Dumbbells can be smart: Bowflex SelectTech 560 Dumbbells | Ars TechnicaClick for Transcript
So, when you take these smart dumbbells out of the box, first thing you have to do is that one of them has a battery operated kind of Bluetooth sensor in it. It happens to be this one here. It has a little play button I guess you could say and a tiny screen on it. This one doesn’t have that. However, they’re both connected via Bluetooth to the smartphone app, and that’s how you kind of pair them to begin with, by inserting the battery and then just slipping it right in there.
So, how you adjust these is just in the middle with the handlebar. Kind of twist it back and forth to adjust how much weight you want to life. Let’s say you just want to lift, you’re not really looking to do a specific type of workout. You can do into the app, select literally the just lift option, and then it’ll give you a timer to count you down to start. It also will show up on the display on the dumbbell itself.
When you hear that little beep, you can pick it up. You weight in the standing position, the hold ready, so that it knows that you’re ready to start, and then you just start lifting. Each time you do a rep, it’ll beep like that. You can do as much as you want in the just list option. This is just kind of a freestyle thing that you can do control your pace, control what types of lifting moves and exercises you want to do. I’m gonna stop there.
Then you can go back in there and it shows that I did about 20 reps. It also has the weight that I selected, too. So, via Bluetooth it already knows how much weight I have selected. Then since it knows that I stopped and I put that back on its base, it’s saying that I’m gonna rest for 60 seconds. Then you can just go in the app, stop the workout, and it’ll be recorded for you so you can look back at it.
So, this is the mobile app, the Bowflex mobile app that connects to the smart dumbbells. As you can see here, you have the just lift option which we talked about before. You can choose a workout or six week challenge that they have. So, six week challenge is really just a, I think it was about three workouts a week for six weeks, and it also has a couple of other workouts on here that incorporate the smart dumbbells as well. So, that comes in with the choose a workout.
So, if you go to choose a workout, there are certain ones they already have, like Armageddon, which is ridiculous. Back attack, best chest, boulder shoulders. So, you can see it’s targeting certain areas of your body. Let’s look at crazy core. So, you can see not every single exercise in here is going to use the dumbbells. So, here you have fast feet, which I assume is just kind of running in place for 30 seconds. Actually, if you click on this, you can see a video of what they mean. I really like this about the app is that if you’re not familiar with any move, there are videos for everything.
So, here with just this core exercise, there’s only a few of them. See, I believe here’s the one, V-sit with bunches. This uses the smart dumbbells, but it’s one of the only ones in this exercise routine that uses the smart dumbbells. One of the good things here is that you can access all those things in this menu, but then you can also go to exercises and choose how many reps you want, and how much time you want to spend doing each specific exercise. You can sort them alphabetically, or by muscle group.
At the bottom here, you can see today’s achievements. So, this is just from the past couple minutes of us doing some lifting. You have the time, calories burned, and the amount that you lifted. That’s in total.
So, overall I had a pretty good experience with the Bowflex smart dumbbells. They do replace a full rack of weights, and there’s a lot of things you can do with them, especially if you make use of the app and you really stick to either the six week training program or stick to making your own workouts, or using the workouts that are there. There is a product out there called the Atlas Wearable, which we reviewed a while back. That can also count your reps and count certain reps of exercises that you do, and you don’t need any specific weights to do that, just a wearable that you wear on your wrist. So, if you don’t really like the idea of having weights in your house or in your apartment, you could just get something like that that’s already built to count your reps at the gym or whatever you decide to work out. But if you’re really serious about lifting, and you want to kind of make your own mini-gym at home, these are a decent way of doing that.
Bowflex dumbells 552 AND 1090 Selecttech dumbbell Review P90XClick for Transcript
Brand new, these are pretty expensive. For those of you who are tight on cash, I’m also going to show you a low-budget alternative at the end of the video, so do not miss it. Here you can see the two weights side by side. The 1090s are larger, but not as large as I thought they would be. Now, I’ve used these for about two months now while working out, and I’ve run into a few situations that I’ll share with you, but this review will be focused mostly on P90X.
