The Bowflex SelectTech 552 dumbbells ($429) are an easily adjustable pair of dumbbells that can replace multiple sets of weights. A great way to upgrade your home gym, especially if you need to save space, these versatile dumbbells pair with the company’s new Jrny app (starting at $12 per month or $99 per year) to better help you shore up and increase your strength.
As a personal trainer, I find dumbbells to be appropriate for a variety of exercisers, from newbie to the more experienced, as well as a good way to improve your muscle-building moves. Plus, research shows that using free weights, like dumbbells, is more effective at boosting your balance than weight machines. And if you’re outfitting a home gym, or just trying to score a few key items, dumbbells are a must-have for anyone’s list.
When it comes to copping a pair, though, the choices are vast: iron versus rubber-coated, fixed versus adjustable, bright poppy hues or the more standard silver and/or black colorways. It’s enough to give anyone a headache. To help relieve any stress associated with dumbbell shopping, because all dumbbells are not created equal, the extremely easy-to-regulate Bowflex SelectTech 552 dumbbells are a great place to start.
To help you figure out if these dumbbells and the motion-tracking Jrny app are for you, we did the heavy lifting and put them to the test for the last few months. Here’s everything you need to know before you buy the Bowflex SelectTech 552.
Ably shrinking your home gym by combining 15 different weights into just one set of two, the Bowflex SelectTech 552 dumbbells make working out simple. Add in the company’s Jrny movement tracking app and you’ll have access to a huge library of fun, challenging workouts as well.
Don’t be fooled by the large boxes that arrive on your doorstep — a lot of that is just packing material. Still, the boxes can feel overwhelming at first glance. I was lucky to catch the UPS guy as he was delivering them, so he used his hand truck to wheel the boxes into my building’s elevator and up to my second-floor apartment, dropping them right outside my door.
Though I carried each box individually into my apartment, it’s worth considering that the entire product (a 52.5-pound dumbbell and the weight tray) will weigh in at 52.6 pounds, so you may need an extra hand getting them into your home and out of the boxes.
Once unpacked, you’ll see that the weight, which is made of steel, nylon, ABS and thermoplastic rubber, is held in place and on top of the weight tray by a heavy-duty nylon strap that is latched together by a screw, which you can free using the included Allen wrench. Once done, you’re ready to dial into (literally) your chosen weight and get lifting.
If you don’t have a dedicated home gym, storage space for a bunch of fitness equipment can be an issue. That’s what makes the SelectTech 552s such a great get. This pair, which is 16.9 inches long, 8.3 inches wide and 9 inches high, is like having multiple sets of dumbbells of varying weights in an all-in-one system. That means they’re when not in use, I can stick them in a corner or in a closet and not feel like I’ve added too much clutter to my home. But mostly, they just sat in front of my TV console, so that when I was in the mood for a workout they would be ready to go.
Typically you want a variety of weights that allow for a light, medium and heavy option. Because the 552s range from 5 pounds to 52.5 pounds, you get that and more. In fact, it feels like having an entire weight rack in the palm of your hand because the weights increase incrementally by 2.5 pounds until the 25-pound mark, then in 5-pound increments until 50 pounds, while the 2.5 gets you to that 52.5.
This versatility allows these adjustable dumbbells to grow with you as you become stronger while simultaneously helping you tailor the poundage you need for specific muscle groups (think using heavier weights for bigger muscles like the legs and lighter weights for smaller ones like the triceps). And, if more than one person is using them in your household, they can appeal to a range of body sizes and strengths.
Also worth noting, for those who feel that topping out at 52.5 pounds isn’t enough, you can opt for the Bowflex SelectTech 1090s instead, which start at 10 pounds and go up to 90 pounds — though you’ll shell out nearly $800 for those.
If you’re used to cycling through multiple dumbbell sizes and/or having to remove barbell collars to replace weight plates, then you’ll love how easy it is to adjust these dumbbells. Simply sit them in the included weight trays and turn the numbered dial (which corresponds with the different weights) on either side of the dumbbell to the center. This will then guide an internal mechanism to connect or disconnect different weight plates, so you’re grabbing the correct one when you pick the dumbbell out of the weight tray. It’s a literal cinch.
