I'll explain the pros and cons of this dumbbell system, so that you can weigh them and judge how well this system meets your needs.
Although the PowerBlocks come in many different models, they all share core commonalities as an adjustable dumbbell system. And so I will generally lump them together and talk about them as a whole. Though, when applicable, I will point out important differences between specific models.
If you're here to find a quick answer to which PowerBlock dumbbell model is right for you, I'll include a summary of my top recommendation in the table below:
Rated 5 out of 5 in Adjustable Dumbbells
Rated 4.5 out of 5 in Adjustable Dumbbells
Rated 4.5 out of 5 in Adjustable Dumbbells
If you would like to learn in-depth about the differences between the various PowerBlock series and models, I urge you to read my full guide on PowerBlock Dumbbells.
Without further ado, let's get into the pros and cons...
Pros & Cons of the PowerBlock Dumbbells
Before I begin, I'll post a short video clip that shows the very basics of the PowerBlock system, for those not yet acquainted with the concept:
At several points within the list of pros and cons below, I'll compare the PowerBlock dumbbells to the Ironmaster Quick-Lock dumbbells...
...The Ironmaster dumbbells, which I also own, are unquestionably the only formidable competitor of the PowerBlocks. As such, it's necessary to point out some major differences between the two systems.
When I originally wrote this article years ago, I hadn't bought any PowerBlock dumbbells. However, more recently I bought my first pair of PowerBlock dumbbells: the Pro EXP Stage 3 Set.
So, I now have first hand experience with both of these leading adjustable dumbbell systems. I've updated certain parts of this page to include new insights where relevant regarding their comparison.
Without further ado, I'll get to the good part of my PowerBlock dumbbells review! The pros and cons are as follows:
If fast weight adjustment is a top priority for you, then the PowerBlock dumbbells are your best option. It takes no more than 2 to 5 seconds to change the weights of the dumbbells.
Rapid adjustment is an essential feature for you if you plan on doing a lot of supersetting or some type of cross training (or if you're just really impatient). This, in my opinion, is the greatest benefit these dumbbells have over the Ironmaster set.
The PowerBlocks utilize a self-containing storage mechanism, where the dumbbell handle and weights conveniently and compactly "nest" within each other. This reduces the space required to store the dumbbells to that of their own small footprint.
There's no need for extra space to store individual weight plates. That said, it's still desirable to have a dumbbell stand to safely and efficiently rack the dumbbells between sets, and to store them when not in use.
Heaviest Models for Home Use Are Expandable to 90 Pounds!
There are several PowerBlock dumbbell models to choose from. Different models have different max weight capacities.
There are a few light to moderate capacity sets, which I do not recommend for any serious lifter. These lighter PowerBlock sets have maximum weight capacities ranging from 24 to 50 lbs:
- Sport 24: Adjusts from 3-24 lbs per hand; not expandable beyond that.
- Pro 32: Adjusts from 4-32 lbs per hand; not expandable beyond that.
- PowerBlock 50, Sport 50, Pro 50: All three of these sets adjust from 5-50 lbs per hand and are not expandable beyond that.
The heavy PowerBlock dumbbell models are all expandable to a max weight of 90 lbs per hand. There are four of these heavy models, listed below:
- Pro EXP: Expandable to 90 lbs with Stage 3 Set.
- Classic Elite: Expandable to 90 lbs with Elite 90.
- PowerBlock EXP: Expandable to 90 lbs with Stage 3 Set.
- Sport EXP: Expandable to 90 lbs with Stage 3 Set.
You'll want one of these sets with a max weight of 90 lbs even if you can't lift such heavy weight yet. Eventually, you will.
Note that you don't necessarily have to buy the heaviest version of the model (Stage 3) right away. You can always buy the Stage 1 version (5-50 lbs) or the Stage 2 version (5-70 lbs), then upgrade later by buying an expansion kit. This is a prudent strategy if you have a tight budget for your initial purchase. However, if you buy the Stage 3 Set from the get-go, you will save a little bit of money because it's all in one purchase.