Let’s talk about why these are great. First of all, they save on space. If you had to buy all of the weights individually from 5 to 52 pounds, you’d need a whole weight rack. Second, they’re easy and fast to adjust from a low weight to a higher weight. This is key when you’re doing P90X because of how quickly you switch from exercise to exercise. Now, there are other adjustable weights on the market, which I’ve tried, but I thought they were awkward to hold and to use, which leads me to the third great thing about them: they’re shaped like a traditional dumbbell. So, if you’re used to working out at the gym, you’ll feel right at home with these.
Now, as you can see, their design is elegant, unlike some of the others on the market. I like how they slide in and out of the base, just real easy to use. You can tell that they were designed well. Here I’m holding the 552s and the 1090s side by side, the 1090s being on the left. What surprised me was that the 1090s were not that much larger than the 552s. They’re definitely fitting a lot more weight into a smaller space.
Here I’m doing a shoulder press. As you can see, when I go up, they actually touch and bump together. Not a big deal. I think you can work around it. Let’s take a look at a more traditional curl. No problems, really, here on this curl. It’s a full supination curl, where I’m twisting them outwards. No complaints. Here I’m doing another shoulder exercise. As I’m pulling them up, they’re actually bumping together, which almost makes it feel more like a barbell lift. But, again, if you keep your arms apart, you can work around it. Not that big of a deal.
Let’s take a look at the cases. I like the cases. This gray one comes with the 552s. It’s reinforced plastic of some sort. Then this black one comes with the 1090s, so pretty similar.
Here I’m doing a concentration curl, and you can see that both of them are touching when I come to the top, sometimes at the bottom as well. Not a big deal, but each bicep isn’t really being isolated like it should be. For shoulder shrugs, they work just fine. They’re actually not even resting on my legs, and they feel just like a dumbbell that you’d use at a gym.
Where I ran into my first big limitation was doing a bench press, which I’ll show you here. When you get to the top, they’re so wide that you can’t actually reach inward to really work the inner part of the pectoral muscle. So, you can actually turn them inward … I’ll show you that here … as an alternative, as a workaround, to get them closer together and work the inner part of the chest.
The second major drawback to these is, you really need the stand to go with them, because if you’re bending over to pick them up off the floor all the time, you’ll easily hurt your lower back. It happened to me several times when using the 552s. So, when I upgraded to the 1090s, I got the stand. Now, the stand is an extra $150. It’s a great stand. It’s built well, but the extra cost on top of it is a sizeable investment.
Here I just want to point out the different grips on the 552s and the 1090s. The 552 has that grip with the black rubber piece, and it’s actually round. I love the grip on the 552. The 1090’s grip is actually square, and it’s rough. It has some texture to it. I assume they made it that way so that it doesn’t slip out of your hand, but you can’t really hold it barehanded. It digs into your hand quite a bit. It can be painful. So, one of the drawbacks to the 1090s, specifically, is you probably need a set of workout gloves, which will protect the skin. But the handle on the 552s is excellent.
In summary, let’s take a look at the pros. First of all, they save a lot of space. They’re fast and they’re easy to switch weight. They’re elegant in their design, and they’re cheaper than buying individual dumbbells.
Let’s take a look at the drawbacks. First of all, they’re expensive brand new: 400 for the 552s; 600 for the 1090s. I think they require a stand, which adds more cost. They’re wide in their design. The 1090’s grip is rough, so you most likely need gloves.
My conclusion: The wide doesn’t really hold you back. A few adjustments make them perfectly fine for P90X. At full price, they are recommended, but there are cheaper alternatives. If you can get them used or on sale, I think they’re a must have. I’m happy with my purchase. I use them all the time in P90X. They’ve been pretty great, with a few drawbacks; but, overall, I’d buy them again.
