My home gym has never been anything elaborate. Workout equipment is relegated to a narrow strip of floor space in my home office with an exercise mat, medicine ball, heavy sandbag, resistance bands, two kettlebells, and a single 35-pound dumbbell. Yes, just one dumbbell. t even a pair. Due to space limitations, getting a complete set was never something I considered. I’ve always had a gym membership, so I figured I didn't need a set of adjustable dumbbells. That is until I got my hands on the Bowflex SelectTech 552.
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The Bowflex SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbells easily fit into my tiny workout space and have made at-home workouts have become much more frequent.
“I’m a huge fan of adjustable dumbbells,” says Jim Ryno, a personal trainer with over 30 years experience and owner of home gym design firm Iron House. “I use them at home, as well as in my gym. You can’t beat the price point, they save a ton of space, and they look cool, too.”
When you consider how much use you’ll get out of them, no single piece of at-home workout equipment offers a better value than adjustable dumbbells. And Bowflex SelectTech 552 is a category leader in the space, delivering 15 different dumbbell weights.
In the below review, you’ll get a complete breakdown of every key feature of Bowflex SelectTech 552 to help you decide if this is the product you want to take your home gym to the next level.
Easy to Use Right Out of the Box
First impressions are important, and Bowflex SelectTech 552 passed the test. The dumbbells are already put together, so no assembly required. Just take them out of the boxes (each packaged separately), remove the safety straps with the included Allen wrench, and get right into a workout if you want. The adjustability is self-explanatory, with dials on either side that list the weight increments clearly.
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The dumbbells are solidly constructed and have a nice, high-quality feel to them while working out. The individual weight plates are spaced a few millimeters apart, but you don’t get the annoying clanging you often do with cheaper adjustable dumbbells. These are solid through and through.
Price Is Competitive With Other Comparable Adjustable Dumbbells
Bowflex SelectTech 552 offers a great value at a list price on Amazon of $549, and are currently marked down to $429. To the uninitiated, $400 to $500 may sound expensive, but for the quality Bowflex equipment provides and the fact you have a full set of dumbbells ranging from 5 to 52.5 pounds, the price is right—especially when you consider that even a cheap gym membership these days will run you $500 a year ($40 a month), and pricier boutiques and functional fitness facilities are easily into four figures ($100+ monthly).
Bowflex SelectTech 552 is priced competitively with other comparable adjustable dumbbells:
- rdicTrack 55-Pound Select-a-Weight Dumbbells: $399
- Ativafit 66-Pound Adjustable Dumbbells: $360 (was $500)
- PowerBlock EXP 50-Pound Adjustable Dumbbells: $370 (was $395)
- Core Fitness Adjustable Dumbbell Weight Set (50 lbs.): $370
Bowflex SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbells
Adjusting Weight Is Quick, Easy, and Conducive to Fast-Paced Workouts
As previously mentioned, weight changes are as simple as turning the dials on the dumbbells. When doing so, you get a reassuring (even satisfying) audible and tactile click at each increment.
One slightly awkward thing about “re-racking” the dumbbells after a set or to change weights is they need to be placed perfectly into the trays so the plates fit into their assigned slots. The plates aren't always symmetrical on either side, so you may need to flip the dumbbell to fit accordingly.
This is the case for the other adjustable dumbbells listed above as well, so it’s not a knock on the Bowflex set in particular. Just something to keep in mind if you’ve never used this type of adjustable dumbbell.
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The process of putting the dumbbells back in the trays, changing the weight, and picking the dumbbells up again can take anywhere from five to 15 seconds. If you’re doing supersets in a workout, where the goal is to eliminate rest periods to keep intensity high, this amount of down time to change weights is acceptable. Perhaps you could do it quicker with a full rack of fixed dumbbells all sitting next to each other, but that’s nitpicking.
The Dumbbells Feel Great In-Hand
The grips on Bowflex SelectTech 552 are very comfortable. They have a similar contour as many other dumbbells (fixed and adjustable) along with a rubber sheath in the middle to effectively eliminate slippage. Some lifting purists may favor a non-contoured, knurled grip with no rubber (like what you get with an Olympic barbell). Personally, I like the feel of the rubber and curvature.
The thickness of the handles is in the “middle” range—a little thicker than my 10-pound dumbbells, not quite as thick as the heavy-duty kettlebells I own, and pretty much the exact same thickness of my 35-pound fixed dumbbell.
Supported one-arm row is a dumbbell exercise you can perform with a free weight or an adjustable dumbbell like Bowflex SelectTech 552.
