I trained with Bowflex’s adjustable dumbbells — here’s the pros and cons

Woman working out with Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells
(Image credit: Bowflex)

From my small inner city apartment, I don’t have the space for a home gym to store the best home gym equipment. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking about how I’d deck it out if I did, and these adjustable dumbbells definitely make it onto my must-have list. 

I’ve seen the Bowflex SelectTech 552i adjustable dumbbells make it onto just about every best adjustable dumbbell guide in fitness, including ours (check out our full Bowflex SelectTech 552 review). So I wanted to get more hands-on with them to see how they fared during high-intensity strength and conditioning programs. 

Call me old fashioned, but I prefer strength training with a sturdy pair of hex dumbbells when I’m training — particularly when lifting heavy weights above my head or positioning them on the floor during a devil’s press or renegade row. But these adjustable dumbbells took me by surprise. Here’s what I liked and a few sticking points I found during testing. 

What are Bowflex SelectTech 552i adjustable dumbbells? 

Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbell

(Image credit: Amazon)

The Bowflex SelectTech 552i adjustable dumbbells come as a set for around $300 (depending on where you purchase them) and offer weight ranges between 2-24kg (up to 55.6 pounds per dumbbell), which adjust in the dumbbell tray using a speedy selection dial. 

You can access 15 different weight settings suitable for cardio workouts, endurance training, or strength training programs alongside a one-year free access subscription to the on-demand workout library on the JRNY app. Subscriptions now include motion tracking to keep a steady eye on your form and reps, costing $19.99/month or $149/year. 

I trained with Bowflex’s adjustable dumbbells — here’s the pros and cons

Writer Sam performing a chest press in a gym with the Bowflex SelectTech 552i adjustable dumbbells

(Image credit: Future owns/ Sam Hopes)

Here’s why I reckon these dumbbells should be a home gym equipment staple and a few pros and cons I discovered along the way.  

They’re surprisingly sturdy

If you haven’t seen these weights, the Bowflex dumbbells sit in trays with plates slotted on either side of the handles. Using the selection dial, you can choose your desired weight, then simply lift the dumbbells off the trays, and the plates sit securely on the dumbbells ready to use. 

I spent the first 10 minutes flinching every time I lifted these weights above my head, fully expecting to be showered with plates, but they didn’t budge an inch, and I was surprised by just how sturdy and secure they felt.

I could swing them above my head during snatches and position them over my chest during a floor chest press (here’s how to do a bench press here) without the plates sliding around or rolling around on the floor — exactly what you need from good quality adjustable dumbbells. Moreover, I could grip them in a high plank position without them rolling out and hurting my shoulders. 

They’re bulky

Writer Sam performing a dumbbell snatch in a gym using the Bowflex SelectTech 552i adjustable dumbbell raised in the air overhead with right arm raised

(Image credit: Fuure owns/ Sam Hopes)

These aren’t weights you can expect to carry on the go because you need the trays for weight changes, so expect them to be a stationary addition to a home gym. Once out of the tray, they’re pretty bulky weights to hold, and I found myself craving the sleeker hex dumbbells I’m more familiar with. 

Although the SelectTech 552s are hardly wallflowers, if you can find some space to stow them, they could save you a ton of money and space overall without the need for a space-sucking dumbbell rack to store individual weights. 

These adjustable dumbbells work well enough for moves like a press or renegade row, but I found them too bulky for exercises like tricep kickbacks, bicep curls, or learning how to do a kettlebell swing using a dumbbell instead.  

They’re perfect for home gyms

I see the need for adjustable dumbbells. They’re convenient and (as I mentioned) save you space and money on multiple sets of dumbbells. Moreover, with the growing cost of spendy gym memberships, more and more people are building home gyms however they can with the space available.

I see the need for them, especially if you enjoy doing strength training programs from home during your lunch break or outdoors in the warmer months. 

Switching weights is easy

The dial helps you select different weights in seconds, meaning you can quickly scale up and down during rest breaks, and it takes about the same amount of time as if you were picking up another pair of dumbbells. 

My program started with a strength component. I performed five sets of five heavy reps on the floor press, then moved into a WOD (workout of the day) consisting of an AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) of snatches, rowing machine, push press, farmer’s hold, and handstands. I started at two reps (or calories) per exercise and added two per round. 

I chose this exercise format to put the adjustable dumbbells to the test regardless of training preference — could I transition seamlessly between weights? Were the weights sturdy enough during heavy lifting? Could they offer enough weight variation? Were they too bulky to wield? This model passed every test for me, but personally, they’re just too chunky to play around with and can’t be thrown to — or tapped off — the floor during high-intensity power training. 

The handles got slippery

The rubber and steel grip makes them more ergonomic than other models we’ve tested at Tom’s Guide. However, anyone planning to use these adjustable dumbbells should consider grip gloves or chalk (I swear by liquid chalk) if you plan to get sweaty during a workout. After a few rounds of my chosen AMRAP, my hands started slipping on the handles, and snatches became pretty precarious.  

Bowflex SelectTech 552i adjustable dumbbells: Verdict

If you want a reliable pair of adjustable dumbbells to target major muscle groups, burn calories, or strengthen your limbs, look no further. Bowflex dumbbells are super popular in the fitness industry for a good reason and could power any functional, full-body strength workout without the faff of fumbling around for plates or changing out dumbbells, but there’s just nothing subtle about them. 

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III qualified fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.