Bowflex SelectTech 560 Smart Dumbbell (and Stand) ReviewClick for Transcript
Number two, these are actually smarter than your average dumbbells and that’s thanks to the sensor embedded called the 3DT, which stands for three dimensional trainer. Now what that guy’s actually going to do is track things like your sets, reps, weight count and speed. Now the Bluetooth sensor on the weights, connects to the Bowflex app on your phone or tablet and that lets you keep tract of your cumulative workout data as well as access several guided workouts. Plus the app will let you build your own custom workout and then go ahead and track that too.
Now I’m going to get deeper into how the app works later in the video, but for now I want to start off by talking about those smart features. Now I’ve seen several comments online talking about, now why would I want weights that can count reps and sets, I can just do that in my head. Well, yeah, but that’s actually not the reason why you buy this product. The big deal here for me, at least, is collecting data on yourself over time. And being able to see and track that progress automatically is something that I count as a big bonus. Just for example, it’s really cool to be able to know exactly how much weight you’ve lifted at the end of a workout, or just to be able to see that you’ve achieved a personal best. So there’s a definite motivational factor built in, but on top of that the counting also keeps you honest. What I mean by that is, once you establish a baseline for any given exercise, any rep that comes after that is going to have to be a full rep in order to count.
Now on top of one of those weights sits that 3DT sensor and it mimics the information that’s displayed on the app. So you can see how many reps you’ve done and also it’ll count down your cool down time in between sets. And that can actually be somewhat useful in some situations like if you’re on your back on the bench looking up at the ceiling and you’ve got the weights overhead, you can stare at that screen, because you can’t see your phone or tablet.
But I have found that the counting can be a bit quirky at times and it doesn’t always do a good job of sensing the motions that I’m going through. And the problem that I saw most often was that it was just counting too fast. Still, I’d say that it works right, at least 90 to 95% of the time. Now there is an optional stand that you can get to go along these 560s, and personally I’d recommend it if you can swing that extra 150 bucks. First of all, it’s just more convenient not having to reach down to the ground all the time.
Second, there’s an adjustable phone or tablet holder/stand and that makes it a lot easier to see what’s going on in the app. Now unfortunately, especially for the price, that tablet holder seems just a little bit flimsy and plasticy to me. I think if you accidentally hit it with one of the dumbbells, I could definitely see it breaking. Now selecting the desired weight with the 560s happens pretty smoothly, but I have to say I kind of don’t like all the weights clanking around and I sort of miss those dumb dumbbells that were just solid pieces of equipment. But even so, it’s not really a big deal.
Now despite some of the accessories being a bit flimsy, I’m glad that for $500, the weights themselves actually feel pretty solid in terms of build quality. And actually, as I’ve been thinking about it, I feel like the 560s are actually quite a lifestyle upgrade for most people. That’s because they save you so much space because you don’t have to have several different dumbbells laying around. I mean, most people don’t live in a mansion that has a separate exercise or weight room, so this really makes sense for a lot of people.
So let’s talk a little bit more about the app. I do like it, but it does have some quirks that bug me. First, it works with Apple’s Health App, and that is awesome. But I really hate how there’s no voice within the app. So there’s no audible count downs for instance, like you find in several really great exercise and workout apps. All you get are some beeps here and there to let you know what’s going on. And the app just has some other weird features, like if you don’t pick up the weights when an exercise starts within like one or two or three seconds, then it asks you if you want to cancel the entire exercise. So overall, the app could just use some polish and some improvements. You can definitely muddle through with it as it is, but I would just keep my fingers crossed if I were you and you owned this, that there’d be some good updates coming in the future.
Now let me wrap this up by talking about the unboxing and the assembly. First off, the boxes that these guys come in are surprisingly big and you really have to dig around inside all the packaging to make sure you find all the little pieces. Like for quite a while after I unboxed these, I couldn’t find a Bluetooth sensor and I actually ended up contacting Bowflex to get a replacement, although I canceled that because I did find it, it was just hidden away taped inside some crazy piece of styrofoam or something. So you really have to look hard to make sure you don’t miss anything. Like there’s this tiny screwdriver that comes with everything. I’ve never seen such a small screwdriver and you can definitely lose that if you’re not really careful with the unboxing.
