PowerBlock Pro EXP Review: The Best Adjustable Dumbbells
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We tested them to see if these dumbbells are the smart choice for your home workouts.
A quality set of adjustable dumbbells can be a logical place to start when building out your home gym. After all, they combine the perks of a full slate of traditional weights in a compact, space-saving silhouette. But with so many on the market in today’s fitness realm, which brand — and arguably more importantly, which weight range — should you opt for?
Well, why settle for one range? Why not opt an adjustable dumbbell that can be expanded for heavier sets?
The PowerBlock Pro EXP is a sturdy, durable adjustable dumbbell in base model form, offering athletes an impressive 5–50-pound weight range. But where this profile sets itself apart — aside from that classic caged-handle design — is in the fact that the brand offers expansion packs that can take your max lifts to a muscle-bound 90 pounds.
But is the luxury of expandable weight and the durable, trusty silhouette enough to make the PowerBlock the best pick for you? To find out, I tested the dumbbell's prowess in my own training regimen, forgoing my usual weight sets for this blocky, massive kit.
While the aesthetics can take some getting used to, and the blocky profile limits which exercises you can perform, I fully believe the PowerBlock Pro EXPs are the adjustable dumbbell to own for at-home training. The construction across the plate stacks is impressively stout, and there’s no denying the benefit of having the option for heavier expansion packs. I also think the rubberized handle, while slippery at times, is comfortable and tacky enough for most athletes looking to get into strength training.
The PowerBlock Pro EXP is also relatively affordable at just over $500 for the base set. Expansion packs will run you $200 each, but they’re not absolutely necessary if you don’t think your training will surpass the 50-pound threshold.
While adjustable dumbbells are a convenient tool for home workouts, most silhouettes share a common dilemma — plate wobble. This sensation of rattling weights during movement can kill your confidence mid-lift as you start to fear for your safety at the worst opportune time (read: when the weights are perched overtop your face or chest).
Thankfully, across various exercises and working weights, I never experienced plate wobble with the PowerBlock Pro EXPs. I attribute this to the fact that the weights expand outward from the center, meaning a heavier load will create a longer profile. While there is some adjusting to be had across your range of motion, each plate sits flush against one another throughout your movement, leaving less space for the weights to get squirrelly.
I’ve mentioned it a few times already, but it’s hard to overlook how impressive this perk is. Normally, adjustable dumbbells feature a set weight range, and there’s no option to grow your available weights. Sure, you can opt for a heavier set from the start, but what if you overshoot your training potential and end up paying more for a few extra weights you’ll never touch in training?Of course, having expansion packs available for the PowerBlock Pro EXPs is nice for my workout needs, particularly for exercises like dumbbell rows where I routinely work with up to 70-pound sets. However, I’d actually view the expansion packs as more of a financial benefit than anything. You only need to spend the extra $200 per pack if you’re absolutely sure you’ll need the added resistance.
Additionally, getting the expansion packs added to your PowerBlock profile is as simple as unboxing the pack and placing your original silhouette within the interior. Move the selector pin appropriately and carry on with your workouts.
As impressive as the PowerBlock Pro EXPs are in training, I’ll admit that it’s not an intuitive sensation. The caged handle design feels unlike anything you’ve likely used in your workouts before, and there’s a definite learning curve to finding the ideal wrist placement. You cannot roll your wrist too much during presses, as you can irritate your forearm in the process.
Additionally, the boxy profile of these adjustable dumbbells is fine for pulls and presses, but sitting them vertically is another endeavor. For exercises like overhead tricep extensions and goblet squats, you’d typically rotate your dumbbell so the handle is on its Y axis and cup the top weight from underneath. Since there’s only two openings that give access to the handle, getting into position for these specific lifts can be more of a burden. I’d recommend sticking to traditional presses and pulls, and instead opt for a traditional dumbbell or kettlebell for these more intricate setups.
The PowerBlock Pro EXPs are also unique in the fact that they use a pin-and-lock system to control the weight range, rather than a dial or rotating handle like you’d see in other silhouettes. The selector pin is a nice, sturdy design option, as the forks go through the entire profile and brace the selected range at both side. Unfortunately, though, the hard plastic profile of the pin itself has a little more flexion to it than I’d like. The forks can spread across two openings if you try to hurry through weight selection, leading to an improper setup that could damage your equipment (and yourself).
Additionally, getting down to floor level to see where you’re sliding the pin in can be a strain as well. I try not to rest my weights across a bench or tabletop in an effort to try and preserve those structures as well, so getting down to the ground is sometimes necessary, especially when working out in dim lighting. Thankfully, PowerBlock makes a convenient dumbbell stand that makes for more efficient storage, and also brings the selection range up closer to eye level.
If you’re looking for a more traditional dumbbell profile, the Smrtft Nüobell adjustable dumbbell is on par with the PowerBlock Pro EXPs. This is actually my favorite adjustable dumbbell of them all, but they are a bit more expensive and cap out at 80 pounds. If you already have a set of weight plates and want to utilize your current training layout, the Kensui AdjustaBell is another impressive, cost-effective option. This loadable silhouette is lightweight and can hold up to 70 pounds per handle, but you need to have plenty of change plates at the ready to make it worthwhile.