NOTE: There used to be the "Urethane Series" of PowerBlock dumbbells, which were discontinued in 2018 and replaced by the Pro Series. This Urethane Series included the U-90 dumbbells, which went all the way up to 125 lbs with the U-90 Stage 4 Set. Although PowerBlock no longer makes or sells the U-90 sets, they do still carry the U-90 Expansion Kits in case you find a used U-90 set that isn't fully maxed out at Stage 4.
I personally think the Pro EXP 90 Stage 3 is the best choice for serious lifters. It's the one that I bought for myself, and I'm very happy with it. Here's why I consider it to be the best choice:
- It goes all the way up to 90 lbs per dumbbell.
- It is the only heavy model that's compatible with three awesome PowerBlock attachments: the EZ curl bar attachment, the Straight Bar attachment and the KettleBlock kettlebell handle attachment -- All are highly useful and affordable attachments that multiply the number of exercises you can do with the dumbbells. I'll discuss these in more detail, later.
- The Pro EXP weight blocks are coated in urethane. This makes them more durable, resistant to damage, quieter and safer to use. The plates on all other models are steel with no protective coating (other than paint).
The Pro EXP does cost more than the other heavier models by about 20%. For what you get, that's a very fair price difference. Well worth it in my opinion.
Still, I understand that different people simply have different budgets. Some aren't willing or able to pay a premium. If that's the case, then I'd recommend looking at the PowerBlock EXP Stage 3 or Elite 90.
Also, as I touched upon early -- Remember that it can be helpful from a budget standpoint to buy just the Stage 1 set of whichever model you choose (e.g. Pro EXP Stage 1, or PowerBlock EXP Stage 1, or Sport EXP Stage 1, or Elite 50). Then you can purchase the expansion kits once you have more cash to spare.
NOTE: PowerBlock does make a dumbbell set that goes even higher. It's the Pro 175 Commercial Set and it can go all the way up to 175 lbs. However, it's part of their commercial equipment line. And it is MUCH more expensive than even the most expensive home-use dumbbell sets. We're talking about a total cost of over $2000 after shipping. It's likely way out of the price range for most people--As such, I chose not to highlight it or make it my top choice (though I'd love to own it!).
Very Compact Size
All PowerBlock dumbbell models are the most compact dumbbells on the market, at least in terms of their length. This includes both adjustable and traditional fixed dumbbells.
The compact size is helpful, in particular for using the optimal path of movement for bicep curls (i.e. no maneuvering the dumbbells around your hips). And in general, the smaller size makes the weights easier to control during heavy exercises.
These things last people through years and years of consistent use without breaking or needing repair.
This is why you'll see used PowerBlocks being sold on Craigslist that are several years old but still in very good condition (with the expected superficial scratches or bumps from use, of course). Some folks have dropped them multiple times without incident and wouldn't worry if it were to happen again.
That said, dropping the dumbbells is definitely not advised, since they contain parts that could break, crack or warp, more easily than the Ironmasters or traditional dumbbells.
5 Year Limited Warranties
PowerBlock, Inc. offers a 5 year limited warranty for ALL of their home-use dumbbells. Previously, different models had different warranty lengths (e.g. The Classic Series sets used to have a 10 year warranties; the Sport Series sets used to have 15 year warranties; the now-discontinued Urethane Series sets had lifetime warranties)...
...However, around late 2018 when the Pro Series was released with its 5 year warranty, I believe they switched all other Series/models to have the same warranty duration. After all, it wouldn't make sense for the Pro Series, which is the best overall and most expensive model, to have the shortest warranty.
Of course, if you bought one of the other models before the warranty length change, they would honor the warranty length at time of purchase.
I won't get into detail on the terms and conditions of each warranty type. I'll give the basics -- It covers materials and workmanship defects. It doesn't cover obvious things like misuse or abuse, which includes (among other things) damage from dropping the dumbbells from 12 inches or higher (or 6 inches or higher for some models).
Accompanying Accessories & Complementary Equipment
There are a several accessories available for the PowerBlock dumbbells.