Finally, assembling the stand actually took longer than I feel like it should have. You might want to set aside at least 30 to 45 minutes to get that done. I don’t know why, it just takes quite a while. So to wrap things up, if you’re looking into buying this, I’d say go for it but you just might a little bit disappointed by what the app can offer right now. You definitely could use these just for the weight selection feature and then use another app to kind of track your workout, but then you’re really missing out on all the automatic data collection and that’s kind of the whole point of these in the first place.
All right guys, that wraps up this video. Hope it was enjoyable. If you liked it and you haven’t already, please hit subscribe. I’d love to hang out with you in future videos and also make sure to follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. I’m @dailytekk on all of those places and stop by DailyTekk, spelled DailyTekk.com as well and I’ll catch up with you guys in the next video. Later.
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells ReviewClick for Transcript
What I like best about these dumbbells is how easy they are to adjust and to use. You can see on each end of the dumbbell you have this spin selector, which allow you to modify the weight. For example, if I wanted 25 pounds, I would set 25 pounds on that side and 25 pounds on this side. Then the weight is good to go. I can just pull it out of the base, and it’s ready to be used. You’ll notice that the remaining plates that are not used, that were released from the locking mechanism, stay on the base. Whenever you want to change the weights again, you would simply put the dumbbell back in its base. Then the spin dial is free to move again.
This particular model moves from 5 pounds all the way up to 52 1/2. What’s nice is for the lower weight, from 5 pounds to 25 pounds, the increment is 2 1/2 pounds at a time. You can see there, I go from 15, 17 1/2, 20, 22 1/2. Once you reach 25, then it goes up in increments of 5 pounds, so 30, 35, 40 and so forth. For the heavier weights the increment is 5 pounds at a time. For the lower weights the increments are 2 1/2 pounds at a time, which is nice.
You can basically use these dumbbells for anything that you would do with a regular dumbbell, as far as exercises go. They very much have the same feel to them when you’re doing exercises. One difference, though, is that the length of the dumbbell across here … so if I take this off the base and put it down here … it’s a little bit longer than a conventional dumbbell. For some exercises, if you grab it right in the middle here, it might feel a little bit long when you do shoulder presses, for example, or two-handed curls. You might find that the two dumbbells, side by side, kind of touch each other before you would expect them to as compared to a regular dumbbell. But if you adjust your grip a little bit, it’s pretty easy to get use to how long these are.
Another cool thing you’ll notice as I took it off the base, the weight selector is set to two different weights on each side, so you can have that weight offset between the two sides. Some people like that for working out, in different exercises where you have more weight on one side than the other. These dumbbells do have that feature, which is kind of cool.
Like I said before, the main handle part and the locking mechanism are metal. Everything else is pretty much plastic or a plastic composite. When I put it back in the base, and I rotate, you can see the metal clips rotating there, engaging and disengaging the respective plates for whatever weight you select.
That’s pretty much it. I mean a couple of kind of general care items are: These aren’t really made to be thrown around or dropped like maybe you could a regular dumbbell. It’s important to kind of take extra care and not throw them around or drop them while you’re working out, and they’ll last a good long time. I haven’t had any issues with these, which is great. They’re great for working out. Great for high-intensity workouts, and because you can adjust them so quickly, you can do stuff like P90X where you don’t have a lot of rest between sets, which is really cool and convenient. As you can see, they don’t take up a lot of space.
The other caveat, as far as care and use, is you don’t want to use these as pushup bars. You don’t want to put your whole body weight on top of the dumbbell. It’s not designed for that, and it could actually damage the locking mechanism.
Aside from those two things, I mean these are great dumbbells. You can use them pretty much for any exercise where you would use regular dumbbells. You can go all the way up to 52 1/2 pounds for each dumbbell, which means you get to save a lot of room in your home gym. As compared to having a full set of dumbbells. Bowflex does also have another model, the 1090s, that goes even heavier than that. I think up to 90 pounds, if it’s something that you need, if you need beyond the 52 1/2. I think for most dumbbell exercises for most people, these dumbbells are a really good option for a home gym.
Thanks for watching.