PowerBlock Knurled Handles Review: Aggressive Steel Grips

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By Alex
Last updated on

One of the most common critiques I’ve heard about PowerBlocks dumbbells over the years is that they don’t offer knurled handle grips. Many small fabricators have done well selling compatible knurled grips to fill the demand.

But guess what? This is no longer an issue because there are now PowerBlock Knurled Handles made by PowerBlock. The build quality and knurling quality are comparable to the other options out there.

And they’re selling them at an attractive price that will be hard for the third-party fabricators to match.

I own and have tested them and I’ll tell you all you need to know in this PowerBlock knurled handles review.

ModelPros & ConsRating

PowerBlock Knurled Handles
PowerBlock Knurled HandlesCheck Price

Pros:
  • Low price compared to third party alternatives
  • Excellent aggressive volcano-style knurl pattern for a secure grip
  • Substantial 32mm grip diameter feels good in the hand
  • Electroless nickel finish provides great corrosion resistance with limited impact on the feel

Cons:
  • Must buy separately; can't select knurled grips as the default for new dumbbells (at least for now)
  • No options for the Sports Series and PowerBlock Series dumbbells
  • Not stainless steel so occasional maintenance is recommended

Rated 4.7 out of 5
4.7 Stars
View product page

PowerBlock Knurled Handles Review

First, Some Background

Most PowerBlock dumbbell models have always come with textured thermoplastic rubber grips, with the exceptions of the Commercial Pro 50 and Commercial Pro 90, which do have knurled steel grips.

Some people — probably the more casual fitness crowd — find the rubberized grips to be more comfortable because they’re softer.

PowerBlock Rubberized Handle Grips

But I, and many other serious lifters, prefer a more aggressive knurled steel grip for performance. Knurled steel gives you a much more secure grip.

Over the years, many small fab shops have developed and sold knurled grips that fit the PowerBlocks to serve this demand. The downside of this is that they were always very pricey (i.e. ~$200 for a pair).

PowerBlock sells theirs for about half that price, providing incredible bang for your buck. However, PowerBlock sells the knurled handles in a couple of different ways, which I’ll break down below.

Knurled Grip Options

They are available in a couple of different ways:

Knurled Steel Grips + Handle Block

PowerBlock Knurled Handles - Handle Blocks with Grips Pre-Installed

You can purchase an entirely new pair of handle blocks with the knurled grips pre-installed.

This is the way to go if you want a second pair of handle blocks for your set. This way, you’ll have the option to use either rubberized grips or knurled steel grips.

The other benefit is that you can keep any adder weights in just one of your two pairs of handles, allowing you to change weights faster by swapping just the handles. So if you want to jump 5 lbs, simply take out one handle containing no adder weights and replace it with the other handle containing both adder weights.

Note that the new pair of handle blocks comes with four adder weights. So you’ll have a total of eight adder weights including those that came with your original PowerBlock dumbbell set.

The cost for the handle block plus grips option is just $159, which is a great deal considering the grips-only option goes for $99. You’re essentially getting another pair of handle blocks for just $60.

Buy them here (sold as a pair):

Knurled Grips Only (No Handle Block Included)

PowerBlock Knurled Handle Grips - Just the Grips

If you don’t need or want an extra pair of handle blocks for your dumbbell set, then you should get the version that includes just the grips.

You will have to install these yourself. But don’t worry, it’s easy. All you need is an Allen key.

PowerBlock Knurled Handles - Grip Installation Process

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Remove the bolts on either end of your handle block using an Allen key.
  2. Remove the old rubberized grip.
  3. Put the knurled steel grip in place. You’ll also need to put the included plastic washer on one side for a proper fit (unless you’re installing it on a non-expandable model).
  4. Put the bolts back in on each end of the handle block. Make sure you tighten them enough for a secure installation.

TIP: When inserting the grip into the handle, there is a correct direction to orient it. If you look at the photo below, you’ll see that one end has a taller hex protrusion (shown right). The other end has a shorter hex protrusion. This is done on purpose for a better fit. You need to install the end with the taller protrusion into the side of the handle block with the dial-lock mechanism for opening and closing the adder weight slots. You’ll also include the plastic washer on this end of the knurled grip.

PowerBlock Knurled Handle Grips - Hex Protrusion on One End Is Deeper Than the Other End

The grips are sold as a pair. You can buy them here:

Knurled Grips Included with a New Dumbbell Set (In the Future)

Unfortunately, you can’t currently select knurled grips as the default grip option when you’re buying a new Pro or Elite USA dumbbell set. You need to buy the dumbbells, which will come with the rubberized grips. Then you have to buy the knurled steel grips separately.

