Considering their specialization in cardio equipment, you’d probably never guess that StairMaster also makes a pair of adjustable dumbbells. Well, they do. While they’re not the most popular free weights on the market, the StairMaster Twistlock adjustable dumbbells are actually a pretty interesting set. StairMaster has designed a really unique system where you literally rotate the handle of the dumbbell to switch between weight settings. A friend of mine bought a set a few months ago so I convinced him to let me borrow them for a few weeks to try them out myself. They had their pro’s and con’s, so I put together a detailed StairMaster Twistlock review to give you everything you need to know about them.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Product Overview
2. Features & Specifications
3. Weight Range
5. Quality & Durability
8. How Do They Feel?
9. Anything Bad?
10. Video Review
11. The Verdict
Founded in 1983, StairMaster is a leading provider in premium cardio equipment, offering several different types of stair climbers, treadmills, and stationary bikes. They make some really nice stuff, and this is what they’re best known for. I mean, even their company name “StairMaster” makes it pretty obvious that they have a dominant focus on cardio. Since they’re so well-known for these cardio-focused origins, most people have no idea that StairMaster also has a line of free weight adjustable dumbbells.
The StairMaster adjustable dumbbells are a very unique set, featuring a new adjustment technology that StairMaster calls ‘TwistLock.’ I’ll go into full detail in the Adjustability section below, but the basic way to describe it is that the handle itself is twistable, and to change weight settings you give the handle a little twist until you get the amount of weight you want. This is the first adjustable dumbbells set to introduce such a system, so it really piqued my interest when I first heard about it. The StairMaster TwistLock adjustable dumbbells might not be the most popular set, but they seem to be rated pretty highly by their users and the TwistLock technology is a big hit to those who’ve used it.
Features & Specifications
• Weight range of 5-50 lbs per dumbbell
• Adjustable in 5 lb increments
• 10 different weight settings: 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, and 50 lbs
• 2-year warranty
• Dimensions: 14.5″ x 7.9″ x 7.5″ (L x W x H)
The StairMaster TwistLock dumbbells have a relatively normal weight range to work with, allowing you to adjust from 5 lbs up to 50 lbs per dumbbell. The handle itself weighs 5 lbs, and then can adjust up in 5 lb increments which gives you a total of 10 different weight settings to choose from. This is pretty standard for most adjustable dumbbells nowadays, and there’s only two small downsides to the TwistLock’s weight range. First, they’re not adjustable in 2.5 lb increments, which is key if you want the most precise weight settings and the best way to steadily build strength. Second, the weight is not expandable, so if you’re ever going to need more than the 50 lbs they offer, your only option would be to purchase an entirely new set of dumbbells (which can obviously be costly). I wouldn’t consider either of these things deal-breakers, but just things to think about depending on your fitness goals.
StairMaster’s patented TwistLock adjustment system is the first of its kind, and it’s about as quick as you can possibly get when it comes to adjustable dumbbells. They’ve essentially taken the concept of Bowflex’s dial system and integrated it right into the actual handle of the dumbbells, so instead of twisting a dial on the end of each dumbbell, you literally twist the handle to change weight settings. On the inside of each handle, there is a small indicator arrow that points to the current weight setting, with a plus and minus sign on each side to show you which way to twist the handle in order to adjust the weight up or down.
Weight plates attach to the dumbbell using a metal pin that extends or retracts from the handle as you rotate it. So let’s say you wanted to select a 25 lb weight setting. As you twist the handle to the number 25, the metal pin will slowly extend out and basically “grab” the weight plates necessary to make the dumbbell 25 lbs. It’s an interesting system, but it works well.
I was a little worried, at first, about what would happen if I accidentally twisted the handle while I was working out with them. Would the weights fall out in the middle of my workout? Thankfully, no. I read up on this, and in order for the TwistLock system to work, the dumbbell must be secured in its cradle, which is basically a fitted tray that holds the dumbbells (and the extra weight plates) to assist you while you’re changing weight settings. As soon as the dumbbell is removed from the cradle, the handle is locked into place and cannot be rotated, which was very reassuring to my initial concern.
Quality & Durability
I’m going to be honest here, I was a little let down by the quality and overall durability of the StairMaster TwistLock dumbbells. Considering how well-made their cardio equipment is, I had pretty high expectations of their dumbbells as well, so I guess maybe I just wasn’t quite as impressed as I had hoped I would be. Either way, I’m going to tell you why I was a little disappointed. Although the concept of their TwistLock system is quite impressive and very cool to me, StairMaster used a lot of plastic parts that just made the dumbbells feel a little cheap and weak in my opinion. The TwistLock system itself is made with plastic internals, which I haven’t had any problem with, but I can see this wearing down over time and potentially causing an issue in the future. Besides that, my main concern is their weight plates. The weight plates are covered in a thin shell-like plastic that has been known to crack rather easily. Again, I haven’t personally had a problem with this, but any time plastic is used on a dumbbell it’s just a little bit of a red flag to me. As we all know, weightlifting is a relatively rough practice, and plastic generally compromises the durability of weights. Sometimes you can get away with it if you do it right, but the places StairMaster chose to use plastic parts were probably not the smartest design choices on their part.
