BowFlex adjustable dumbbells make me want to train every day

AI-generated painting of barbells on a gym floor

There’s a reason most gyms aren’t home gyms: Exercise equipment is the opposite of space efficiency. The weight plates average nearly a foot and a half in diameter, each, and there’s no point in assembling a collection unless you also add a barbell, weight rack, and effective room to move around. Adjustable dumbbells are the fitness world’s successful attempt at space-saving design, and nobody does it better than the BowFlex.

The BowFlex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells may not be the most valuable prop in my home gym (the Peloton bike has held that position for years), but they’re damn close. Fully assembled dumbbells take up just 2 square feet of floor space and switch between 15 pairs of dumbbells with the simple twist of a few knobs. They offer the ability to go from 5 to 52.5 lbs in 2.5 lb weight increments up to 25 lbs and 5 lbs increments thereafter.
I have tested nearly 15 pairs of adjustable dumbbells in my time working in fitness content and while many pairs check the necessary boxes sturdy handles, easy weight changes, intuitive weight increase/decrease increments The BowFlexs pair are my favorite and the Only pair I would actually purchase for myself.

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For adjustable dumbbells to serve their purpose, they actually have to regular quickly mid-workout. If switching from one to the other isn’t as simple as putting down a pair of dumbbells and picking up another, there’s no point. A tough workout shouldn’t be made any harder because equipment slows you down. It should be difficult because you’re being asked to do 50lb muscle curls or squat with 100lbs overhead.

The BowFlex weights go through quickly and smoothly, so I can decide mid-set whether I should increase or decrease the weight depending on my body’s capacity that day. The weights are curved at the ends, so inserting them into the holder and removing them happens without much noise and scratches on the surface of the weights, even quickly. The ability to add and decrease weight in 2.5 lb increments has also been amazing for my strength training since my average weights for my arms are somewhere in the 12.5-17 range. .5 pounds, depending on the move. BowFlex allows me to make incremental weight jumps while still challenging myself.

I typically stream strength workouts from fitness apps, and those workouts typically require a combination of light, medium, and heavy weights for the upper or lower body. Bowflex’s adjustable dumbbells mean I don’t have to actually fetch and set up a bunch of dumbbell pairs, just have the set close together which makes it easy to switch between different weights.

Also, this is a small detail but it made a huge difference to me. Calluses are somewhat of a badge of honor in the heavy lifting world, but these come with very comfortable handles that won’t smack your hands. The lack of gritty knurling doesn’t sacrifice my grip and makes the whole experience a little more enjoyable.

The main disadvantage is that the weights are long. Since the central shaft of the weight must have the capacity to hold up to five plates at either end, even the lightest weight is nearly a foot long from end to end. This makes movements like Arnold and shoulder presses more difficult, as the weights meet before my arms can reach full extension. This is somewhat unavoidable with adjustable dumbbells, but still worth considering if you do a lot of overhead work.

I wouldn’t say this about many other pieces of home gym equipment, but even the most casual of fitness gym enthusiasts should own a pair. Whether you’re a beginner who hasn’t yet hit heavy weights or an experienced lifter who needs lighter weights to warm up, they deliver on the promise of their efficient design. They take up almost no space compared to the value they add and after years of use they are a regular part of my fitness routine.

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ProForms Adjustable Dumbbells come in 50-pound and 25-pound varieties. They work much like the pair of BowFlexes, although the transition between weights isn’t as smooth and they only replace 10 pairs of dumbbells instead of 15.

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NordicTracks dumbbells also replace 15 pairs of regular dumbbells and offer weight increments of 2.5 and 5 lbs. They weigh 50 pounds total and are made from a heavy-duty blend of steel and hardened plastic.

Courtesy of Amazon

PowerBlocks are OG’s adjustable handlebars for a reason. Their ultra-rugged design can withstand decades of use and still get the job done. They’re not the smoothest to use, but their compact design is definitely space-saving.

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