If you’re tired of sorting through a jumble of dumbbells or have very limited space to work with, adjustable dumbbells like PowerBlocks or Bowflex SelectTech may be the right free weight equipment for you. Before charging out and paying hundreds of dollars for a piece of new equipment, however, take time to consider the relative merits between PowerBlocks and Bowflex.
Bowflex SelectTech adjustable dumbbells adjust between 5 and 90 lbs. for each dumbbell, depending on which set you buy. PowerBlock dumbbells adjust between 2.5 and 130 lbs. for each dumbbell, again depending on which set you buy. PowerBlock dumbbells offer a much more varied range of weight sets and handle options.
Bowflex SelectTech dumbbells most closely resemble actual dumbbells, with a round handle and rounded weights on either side. PowerBlock dumbbells are shaped just like the name suggests: They’re blocks. PowerBlocks also feature padded wrist supports on both sides of the handle; depending on your personal preference these may be a boon or an annoying hindrance.
Both the Bowflex SelectTech and PowerBlock dumbbells are intended to replace complete weight sets, letting you reap the same benefits of a full set of dumbbells while taking up much less space.
To adjust Bowflex SelectTech dumbbells, set each dumbbell in its rack and turn the dial to the weight you want. The tumblers inside each dumbbell automatically latch on to the appropriate weight plates in the rack so that when you lift the dumbbell it’s set to the weight you selected.
To adjust PowerBlock dumbbells, place each dumbbell in its rack and remove the weight selector pin from the dumbbell. Slide the weight selector pin into the designated slot on the dumbbell for how much weight you want to use, just as you’d select from a weight stack in the gym.
As of May 2010, Bowflex SelectTech dumbbells retail for from a little under $400 to about $600, depending on which set you purchase. PowerBlock dumbbells range anywhere from a little over $150 to as much as $1,300 for a light industrial set. With an average fixed-weight dumbbell costing up to and over $1 per pound according to Dumbbell Routines & Exercises, and each SelectTech or PowerBlock dumbbell replacing up to hundreds of pounds of fixed-weight dumbbells, adjustable dumbbells can represent a significant savings—but only if you actually use the full range of weight options. Otherwise you may as well purchase a smaller weight set for less money.