The humble dumbbell is probably the most versatile fitness tool going.
There is literally no fitness plan, no goal, and no person on earth who couldn’t use a set of dumbbells to get them closer to where they want to be.
That’s probably why, in the last few years, popular fitness brands have seen sales of dumbbells increase by as much as 600%, with many sports stores actually selling out completely.
But knowing all of this, picking a set of dumbbells for your home can be surprisingly complicated. For such a simple piece of kit, there are loads of different variations, weight sets, types of grip, and a hundred other things.
This is why when something comes along that truly revolutionises the fitness world, people take notice. Enter the Powerblock Pro.
What is the Powerblock Pro?
Powerblock’s adjustable dumbbells have been gracing fitness clubs, health centres and powerlifting gyms for almost 30 years. First designed by a Cali resident obsessed with the golden age of bodybuilding, the adjustable dumbbell wasn’t invented by Powerblock, but it sure as hell popularised the idea.
The big selling point is twofold. One, when it’s not being used, the Powerblock fits comfortably into itself, meaning that it’s only as big as the footprint. This makes the Powerblock a whole lot simpler to store than other types of dumbbells.
Second, with a little practice, changing the weight that’s on the bar can be done in literal seconds, far faster than any other type of adjustable hand weight.
What makes the Powerblock Pro special?
So why is Powerblock probably the most trusted name in adjustable weights?
First is the design, which apparently went through a literal ton of prototypes before the first edition hit gyms, and that tested design has only improved in the intervening three decades.
At first glance, the Powerblock is good looking, but nothing particularly special. A large, easy to grip handle sits in the middle of a large, cubic cage handle, with a whole bunch of flat, squared plates on each end. But it’s that simplicity that makes the Powerblock so easy to use, which we’ll touch on in a second.
The weights can be adjusted in 5 or 10lb increments, from the empty handle (which weighs a mere 5lbs) up to 50lbs for the full stack (2.7 to 22.7kg.)
On the hand, the weights feel great. Extremely solid and well built, the handle is large and well knurled, so it’s easy to hold even when loaded. The plates themselves are urethane plastic coated, so sit well on floors, are less likely to damage anything, and don’t make horrific banging noises every time they’re put down. However, it does mean that they probably shouldn’t be left out in the elements, as rain and snow could damage the coating.
Finally, it’s all covered by a 5-year warranty, which is impressive coverage for something like this.
Ease of use
The single biggest draw of the Powerblock is how quickly you can change the weight. It works on a simple push-lock system with a large, U shaped pin. If you’ve ever used a machine at the gym that has an adjustable weight stack, it’ll seem pretty familiar, pretty fast.
Changing the weights in increments of 10lbs is as simple as removing the locking pin and slotting it back where you want it. This locks the plates to the handle and takes literal seconds.
Adjusting in 5lb increments is a little more time consuming, but still incredibly simple. Inside the bottom of the handle are a pair of 2.5lb weight ‘plates’ (they’re tube-shaped) that slot into the base and provide a nice stable weight profile.
They’re quick to remove, only needing the small, red-marked lever at the top of the handle to be pushed across before the weights can be slid in and out, but this still requires the handle to be free of any weight plates.
Considering conventional dumbbell sets can take upwards of a minute to change, this is a huge advantage that’s going to cut minutes of dead time out of every single one of your workouts.
Room for expansion
As you get fitter and start to put bigger numbers on the bar, the Powerblock has the capability to grow with you.
Two further expansions use the same easy to adjust system, and take the total weight per dumbbell up to an impressive 90lbs (41kg.)
Simple to store
Apart from the speed that they can be changed, the single biggest benefit to owning a Powerblock dumbbell, (aside from street cred) is the fact that each dumbbell literally has a footprint slightly larger than one square foot.
That means that you can store a set of Powerblocks literally anywhere. They’ll easily slot into your home gym without difficulty, but will also fit under tables or a high bed, in basically any cupboard (though keep them on the ground, these are heavy, remember,) or tucked away in the corner of the room, ready to go whenever you are.
Are there any downsides to the Powerblock Pro?
Like anything, Powerblock dumbbells do have a couple of negatives, but they’re surprisingly minor.
Firstly, because the system uses a single bar with adjusting, quick locking weight plates, you can only have one amount of weight on each at a time. This means certain types of exercise, namely super setting, will still require a lot of switching between weights. Now, it’s going to require a lot less effort, but you’re still looking at a few seconds of work between lifts.
Second, the Powerblock system is pretty pricey. The cost is much higher than cheap, poorly made budget weight sets, costing about the same as a good set of steel dumbbells would cost if they had all of the same weight options.
Of course, when you weigh up what you’re getting, and the unique benefits that the Powerblock Pro offers, that cost does start to make a whole lot of sense. This is why Powerblock dumbbells are still one of the biggest names in adjustable weights, after 30 years.
So, with all this said and done, should you go and buy the Powerblock Pro?
The answer is simple.
If you’re just getting into exercise and want a cheap weight set that you’re only going to use once or twice a week, you might want to give these a miss.
But if you’re looking for the best adjustable dumbbell set, that is comfortable and well made, with massive room for expansion up to huge amounts of weight, but still, collapse down to fit under a coffee table, then yes, these come highly recommended, and you’ll never regret buying them for your home gym.