When you purchase the 552s, you also get access to a free year trial of the brand’s Jrny app, which runs $12 per month or $99 per year. That means after your free trial, you may want to pay for the year up front because you’ll spend less money. The app, which houses a mix of cardio, strength and mobility workouts, has a new addition, its Motional Tracking, which is specifically for Bowflex’s SelectTech dumbbells.
This feature, which can now be found on other brands’ connected weights and apps, like Peloton and Tempo Move, uses the camera on your tablet or smartphone (iOS or Android) and some AI magic via the camera scans that survey your body’s skeletal movement, analyzing more than 15 strategic points to not only track your reps but also your form in real time while offering up verbal feedback and cues. For example, I purposely did a few bicep curls incorrectly and I was told to “bring biceps closer to waist.”
The information collected during your workout allows the app to make recommendations for your next session, to help ensure “users of all fitness levels and abilities get stronger at a rate that’s appropriate for the individual,” the brand’s initial press release says.
The catch: For the AI to do its thing, you need to be about 8 to 10 feet from the camera so that your entire body is in frame (during the workout, the border around the box that shows your picture will light up white when you’re in view, or when Motion Tracking is ready) and in a well-lit area, which proved tough for me in my small, not-always-the-brightest apartment. You also have to turn your tablet or smartphone horizontally to match the format of your virtual trainer. I felt like I had to continually move the location on my iPad Pro depending on the exercise I was doing (think overhead press versus push-ups), and even then, I wasn’t always perfectly in frame, which means that when I wasn’t, those reps weren’t being counted. This is a major difference between using personal portable devices to track movement and using the built-in camera in all-in-one fitness products like the Lululemon Studio.
Also, when you input the specific type of Bowflex weights you’re using into the app, it curates several workouts it denotes as “adaptive workouts” using those weight ranges, which you can find under the dumbbell tab in the app. (FYI: According to the folks at Bowflex you can use the motion tracking technology with any dumbbells; however, the app’s weight target optimization is calibrated for the SelectTech dumbbells’ specific weight increments.)
Currently, there are more than 300 regular video strength workouts and more than 75 workouts with Motion Tracking. I took a few of the regular workout classes and some of the adaptive classes and thought it offered a solid mix. Regular workouts can be filtered by time (from 10-49 minutes), difficulty level (“newbie,” “intermediate” and “challenge me”), activity (bodywork, cardio, HIIT, mobility, Pilates, strength, stretching and yoga) and trainer (there are 25 to choose from). If you want to use the Motion Tracking, you won’t be able to filter via activity type and there are only 12 trainers available.
I gravitated toward classes with Carlos Davila, because I have taken classes with him at the boutique NYC fitness studio Fhitting Room and he’s always on point. His classes on the app, including his 30-minute DB Total Circuit, did not disappoint, though I enjoyed taking all the Jrny classes (like 500 Reps Core and the Best Stretch). I was impressed with the instruction and the form cues, plus the workouts were tough and I got nice and sweaty. Still, there was something missing and to me, it was energy! It’s already hard enough to exercise some days, and sometimes I need someone who is going to be lively and fun to help keep me committed. These folks didn’t quite fit the bill. And, since everything is on-demand (yep, no live classes), you don’t get any of that community/group fitness feel you may find with other apps like Peloton.
An interesting note: You select the class and it gives you an option to choose different genres of music you’d like to work out with (think country, ’90s, top 40 and so on). That’s good in theory because I appreciate the autonomy to choose my own type of tunes, but I didn’t love that the instructor and the music don’t necessarily sync during the exercises. Also, when you do have the music queued up, it tends to drown out the instructor. I even tried playing with the individual music and instructor volumes, but there was never quite a good balance — you’re either going to struggle to hear the instructor or the music.
Yes, you can adjust these dumbbells super fast with the turn of a dial, which I loved. The one drawback? If you’re in the middle of a workout that calls for multiple weights, you’ll have to pause a moment to put the dumbbell in the weight trays, turn the dials on either side of the dumbbell, then pick them back up. This is in contrast to just throwing down the pair of dumbbells in your hand and picking up the next pair. And it means you’ll probably fall behind in the workout.