But, good news — that will eventually change. I spoke to PowerBlock and they are working on the back end to make this a possibility. However, they didn’t give me a definitive timeline on this.

Specs: Grip Diameter & Weight

PowerBlock Knurled Handles - 32mm Grip Diameter

The PowerBlock Knurled Handles specs include a grip diameter of 1.25″, or 32mm, providing a substantial feel in the hand while not being too big to grasp.

This is notably thicker than the typical barbell diameter (28-29mm). However, a thicker shaft on dumbbells is generally preferred by most lifters. You won’t be deadlifting hundreds of pounds with these so you don’t need a skinnier shaft to maximize your grip capacity.

Some people argue that dumbbells with a somewhat thicker shaft (like these PowerBlock grips) help you activate your target muscles more than thinner shafts. The reasoning is that you’re engaging your grip and forearm muscles more, which has been shown to increase the power output capacity as a mechanism of the CNS.

A thicker diameter is generally preferred for dumbbell work, especially with the grippy knurling on these handles.

The shape of the PowerBlock knurled handles is straight. Compare this to the contoured shape of the default rubberized grips that come standard on most of the PowerBlock dumbbell models (excluding the Elite USA and Commercial Pro models which have straight grips).

PowerBlock Knurled Handle Grips vs Rubberized Grips

I, and many other lifters, prefer a straight handle grip shape because it feels more natural in the hand.

It’s also worth noting that the default contoured grips are even thicker than the knurled PowerBlock grips. Some people with smaller hands have said they’re almost too thick, though it’s a rare complaint. They are 38.5mm in the center, tapering to 31mm on the ends. I feel like the uniform 32mm grip diameter on the knurled grips is preferable for more people.

Each PowerBlock knurled handle grip weighs 1.7 lbs, making them 0.6 lbs heavier than the default rubberized grips that come with PowerBlock dumbbell sets.

PowerBlock Knurled Handles - Weight

This results in a slightly increased total weight for the dumbbell at any given weight setting. It’s only a bit more than a half-pound difference, which won’t make a difference practically speaking, but is worth noting.

Performance, Knurling, and Feel

PowerBlock Knurled Handle Grips - Knurling Closeup

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t expecting much from the PowerBlock knurled handles based on the low price point compared to the third-party options.

However, I was pleasantly surprised. They’re every bit as good as the one pair of third-party grips I own from JD Gym Equipped. In fact, the knurling on the PowerBlock grips is slightly more aggressive, which I prefer.

Overall, I’d put the aggressiveness level of the PowerBlock knurled handles as aggressive but not overkill. These things will not be sliding in your hands even if you’re sweating a bit and have the weight maxed out.

The quality of the knurling is excellent as well. The knurl depth is consistent throughout and there’s there’s no double tracking or other imperfections.

The grips fit tightly within the handle blocks, ensuring that there’s absolutely no wiggling when you’re using them.

Material and Finish

PowerBlock Knurled Handles - Stainless Steel Finish

The PowerBlock Knurled Handles are crafted from hard electroless nickel-plated carbon steel.

This is one of the higher-end finish options available. While not quite as good as stainless steel in that regard, it’s one of the next best finishes you can get for preventing oxidation — in the same ballpark as cerakote.

While it doesn’t give you as raw of a “feel” as stainless steel, it’s much better than, say, cerakote or zinc. You really don’t lose too much in terms of the natural feel of the steel.

PowerBlock’s choice of going with electroless nickel over stainless is also, in part, what allows the price to be so competitive. While electroless nickel isn’t a cheap finish, it’s not as expensive as stainless steel. Even when considering that it’s nickel-plated, it’s still available for a very attractive price.

All that said, I would’ve preferred stainless steel if given the choice. But I’m still quite satisfied overall with the electroless nickel offering.

You will have to do a bit more maintenance of this finish compared to stainless steel, in order to keep corrosion at bay — particularly if you’re in a humid environment. This means brushing and oiling with 3-in-1 oil every couple of months if you care about keeping it in pristine condition.

If stainless steel knurled PowerBlock grips are a must-have for you, I recommend buying a pair from Bare Steel Equipment (code KING10 saves you $10). Just note that they cost double PowerBlock’s price.