The available of these two accessories were the main reason I went with the Pro EXP over the other heavy PowerBlock models. Now that I've been able to train with them for a while, I can say that I most definitely made the right decision.
You can see my EZ curl and straight bars below, with the full Pro EXP Stage 3 weight stack on each bar:
Another cool accessory is the KettleBlock handle. It allows you to transform the weights from a dumbbell to a kettlebell just by swapping out the handle:
It's important to note that the KettleBlock handle only works with the Pro 50 and Pro EXP sets (as well as the now-discontinued Urethane U70 sets and the U90 sets). This is one of the reasons why the Pro EXP is my top pick for best PowerBlock set.
NOTE: The weight guide sticker on the KettleBlock is only accurate if you're using it with the Pro 50. If you use it with the Pro EXP like I do, you'll have to do some quick mental math to make sure you're selecting the desired amount of weight.
The KettleBlock handle be used comfortably on most exercises up to 55 lbs, but can go all the way up to a 95 lb max capacity (with the Pro EXP Stage 3). However, the heavier it gets, the wider it becomes, making it awkward to handle at very heavy weights.
As an aside, PowerBlock, Inc. does make these 3 other dedicated adjustable kettlebell systems:
- KettleBlock 20: This model has 5 weight adjustment increments including 5, 8, 12, 16 and 20 lbs.
- KettleBlock 40: This model has 8 weight adjustment increments including 8, 12, 16, 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 lbs.
- PowerBlock Adjustable Kettelbell: This is their newest kettlebell product, which sports a sleeker design compared to the KettleBlock 20 and 40. It has 4 weight adjustment increments including 18, 22, 26 and 35 lbs.
Other PowerBlock accessories include the array of dumbbell stands for the various PowerBlock dumbbell models.
Additionally, there are 2 benches available:
Both the PowerBlock dumbbells and the Ironmaster dumbbells are NOT cheap products. They both cost several hundred dollars.
When comparing the costs between the two brands, the PowerBlocks end up costing a slight to moderate amount more than the Iromasters. Sort of...
...It's hard to compare compare their prices directly, though, since the most popular configuration of the Ironmaster is usually the combo package of the 75 lb pair plus the dumbbell stand. If you want more than 75 lbs, you can get the 120 lb add-on, but that will make the price (and max weight) higher than that of the PowerBlocks.
Whereas, stands for the PowerBlocks are never included with the dumbbells; not to mention, having a stand for the PowerBlocks is much less less necessary than for the Ironmasters. Plus, most people reading this page will probably opt for the 90 lbs PowerBlocks.
That all being said -- let's simplify things and just compare the prices of the 75 lb Ironmasters + dumbbell stand, and the 90 lb PowerBlock sets.
Currently the Ironmasters are $649 with free US shipping.
Depending on the PowerBlock model you get, a set of PowerBlock dumbbells will be somewhere between $737 + $99 S&H (current price for the Pro EXP Stage 3) on the high end and $577 + $99 (current price for the PowerBlock EXP Stage 3) on the low end. In other words, the PowerBlocks cost between 4% to 29% more, in this specific comparison.
Again, this is not a direct comparison for the reasons explained above, but it gives you a general idea of the price differences. And it shows that both options will cost you several hundred dollars -- not cheap for sure, but definitely an investment that will pay off if you're serious about training.
Incompatibility Between Different Models
PowerBlock, Inc. makes several product series and models. The upside of this is that you have a much bigger variety of options from which to choose, compared to the Ironmasters.
However, the downside is that the components of the different dumbbell sets are (usually) incompatible with each other...
...Thus, it's important that you understand and are comfortable with the capabilities and limitations of a given model, before you buy it. You won't be able to modify the weight increments or increase the maximum weight by using extension kits or other parts from different models.
Dumbbell Stand Not Included
Unlike the Ironmaster adjustable dumbbell system, the PowerBlocks don't come standard with a dumbbell stand. Of course, this is good in that you pay less than you otherwise would.
Having a stand for the PowerBlocks is less necessary than for the Ironmasters, since you need the Ironmaster stand to store all the weight plates. However, having a stand for your PowerBlocks is still very desirable. You'll definitely want one; if not right away, then eventually.
