The Elite USA (sometimes called USA Elite) and Elite EXP (sometimes called Elite EXP 2020) are in fact very similar. But there are some key differences.
You want to make sure the one you buy has the features you want and are expecting.
More importantly, you want to make sure that if/when you buy an expansion kit to increase the max weight of your Elite set, that you buy the right kit — since Elite USA and EXP expansion kits aren’t compatible.
I’ll discuss ALL of the differences as well as the similarities between the PowerBlock Elite USA and Elite EXP in this article.
Table of Contents
PowerBlock Elite USA vs Elite EXP Comparison
I want to start with a high level overview of the key differences and similarities of the PowerBlock Elite USA vs Elite EXP. The best way to do this is in a summary table.
|Handle Grip Shape & Diameter:
|1.265″ (33mm) diameter;
|1.5″ (38mm) diameter;
|10 lbs each; Boxy/square shape
|10 lbs each;
|Color & Weight Indicator Bands:
|“Made in USA” engraved on the end of each weight block;
Sticker on top of handle shows “Closed / Open / Closed” for the manual locking mechanism with “Made in USA” above in small text
|Gold “Made in China” sticker on inside of handle;
Sticker on top of handle reads “PowerBlock Elite EXP” in large text
|Elite 50: 12″ x 6″ x 6″
Elite 70: 14″ x 6″ x 6″
Elite 90: 16″ x 6″ x 6″
|Stage 1: 12″ x 6″ x 6.25″
Stage 2: 14″ x 6″ x 6.25″
Stage 3: 16″ x 6″ x 6.25″
|Not compatible with Elite EXP expansion kits (or other models)
|Not compatible with Elite USA expansion kits (or other models)
|Exclusively through PowerBlock.com
|Exclusively through 3rd party retailers (e.g. Amazon, Walmart)
|5 year limited warranty for home use
|5 year limited warranty for home use
|Elite 50: $419
Elite 70: $608
Elite 90: $797
In the following sections, I’ll discuss each model separately, and then get into a more detailed breakdown of each feature and spec.
PowerBlock Elite USA vs Elite EXP: Overview of Models
Despite their differences, the PowerBlock Elite USA and Elite EXP dumbbell models both have the same boxy shape. Most other PowerBlock models have sleeker, more curved blocks.
The Elite USA and Elite EXP also both have 2 padded wrist support bars, which is something that no other models have.
They also have the iconic multi-colored weight indicator bands that all the older PowerBlock models had in the past.
The Elite USA and Elite EXP are both expandable dumbbell models, each with 3 sets. The Elite USA has the Elite 50/70/90 sets and the Elite EXP has the Elite EXP Stage 1/Stage 2/Stage 3 sets. Both max out at 90 lbs per dumbbell in their final form.
The empty handle weighs 5 lbs on both the Elite USA and Elite EXP. Each nested weight block weighs 10 lbs. Each handle comes with two 2.5 lb adder weights per handle to achieve smaller weight increments.
Now, I’ll break down the Elite USA and Elite EXP, separately, into their respective sets/stages:
The PowerBlock Elite 50 set goes from 5-50 lbs per dumbbell. It adjusts in as little as 2.5 lb increments with the adder weights. The only weights that aren’t available are 12.5 lbs, 22.5 lbs, 32.5 lbs and 42.5 lbs. You can upgrade the Elite 50 to the Elite 70 with the Elite USA Stage 2 Kit (50-70). After that, you can upgrade to the Elite 90 with the Elite USA Stage 3 Kit (70-90).
The PowerBlock Elite 70 set goes from 5-70 lbs per dumbbell. It adjusts in as little as 2.5 lb increments with the adder weights. The only weights that aren’t available are 12.5 lbs, 22.5 lbs, 32.5 lbs, 42.5 lbs, 52.5 lbs and 62.5 lbs. You can upgrade the Elite 70 to the Elite 90 with the Elite USA Stage 3 Kit (70-90).
The PowerBlock Elite 90 set goes from 5-90 lbs per dumbbell. It adjusts in as little as 2.5 lb increments with the adder weights. The only weights that aren’t available are 12.5 lbs, 22.5 lbs, 32.5 lbs, 42.5 lbs, 52.5 lbs, 62.5 lbs, 72.5 lbs and 82.5 lbs.
Elite EXP Stage 1
The PowerBlock Elite EXP Stage 1 set goes from 5-50 lbs per dumbbell. It adjusts in as little as 2.5 lb increments with the adder weights. The only weights that aren’t available are 12.5 lbs, 22.5 lbs, 32.5 lbs and 42.5 lbs. You can upgrade the Elite EXP Stage 1 to the Elite EXP Stage 2 with the Elite EXP Stage 2 Kit (50-70). After that, you can upgrade to the Elite EXP Stage 3 by buying the Elite EXP Stage 3 Kit (70-90).
Elite EXP Stage 2
The PowerBlock Elite EXP Stage 2 set goes from 5-70 lbs per dumbbell. It adjusts in as little as 2.5 lb increments with the adder weights. The only weights that aren’t available are 12.5 lbs, 22.5 lbs, 32.5 lbs, 42.5 lbs, 52.5 lbs and 62.5 lbs. You can upgrade the Elite EXP Stage 2 set to the Elite EXP Stage 3 set by buying the Elite EXP Stage 3 Kit (70-90).
