When building the perfect home gym, chances are you won’t have the square footage available to mimic the layout of your local fitness center. And while you can invest in larger equipment with all-in-one capabilities, there’s always something interesting about doing curls and presses sets with a free-weight dumbbell set. Instead of filling up a wall of heavy weights and arguably smothering your home gym layout, adjustable dumbbells can help you get the most out of your training area in a compact silhouette. but effective.
There are many options when it comes to choosing adjustable free weights for your workout setup. In my experience, however, none can compare to the offerings from Bowflex and Smrtft. These two training titans have produced some of the best adjustable dumbbells for any training discipline…but which dumbbell really dominates the scene?
In this old bull versus young buck showdown, I decided to put these two brands against each other to determine the best adjustable dumbbell for your home gym.
The contenders for the best adjustable dumbbells
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells
Any adjustable dumbbell on the market today owes a ton to the Bowflex SelectTech 552. As one of the earliest options on the market, this home fitness staple has retained its place among the top echelon of workout equipment. indispensable. 15 available weights ranging from 5 to 52.5 pounds allow for a wide variety of workouts, while the comfortable rubber and metal handle provides the security you desire in your grip. Even if you’re not as versed in barbell training as the gym veteran, Bowflex has you covered, thanks to a free one-year subscription to Bowflex. JRNY digital fitness platform.
With an impressive weight range of 5 to 80 pounds, the Smrtft Nüobell is one of the heaviest adjustable dumbbells on the market. A minimalist profile allows these fitness essentials to blend into any atmosphere without a bulky surface. Plus, to adjust the weight of the dumbbell, all you have to do is turn the center knurl, lift it off the rack, and hit your next set. Simple and effective, what more could you ask for in a quality home fitness machine?
How to choose the right adjustable dumbbell for you
When looking for a suitable set of adjustable dumbbells, you should first look at the weight range available. As a general rule, most adjustable dumbbells weigh between 50 and 60 pounds at most, although with varying degrees of adjustment. That should be enough to meet a beginner-level strength training routine, but there are heavier options, like Smrtft’s Nüobells.
Speaking of which, make sure you’re comfortable with the adjustment features of your adjustable dumbbells, because there’s no point buying fitness equipment that’s going to hinder your progress during a workout. While some models feature easy-to-use rockers, others may require additional steps that take longer to adjust, giving you less time to actually lift the structures. The Bowflex and Smrtft models chosen for this head-to-head feature easy-to-maneuver high-end adjustment rockers for precise weight changes.
Finally, while storage is less of a factor in adjustable dumbbells – especially compared to traditional free weights which ultimately take up more space – it’s good to consider products that have suitable stands and brackets available. While we admire the SelectTech 552s and Nüobells for their freestanding racks, both brands separate themselves from the pack due to the available dumbbell racks, which can bring the products closer to hip level for more convenient storage.
Test 1: Adjustability and weight range
The SelectTech 552 and Nüobell adjustable dumbbells feature some of the most user-friendly adjustment features we’ve seen to date. Both processes ran perfectly smoothly in testing, with no real hitches or inconveniences. That said, however, the Bowflex SelectTech 552s require an extra step to ensure both sides of the dumbbell are set to the correct weight. While not a major issue, it was an extra step, which was not present in the Smrtft Nüobell’s twist grip setup. Are we split hairs? Absolutely. Should this make a difference in your purchase? Maybe?
While the weight fits were more than comparable, Smrtft definitely stands out in the weight totals. Yes, the Bowflex offering is impressive thanks to its 2.5-pound increments below the 25-pound marker, but with a maximum weight of 80 pounds, the Nüobell is hard to ignore. As someone who regularly does heavier barbell exercises like rows, tricep extensions, and other modalities, this was a welcome feature that often left me hitting the Smrtft weight over its competitors.
Test 2: Grip and performance during training
Whether it’s curling a new PR or performing a final rep, you want to feel confident in your grip. The knurled grips allow the bar to sink into your fingers and palms – without any pain, of course – ensuring your clasp on the weight.
I really liked the more aggressive knurling of the Nüobells for two reasons. First, it reminded me of traditional dumbbells and provided ample friction, making the overhead press feel more comfortable. The second reason was that the current knurling worked in sync with the heavier weights, allowing for better control and safety when rowing or pulling.
The SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbell’s grip was also impressive, but for different reasons. The rubberized center made for a comfortable workout, and I could see that was a definite plus for newcomers. In addition, the contoured handle was more ergonomic, which is aimed at novice strength enthusiasts. For my personal interests, I could do with or without these benefits, but I definitely see their purpose.
When it comes to in-workout performance, I felt the Smrtft offering was more in line with traditional dumbbells due to the way the weights adjusted when adding or subtracting weights . As you move up to higher weights, the system simply adds a plate to the end of the dumbbell, making the frame more compact and manageable. The Bowflex model changes the placement of the plates depending on the chosen weight. While not an issue for me, especially when balancing weights, I could see where it might hurt some users.
Test 3: Aesthetics and Price
When it comes to gym equipment, you’re probably less inclined to value looks over performance. That said, however, it helps when home fitness equipment isn’t an absolute eyesore. Both the Bowflex SelectTech 552 and the Smrtft Nüobell feature favorable style notes, with the 552 featuring more of a beehive silhouette while the Nüobell draws inspiration from more traditional dumbbells. For my personal taste, I prefer the compact structure of the Smrtfts, but the 552 is up there, and either would be a welcome addition to any home gym.
When it comes to price, that’s where Bowflex takes the lead—and one of the reasons we named the 552 the best adjustable dumbbells in our roundup. At around $430, you can replace 15 standard dumbbells in one. While the 80-pound Nüobell gives more weight, at $745 you only gain one additional dumbbell weight – the weight increases in increments of five as opposed to 2.5-pound micro-adjustments from 5 to 25 in the 552. That means you’d be paying about 1.5 times more per weight adjustment, all for a wider range than you might ever use. Luckily, though, Smrtft has a slimmed-down 50-pound model that retails for $595. It’s still more expensive than the 552, but it’s an easier pill to swallow.
Our pick: Smrtft Nüobell
Despite the higher price, I cannot deny the efficiency and quality of the Smrtft Nüobell. The increased weight range allowed for many movements and modalities that met my experience in the gym, and for any seasoned athlete, I’d be confident to say that these dumbbells mimic traditional T exercises. The compact design paired with the knurled grip felt great in the hands, and the easy-to-adjust system makes it easy to change weights on the fly.
That said, I still think the Bowflex SelectTech 552 are a high-end adjustable dumbbell option for most fitness enthusiasts. Adjustments are simple, balance is decent – although less compact than the Nüobells – and the weight range of 5-52.5 is more than adequate for most needs. Plus, Bowflex tailors this adjustable dumbbell for the novice weightlifter by including a one-year membership to the brand’s JRNY library of live and on-demand classes.
In all fairness, this is a head-to-head comparison in which either competitor could have won. To sum up, the Nüobell is ideal for anyone more experienced in barbell training and those willing to spend the extra coin. For first-time gym goers who want to save money without skimping on quality, the Bowflex SelectTech 552s are waiting on the podium. The choice is yours – just be sure, whatever you choose, to rearrange your weights.
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