Bowflex is a household name in the home gym industry. Chances are, you’ve seen their commercials and maybe grew up in a home with one of their iconic total body gyms.
Their equipment is affordable and designed for convenience, making them good options for beginners and recreational lifters.
The Bowflex SelectTech 552 is possibly the most sold adjustable dumbbell set ever for this reason.
This is an accessible, budget-friendly option with an easy-to-use design.
However, they have some drawbacks, including durability, length, and more.
In this review, I’ll explain everything you need to know about Bowflex SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbells. I’ll share the pros and cons and compare them to other popular options, including NÜOBELLs and AtivaFit.
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells
I’ve tested dozens of adjustable dumbbells, ranging from basic plate-loaded handles to high-end systems. In my experience, adjustable dumbbells are a choice of tradeoffs.
Most fast systems lack the durability and traditional look and feel of traditional fixed dumbbells. Alternatively, most slower systems (plate-loaded) are stronger, heavier, and conventionally-shaped, but not as fast.
The Bowflex SelectTech 552s fall firmly in the first category.
On the one hand, I like the dial system, weight increments, and price.
But on the other hand, long-term durability is concerning, and the length can be problematic during some exercises.
Let’s take a look at the specs and then get into the review.
- Materials: Plastic and Metal
- Starting Weight: 5 lbs
- Max Weight: 52.5 lbs
- Weight Increments: 2.5 and 5 lbs
- Handle Diameter: 31.75mm
- Dimensions: 16.9″ L x 8.3″ W x 9″ H
- Warranty: 2 Years with 3 & 5-Year Options
Bowflex was one of the original pioneers behind the adjustable weight dial system. It’s the most compelling feature of the design and one of the biggest reasons over 21,000 people have bought the set on Amazon.
Another benefit of the SelectTechs is that they replace 15 sets of fixed dumbbells and save a lot of space in your home gym. Even with a stand, you’re looking at less than 5 square feet. However, these are longer than most at 16.9″, which can limit range of motion on some exercises.
The design is ideal for home gym owners looking for speed and a relatively low weight capacity.
In the following sections, I’ll cover each feature in detail.
Plates & Weight Capacity
The Bowflex 552 dumbbells include a series of adjustable weight plates with a tapered design for a traditional shape. These plates are made of metal but are covered with plastic molding to reduce sound. A gap of approximately 2mm separates each plate, leaving room for them to shift slightly. While it’s not a safety concern, you can feel some rattle and lateral movement during some exercises.
These dumbbells have a max weight capacity of 52.5 lbs, which is higher than many adjustable dumbbells in this class. You get 2.5 lb increments between 5-25 lbs, 5 lb increments between 25-50 lbs, and an extra 2.5 lb jump to the 52.5 lb max. I like the smaller jumps in the lower weight range and the overall weight capacity is great for recreational home gym use.
The Bowflex handle has a contoured design with a rubber section in the middle to assist with grip. This is one of my least favorite features of these dumbbells. I prefer a straight, steel handle with proper knurling. The contoured shape feels awkward to me, and the rubber can get slippery. Over time, the rubber insert can separate from the handle, causing the dumbbells to spin when you’re using them.
At 5″ long, the handle is comparable to most adjustable dumbbells in this class, but those with larger hands will likely want something longer. The 36mm diameter will feel good for most, but the contoured shape isn’t for everyone.
The cradle for the Bowflex dumbbells is an important feature because it unlocks the dial, allowing you to adjust the weights. On the bottom of each dumbbell, you’ll find a black button on each side that must be pressed during the adjustment. There are two metal clips on each cradle, so when you rack them, the buttons are engaged, unlocking the mechanism.
This is a smart and common safety feature to prevent someone from accidentally adjusting the weight during use. The cradles are contoured to fit the dumbbells well, and re-racking them is simple.