Country of Manufacture

The knurled grips themselves are imported from China for both the Pro and Elite USA grips. I’m only pointing this out because the Elite USA dumbbells are known for being made in America.

However, if you buy the Elite handle blocks + knurled grips option, the handle block is made in the USA. It’s just the knurled grip that’s imported.

Compatibility

The PowerBlock knurled handles unfortunately aren’t compatible with all models. I’ll tell you what works with what.

Pro Series Knurled Handles Compatibility

PowerBlock Knurled Handles - Compatibility

The compatibility of Pro Series knurled handles — including the Pro Series Handle Blocks with Knurled Grips as well as just the Pro Series Knurled Grips — is as follows:

  • Are compatible with the Pro EXP (5-90) dumbbell set
  • Are compatible with the Pro 50 dumbbell set
  • Are NOT compatible with the Pro 100 EXP dumbbell set (knurled grips will be available for these eventually)
  • Are NOT compatible with the Pro 32 dumbbell set
  • Are NOT compatible with any of the Commercial Pro Series dumbbell sets

NOTE: If you order the full handle assembly option (handle blocks + grips), you will receive the weight guide decals for both the Pro EXP (5-90 lbs) and the Pro 50 (5-50 lbs). This way, you’ll have the right weight guide regardless of which Pro set you own.

You may also be wondering if the Pro Series knurled handles work with the Sports Series, Elite EXP (not USA), or PowerBlock Series dumbbells. That’s a good question because all of those dumbbell lines use the same hex-shaped grip ends to lock into the handle block…

…Unfortunately, though, the Pro Series knurled handles do not work with any of those models due to a variance in the handle block dimensions. I reached out to PowerBlock directly to verify this.

Elite USA Knurled Handles Compatibility

PowerBlock Knurled Handles for the Elite USA

The compatibility of Elite USA knurled handles — including the Elite USA Handle Blocks with Knurled Grips as well as just the Elite USA Knurled Grips — is as follows:

I also asked PowerBlock about the compatibility of their Elite USA knurled handles with older, now-discontinued models.

They told me that the full handle assembly option (i.e. handle blocks + grips) would work in the Classic and Personal Trainer Series, and for the Pro Rexan. However, they have not tested the installation of just the Elite grips in any of those models yet.

The Elite USA grips are unique because they have circle-shaped ends to secure corresponding circle-shaped slots in the handle blocks.

PowerBlock Knurled Handle Grips - Elite USA

All the other current models, including the similar Elite EXP as well as the PowerBlock Series, Sports Series, and Pro Series, use a hex shape. A hex won’t fit securely in a circle and a circle won’t fit securely in a hex. As such, the Elite USA grips won’t work with any of these other models.

Overall Rating

PowerBlock Knurled Handles

The PowerBlock Knurled Handles are PowerBlock's solution to the high demand for steel grips on their dumbbells. Made from electroless nickel-plated carbon steel, these handles are aggressively knurled to provide a secure grip for serious lifters. They're available either with handle blocks or as standalone grips. However, compatibility varies across PowerBlock dumbbell models. Priced competitively, these handles are a value-for-money upgrade for those prioritizing grip performance.

Product Brand: PowerBlock

Editor's Rating:
4.7

Pros

  • Low price compared to third party alternatives
  • Excellent aggressive volcano-style knurl pattern for a secure grip
  • Electroless nickel finish provides great corrosion resistance with limited impact on the feel
  • Substantial 32mm grip diameter feels good in the hand

Cons

  • Must buy separately; can't select knurled grips as the default for new dumbbells (at least for now)
  • No options for the Sports Series and PowerBlock Series dumbbells
  • Not stainless steel so occasional maintenance is recommended

Get a Grip! Where to Buy PowerBlock Knurled Handles

I hope you found my PowerBlock knurled handles review to be insightful.

If you prefer knurled steel over rubberized grips, you can’t go wrong with this premium upgrade to your PowerBlock dumbbells. It will make a major difference in performance, especially if you like to lift heavy.

If you want to buy a pair, the only place you can get them is directly from the PowerBlock website. Here are all of the available options:

Alex from King of the Gym
Author
Hey! My name is Alex and I'm the founder and author of King of the Gym. I've been lifting weights seriously since 2005 in high school when I started a home gym in my parents' basement. I started writing about fitness in 2009. Then, in 2014, I got into writing home gym equipment reviews and I haven't looked back. My current home gym is in my own house and it's constantly growing and evolving. My goal is to help you build the home gym of your dreams! Read more about me here.

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