Elite EXP Stage 3
The PowerBlock Elite EXP Stage 3 set goes from 5-90 lbs per dumbbell. It adjusts in as little as 2.5 lb increments when using the adder weights. The only weights that aren’t available are 12.5 lbs, 22.5 lbs, 32.5 lbs, 42.5 lbs, 52.5 lbs, 62.5 lbs, 72.5 lbs and 82.5 lbs.
In the following sections, I’ll compare the PowerBlock Elite USA vs Elite EXP adjustable dumbbells along the lines of their major design features. I’ll be sure to explain each feature in case you don’t know what it is.
I’ve already touched upon this in the sections above. However, I’ll repeat it here: The Elite USA and Elite EXP both are expandable adjustable dumbbell models.
This means that you can start by buying a set that goes up to just 50 lbs (i.e.. Elite 50 or Elite EXP Stage 1) or 70 lbs (i.e. Elite 70 or Elite EXP Stage 2). Then you can later decide to expand the max weight to 70 lbs or 90 lbs with the 50-70 lb and 70-90 lb expansion sets.
This is a great option to have if you have a limited budget for your initial purchase of the base set, or if you’re not strong enough yet for the heavier weights.
Of course, you can bypass the need to purchase expansion kits in the future if you buy the fully expanded version of the Elite dumbbells (i.e. Elite 90 or Elite EXP Stage 3) from the start. This gives you access to 5-90 lbs right away.
The PowerBlock Elite USA and Elite EXP both have adder weights.
These are the chrome finished steel cylinders designed to be inserted into the hollow steel tubes at the bottom of each handle. There are 2 adder weights per handle and each weighs 2.5 lbs.
These are meant to be inserted or removed from the handle as needed, to achieve weight increments as small as 2.5 lbs. When you have smaller increments, you can progress more efficiently between weight settings.
If you have any adder weights inside the handle, you need to lock them in place. This keeps them from rattling around during your set. It also prevents them weights from accidentally falling out of the handle when you remove it from the stack of nested weight blocks.
The Elite USA has a manual lock mechanism. This involves a lever on the top of the handle that you manually move to the right or left side to close, or lock, the hollow adder weight tubes. To open the tubes, you move the lever to the middle position.
This is the only PowerBlock model still in production with the manual lock mechanism. However, the same manual lock is on the PowerBlock EZ Curl Bar, Straight Bar and Kettlebell Handle accessories made for the Pro Series sets.
The Elite EXP has an auto lock mechanism. This adds a bit of convenience because you never have to remember to lock the adder weights in place. It does it automatically because the lever is located on the side of the handle. When you place the handle into the nested weight blocks, the lever pushes into the block’s rail, which flips it up and closes the hollow adder weight tubes.
It’s impossible to put the handle in the blocks without it locking. To open the tubes, you manually push the lever down.
Both the Elite USA and Elite EXP have a closed handle design. This refers to the 2 padded wrist support bars on the top of the handle that make the opening smaller.
The benefit of the padded wrist supports is that you can lean the dumbbell comfortably against your lower forearm to maintain a neutral wrist position with little effort.
This is perfect if you have weaker wrists. It can also help you get a little leverage on the dumbbells, which allows you to focus more on the target muscle for exercises like dumbbell curls and lateral raises.
However, it also means you have less side to side range of motion inside the handle. Some lifters find this to be a little restrictive. Some guys with extra large hands, wrists and forearms complain of feeling cramped.
Handle Grip Shape & Diameter
The Elite USA is unique in that it’s the only home-use PowerBlock dumbbell model with a straight handle grip shape (only some of the Commercial Pro 90 and 50 sets also have a straight handle). I’m always a fan of a straight grip if I have the choice. It feels more natural in the hand to me.
The Elite EXP has a contoured handle, just like all the other home-use PowerBlock models.
The handle grip diameters are different on the 2 Elite models:
- Elite USA: 1.265″ (33mm) grip diameter
- Elite EXP: 1.5″ (38mm) grip diameter
The handle grip material is TPR (Thermoplastic Rubber). This is a composite material with properties of both rubber and plastic. It’s scratch-resistant, strong, and hard but not brittle. It is grippy, but not nearly to the extent of knurled steel.
Luckily, PowerBlock now offers their own knurled steel grips, but only for the Elite USA (and Pro Series).
Unfortunately, they do not sell any grips that are compatible with the Elite EXP. But if you really want a pair of knurled grips for the Elite EXP, I recommend going the third-party route and buying them from Bare Steel Equipment (code KING10 saves you $10). It’ll be more expensive than PowerBlock’s pricing, but it’s worth it if you want a truly non-slip grip.
For the Elite USA grips that PowerBlock sells, you have two options:
- Just the grips: This includes a pair of grips that you’ll need to install in your existing handle blocks.
- Full handle assembly: This includes a pair of handle blocks with grips pre-installed. This option allows you to have two pairs of handles — your existing ones with the rubberized grips and your new ones with the knurled grips. And it doesn’t cost too much more than the grips-only option.
