When people choose to work out at home, they are invariably faced with space and cost restrictions. Adjustable dumbbells like the Bowflex SelectTech 552 or 1090 are just one of a myriad of home equipment designed specifically to address workout effectiveness, space, and costs in one go.
Unlike commercial gyms where space, machines, and costs can go as high as the company’s budget allows, a home solution is greatly restricted by personal affordability and living space, even though it should still be able to offer a good workout experience.
Aside from home gyms, which are bulkier and more expensive, adjustable dumbbells are increasingly becoming the most convenient home gear of choice, offering effective workouts at a fraction of the cost and size of home gyms.
The trend first started in the ’90s with the PowerBlocks and has since spawned a variety of different adjustable dumbbell solutions, all offering crafty mechanisms for the quick release and load of plates or weights.
The success of these adjustable dumbbells owes to the fact that they solve the purpose of multiple plate-loaded dumbbell racks while saving considerable costs in iron and space, the ideal for a home environment.
The downside is that only one person can use a pair of adjustable dumbbells at any time, making them ideal for homes but not commercial gyms.
The most common systems used by adjustable dumbbell manufacturers are the traditional screw collar handle type, dependable but slow, the twisting catch and release handle type, probably the fastest solution, the side pins type, somewhat slower, and the side dial type, a good compromise of speed, fine-tuning and sturdiness.
The Bowflex SelectTech 552 and 1090 belong to the side dial type of adjustable dumbbells. The two sets are virtually identical except for 3 features:
- The maximum weight – 52.5 lbs each dumbbell for the 552 set and 90 lbs each for the 1090 set.
- Weight Increases – 2.5 lbs increments up to 25 lbs, then 5 lbs up to the top weight for the 552 set. 5 lbs only increment for the heavier 1090 set.
- Handles – Standard black rubber-coated handles for the 552 set, naked milled steel for the 1090 set.
Stay tuned to find out how these dumbbells perform and whether or not stand up to examination.
Who Are They For?
The Bowflex SelectTech dumbbells are ideal for those who want an effective home workout tool without the costs and cumbersome size of a regular home gym or a full rack of multiple dumbbells.
These adjustable dumbbell sets can be placed either on the floor or on their stand which is supplied as optional to help keep everything tidy and organized. The stand adds to the costs but also helps pick the dumbbells from a comfortable standing position.
Since the poundage can go up considerably, it also makes sense to pair these dumbbells with an adjustable bench for all the upper body compound movements such as military presses, incline, and horizontal bench presses, rowers, incline rear delts flies, and so on.
These accessories are not mandatory, but realistically make the workouts more effective and practical, especially the adjustable bench. After all, no one could do heavy dumbbell bench presses in a gym or at home without a bench.
The Bowflex SelectTech dumbbells are also suitable for those seeking a good compromise between usability and durability. These adjustable dumbbells are more complex than fixed-weight dumbbells because of their catch and release dial mechanism and the moving plates.
This means that in theory there are more things that could go wrong in the long run, and in fact, the manufacturer recommends NOT to drop the dumbbells on the floor while working out, something you could do with regular dumbbells without a second thought.
Each time you finish a set, you are supposed to replace the dumbbells with their own cradle trays, where you can then select the dials to change resistance as needed.
By sticking to this simple guideline, many customers have enjoyed the SelectTech dumbbells for years without a problem.
While their ruggedness is somewhat limited by their complexity, they are still very sturdy and offer excellent usability in terms of quick weight change and workout quality.
Bowflex SelectTech 552 And 1090 Specifications
Bowflex SelectTech 552
- Weight Range – 5 lbs to 52.5 lbs (2.27 to 23.8 kg) for each dumbbell.
- 15 Weight Settings – 5, 7.5, 10, 12.5, 15, 17.5, 20, 22.5, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, and 52.5 lbs.
- Maximum Number of Exercises Available – 30 plus
- Dimensions – 15.75″ L x 8″ W x 9″ H (40 x 20 x 23 cm).
- Warranty – 2 years
Bowflex SelectTech 1090
- Weight Range – 10 lbs to 90 lbs (4.5 to 40.8 kg) for each dumbbell.
- 17 Weight Settings – 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, and 90 lbs
- Maximum Number of Exercises Available – 30 plus
- Dimensions – 17.5″ L x 10″ W x 10″ H (44.4 x 24.2 x 5.3 cm).
- Warranty – 3 years on parts.
Both the Bowflex SelecTech 552 and 1090 allow for more than 30 standard exercises, replacing 15 sets of dumbbells for the 552 and 17 sets for 1090.
Notable Differences Between SelectTech 552 and 1090
Aside from the obvious difference in total poundage, there are also a few subtle points of distinction between the two sets.
Overall Length – At 17.5″, the Bowflex SelectTech 1090 is about 2 inches longer than the 552 (15.75″) in order to accommodate more weight.
Weight Increases – The heavier Bowflex SelectTech 1090 goes up in increments of 5 lbs, while the lighter 552 goes up in increments of 2,5 lbs up to 25 lbs, then 5 lbs all the way up to 52,5 lbs.
Handle Grip Texture – The SelectTech 552 set comes with a nice black rubber-coated handle that offers good grip any time, while the heavier 1090 set strangely comes with a naked milled steel handle which is fine on dry hands, but not so good on sweaty hands. You may need monkey bar gloves for a better grip at the highest poundage.
Color Finish – The SelectTech 1090 is an all-black affair, while the SelectTech 552 is black and red.
Benefits Of The Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Dumbbells
The Bowflex selectorized dumbbells allow for a full range of weight resistance without the bulk and costs of a full set of fixed-weight dumbbells or a gym.