Luckily, you can snag the Large PowerBlock Compact Weight Stand for a relatively low price (currently $69 + $11 S&H). The added convenience is worth the modest price tag.
They Look... Different
The first thing you probably noticed about the PowerBlock dumbbells was their non-traditional design:
- They're constructed with pillars in at least two of corner, which surround the handle and give the dumbbell a cubic shape.
- They use weight "brackets" as opposed to traditional plates.
- The dumbbells have all the colors of the rainbow showing brightly on the sides of the weight block to indicate the weight.
- UPDATE: This is only true of the older models that are still in production (e.g. the Elite 50/70/90 and the Sport 24). Newer models are less flashy in this sense. For example, the Pro EXP only uses small rings of different colors to indicate the weight of the blocks; the Sports EXP and the PowerBlock EXP use just black and red respectively for the weight indicator colors.
Obviously, all of these things serve specific and necessary purposes. All else being equal, I do prefer the more natural look of the Ironmasters. But this is just one factor consider, and a relatively unimportant one. It is not at all a make-or-break issue for me.
That said, there are some folks who say the PowerBlock's design is too "weird" for their tastes.
Non-Traditional Dumbbell Feel
Some people claim that the peculiar dumbbell design gives them a somewhat unnatural "feel" compared to traditional dumbbells.
Part of the unnatural feel comes from the dumbbells not being perfectly balanced, which is to be expected from any selectorized adjustable dumbbell system. And as far as the selectorized dumbbells go, the PowerBlocks are very well balanced especially compared to the likes of the Bowflex-style adjustable dumbbells.
There is also a very slight shift you'll feel when rotating the dumbbells during a movement (e.g. on biceps curls; the handle goes from facing up at the bottom of the motion, to facing the floor at the bottom of motion). There is the result of there being a tiny amount of play between the blocks and the handle. Again, this is to be expected in any selectorized system with many components. While noticeable, it doesn't affect technique or performance.
Also, there are some ease-of-use issues on the PowerBlock models with the older "closed handle" design -- At this point, this only applies to the the Elite 50/70/90 set. Basically, it has a pillar on all four corners of the handle, surrounding the grip area. This crowded design can potentially interfere with your hand position and wrist movement if you have bigger forearms/wrists and hands. Also, having the four the pillars surrounding the handle grip prevents you from using the traditional grip for dumbbell triceps extensions (though you can work around this by gripping any two adjacent pillars).
However, this design flaw has been fixed on all other PowerBlock dumbbell models, which now have all been upgraded to the "open handle" design, shown below:
Lastly, the pillars prevent you from using the traditional grip for dumbbell triceps extensions (though you can work around this by gripping any two adjacent pillars).
Not Designed for Very Rough Use
The PowerBlocks are far from what one might consider fragile or dainty.
As I explained in an earlier point, one of the pros of this dumbbell system is its durability and solid build quality. However, as I also mentioned in that point, you should treat the dumbbells more carefully than you'd treat the Ironmaster dumbbells or traditional fixed dumbbells.
Put differently, they aren't meant to be dropped or thrown around all willy-nilly. Just because the dumbbells will likely survive a drop, that doesn't mean it always will. There is, after all, a reason that their warranties don't cover drops from above 6 or 12 inches (depending on the model).
Hopefully my PowerBlock dumbbells review has helped you to decide if this is the right adjustable dumbbell system for you. Whether you've decided to buy or if you still have questions, one of following two sections will help you out:
"I'm Sold! Where Can I Buy Them?"
Be sure to choose the right pair, though. If you're serious about lifting, then your only real choices are:
"I Need to Do More Research Before Making a Decision."
Do you want to see more PowerBlock dumbbells reviews (from first-hand users), and learn more about the specific differences between the various PowerBlock series and models?...
...If so, then I'll direct you to my PowerBlock dumbbell comparison page. It contains a detailed comparison chart of all the PowerBlock models (current and discontinued models), an explanation of the logic behind my top four choices and several video reviews from PowerBlock owners.