15 Different Weights Have You Covered for Vast Majority of Exercises
The weight goes up by 2.5-pound increments until 25 pounds; after that, the increments go up by 5 pounds with the exception of one last micro-jump to 52.5 pounds. In other words, you have every weight choice you’ll ever need if you don’t plan on going super heavy.
That said, a potential negative is that a max weight of 52.5 pounds is limiting for advanced lifters who want to go heavy on exercises like dumbbell bench presses for the chest and lunges and farmer’s carries for the legs. For these instances, an adjustable set that goes up to 80 or 90 pounds (like NUOBELL 80-Pound Adjustable Dumbbells and PowerBlock Elite USA 90-Pound Adjustable Dumbbells) may be desired. Just keep in mind these heavier sets run $700+.
“Adjustable dumbbells that top out at 50-ish pounds represent a sweet spot in which full, well-rounded workouts can be accomplished,” says Ryno, while also noting that being able to expand the set up to 80 or 100 pounds (which this Bowflex set does not offer) would be ideal. “I prefer to have the option to go heavier, if needed.”
Bottom line: A vast majority of people will be able to do a vast majority (if not all) of their preferred dumbbell exercises with Bowflex SelectTech 552.
All-in-One Design With Practical Plastic Trays
The space-saving nature of adjustable dumbbells can’t be overstated. When sitting next to each other, the pair of dumbbells take up roughly 16”x16” of square footage (at around 9” high), making them easily stowable in the corner of a spare bedroom, home office, living room, or garage gym.
The plastic trays the dumbbells sit in come standard and serve two major purposes: (1) to house unused weight plates when the dumbbells are in use at any weight under 52.5 pounds; and (2) to help keep your home workout space looking tidy and organized rather than having dumbbells scattered around.
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The trays also come in handy for keeping the dumbbells stationary and allowing them to double as makeshift pushup handles; you don’t get the same rotating action as with dedicated tools like the Perfect Pushup, but holding onto the dumbbell handles helps reduce wrist flexion versus doing pushups on the floor.
t as Compact as Fixed Dumbbells, but t a Serious Issue
Although size is the inherent benefit of adjustable dumbbells, these weights are awkwardly long the lighter you go. To be fair, this will be the case with many adjustable dumbbells; it’s the nature of the beast, you might say.
Regardless of weight, each Bowflex SelectTech 552 dumbbell is roughly 16.5 inches long. At the heavier settings (e.g. 50 or 52.5 pounds), this isn’t far off from a fixed dumbbell and seems pretty natural. But at lower poundages, it’s a pretty dramatic size difference.
To illustrate this, I did side-by-side comparisons between Bowflex SelectTech 552 and two different fixed dumbbells I have at home (a 35- and 10-pounder). The 35-pound fixed dumbbell is a little over 13 inches—over three inches shorter than the Bowflex, and it’s pretty noticeable.
Bowflex SelectTech 552 compared to 35-pound dumbbell free weight.
Joe Wuebben; Unsplash
The 10-pound fixed dumbbell is a little under 10 inches (a 6.5-inch difference), and the side-by-side with the Bowflex Select 552 looks fairly comical.
Bowflex SelectTech 552 compared to 10-pound dumbbell free weight.
Joe Wuebben; Unsplash
In both cases, the Bowflex dumbbells are also wider—around 8 inches wide versus 6 inches and 3.5 inches, respectively, for the 35- and 10-pounders.
Awkward, yes, but it’s not a dealbreaker. Functionally, it’s not a problem. Some people might complain the excessive length doesn’t allow you to bring your hands close together on chest or shoulder presses (unless you turn your palms in toward each other in a neutral position), but that’s a minor gripe.
It’s worth noting, however, that the dumbbells are a bit limited when it comes to squats. You can do squats where the dumbbells are held at your shoulders, but goblet squats definitely work better with a fixed dumbbell or kettlebell. Again, I’m nitpicking.
While There's Plenty of Plastic, These Should Last for Years
Lifting diehards may scoff at the fact the only visible metal on Bowflex SelectTech 552 is on the outer edges of the handles in contrast to the aforementioned PowerBlock and NUOBELL products and even less-expensive cast iron sets like Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbell Set. Granted, Bowflex is delivering a “softer” look here, with just about every part either coated in or made of plastic (including the trays).
Will this affect the long-term durability of the dumbbells? I can’t say for sure from personal experience, as my testing period was weeks, not years, long. But provided you’re not regularly dropping them on the floor and banging them together at the top of your dumbbell bench presses, you can feel confident these can take many years of regular use without cracking. In the event the plastic does crack under normal use, Bowflex offers a 2-year parts warranty with the option to purchase three or five years of additional protection.