Unlike traditional screw collar adjustable dumbbells, the SelectTech system allows for a quick catch or release of plates, making circuit training or drop sets a walk in the park.
With standard screw collar dumbbells, it may take more than half a minute of fiddling with locks and plates before setting the new weight, which makes circuit routines a drag and drop sets impossible, realistically limiting you to straight sets.
With the Bowflex SelectTech dials, it takes 5/6 seconds for an increase or decrease in weight. Only the twist-handle type adjustable dumbbells are even faster, about 2/3 seconds for a change, but they usually come in 5 lbs increments only, not less.
Also, the Bowflex dial system allows for asymmetrical increments, that is increasing or decreasing weight only on one side, virtually doubling the number of possible increments with adjustments as low as 1,25 lbs for the 552 set or 2,5 lbs for the 1090 set, albeit with the dumbbells slightly off balance.
What About Limitations?
Like any piece of equipment, the Bowflex SelectTech dumbbells are not free from criticism.
The single most important criticism moved against these dumbbells over time is their cumbersome length, which is fixed even at the lightest weight, unlike the twist handle type which gets shorter as you drop the weights.
This is the way dial dumbbells work, not just the Bowflex ones. They consist of a mainframe over which the plates are loaded as required, therefore the naked frame must be a full-length item to be able to accommodate any subsequent plate.
The result is that the sides of the dumbbells can get in the way and touch in exercises like military presses or bench presses, especially for small people or people with shorter arms. This may force a little shorter range of motion or alternative movement patterns.
Another common problem is the stiction of the cradle trays under heavy load. When the dumbbells are fully loaded or nearly so, there is a tendency for the trays to stick to the dumbbells and being lifted off the floor along with them.
The common remedy to this situation is stopping the trays being lifted by holding them down with one foot, but this can be awkward when handling heavy loads because you need to move your foot from a safe position to an off-balance stance just to lift the dumbbells clean.
Interestingly, no such problem exists with the optional stand. Not only are the dumbbells placed in a higher position easier to get hold of and lift, but the stand also comes with Velcro straps that keep the trays down in place as you lift the dumbbells up, whatever the weight.
Kits Are Not Expandable
Finally, a user’s practical problem seems to affect the SelectTech 552 and 1090 kits, in line with the majority of adjustable dumbbells on the market: neither kit is expandable with a weight add-on.
Suppose you have become stronger through training and want to add weight to your existing set of dumbbells, you simply can’t. This means that if you were using a 552 set and it has become too light, you will need to purchase a completely new, heavier 1090 set.
This is a common problem to all the adjustable dumbbells on the market, except for the screw-collar type and the PowerBlock dumbbells.
The PowerBlocks are the only modern type adjustable dumbbells that offer different weight add-ons to your existing kit, so that you can gradually increase your total poundage as you become stronger, without wasting money on a completely new kit.
How To Use The Bowflex SelectTech 552 And 1090
The Bowflex dumbbells are very easy to use, only the twist handle type are even easier and quicker but they do not offer the same level of fine adjustment.
Like with any kind of adjustable dumbbells, except for the screw collar type, the SelectTech must be placed in their own cradle trays to be able to increase and decrease the weight.
As you select a weight resistance, the remaining plates are left in the cradle trays until you place the dumbbells back in the trays at the end of a set before dialing another weight, catching or releasing plates as required.
The dials are placed on both sides of the dumbbells, which means that for a regular increment or decrease you need to select the same number on both ends.
However, it is also possible to increase or decrease the resistance only on one of the two dials, which translates into a half increase or decrease, effectively halving it for a better, fine-tuned resistance, and doubling the number of weight changes possible.
The downside is that the dumbbell weight is now shifted slightly on one side, but this can be easily remedied by moving your hand on the handle a little toward the heavier side of it.
Finally, while the SelectTech dumbbells come standalone without any accessory, it is really better to use them together with an adjustable bench, as they should be viewed like any other dumbbell in terms of exercise range and complementary gear required.
As for the optional stand, this is less necessary than the adjustable bench, if you can live with the sticking trays or lifting heavy dumbbells from the floor rather than from a standing position.
The Bottom Line
Both the Bowflex SelectTech 552 and 1090 offer a nice blend of manufacturing quality, sleek design, usability, sturdiness, and fine adjustments. They are not the fastest weight changing dumbbells but are still up there with the best.
However, they offer exceptional fine-tuning with the weight increase and decrease through the one side adjustment, very useful with high-intensity techniques like close drop sets or isolation exercises like lateral raises that can only handle small increments.
While saving a lot of money and space on an equivalent full rack of dumbbells or a home gym, they are still quite an investment and require the addition of an adjustable bench at the very least for full usability.
While almost identical in technology, style, and manufacturing standard, the SelectTech 552 and 1090 offer a very different total poundage, 1090 is almost twice as heavy, making the choice of one or the other a matter of personal strength and goals.
Unfortunately, like the majority of adjustable dumbbells except for the screw collar type and the PowerBlocks, the Bowflex SelectTech 552 and 1090 both come as fixed kits without any weight upgrade possibility.
This clarified, providing that you get the poundage right for your own strength levels and goals, the Bowflex SelectTech adjustable dumbbells are a serious tool for effective workouts at home that are built to last.
Jay always had a passion for fitness. A former skinny guy, he built himself 35 lb of lean muscle over the years using different training strategies, going through failures and eventually succeeding, and now wants to share his knowledge with those who value fitness as a way of life (See all posts by Jay Fielding).