PowerBlock vs Bowflex: The Duel of Dumbbells 2022

Adjustable dumbbells carry a smaller footprint and weight increments, allowing you to swap a whole rack for its single set. 

They grow with your strength and slip in any corner.

When you start hunting such a one-shot deal for your home gym, the good ol’ PowerBlock vs. Bowflex deadlock isn't too far away. Both fitness brands save you the cost, space, and hassle of regularly upgrading equipment. They differ in their approach and appeal.

Find out which works best for you in this detailed guide.

PowerBlock vs Bowflex Dumbbells

PowerBlock vs Bowflex Dumbbells: Overview

We’re discussing the benchmarks of success in the fitness equipment industry. Have a quick look at their offers and benefits before diving into head-to-head Bowflex vs PowerBlock

PowerBlock

Founded 1993 in Minnesota, US

The company is famous for block-shaped weights, its flagship products. The numeral in the item name stands for max pounds per dumbbell (i.e., Pro 32.) EXP means the set’s weight is extendible with special kits.

Sport 

The cheapest of all and made of powder-coated steel, it’s pretty rugged. You can buy non-adjustable 24 and 50. Or get your hands on Sport EXP, packed with 2.5 lbs increments.

Elite 

Formerly called Classic, it’s the best-seller. The plates boast a boxy design. There is a single EXP model with three stages, conveniently dubbed Elite 50/70/90.

Pro 

Here come the next-gen dumbbells featuring more durable urethane-molded plates and contoured handles. The Pro series has 32, 50, EXP, and a Commercial line.

(Note: Elite in this article refers to EXP 2020 variant, not USA Elite!)   

Pros

  • Variety of weight ranges

  • Tough self-containing cages

  • Auto-lock adjustment

  • Expansion kits and accessories

  • Up to 175 lbs of commercial use

Cons

  • Irregular increments among models

  • Bar attachments work with a few

Bowflex

Founded 1986 in Washington, US 

Bowflex sells a range of weight training equipment, from benches to treadmills. As a division of Nautilus Incorporation, it puts advanced technology and R&D into its goods. SelectTech is the premium option when it comes to adjustable dumbbells.

The first to launch Bowflex dumbbells are still the most-used ones. They have a sporty look with traditional accents. The maximum capacity is 52.5 lbs. 

SelectTech 552

It’s not too different from its predecessor but larger and stronger, challenging your muscles with 90 lbs. It’s the most expensive model in the series.  

SelectTech 1090

Embrace futuristic smart weightlifting. An integrated Bluetooth tracker counts reps and rounds for you. They have 60 lbs of squared discs.

SelectTech 560

Pros

  • Consistent weight increments

  • Polyurethane covering

  • Adjustment is rapid and quiet

  • SelectTech assistance app

  • Free JRNY membership

Cons

  • Not expandable

  • A bit drop-averse

Bowflex 552 vs PowerBlock Elite 50: The Showdown

Adjustable dumbbells feature a storage bed for all weight plates. There is a locking mechanism in handles that increases or decreases their count.   

The Bowflex 552 and Elite (at its Stage 1) are direct competitors. Although the former pioneered selectorized systems and created a whole new market, Elite was quick to innovate and grab a larger share of that market.

They provide a basic framework upon which SelectTech as well as PowerBlock dumbbells have been built later on. Thus, the only way to settle a Bowflex vs PowerBlock debate is by comparing the two.

PowerBlock

Build Quality

The difference between both specimens is quite clear at first glance. The 552s are shaped like round balls you'd mostly see at your gym. Conversely, Elites feature a rectangular cage that is highly distinguishable and more compact than Bowflex. They’re 12” long without expansion kits. 

You can easily lift and exercise with them, no matter the first impression. The aerodynamics of discs are overestimated. In fact, the PowerBlock's top bars may act as a wrist guard.   