I also appreciate the hand holds on each side, making them easy to move around with two hands. Another way to move the entire assembly is to place the dial between any two weights. This locks the dumbbell to the cradle, letting you carry the dumbbell and cradle with one hand.
Adjusting the Bowflex SelectTech 552
Adjusting the Bowflex SelectTech 552s is easy and straightforward, but there are a couple of things to know. First, you have to adjust each side of the dumbbell, making it a slightly longer process than handle-dial systems. It’s still a very fast adjustment, but it does take a few extra seconds.
Second, it’s possible to have different weights on each end of the same dumbbell. For example, if you forget to adjust one side or accidentally set the wrong weight, you’ll have an unbalanced dumbbell. In most cases, this is an annoyance that requires your attention.
However, in some cases, it can actually be a benefit if you want to change the strength curve on certain movements or train imbalances. Unless you’re using a plate-loaded adjustable dumbbell, most others won’t allow this since the dial changes both sides simultaneously.
That said, purposefully offsetting the weights is an advanced technique, and the Bowflex SelectTechs are a better option for beginners. If you want to do that, I recommend a plate-loaded option since you have more control and weight variety.
The build quality of the Bowflex 552s could be improved. There are two primary things to consider:
- The amount of plastic – Bowflex dumbbells have a lot of plastic, including the dials, plate moldings, and other components. In general, the more plastic there is, the less durable it is. This is even more true with exercise equipment since it has to withstand more stress. You should never drop these dumbbells. It may be fine for a while, but multiple drops will lead to issues.
- The gears may jam – Aside from the plastic, the biggest fail point is the adjustment mechanism. Although it’s partially constructed with metal, the nature of the device can cause the gears to get stuck. This will either prevent you from selecting a certain weight or, in the worst case, not be able to adjust any weight.
Even still, the Bowflex 552 dumbbells have good overall quality. The key is keeping it in perspective of what they are and how they’re best used. Recreational lifters and beginners should get good and long use out of these dumbbells. I don’t recommend them for heavy lifters or advanced athletes because they’re not built to handle that intensity over the long term.
The easiest way to maximize the life and performance of the Bowflex adjustable dumbbells is to treat them more carefully. Pay attention when you’re racking the weights in the cradle, and don’t drop them.
The overall performance of the Bowflex SelectTech 552 dumbbells is good – not great. I appreciate the easy operation and fast weight adjustments. I also like the smaller 2.5 lb increments on the lower end of the weight range for micro-loading movements like front delt raises, triceps kickback, etc.
My biggest criticism with the performance is the length of the dumbbells. Unlike most systems, the Bowflex adjustable dumbbells are the same length, regardless of the weight. For example, the 5 lb setting is just as long as the 52.5 lb setting. The length at lower weights feels unnatural and awkward on some movements.
The length can also limit range of motion during some exercises. For example, you won’t get the same range on chest and shoulder presses as you would with a shorter dumbbell.
Lastly, the rubber section of the handle can be problematic if it gets sweaty or separates from the steel. It doesn’t provide the same grip as proper knurling, which can pose challenges during pulling movements, carries, or holds.
For the money and demographic, the Bowflex 552s are good performers. Again, they’re better for beginners and recreational lifters trying to get a good workout at home. Anyone expecting more than that will be disappointed, in my opinion.
Further reading: Adjustable vs. fixed dumbbells
Storing Bowflex Dumbbells
Although they take up a small footprint, storing adjustable dumbbells is something to consider. The Bowflex 552s can be left on the floor in their cradles, but having them on a stand makes them even easier to adjust.
Bowflex sells a stand specially designed for the 552 dumbells, making it a great companion. It’s a great option if you want to buy everything at once from one retailer. However, I also recommend the Titan Adjustable Dumbbell Stand. It’s very compact, has a high weight capacity, and fits the Bowflex dumbbells nicely. It also has pegs underneath for storing plates and other gym accessories.