Does the plastic hurt the aesthetics? This is subjective, of course, but in my opinion, no. These dumbbells look nice. They’re sleek, with rounded contours instead of hard edges and 90-degree angles, and the touch of red looks nice against the black. Maybe looks shouldn’t matter when it comes to workout equipment, but considering your dumbbells will likely be out in the open in your home, it’s better if they’re not an eyesore.
With the JRNY Platform, you can follow instructor-led workouts at home.
Bowflex’s JRNY App Offers Trainer-Led Workouts
These dumbbells can plug and play into any existing free-weight training routine, but you also have the option of getting your workouts directly from Bowflex. The JRNY app is perfect for beginners or anyone who wants to follow pre-programmed video workouts demonstrated by an experienced trainer (similar to Peloton).
At a reasonable price (subscriptions start at $11.99 per month or $99 per year), the JRNY platform allows you to select workouts depending on how much time you have to exercise (from “under 11 minutes” up to an hour-plus), what areas of the body you want to target (whole body, lower body, core & legs, arms, etc.), and what equipment you want to use (adjustable dumbbells or bodyweight only). JRNY contains some pretty cool tech features, including motion tracking to check your form and count your reps.
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I did a few different JRNY workouts using Bowflex SelectTech 552 and found them easy to follow. I especially liked being able to pick the muscle groups I wanted to target and for how long. The workouts aren’t just lightweight “sculpting” routines; for example, I did a strength session with relatively low rep counts (8 per set) where I was able to do floor chest presses with the full 52.5 pounds, and it wasn’t easy. The motion tracking was helpful and easy to use. I’ve been lifting weights for over 30 years, so I know what I’m doing, but it was still nice to get the occasional mid-set coaching cue that I wasn’t bending enough at the hips on my dumbbell bentover rows. I also used the app for a few short stretching routines post-workout.
For anyone needing workouts designed and demonstrated for them, whether you get the Bowflex dumbbells or not, the JRNY app is well worth the modest investment of around $100 per year.
Pros and Cons
Great value considering you’re getting 15 dumbbells, up to 52.5 pounds, for the same price you’d pay for only a few pairs of fixed-weight dumbbells.
They top out at 52.5 pounds per dumbbell, which may not be sufficient for lifting heavy and training for 1-rep max personal records (PRs).
Comfortable grip with non-slip rubber coating.
When going light (5-20 pounds), the dumbbells seem way longer than they need to be; fixed-weight dumbbells are more compact and easier to maneuver.
Solidly constructed—they feel very similar to fixed dumbbells, especially at heavier weights.
All the plastic on these dumbbells might not appeal to those who prefer the look of metal.
User-friendly dials make it easy to change weights on the fly; the satisfying “click” assures you the new weight is selected.
They look nice—a premium look for your home gym setup.
For anyone looking for a complete set of reasonably priced dumbbells to use at home, assuming you don’t plan to go super-heavy in your workouts, Bowflex SelectTech 552 is a clear winner. They look good, feel good, take up minimal floor space, and are infinitely useful for any style of training—hypertrophy (muscle building), strength, HIIT, you name it. If you’re mindful not to drop them on the floor or bang them around unnecessarily, you’ll get many years of use out of them. Even at list price ($549), these are a great investment; when they go on sale for sub-$400, the value is off the charts.
Are these for everyone? . If doing dumbbell exercises with upwards of 80 pounds is a significant aspect of your training—and you’d like to train this way at home—you’ll probably want to spend a few hundred extra dollars for a heavier set. Likewise, if your workouts never call for more than 25 pounds per dumbbell for any exercise, go ahead and save a little money and opt for a 5- to 25-pound set like Lifepro Adjustable Dumbbell Set or Keppi Adjustable Dumbbells.
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Why You Should Trust Me
I have more than 20 years experience as a health and fitness journalist covering fitness trends, writing workout articles, and getting hands-on experience with gym equipment for many of the biggest brands in print and digital publishing. Outside of my career, I’ve been a consistent gym-goer for over 30 years, so I know what I like and don’t like when it comes to dumbbells and all other types of free weights.
I’ve always frequented commercial gyms, but in the last several years—due to being home with young kids, a busy work schedule, and/or gym closures during the pandemic—I’ve spent hundreds of hours working out at home with bare bones equipment. Prior to testing Bowflex Selecttech 552, I had only owned one other set of adjustable dumbbells: a pair of PowerBlocks I lent out to a friend and never got back. This is all to say that at-home workout equipment is an area I have personal experience in and that I plan on expanding in the future.