SelectTech uses rubber tips that make the dumbbells bouncy and less noisy on contact. Nonetheless, they have a lot of plastic parts, such as inside connectors and stands. If dropped, they are prone to cracks. And the warranty won’t cover such damages. 

PowerBlocks are made of solid steel and high-quality components. They can hold up to the years of workout abuse. Decades of refinement and exclusive focus on dumbbells provide them an edge here. 

Weight Range

With Bowflex 552, you get a weight range of 5 to 52.5 lbs, which is excellent for a mid-priced adjustable dumbbell. It goes up in 2.5 lb increments for the first half and 5 lbs thereafter. The last jump you get is again between 50 to 52.5 lbs.

Elite 50 is more or less identical, starting at 2.5 to max out at 50 lbs. It uniformly allows you to increase 2.5 lbs for progressive overload. The smaller the increments, the quicker you boost your training intensity level. Due to pinning an extra block altogether, the only weights unavailable will be 12.5, 22.5, 32.5, and so on.

Elite 50 replaces 16 sets of individual weights, whereas Bowflex 552 is good for 15. Now, you can envisage the multitude of benefits they bring to your home.

PowerBlock has an amazing benefit in the shape of Stage 2 and 3 kits, extending max capacity by 20 lbs with each attachment. You won’t have to buy another set once 50 lbs get too light for you. However, pitting 552s against beefed-up Elites isn't fair. 

We’ll save the comparison of big boys for later, Bowflex 1090 vs PowerBlock.  

Adjustment Mechanism

It's the most important factor. Consider yourself amid strength training, and it's time to transition weights for the next exercise. 

You’d prefer a smooth, quick, and reliable mechanism, wouldn’t you?

Bowflex uses an impeccable dialing system. It only takes five seconds to go from 5 to 52.5 lbs. All you have to do is to place the plates on the storage bed and switch the selector dials on each side. Once it clicks to the desired load, lift the handle. It's easy peasy!

PowerBlock has come up with a little complicated system. There is a built-in magnetized selector pin that you clip onto desired weights. The pin is rated for 500 lbs, so no worries on that front. All plates are color-coded, and the handle has a corresponding chart. It saves you mental stress in times of physical exertion.

I call it complicated because of two reasons! 

You have to insert the pin correctly on both ends. Therefore, set the weights on a flat object. It goes the same for Bowflex and all other adjustable dumbbells. 

Secondly, PowerBlock packs a pair of adder weights per handle. They slide in lower bars. The empty handle weighs 5 lbs only without them. Take the handle out of the storage bed, open the lock, and remove/add the extra 2.5 lbs of weight cylinders. Remember to lock the openings again before fitting the handle right in.

It’s a seamless but cumbersome process. Doing it multiple times is surely off-putting. 

Weight Distribution

Weight should be evenly spread on all sides of a dumbbell. There is more unevenness in Bowflex 552 vs PowerBlock counterparts. Since their handle sits on top, a huge chunk of total weight resides in the discs' lower end. As you dial in more plates, the difference gets sharper.

It doesn't have any major disadvantages to your workout. However, the handle may rotate downward and interfere with the range of motion. So, you'll unconsciously watch out for proper grip instead of body posture.

PowerBlocks have a shape that ensures even distribution and resistance. In case the handle unit carries one adder weight, it’ll be bulkier on that side. As you increase the capacity, this problem gets minimized, which is quite the opposite of 552s.

Some gym enthusiasts work out with one end of a dumbbell heavier than the other. It puts more pressure on certain muscles, sometimes required during the injury rehabilitation. The dialing system lets you adjust weights on both sides of the handle. Selector pin picks balance. Although staggered stances aren't recommended at the beginner level, some might take it as a deal-maker for Bowflex.    

PowerBlock vs Bowflex Dumbbells

Grip and Comfort

Elite EXP has a closed and contoured handle design. It means the top bars are rubber-padded, making the opening smaller.