StairMaster does offer a 2 year warranty on the TwistLock dumbbells, which is nice if you’re concerned with the durability like I was. This should give you plenty of time to use the dumbbells and put them through the test of your own to see how well they hold up. However, it’s important to note that this covers only manufacturer errors or defective parts, and won’t cover you if you accidentally crack one of the plastic pieces I mentioned above, so be cautious that you treat these weights with care.
How Do They Feel?
As far as lifting goes, I actually really liked how the StairMaster TwistLock dumbbells felt to workout with. The handle is textured and contoured to fit the natural shape of the hand, which made gripping these extra comfortable. That was nice to me, but I think the biggest benefit to working out with these is that they have a perfectly balanced feeling to them. The StairMaster TwistLock dumbbells are probably the closest it gets to the shape and size of a traditional dumbbell, and thanks to the TwistLock system’s design, the overall size of the dumbbell changes according to how much weight you have attached. This is important because it makes the dumbbell feel as close to traditional as possible, which is ultimately what you want from an adjustable dumbbell. The closer to traditional you get, the more balanced and natural the weight feels.
Anything Bad About The StairMaster TwistLock’s?
Unfortunately, I did have a couple issues with the StairMaster TwistLocks that I’ve brought up in various places throughout each section above. Some were manageable, however others were not. I want to go through each of them again so that everything is out on the table.
The first issue I had was with the weight range. (Note: If you don’t ever see yourself needing more than the 50 lbs these offer, then you can ignore this section.) The TwistLock dumbbells cannot be expanded above 50 lbs, which may be fine for you now, but if you see yourself getting stronger in the future, this can present a problem (and a costly one, at that). Consider your long-term goals. If you’re a stronger person now or your goal is to get stronger to the point where you’ll need more than 50 lbs at some point down the road, I’d recommend going with an adjustable dumbbells set that allows you to add more weight as you go. My two personal favorite models that allow expanded weight are the PowerBlock Elites and the Ironmaster Quick-Locks. In addition to that, another small nitpick with the weight range is that the TwistLock dumbbells only adjust in 5 lb increments. This isn’t a big deal, obviously, but I just wish they would’ve allowed adjustment in 2.5 lb increments like all of the other top models do.
The second issue is obviously the durability, as I talked about further above. Weightlifting can be rough, and people accidentally drop weights all the time. Even the most careful people do it. Since the StairMaster TwistLock adjustable dumbbells use so many plastic parts, it makes them more susceptible to damage than nearly any other set I’ve tested. I didn’t personally have any problems during the few weeks that I was borrowing them, but I’ve read several other user reviews where their dumbbells literally cracked out of nowhere, specifically the plastic weight plates. Some of those users admitted to dropping the weights, but others swore that they had been cautious and still had the plates crack. This is not something you should have to worry about; weights should be made to withstand regular gym use.
The last issue I had was with the price, and quite honestly this was my biggest issue. The StairMaster TwistLock dumbbells are pricey, really pricey. They cost just over $500, and the cheapest place I could find them was on Amazon. These are almost double the price of any other 50 lb adjustable dumbbell set. The Bowflex SelectTech 552’s are only about half that, and the PowerBlock Elites are cheaper still, and both of these are far better dumbbells than the StairMasters (I’ve tested all 3 sets, so I think I have the experience to reasonably make that claim). For that high price, I would much rather buy one of those two sets and spend the remaining money on something like a weight bench or a pull-up bar (or both!).
Those were my main complaints. You may feel differently about some of the issues I brought up, but like I said, I just wanted everything out on the table so you could read everything there is to know about the TwistLock dumbbells. If you want to know more about the other brands I listed and how they compare, you should definitely check out our best adjustable dumbbells article
StairMaster TwistLock Video Review
• Unique design and adjustment system
• Extremely fast and easy to change weight
• Comfortable textured and contoured grip
• Nice, well-balanced feel
• Weight range not expandable beyond 50 lbs
• Plastic parts sacrifice overall durability and weight plates are known to crack
• Not made to withstand dropping
• Handle jiggles a little
• Price is almost twice as much as other, better models
Overall, the StairMaster TwistLock adjustable dumbbells offered a lot of cool features, but unfortunately did not live up to my high expectations. Because of that, I can’t say I recommend these. The TwistLock system is unique, lightning-fast, and extremely easy to use, but the overall durability is compromised by the design and also the use of plastic parts. Even if that wasn’t true, though, the price tag is still the biggest setback of the StairMasters. At $499, the price is extremely high for a set of 50 lb adjustable dumbbells. StairMaster’s system is cool, but not I’ll-pay-twice-as-much-for-these cool. With that being said, I’d highly recommend the Bowflex SelectTech 552’s as the best alternative to the StairMaster TwistLock’s. The Bowflex’s are only $290, and they’re the #1 highest-rated and best-selling adjustable dumbbells on the market.