To provide an even more thorough perspective, I enlisted an unquestioned expert on training and at-home fitness gear: Jim Ryno, a certified personal trainer and owner/founder of Iron House, a New Jersey-based firm that designs custom home gyms incorporating strength-training, cardio, yoga, and spa equipment. Ryno has been designing gyms since 2005, so he’s a pro at selecting the best equipment for various budgets and home setups.
“When working with clients on their home gyms, we often end up recommending adjustable dumbbells for their versatility and space-saving qualities,” he says. “For clients aiming for a comprehensive workout with minimal equipment, adjustable dumbbells are an excellent option.”
Bowflex SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbells
What We Look for in Adjustable Dumbbells
The key things to consider when shopping for adjustable dumbbells are right in line with the features I’ve highlighted above for Bowflex SelectTech 552. netheless, I asked Ryno what he looks for in a set, regardless of the brand. Here are his main qualifications:
One reason to choose adjustable dumbbells over a rack of fixed weights (other than lack of space) is the enormous price savings. But that doesn’t mean the cheaper, the better.
“When shopping for dumbbells, cost is definitely something to be skeptical of,” says Ryno. “If they’re inexpensive, there’s usually a reason. Adjustable dumbbells are priced according to weight range. You can typically stay under $200 for a pair, but they may only top out at 25 pounds, if that.”
“Will they last? Are they mainly constructed of plastic and rubber, or steel?” Ryno asks. While adjustable dumbbells provide a good value, they’re not cheap. If you want to get your money’s worth, they need to hold up to several years of serious workouts. It’s worth noting that material shouldn’t be the only criteria; plastic and rubber can prove durable if you’re not too hard on your equipment. The internal parts you don’t see are just as crucial to the longevity of your dumbbells.
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Aside from providing the functional benefit of isolateral training (where each arm lifts an independent weight, as opposed to a barbell that’s held in both hands), guys generally like the way traditional dumbbells feel during a set. You should be looking for the same experience with adjustable dumbbells. “They should feel just like fixed dumbbells when you’re using them,” Ryno says.
Ease of Use
Adjustable dumbbells aren’t very practical if weight changes are complicated and/or time consuming. Ryno always looks for a pair that are easy to use and adjust quickly. This is especially important for guys who do fast-paced workouts that require numerous weight changes—particularly supersets, where you go back and forth between two exercises that often call for different resistances. Circuit training is another example; here, you’re doing exercises one after another for both large (legs, chest, back) and small (biceps, triceps) muscle groups, so your weights will be all over the map.
The objective for both supersets and circuits is to minimize rest time between exercises so as to keep training intensity high to maximize results. If it takes a full minute to change the weight (or even 30 seconds), it undermines the workout stimulus.
Handles are an important element of dumbbells. “How are they built, and what kind of grip are they providing?” Ryno says. The handles should feel solid and comfortable during your set, with a grippy enough surface, through either knurling or rubber, to minimize slippage.
Ryno prefers adjustable dumbbells that go up to 80+ pounds or a 50-pound set with the option to add on additional plates. How much top-end weight to get depends on your training needs; if you have no plans (or desire) to go above 50 pounds on any exercise, a set of adjustable dumbbells that goes up to 80 or 100 pounds is overkill.
Also, consider what other equipment you have at home. If you already have a power rack with a barbell and hundreds of pounds of weight plates, you can get your heavy work in via barbells and save the dumbbells for moderate-weight and high-rep sets.
Length of Dumbbell
“The longer the dumbbells are, the less compact and therefore the more ‘clunky’ they’ll be,” Ryno says. This is one of the main drawbacks of adjustable dumbbells versus fixed. The latter tend to be more ergonomic and better proportioned, which makes them better for Olympic-style movements like dumbbell cleans and snatches, as well as different squat variations. This is the sacrifice with adjustable dumbbells, but for most people the budget- and space-saving benefits outweigh the clunky downside.
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Testing Process: How I Reviewed Bowflex SelectTech 552
While writing this review, I used Bowflex SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbells for two weeks worth of workouts (eight workouts total). Most of the workouts were part of my existing routine, with a few handpicked from the JRNY app.
My workouts focus on major compound movements for large muscle groups, where every exercise is supersetted with at least one other move (for example, legs and core, chest and back). I found the weight offering (52.5 pounds max) sufficient for all the exercises I do, and the quick dial weight changes kept every superset seamless.
The main exercises I did using the dumbbells were: goblet squats (one dumbbell), two-dumbbell squats (held at the shoulders), split squats, reverse lunges, Romanian deadlifts, bent-over rows, one-arm rows, floor chest press, standing shoulder press, standing alternating curls, and lying triceps extensions (aka “skull crushers”).