Contrary to the Sport Series, it helps achieve correct and comfortable wrist flexion. The handle is easily accessible and spacious. You won't be cramping unless you have extra large hands. Avoid wearing Fitbit or other types of wristwear as a precaution.

Bowflex 552 comes with a similar TRP grip and contoured handle. There is no difference in controls of PowerBlock vs. Bowflex dumbbells. However, you might appreciate openness and side-to-side motion with SelectTech.

A persisting downside to Bowflex is the length of the handle. It remains unchanged whether you're lifting 5 lbs or 50. Imagine 16" protruding bars, restricting your dumbbell curls and core-strengthening moves. For example, you must smack dumbbells together when benching.

PowerBlocks change their size according to weight. It's a major upside of pin-locking adjustment compared to a dialing system. Time-consuming weight changes may well be worth it!

Long-term Value

Elite 50 and SelectTech 552 have somewhat similar weight ratings and increments. They are both priced below $500. And you can buy them for much cheaper from Amazon. 

However, shopping from the official PowerBlock website permits custom changes, installments, and a 30-day return policy. 

SelectTech also comes with its 18-month interest-free financing program. There is a six-week money-back guarantee too.

Amazon return window is also convenient; plus, it doesn't charge a restocking fee either. Try to make a one-time purchase. These are sturdy units, and you won't be returning them out of a change of heart. No matter where you flex your credit card, a 5-year warranty for PowerBlock and 3-year conditional period for Bowflex is always there. If you happen to drop 552s, the company won’t be entertaining any claim. In contrast, PowerBlock owns all manufacturing and cosmetic defects.

Bowflex makes up with accompanied offers. The package contains a detailed DVD guide and SelectTech app membership. It also gives a one-year free entry to the JRNY fitness community, costing 150 bucks alone.

PowerBlock Elite 50

PowerBlock Elite 90 vs Bowflex 1090: Heavies Lock Horns

PowerBlock EXPs are super helpful. They start low and get gigantic. It's like growing up in your favorite childhood outfit. 

Plug in Stage 2 extension kit, and lift 70 lbs. If it’s not enough juice yet, get 90 lbs of the enhanced limit with Stage 3. All in all, you can enjoy 2.5 lbs increments, a compact footprint, and a durable self-containing cage.

Elite 90 can also be used with curl and straight bar attachments, making them adjustable barbells. An ergonomic hook turns the block into kettlebells. These aftermarket add-ons are expensive. But they’re optional and a lot cheaper than original power bars or kettlebells. 

Make sure to buy attachments compatible with your base dumbbell.      

A nailbiting competition involves equals like Bowflex 1090 vs. Powerblock EXPs. Welcome the largest SelectTech and a worthy competitor of Elite 90. Since the 1090 is bigger, it has 5 lbs of weight increments from 10 to all the way up to 90 lbs. You can notice it’s tailored for experienced athletes. Still, rapid dialers, round discs, and roomy handles are a few unrivaled specs.

Bowflex's customer service is top-notch. You get a risk-free trial period and storage cradles with these weights. The rubber-padded handle has been replaced by knurled stainless steel. The warranty is still unchanged. PowerBlock promises a lifetime warranty on its flex-welded urethane Pro line. We should get more coverage on 1090 dumbbells too. 

Two sizable disadvantages of 552 have been passed on to its successor. There is excessive plastic all over casings, handles, and adjustment knobs. Furthermore, the length of the bar has been increased to 17.5". Elite 90 hits only 16" at its full length, which further shortens along with the load.

Check the latest price of Elite Stage 2 Kit and Elite Stage 3 Kit

Bowflex SelectTech vs PowerBlock Elite: Summary

 

FeaturesElite 50SelectTech 552Elite 90SelectTech 1090
Max Capacity (lb)5052.59090
Increments2.52.5, 52.55
Size (in)12x6x6.2516x8x916x6x2.517.5x10x10
Replaces16 Sets15 Sets28 Sets17 Sets
AdjustmentSelector PinDial KnobSelector PinDial Knob
GripTPRTPRTPRKnurling
PlatesSquareRoundSquareRound
Warranty5 Years3 Years5 Years3 Years
ExpandableYesNoNoNo
Pair Price (USD)Below 500Below 500Above 500Above 500

PowerBlock vs. Bowflex Dumbbell: Which is right for you?