The Bowflex SelectTechs offer a standard 2-year warranty, which is consistent with similar-style adjustable dumbbells. However, you can upgrade the warranty to 3 or 5 years for a one-time fee of $29 or $59.
The SelectTech 552s receive good overall feedback from users. With over 21,000 reviews, they have an average rating of 4.8, which is impressive. Users love how easy they are to adjust and their affordable price. Meanwhile, the biggest criticisms are durability, length, and the rubber handle.
Bowflex SelectTech 552 vs. NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells
The NÜOBELLs have become some of the most popular adjustable dumbbells since their release in 2020. They blend performance with speed and are more durable than many adjustable dumbbells. However, you’ll pay more for them.
One of the biggest differences between the NÜOBELLs and the Bowflex 552s is how they adjust. Instead of dual end dials, the NÜOBELLs use a clever handle dial system, making them ultra-fast and convenient. Since you only have to turn one dial, they’re about twice as fast as Bowflex.
Another difference is their weight options. NÜOBELLs are available in 50 and 80 lb versions, offering 5 lb increments throughout the ranges. While I prefer the Bowflex’s 2.5 lb jumps from 5-25 lbs, the higher 80 lb weight capacity is something I love about the NÜOBELLs.
The NÜOBELLs are also more durable, offering steel plates and a straight, fully-knurled handle. While there are some plastic components, they’re generally longer-lasting and feel more like traditional dumbbells with their shorter profile. I strongly prefer the handle over Bowflex.
Both dumbbells offer the same 2-year warranty with options to extend to 3 or 5 years. However, the Bowflex SelectTechs are less expensive. Compared to the 50 lb NÜOBELLs, you’ll save close to $200 and over $300 on the 80 lb version.
If you’re just looking for an easy and affordable way to train with dumbbells at home, the Bowflex 552s are a great choice. However, I recommend the NÜOBELLs if you want a higher weight capacity, better durability, and a more conventional look and feel.
Further reading: NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells Review
Bowflex SelectTech 552 vs. Ativafit DT 1166 Dumbbells
The Ativafit DT 1166 dumbbells took direct aim at the Bowflex 552s by offering a similar design with a few notable differences. There are some things I like more about the Ativafits and some I like less.
A key difference between these dumbbells is that the Ativafits reach 66 lbs, making them a better option for those who want to lift heavier. That said, they only have 5 lb jumps, and their increments are strange. For example, instead of standard increments of 10, 15, 20, etc., they have weights of 11, 16, 21, etc.
Another difference is that the Ativafit dumbbells use a single end dial to adjust both sides of the dumbbell. By pressing down a button on top of the dumbbells, you unlock the dial, giving you faster adjustments than the Bowflex 552s. This also prevents you from accidentally loading one side differently from the other.
Both dumbbells are similar in that their length never changes, and they have contoured handles with a rubber center section. However, the Atitafit’s are slightly shorter, providing a better range of motion.
They also both include a considerable amount of plastic, bringing durability into question. Each offers a 2-year warranty, but Ativafit doesn’t have extension options.
Price-wise, the Ativafit DT1166 dumbbells are less expensive than the Bowflex 552 dumbbells, making them a solid budget buy. Considering you get more weight, it’s a great value proposition.
However, Ativafit hasn’t been around nearly as long as Bowflex, and they don’t have the same reputation. While they still have thousands of reviews on Amazon, it’s far fewer than Bowflex and with a lower overall rating.
Pros and Cons
The Bowflex SelectTech 552 is one of the most popular adjustable dumbbell sets of all time. It’s an easy-to-use system at a great price and is ideal for people looking to work out at home.
The weight capacity is solid for its class but is lower than more advanced options, making them better for those not lifting heavy weight.
The construction is good overall, but there is a lot of plastic that may lead to durability issues down the road. I strongly recommend never dropping them to preserve the warranty and avoid damage.
Ultimately, these are a good choice for beginners. However, there are better options for people wanting heavier weights, better durability, and a more efficient shape.