Read my detailed review of the PowerBlock knurled grips to find out more about this grip-enhancing upgrade.
The weight blocks are 10 lbs each for both the Elite USA and Elite EXP.
Both models have a very boxy shape with straight lines on all sides, which give them a more utilitarian look. This is in contrast to the arched or contoured blocks on all other home-use PowerBlock models, which give them a more modern look.
The blocks are made of steel and finished with a black powder coat.
Color & Weight Indicator Bands
The Elite USA and Elite EXP retain the iconic multi-colored weight indicator bands that used to be a hallmark of all PowerBlock dumbbells in years past.
All other PowerBlock dumbbell models currently in production (except the Sport 24) have since been updated to have more toned-down weight indicator bands.
Some people love this classic rainbow look, while others think it’s too colorful.
Both Elite models have a grey handle (with black support bars and adder weight tubes) with black weight blocks.
The PowerBlock Elite USA and Elite EXP dimensions listed below are for a single dumbbell.
Elite USA dimensions:
- Elite 50: 12″L x 6″W x 6″H
- Elite 70: 14″L x 6″W x 6″H
- Elite 90: 16″L x 6″W x 6″H
Elite EXP dimensions:
- Elite EXP Stage 1: 12″L x 6″W x 6.25″H
- Elite EXP Stage 2: 14″L x 6″W x 6.25″H
- Elite EXP Stage 3: 16″L x 6″W x 6.25″H
The Elite USA and Elite EXP are NOT compatible with each other. The block dimensions are slightly different.
This means the Elite USA expansion kits won’t properly fit on the Elite EXP set, and vice versa. It’s important to understand this if you’re currently in the market for an Elite expansion kit, or if you will be in the future.
You want to make sure you get the kit that will actually fit on your set.
However, there is a caveat to this…
…Technically, Elite EXP expansion kits will “fit” on the Elite USA. However, the Elite EXP blocks will stick out above the Elite USA plates, since they’re taller, as shown below:
The owner of the PowerBlock set shown above accidentally bought the wrong expansion kit. He got the Elite EXP Stage 3 expansion kit instead of the Elite USA Stage 3 expansion kit. This obviously isn’t ideal, but the dumbbells are still functional and the plates are secure. Still, it would only make sense to do this on purpose if you found a super cheap deal locally on an Elite EXP expansion kit and really wanted to save the extra money.
However, this does not work in reverse. That is, Elite USA expansion kits will NOT fit on an Elite EXP set at all. The blocks just don’t nest together properly. One of my friends made this mistake. He originally bought the Elite EXP Stage 1 set, and later bought the Elite USA Stage 2 expansion kit. As you can see in the photo below, it didn’t fit and now he has an unusable 50-70 lb expansion kit laying around his basement:
None of the PowerBlock accessories (e.g. EZ Bar, Straight Bar, Kettlebell attachment) work with either of the Elite dumbbells. Look to the Pro Series dumbbells if you want access to those accessories.
The Elite USA sets and expansion kits are available exclusively through PowerBlock.com.
The Elite EXP sets and expansion kits are sold only on 3rd party retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods and several others. They are not sold on PowerBlock.com.
If you have one of the PowerBlock Elite sets already and are looking for an expansion kit, make sure you buy from the right place to ensure compatibility.
The PowerBlock Elite USA is made in the USA. It is the one and only PowerBlock model that’s manufactured in the states.
The PowerBlock Elite EXP is made in China, as are all other home-use and commercial PowerBlock dumbbells and accessories.
Both the Elite USA and Elite EXP have a 5 year limited warranty that applies to home-use applications only.
This warranty covers manufacturer defects, and damage from normal use, including drops from 12 inches or lower. It does not cover damage from abuse or drops from over 12 inches high.
Below, I’ve included the prices for each PowerBlock Elite model at the time of writing. Prices shown do not include shipping and handling, which vary based on location.
Elite USA prices:
Sport Series prices:
PowerBlock Elite USA vs Elite EXP: Which Should You Buy?
After reading this article comparing the PowerBlock Elite USA vs Elite EXP, you should understand all the differences between these two similar models. Hopefully you also have a good idea of which one is the best adjustable dumbbell for you.
However, if you’re still not 100% sure which of the 2 models to buy, I’ll give you my opinion.
I think the Elite USA is the best value overall. Both models cost about the same. However, the Elite USA is made in America, and thus is going to have slightly better build quality and quality control. Plus, you get to support US manufacturing, which I know a lot of home gym owners care about.
Additionally, the Elite USA has a straight handle grip, which I prefer over the contoured grip. It feels slightly more natural to hold onto. It’s also a plus if you have smaller hands, since the diameter is 5mm thinner than on the Elite EXP.
Lastly, I feel better buying directly from the manufacturer, if on the off-chance you have a product issue. It’s better than dealing with a 3rd party retailer.
Of course, the Elite EXP is still a great choice, with its stand out feature being the auto lock design, which streamlines the process of using the adder weights.
If you’re still not convinced about either of the Elite models, check out my other PowerBlock articles to learn more about the other models: