock Elite series here.
The PowerBlock Elite Dumbbells offer one of the widest weight ranges out of any other adjustable dumbbell set on the market (this is through expansion kits, of course, not on the standard set). The standard PowerBlock Elite dumbbells set offers a weight range of 5 pounds to 50 pounds, and on top of that you can add an expansion to 70 pounds or 90 pounds per dumbbell. The best part about this expansion capability is that you don’t need to purchase an entirely new dumbbell set just to get a higher weight range. Simply purchase the Powerblock Elite 50 (Stage 1 of the PowerBlock series) and you can add expansion kits as you need them. It takes no more than 30 seconds to add an expansion kit and is very easy to do, which is what makes the versatility of the PowerBlock Elite better than any other adjustable dumbbells.
As far as adjustability goes, the PowerBlock Elite Dumbbells use a U-shaped magnetic selector pin to change between weight settings. It’s not quite as quick as a dial system but overall it’s pretty easy to use; you slide the pin in and out of desired weight settings just like you’d do on any cable-weight machine in a public gym. Using this selector pin, you can adjust in 2.5 lb increments, allowing you to pick highly-precise weight amounts and choose between the available weight settings. Stage 1 of the PowerBlock Elite series, the PowerBlock Elite 50, offers 16 different weight settings (2.5, 5, 7.5, 10,15, 17.5, 20, 25, 27.5, 30, 35, 37.5, 40, 45, 47.5, 50 pounds). If you add the expansion kit to 70 pounds, you add 6 more weight settings (55, 57.5, 60, 65, 67.5, and 70 pounds), and if you decided to go all the way to the top and add the expansion to 90 pounds, you’ll get another 6 weight settings (75, 77.5, 80, 85, 87.5 and 90 pounds) for a total of 28 different weight options.
Something interesting about the PowerBlock Elite Dumbbells is their unique 4-bar support design. Each PowerBlock dumbbell has 4 bars surrounding the grip handle which connect each end of the dumbbell. Prior to me writing this, there was literally not a single bit of info anywhere online as to what these are, so I decided to email Powerblock myself and ask what those 4 bars around the handle are for. This was their response: “The bottom bars are used for holding the adder weights which allow the 2.5lb increment jumps, and the top bars are actually wrist guards that are intended to allow the users hands to wrest more comfortably.” So there you have it, folks! They actually do have a purpose! Furthermore, although they may look like it, they don’t cause any sort of inconvenience when lifting, which is nice because that’s what I was more concerned about. They still lift and feel like normal well-balanced dumbbells, and if you closed your eyes while lifting you’d never know those bars were there.
PowerBlock claims their products are so durable that they’ll last you a lifetime, and to prove their confidence, they decided to give the PowerBlock Elite series a huge 10-year warranty. This was major reassurance of their high quality; any company that stands by their products for as long as 10 years has put some serious effort into making a great product. Adjustable dumbbells are an investment that can last you for a lifetime, and as with any piece of gym equipment, you’re going to want something that can take a little bit of beating. In my own experience with them, the PowerBlock Elite dumbbells are very durable and can withstand any type of regular gym abuse. But don’t take my word for it, pro trainer Jeff Cavaliere has had his set of PowerBlocks for over 20 years and they still work just as new.
Overall, I’d say the PowerBlock Elite Dumbbells are the best adjustable dumbbells if you’re looking for something expandable beyond the standard 50 pounds. The PowerBlock Elite can easily be expanded up to 70 pounds or 90 pounds, and their magnetic selector pin design makes weight adjustments quick and simple. The PowerBlock Elites start at $299 for the 50 lb set, and expansion kits are available for about $120 each, which are all very reasonable prices for such an excellent product.
You’ve read up on 2 great Bowflex options and the PowerBlock series. Which one is better? Read our PowerBlock vs Bowflex article to find out!
Ironmaster Quick-Lock Review
Review Notes & Details
The Ironmaster Quick-Lock Dumbbells have the most traditional look and feel when it comes to adjustable dumbbells; they look like a set you’d see Arnold Schwarzenegger holding in an old school black-and-white workout photo. But don’t be fooled by their classic appearance, that’s exactly how Ironmaster wanted them to look. In reality, the Ironmaster dumbbells are designed extremely well and beneath the cast iron dumbbell weight plates and knurled steel grip is a patented locking-screw mechanism that securely holds everything in place and allows for quick adjustability. Old school look, new school technology.
When considering weight range, the Ironmaster Quick-Lock Dumbbells are the only real competitor to the PowerBlock when it comes to an easily expandable adjustable dumbbells set. The standard Ironmaster dumbbells offer a weight range of 5 pounds all the way up to 75 pounds, which is pretty impressive for a standard set, but the expansion kits are where things start to get crazy. An add-on kit is available which increases the weight range to a massive 125 pounds, but if you really want to take things to the next level, Ironmaster offers a custom add-on kit that increases the weight range to a ridiculous 165 pounds per dumbbell. That’s a higher weight range than any other set on the market, making these the best adjustable dumbbells if you’re looking for the biggest weight range.
If you want more information on these massive dumbells and their weigh ranges, check out our detailed review of the Ironmaster Quick-Lock.
With the Ironmaster dumbbells, you manually add weight as opposed to sliding in and out of weight framework like the Bowflex or the PowerBlock. Manual weight adjustment is obviously a little slower than the dial or selector pin designs, but what most people like about that is you can achieve any desired weight you want in 2.5 pound increments no matter what weight level you’re at. Most adjustable dumbbells allow you to adjust in 2.5 pound increments up until about 50 pounds, and from there you can only go up in 5 pound increments. The Ironmaster set consists of both 2.5 lb and 5 lb weight plates, and since you manually add them, you can mix-and-match any plates together to get the most precise weight setting whether you’re lifting 50 pounds, 100 pounds, or even 150 pounds.
Although adding weight manually is usually a lot slower than any other method, the Ironmaster is actually pretty quick. Why? They use a patented Quick-Lock system to hold the adjustable weights on each end of the dumbbell; simply slide the rod into each end, give it a little twist, and the adjustable weights are locked into place. Thanks to this Quick-Lock design, the Ironmaster dumbbells are one of the best adjustable dumbbells sets when it comes to safe and secure weight. The half-inch steel locking screw in the Quick-Lock system tightly holds each weight plate together to prevent any rattling, and since the plates are held horizontally, there’s essentially no possible way for them to slide off mid-workout. Furthermore, Ironmaster is so confident in the quality of their system that they’re offering the highest luxury any product can be awarded: a lifetime warranty.
Overall, the Ironmaster Quick-Lock Dumbbells are an awesome set of adjustable dumbbells. If you prefer a traditional look and feel, these are definitely for you. The Quick-Lock system makes the manual adding of weights faster than it’s ever been before, and their manual weight adjustment also gives you the ability to get the most precise weight settings no matter what weight level you’re at. They’re a little on the pricier side at $499, but when you consider that this price includes a higher weight range, a stand, and a lifetime warranty, I’d say they’re well worth the price.
StairMaster TwistLock Review
Review Notes & Details
Considering their cardio-focused origins, you’d probably never guess that StairMaster makes a set of adjustable dumbbells. However, they do, and they’re actually pretty nice! While they’re not quite as popular as models like the Bowflex or the PowerBlock, the StairMaster TwistLock adjustable dumbbells are rated highly by their customers who rave over several of their features, most notably their quick adjustability thanks to StairMaster’s new TwistLock adjustment technology. I honestly think they’re not popular solely because nobody knows they exist!
For starters, the StairMaster TwistLock dumbbells are adjustable from 5 pounds to 50 pounds and they adjust in 5 pound increments, which allows for 9 different weight settings (5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, or 50 pounds). At this time there are unfortunately no expansion kits available, so if you did want to go heavier, you’d be better off with something like the PowerBlocks or Ironmasters. One thing that’s nice about the StairMaster is how the overall length of the dumbbell changes depending on the weight selected. With some models, the overall length of each dumbbell does not change because of how the weight plates attach to an inner bracket, so whether you have 15 pounds attached or 50 pounds, the overall length of the dumbbell remains the same. Because the weights are attached end-to-end on the StairMaster TwistLock’s, the size does change. This is especially nice because it makes them dumbbell feel very balanced at each weight setting.
StairMaster’s patented TwistLock adjustment system is interesting and pretty cool. They essentially took the concept of a dial system and integrated it into the actual handle of the dumbbell. The handle itself is contoured to fit the natural shape of the hand and textured to provide a comfortable grip, and to change weight settings, you simply twist the handle until the arrow on the handle is aligned with the weight you want to select. Pull the dumbbell out of its cradle and you’re good to go! For additional safety, StairMaster has made it so that the handle can only twist when each dumbbell is properly placed in its cradle. This is good because it reduces the risk of weights detaching while you’re working out.
Although their safety features are noted above, I have to admit I’m not completely confident in the durability of the StairMaster TwistLock adjustable dumbbells. They’re not cheaply made, but they don’t seem like they can handle too much abuse (which is undoubtedly going to happen when working out because everyone drops dumbbells from time to time). I’ve heard stories of them cracking when used at a higher weight so that’s a little concerning as well. StairMaster does offer a 2-year warranty which is reassuring for people like me who might be worried about the durability.
Your can read our full StairMaster TwistLock review for more info, but I think the StairMaster TwistLock adjustable dumbbells are offer some really cool benefits, like a well-balanced feel and fast adjustability thanks to their unique TwistLock technology. However, I’m a little concerned about the durability. But even when I put that aside, at a price tag of $449, you’d be much better off spending your money on a set of Bowflex or PowerBlock dumbbells at around $299 and then using the leftover money on something like a weight bench or pull-up bar.
Universal Power-Pak 445 Review
Review Notes & Details
You know how when you go to the pharmacy, there’s always generic versions of the brand-name medicines? That’s what the Power-Pak is. The Universal Power-Pak 445 is like the generic version of the Bowflex SelectTech. I don’t mean for this to sound bad because it’s really not, those generic brands often work just as well as the brand name products! I’m using that analogy because Universal Home Fitness and Bowflex are owned by the same parent company, Nautilus, and Universal is literally meant to be the more affordable type of equipment whereas the Bowflex is the premium equipment. The Universal Power-Pak 445 actually works very well and very similar to the Bowflex SelectTech 552, but there are a few key differences to note.
First off, the Universal Power-Pak 445 is adjustable from 4 pounds up to 45 pounds; a little lower than the Bowflex SelectTech 552, but not by much. The Power-Pak also only adjusts in 5 lb increments, whereas the Bowflex adjusts in 2.5 pounds increments. This is one of the bigger disadvantages in my opinion; having that 2.5 lb precision is a big help on a lot of exercises, mostly when working the smaller muscle groups like biceps or triceps. That 2.5 lb adjustability allows you to move up in weight steadily rather than having to sacrifice form to accommodate the higher weight. If you’re not concerned with that type of precision, then you need not worry. As far as the general feel of the Universal Power-Pak 445 goes, it’s pretty nice, especially the handle. They use a soft rubber grip that’s comfortable and non-slip, and since the handle is contoured, they felt very natural and easy to hold.
There are 9 different weight settings (4, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, or 45 pounds), and they use the same patented SelectTech dial adjustment technology that’s in the Bowflex, which makes changing weights fast and easy. The general weight setup is similar to the Bowflex in that it uses inner brackets to secure the weight plates into place, but the design is different. Rather than a rounded design, the Universal Power-Pak 445 uses a hex-shaped weight plate that gives them a unique look and functionally works just as well. The weight selection itself is very smooth, so when you’re sliding the dumbbells in and out of their cradle to select new weight, nothing catches. I also thought it was nice that the Power-Pak comes with an actual stand whereas most sets only come with a cradle or tray to lay the dumbbells in.
The Universal Power-Pak comes only comes with a 1-year warranty, which is a bit of a disadvantage. Adjustable dumbbells are an investment that you’re going to have for years, and you want at least a few years of reassurance that you’re covered in case anything is defective. I just don’t think a single year is long enough for that. The Power-Pak does seem durable, not quite to the point where I can toss them around like a set of PowerBlock’s or Ironmaster’s, but durable enough for regular gym use. My only concern with their durability, and therefore this short 1-year warranty, is that if something happens or they break after that 1-year mark, I don’t want to be left in a bad position because the warranty has expired. There goes my sub-$300 investment. Just something to consider, I suppose.
Overall, the Universal Power-Pak 445 adjustable dumbbells are a quality product and a nice, affordable alternative to the Bowflex SelectTech 552. Changing weights is fast and the design is great, but the max weight at 45 pounds and only allowing adjustment in 5 lb increments are two limiting factors to consider. I also think the 1-year warranty is considering the expected longevity of this type of equipment. At a price just under $300, I’d probably opt to spend the extra money and go with the Bowflex.
Bowflex vs Powerblock vs Ironmaster
When it comes to adjustable dumbbells, the three big names you’ll likely encounter are Bowflex, PowerBlock, and IronMaster. All three are solid companies that have some great products, but depending on where you are at on your fitness journey, one may better suited to you than another.
If you’ve been lifting for a while, and move heavy weight, then PowerBlock and IronMaster are probably the companies you’ll want to focus your attention on. They both tout adjustable dumbbells designed and made in the USA, so you know you’re getting quality dumbbells.
You really can’t go wrong with either of the two, and the deciding factor on which you choose will likely be budget and how fast you feel you need to change out weights. Both are easily adjusted on the fly, but IronMaster’s adjustable dumbbells are just a little bit quicker, making them the ideal choice if you’re big into super sets.
If you don’t mind taking a little longer to adjust the weights on your dumbbell then you might be happy spending a little less on the PowerBlocks. PowerBlocks take a little longer to adjust, but are otherwise very solid dumbbells.
For the best overall value though, if you don’t mind a slight dip in quality, consider Bowflex a decent option. If you’re just starting out in the gym, the Bowflex SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbells are likely more than good enough. They’re quick to adjust, and are heavy enough for most isolation exercises. Once you begin to progress though, you may be left wanting with the inability to expand on these dumbbells.
Conclusion: The Winners
So who makes the best adjustable dumbbells? Well, it depends on your definition of “best.”
After countless hours with each of these models, I’d say the Bowflex SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbells were the best overall product. They offer a great weight range for both beginners and advanced users alike, and they are by far the fastest and easiest dumbbells to adjust. Their user-friendly design makes them both durable and safe, and they’re covered by a good warranty and even a money-back guarantee if you’re not totally happy with them. From a customer’s point of view, Bowflex really went above and beyond in every aspect I was looking for when comparing these to all of the other models, and apparently everyone else in the world agrees because these are the #1 Best Seller on Amazon in the adjustable dumbbell category. Overall, the SelectTech 552’s won my vote as all-around best adjustable dumbbells.
Best For Lifting Heavy (over 50 pounds)
The only downside to the SelectTech 552’s is that they don’t offer the ability to expand weight, so if at any point you think you’re going to need more than the 52.5 pounds they offer, you should go with a model that’s expandable so you can add more weight as you need it. If you’re in that boat, then the PowerBlock Elite Dumbbells would definitely be your best choice. Their Stage 1 dumbbell set offers a weight range of 5-50 pounds, but you can easily expand to 70 or even 90 pounds using their weight expansion kits (which are actually pretty inexpensive). Their magnetic selector pin makes them really easy to adjust, and they’re one of the most durable sets on the market. With a massive 10-year warranty, the Powerblock Elite’s are guaranteed to last you for years to come.
Most Traditional (and most durable)
While I would say the two models above have everything you could ask for from a set of adjustable dumbbells, there are still a lot of people who just prefer a more traditional look and feel. I’m talking cast iron dumbbells, knurled steel grips, and something that can take a tough beating in the gym. If you’re one of them those people, then the Ironmaster Quick-Lock Dumbbells are the obvious first choice. These are everything that Arnold Schwarzenegger himself would have loved back in the day. What I really love about these is that Ironmaster held a super cool old school appearance and concept, but used new school technology (their Quick-Lock system) to drastically improve user experience and make changing weights easier than any other manual weight set. I’d say these are by far the most durable adjustable dumbbells because of their traditional design, and apparently Ironmaster thinks so too because they include a lifetime warranty to ensure your set will last you for life.