by Rhian Hunt
Working out with weights is probably one of the oldest methods of exercising, and has been used – both intentionally and unintentionally – by billions of people from the stone age to the computer age. Soldiers of the Roman legions trained with specially-made, extra-heavy gear so that their actual weapons and armor would seem easy to use by comparison – and so that their muscles could easily handle the shield and short sword for hours. Stevedores, porters, and laborers of every kind have built their bodies simply by working.
The problem with such uncontrolled weight lifting, of course, is that it can easily result in injuries and long-term damage to the body. With the advent of modern exercise for a largely sedentary and non-physical workforce, controlled weight lifting has been developed to a sophisticated level, and remains one of the most straightforward ways to conveniently build muscle, improve health, and lose weight by burning calories and fat.
Until just a few years ago, the problem of adjusting the exercise level to the increasing strength of the exerciser over time could only be handled in two ways: By increasing the number of repetitions, or by using ‘weight sets’ containing dozens of graduated-weight dumbbells, most of which, of course, were hardly ever used.
However, fixed-weight dumbbells are now no longer the only option. Adjustable-weight dumbbells, such as the Bowflex Select Tech 552 Dumbbells, offer the user the chance to include the benefits of a whole graduated-weight dumbbell set in a single pair of dumbbells, saving space, adding to convenience, and making it easy for different users in the same household to use the exact weight that is best for them.
Quick, Effective, and Sturdy Adjusting
Unlike most adjustable weight dumbbells, which rely on removing the weight entirely from the dumbbell, then inserting a different one of a different weight, the Bowflex Select Tech 552 offers a change of weight by turning two dials on each dumbbell to the desired heaviness. I was puzzled at first how this system works, but once I understood, the imaginative excellence of the design made me hope for the best from this system – a hope which very nearly met.
The weights are thin discs resting upright in a sturdy tray, with a slot in their top into which the dumbbell shaft fits. The user drops the shaft into the slots and turns the dials to the desired weights, and the discs that will add up to the appropriate weight are locked into place. Once this is done, the user picks up the dumbbell, and only the weight discs which are needed to create the desired weight are lifted along with it – the rest remain standing in the tray for future weight changes. The process is easy, intuitive, and extremely fast.
Pros and Cons
Adjustable – Many users have commented on how firmly the weight discs remain attached to the shaft, so that, unlike certain other models, the Bowflex Select Tech 552 Dumbbell will not shed weights at inappropriate times (such as when you are lying on your back with your dumbbells held straight up above your face). The weights can be adjusted in 2.5 pound increments from 5 pounds to 52.5 pounds, meaning that there are 15 settings, making the Select Tech 552 the equivalent of a set of 15 fixed-weight dumbbells, in a far more convenient package.
Asymmetrical Weights – The Select Tech 552 Adjustable Dumbbell does not simply allow the user to adjust overall weight – it also lets you ‘tweak’ the balance of weight to some extent within each dumbbell. Since there is a dial at each end of the dumbbell, each dial determines the weight of that end of the dumbbell alone, and the overall weight is the average of the two settings. Setting both ends to 20 pounds will result in an overall dumbbell weight of 20 pounds and a symmetrical weight load. However, setting one dial to 25 pounds and the other to 15 pounds will also lead to a total weight of 20 pounds – but one end will weigh 12.5 pounds, and the other will weigh 7.5 pounds.
These asymmetrical weights add to the number of exercises the Bowflex 552 Dumbbells set can be used for. There are many different exercises that the dumbbells can be used for in any case, with specific exercises to target the legs, arms, back, chest, shoulders, and abdomen. These features add a refreshing flexibility and the possibility for many different exercise routines to an already well-made, innovative, and powerfully-effective exercise product.
Cons – A few weaknesses of the Select Tech 552s
Although I was impressed overall with the inventive, imaginative design of the dumbbells, and the quality and solidity of their manufacture, there were a few potential weaknesses of the Bowflex adjustable dumbbells of which the potential purchaser should be aware. The length of the dumbbells is one of their minor flaws, and the upper limit of 52.5 pounds weight is their other.
May Be Too Long For Some – The dumbbells are 16 inches long overall, which is quite long, and there is no way to adjust this length. Learning to use them after using shorter dumbbells will take several days, and until you become accustomed to them, their length will seem slightly clumsy and inconvenient. It also means that if you choose asymmetric weights on each end of the dumbbell, you must be careful because the long shaft of the dumbbell will act as a lever, possibly exerting sudden stress on your wrist during certain movements.
Not Enough Heavy For Some – The other quirk of the Select Tech dumbbells is that the highest possible weight is 52.5 pounds per dumbbell (or105 pounds for the pair). This is not a problem for most users, many of whom will probably never build their strength to the point where they are even using all the weight plates.
However, there are also muscular exercisers who would like the option to expand beyond this weigh limit – possibly far beyond it. Unless Bowflex adds a set of compatible heavier weight plates at some point in the future, this is not possible. With this in mind, though, the Bowflex 552 Dumbbells are a highly flexible system with a reasonable price for what they offer, and will provide superb graduated exercise for the vast majority of people trying to tone up and lose weight.
What is the best place to buy Bowflex Select Tech 552 Dumbbells?
Although the Bowflex Select Tech Dumbbells are available at various places online, one of the best prices is to be had at Amazon, which also offers good customer service and fast shipping.