You’ve read that far and still can’t decide. Read on!

  • PowerBlock Elite EXPs for home use make a must-have addition to your own fitness studio. This master of versatility entertains beginners and professionals alike.
  • If you can't deal with a restrictive cage and tedious adjustment, Bowflex is a safe option. Get 552s if you're not a pro lifter. The 1090s will be better for advanced training.

FAQs

Are all PowerBlocks expandable?

Not all PowerBlocks are expandable. Only EXP models have three levels, viz. Sport EXP, Elite, and Pro EXP. They are compatible with their respective extension kits. The second attachment can only be fixed after the first. 

  • Stage 1: Max at 50 lbs
  • Stage 2: 50-70 lbs
  • Stage 3: 70-90 lbs

PowerBlock has suspended their U-90 dumbbells, which were expandable to 120 lbs. Now only commercial-use products cross the barrier of 90.

Why are PowerBlocks good for beginners?

PowerBlocks make a reliable companion for anyone new to the game or honing their skills. All their adjustable dumbbells allow increments of as little as 2.5 lbs and climb to competition-level weights. You can gradually boost your endurance.

Elite Series is an intelligent investment. Its price lingers in the medium range of the market. A single expandable model goes with EZ Curl Bar, Straight Bar, and KettleBell Handle.  

Are PowerBlock dumbbells made in the USA?

PowerBlock is a US-based company. However, their manufacturing plant is in China. All products and accessories are produced there.

The USA Elite is an exception that is manufactured here in the States. Each weight plate is engraved with “Made in USA.” Many fitness geeks prefer local production. So you can choose it by all means. However, it has a manual lock. It’s 0.25” shorter as well. And its extension kits are often out-of-stock.  

Are Bowflex 552 heavy enough?

Bowflex figured out weight selection and adjustment to the degree of perfection for its 552. They reasonably kick off from 5 lbs. You can add 2.5 lb resistances until you hit the mark of 25. Afterward, it jumps by 5 lbs.

52.5 lb is heavy enough for the majority of at-home exercisers. But seasoned lifters would rather pick 1090 or, ideally, Elite EXP.

Bowflex vs. PowerBlock Dumbbells: Who is streaking ahead?

Comparing companies with thousands of happy customers worldwide is never a zero-sum game. PowerBlock and Bowflex are both reputable and finest franchises.

If you ask me, Elite is better, given that it's expandable. Similarly, Bowflex has an advantage in shape and adjustability. In the end, it boils down to your personal preference. The right choice is, perhaps, relative. Tell us what you think about the PowerBlock vs. Bowflex saga.  

Also read:

References:

  • Muscle Activation and Perceived Loading During Rehabilitation Exercises: Comparison of Dumbbells and Elastic Resistance // Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Journal: https://scholar.google.com.pk/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5&as_vis=1&q=dumbbell+exercise+for+injury&btnG=#d=gs_qabs&t=1664519399561&u=%23p%3DiapvJyWEvZwJ 


My name is Ihor and I have been a professional weightlifter since 1996. With over 20 years of competition experience, my resume includes European Champion in 2009 and the silver medalist at 2011's Senior World Championships – 105kg division.

I competed at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics.

After hanging up my own competitive lifting shoes, I decided to share my huge background as a coach. I am currently coaching multiple athletes who are competing at national and international competitions.

1 comment

  • Jeff

    Powerblock fan for life. Started with the basic blocks that i owned for nearly 20 years… upgraded to a used set of urethanes and picked up the ez curl, barbell, and kettlebell attachments right before pandemic hit. Cannot recommend powerblocks enough

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