When building the perfect home gym, odds are you don't have the available square footage to mimic the layout of your local fitness center. And while you can invest in larger equipment with all-in-one capabilities, there's still something enticing about banging out sets of curls and presses with a set of free-weight dumbbells. Instead of filling a wall with ironclad weights and undoubtedly suffocating your home gym layout, adjustable dumbbells can help you make the most of your training area in a compact yet effective silhouette.
There's plenty of options when it comes to choosing adjustable freeweights for your training 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 truly dominates the scene?
In this old bull vs. young buck matchup, I decided to put these two brands against one another to determine the best adjustable dumbbell for your home gym addition.
The Contenders for Best Adjustable Dumbbells
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells
Any adjustable dumbbell on the market today owes a ton to the Bowflex SelectTech 552s. As one of the first options on the market, this at-home fitness staple has maintained its place amongst the upper echelon of must-have training equipment. 15 available weights ranging from 5–52.5 pounds allow for a wide variety of workouts, while the comfortable rubber and metal handle gives the security you desire in your grip. Even if you aren't as versed in dumbbell training as the veteran gym-goer, Bowflex has you covered, thanks to a complimentary one-year membership to Bowflex’s JRNY digital fitness platform.
Serving up an impressive weight range of 5–80 pounds, the Smrtft Nüobell is one of the heaviest adjustable dumbbells on the market. A minimalistic profile allows these fitness essentials to blend into any atmosphere without a cumbersome surface area. Also, to adjust the dumbbell weight, you simply twist the center knurling, lift from the stand and bang out your next set. Simple and effective, what more could you ask from a quality piece of at-home fitness equipment?
How to Choose Which Adjustable Dumbbell is Right for You
When looking for a proper set of adjustable dumbbells, you first want to look at the available weight range. Typically, most adjustable dumbbells will max out between 50–60 pounds, albeit with varying degrees of adjustability. This should be enough to cater to a beginner-level strength training routine, but there are heavier options available, like the Nüobells from Smrtft.
Speaking of, make sure you're comfortable with the adjustment features of your adjustable dumbbells, as there's no point in purchasing a piece of fitness equipment that's going to detract from your in-training progress. While some models boast easy-to-use toggles, others might require additional steps that take more time to adjust, leaving you less time to actually lift the structures. Both the Bowflex and Smrtft models chosen for this head-to-head feature premium adjustment toggles that are easily maneuvered for precise weight changes.
Lastly, while storage is less of a factor in adjustable dumbbells — especially when compared to traditional freeweights that ultimately take up more space — it is nice to consider products that have proper stands and racks available. While we do admire the SelectTech 552s and Nüobells for their standalone racks, the two brands do separate themselves from the pack due to the available dumbbell stands, which can bring the products closer to hip level for a more convenient storage space.
Test 1: Adjustability and Weight Range
Both the SelectTech 552 and Nüobell adjustable dumbbells showcase some of the most user-friendly adjustment features we've seen to date. Both processes were buttery smooth in testing with no real hangups or inconveniences. With that said, however, the Bowflex SelectTech 552s do require an additional step in making sure both sides of the dumbbell are set to the correct weight. While this wasn't a major issue, it did make for an additional step, which wasn't present in the rotating handle setup of the Smrtft Nüobell. Are we splitting hairs? Absolutely. Should it make a difference in your purchase? Maybe?
While the weight adjustments were more than comparable, Smrtft definitely stands out in weight totals. Yes, the Bowflex offering is impressive thanks to its 2.5-pound increments below the 25-pound marker, but with a max weight of 80 pounds, the Nüobell is hard to ignore. As someone that routinely does heavier dumbbell exercises like rows, tricep extensions and other modalities, this was a welcome feature that often left me reaching for the Smrtft weight over its competitors.
Test 2: Grip and In-Training Performance
Whether curling a new PR or pressing through a final rep, you want to have confidence in your grip. Knurled handles allow the bar to dig into your fingers and palms — without any pain, of course — ensuring your clasp across the weight.
I really enjoyed the more aggressive knurling of the Nüobells for two reasons. One, it reminded me of traditional dumbbells and provided ample friction, making pressing overhead more enjoyable. The second reason was that the present knurling worked in-sync with the heavier weights, allowing for better control and security while rowing or pulling.
The grip featured in the SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbell was also impressive, but for different reasons. The rubberized center made for a comfortable training session, and I could see this being a can't-miss benefit for newcomers. Additionally, the contoured handle felt more ergonomic, which caters to the novice strength enthusiasts. For my personal interests, I could do with or without these perks, but I definitely see their purpose.
As far as in-training performance, I felt the Smrtft offering was more aligned to traditional dumbbells due to how the weights adjusted when adding or subtracting poundage. As you transition to higher weights, the system simply adds a plate to the end of the dumbbell, making for a more compact, more manageable frame. The Bowflex model alters where the plates sit based on the chosen weight. While this wasn't an issue for me, especially when balancing the weights overhead, I could see where it might detract some users.
Test 3: Aesthetics and Price
When it comes to gym gear, you're probably less inclined to value look over performance. With that said, though, it does help when home fitness equipment isn't an absolute eyesore. Both the Bowflex SelectTech 552 and Smrtft Nüobell feature favorable hints of style, with the 552s showcasing more of a beehive silhouette while the Nüobell takes inspiration from more traditional dumbbells. For my personal taste, I prefer the compact structure of the Smrtfts, but the 552s are right up there, and either would be a welcome addition to any home gym.
As far as price goes, this is where Bowflex takes the lead — and one of the reasons we named the 552s the best overall adjustable dumbbells in our roundup. At roughly $430, you're able to replace 15 standard dumbbells in one. While the 80-pound Nüobell does give more weight, at $745, you're only gaining one extra dumbbell weight — poundage goes up by increments of five as opposed to the 2.5-pound microadjustments from 5–25 in the 552s. That means you'd be paying roughly 1.5 times more per weight adjustment, all for a wider range that you may never use. Thankfully, though, Smrtft does have a slimmed down, 50-pound model that comes in at $595. It's still more expensive than the 552s, but it's an easier pill to swallow.
Our Pick: Smrtft Nüobell
Despite the higher price point, I can't deny the effectiveness and quality within the Smrtft Nüobell. The increased weight range allowed for plenty of movements and modalities that catered to my experience in the gym, and for any seasoned lifter, I'd be confident in saying these dumbbells imitate traditional exercises to the T. The compact design paired with the knurled handle felt great in the hands, and the easy-to-adjust system makes changing weights on the fly a breeze.
With that said, I still think the Bowflex SelectTech 552s are a premium adjustable dumbbell option for most fitness enthusiasts. The adjustments are simple, the balance is right — albeit less compact than the Nüobells — and the 5–52.5 weight range is more than accommodating for most needs. Plus, Bowflex tailors this adjustable dumbbell to the novice lifter by including one year's worth of membership to the brand's JRNY library of live and on-demand classes.
In all honesty, this is a head-to-head comparison in which either competitor could've come out on top. To boil it down, the Nüobell is great for anyone more experienced in dumbbell training and those willing to spend the extra coin. For novice gym goers wanting to save some money without skimping on quality, the Bowflex SelectTech 552s are there waiting at the podium. The choice is yours — just make sure, whichever you choose, to re-rack your weights.
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