For example, if I am doing a Tabata workout — 20 seconds of intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest — I want my entire rest period to be for rest, rather than spent bending down over a set of dumbbells and readjusting them to a new weight. The same goes if you’re using the weights for a virtual session with a personal trainer. When I used the 552s during a training session while testing out the Forme Studio, I had to tell the trainer to hold for a second when I switched from a deadlift to a bent-over row, so I could adjust the dumbbells to a heavier weight.
If a dumbbell houses a myriad of different weights, it only makes sense that some of those weight plates will be thicker and/or larger than others. In this case, that also means that some of the dumbbells end up looking, well, funky. In addition, they’re bigger than some of the traditional weights I own. When I line up the 20-pound 552s (16.9 by 8.3 by 9 inches) side by side with two other 20-pound weights that I have at home — one from Peloton (11.5 by 6.5 by 11.5 inches) and one from Sunny (16 by 12 by 3.5 inches) — the 552s are significantly larger. That takes some real getting used to. For example, when I’m doing bicep curls with two dumbbells, the weights will often hit each other.
A pair of these weights will typically run around $429. That’s a big investment, especially if you are new to weight training and aren’t sure you’ll stick with it. Though as an FYI, according to the CDC, you should strength train twice weekly, so it’s certainly a good investment.
There are tons of adjustable weights on the market, but there are different features that make them stand out. For starters, the Power Block Pro 50 Adjustable Dumbbells range in weight from 5 to 50 pounds and adjust solely in 2.5-pound increments. This means you will get a few more weight combos (the brand says 19 total weights) than the 552s, but they use a more annoying sliding pin system to adjust from one weight to the next as opposed to a turn dial, and are a bit pricier at $499. With a few extra attachments, you can also turn the Pro 50s into a kettlebell or even a barbell.
The sleeker NordicTrack iSelect Voice Controlled dumbbells are also more expensive ($599), but they allow you to manipulate the 5-50 pound weights through a turn dial in the center of the weight console as well as through voice commands with Alexa connectivity. When paired through your phone’s Bluetooth, iSelect app and an Amazon Alexa-enabled device, you can say things like “Alexa, increase weight by 5 pounds” to auto-adjust your weight, which is pretty freaking cool.
For a more budget pick, the Core Adjustable Dumbbells offer a price break at $350 and are also easily adjustable in 5-pound increments up to 50 pounds through the handle grip, which turns when racked in the weight plate. These offer a more traditional and ergonomic shape, so they won’t feel or look as bulky as the 552s.
And, If you still love the feel of putting on and pulling off weight plates, you may want to go old school with the Yes4All Adjustable Cast Iron Dumbbells. A pair of these will cost you just $180 and comes with multiple weight plates (5 pounds, 2.5 pounds, 1.25 pounds). Remember: You manually change these handheld dumbbells (that is going to add time to your workout), so it’s up to you to do all the work and math to make sure you have the right weights added.
Are the Bowflex SelectTech 552s worth it? For me it’s a no-brainer, even with the higher price tag. Not only do they account for weights up to 52.5 pounds, which is more than enough variety for my at-home workouts with some breathing space to work up to some pretty heavy loads, but they also don’t take up too much space in my tiny New York City apartment, which is a coup. The year-long free Jrny with Motion Tracking that comes with the 552s is also a nice bonus.
Looking at it from a solely financial perspective, you still come out on top. Here’s why: You’d shell out between $140 and $190 on Amazon for a single pair of 50-pound dumbbells. Maybe you don’t think you need a pair of 50-pound dumbbells? Well, a trio of weights sets, 10s, 15s and 20s, is going to be about $137. Even with both these options, you haven’t accounted for the other weights (5, 7.5, 12.5, 17.5, 22.5, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 52.5 pounds) that you would also get as part of the all-in-one composition of the 552s. And, if you haven’t noticed, the price tag only increases as the weights get heavier. That means you’d likely exceed the $429 of the Bowflex weights if you bought them all separately.
In the end, these end up being a great deal if you work out regularly with weights and want a pair (or 15!) of sturdy, well-made dumbbells. The 552s are not only extremely simple to use, but the companion app offers a good mix of classes from a well-known fitness brand.
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