Free Weights for your Apartment: PowerBlock, Bowflex SelectTech & Hex Dumbbells

So a couple of weeks ago I was asked for some advice about some affordable free weights for an apartment that wouldn’t take up a lot of space. To be honest, I didn’t really know the answer to that question. All of my weight loss has either been in the gym, on the road or in the woods running, on a court or ice surface playing and in the kitchen. I had tried working out at home for a month once but I always found myself distracted by the TV or the internet or my phone, so it never worked for me. I had a few ideas as to what was good and what wasn’t, but I didn’t want to give any false information, so off to research this subject I went.

I researched The PowerBlock, the Bowflex® SelectTech® Dumbbells and your standard hex dumbbells.


1. The PowerBlock

powerBlockWhen I first looked at this weight, I thought to myself “There’s no way this is going to work!”  The shape, the colours, how it looked…everything about it was ridiculous to me.  But I knew I had to give it a try regardless for a fair review, so I picked up the set and started putting it to the test.  I did some curls.  Some kick-backs.   A little flat bench.  Everything I’d do in a normal workout.  At this point, I’m not ashamed to admit that my initial reaction towards the PowerBlock was wrong!  The PowerBlock did everything I wanted it to.  The square case didn’t interfere with my workout at all. I could go from 25lbs to 90lbs with the ease of moving a pin.  It was great!

There are two different standards that you of the PowerBlock that you can purchase here in Halifax (more available on their website). The 5.0 and the 9.0.

The Sport 5.0 equals/replaces 10 pairs of dumbbells or 550 lbs of free weights. The weight range for the 5.0 is 5-50 lbs per hand in 5 lb increments. Weight increments are 5lbs per hand. The 5.0 can be further expanded to 65 lbs per hand with the optional Sport 5.0 Set 20 lb cores.

The Sport 9.0 Stage I will replace 16 pairs of dumbbells or 825 lbs of free weights. The weight range for the 9.0 Stage I is .5-50 lbs per hand. The Sport 9.0 can be further expanded to 90 lbs per hand with the Stage II Kit, and again to 130 lbs per hand with the Stage III Kit.

The weights are all metal and the casing is very sturdy.  They won’t chip and there’s no mechanism to break.  But if anything does go wrong, they come with a 15 year warranty.

2. Bowflex® SelectTech® Dumbbells

bowflexTo be honest, when I first saw these, I was like “Whoa, these look bad-ass!”.  I liked the look, how cool the mechanism was, the shape and the feel.  What I didn’t like was that they were made of plastic.  I initially thought that unlike metal, the plastic may break if dropped or banged together.  I didn’t get to use them enough to test this theory out, but I have talked to a few people and read some reviews and apparently I was correct in my assumption.  I talked to someone who works at Spartan Fitness in Bayers Lake and they don’t even sell them anymore, this being one of the reasons.  Something else he told me he had an issue about was that mechanism that I thought looked so cool.  Apparently it’s been known to lock or break, making the weight useless.

Again, there are two models available (only online).  The 552 and the 1090.  The 552 replaces 15 sets of weights. Weights adjust from 5 to 52.5 lbs. (2.5 lb. increments the first 25 lbs.) Easy-to-use selection dials for adjusting weights.  With the 1090, the weights adjust from 10 to 90 lbs. (5 lb. increments) Easy-to-use selection dials for adjusting weights. Replaces up to 17 pairs of dumbbells.

I liked the feel of the dumbbells and I was able to do everything I did with the PowerBlock, but one thing that gave the upper hand to the PowerBlock was the fact that no matter how much weight you had the Bowflex set to (5 lbs or 90 lbs), it was still the full sized dumbbell and it was quite large.  The mech was kind of a pain to adjust and also, knowing the known issues with functionality and the fact that the plastic breaks and chips also helped me choose the PowerBlock over the Boxflex.

3. Standard Hex Dumbbells

Alright, we all know them, we all love them, but we all can’t afford to have a complete set from 5lbs to 90lbs in our apartment or home.  One reason is price.  At $1.20/lbs for the steel dumbbells and $1.60/lbs for the rubber dumbbells to cover from 5 lbs to 90 lbs in 2.5 lbs increments financially, is a little steep. I don’t even want to do the math on what the price is, mainly because I hate math but we I’m sure you can avg it out in your head.  There’s also the aspect of storage, a rack, the added weight on your floors, the list goes on and on.  Like I said, I love free weights, but they belong in the gym, not in an apt.


So after doing this test and review, I gave the PowerBlock my vote, hands down. For the price, convenience, ease and storage, the PowerBlock is everything you should be looking for in your home dumbbell set!

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