Bowflex’s SelecTech 522s are well-designed, reliable and enjoyable to use, but their ultra-wide profile won’t endear them to all dumbbell aficionados.
Smoothest cradle release we’ve tested
Superb build quality
Free training app to support your workouts
Adjusting weight feels clunky and counter-intuitive
Dumbbells have an incredibly wide profile
Why you can trust TechRadar
If you’re a home gym enthusiast, a pair of adjustable dumbbells are likely high on your radar. Cradle-based adjustable dumbbells sit perfectly in that sweet spot between space-hogging fixed weight sets, and basic (and very fiddly) plate and collar adjustable models.
Bowflex’s SelecTech 522s have long enjoyed the respect of the fitness community, but does that make them the best in-class adjustable dumbbell for your money? That depends largely on what you’re looking for. If high-quality build materials and a fine degree of control over weight selection are what you’re after, then the SelecTech 522s could well be the right choice for you.
With that said, despite these being a second-generation model, the weight selection process on the 522s feels cumbersome and counterintuitive compared to rival dumbbells. Their sizeable profile won’t be to everybody’s tastes either, and can make some movements feel awkward.
Both of those drawbacks are worth bearing in mind, but Bowflex’s 522 range also has a lot to recommend it. The free companion app, wide weight selection range, excellent build quality and smooth plate release system are all best in class and mean that despite the heftier price tag, the SelecTech 522s continue to be a contender for the adjustable dumbbell crown.
Price and availability
On Amazon, a pair of SelecTech 522 dumbbells are priced around $400-$600 / £300-£450 / AU$550-AU$800, placing them at the pricier end of the market. You’ll feel the benefits of the build quality during your workout sessions though, and they offer value for money, particularly thanks to the free companion app. The days of them showing up in sales for half price seem to have passed, though.
Bowflex’s adjustable dumbbells offer a weight range from 5lb to 52.5lb. Whilst that’s broadly in line with most sets of adjustable dumbbells, it’s slightly more than some models. Also, you have a an excellent degree of fine control between weights that will make even the most hardcore lifters happy.
The SelecTech 522s certainly look the part sitting in their cradle. The smooth black plastic plates are offset by an eye-catching slash of red branding, and the chrome and rubber grips not only look great, but feel the part too.
If you’re the type of gym enthusiast that enjoys the aesthetic of huge-looking weights, the 522s will no doubt be pleasing to your eye, although once released from the cradle, their skeletal structure means that despite their hulking size, they could look largely empty, like a ribcage, especially if you’re lifting at the lower end of their range.
The size of the dumbbells is worth noting, as we’re not sure everybody will find them a comfortable lift. The nature of Bowflex’s plate addition system means that the weights have the same profile, no matter which end of the range you’re lifting at.
At 42cm in length, 20cm high and 20cm deep, these are bulky dumbbells to hold, even if you only have a few pounds loaded. That aside though, build quality is excellent and when moving the weights through a routine, there’s no noticeable sense that the plates are shifting or moving.
Setup and features
Retrieving and returning the SelcTech dumbbells to the cradle offers the smoothest experience we’ve come across. Where other manufacturer models can experience plate-catching or dumbbells that annoyingly stick in their cradles, Bowflex’s model feels smooth and secure.
However, the two-handed technique to change each dumbbell’s weight feels cumbersome and time-consuming when compared to the single-hand twist technology offered by other models like the Core Home Fitness Adjustable Dumbbells. Having to adjust the end of each dumbbell in opposite directions also takes a little bit of getting used to.
The free companion trainer app is useful, especially if you’re just getting into home workouts or trying to really get the most out of dumbbell routines. Plus, Bowflex offers the 1090i, a model with even greater weight range, if you’re really looking to lift heavy.
Buy it if
You want great build quality
Easy plate changes, and silent and smooth cradle release make the 522s feel like a quality product that will last, despite their intricate and clever structure.
You don’t want to invest in more equipment
With the SelecTech 522s, you won’t need to invest in any more dumbbells. Plus, the cradle mechanism works so smoothly that unlike other adjustable dumbbells, you won’t need to invest in additional peripherals like a stand to get the best experience.
Don't buy it if
Budget is your top priority
You will find adjustable dumbbells that do a similar job for less cash. While the experience won’t be exactly the same, if you're on a tight budget then it's worth looking elsewhere.
You’re looking for a really speedy weight transition
If you do a lot of supersets and know your workouts will consist of constant weight transitions, then we’d recommend a different weight-switching system. Single-handed systems are far quicker and easier to change on the fly.
Dan Cooper is an experienced fitness writer who firmly believes in the power of running. The hardest race he has completed so far was Tough Guy, the world’s oldest and most demanding OCR event. There he learned that you may be able to outpace opponents, but outrunning hypothermia? That's a different race entirely.