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PowerBlock Pro EXP Dumbbells Review: What You Should Know

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PowerBlock Pro EXP Review

In this PowerBlock Pro EXP review, I will tell you everything you need to know about this brand new addition to the PowerBlock dumbbells product lineup.

I know you may be just be here for a quick summary of the Pro EXP to find out if it’s the best adjustable dumbbell for you. If that’s the case, just look at my overview in the table below:

Dumbbell

Pros & Cons

Rating

PowerBlock Pro EXP Stage 3 Dumbbells

Pros:

  • Expandable to a full 90 lbs per dumbbell
  • Urethane coated plates make it the most durable & robust, and the quietest PowerBlock set
  • Open handle with "wedge" design gives unrestricted room for hand and wrist (no “wrist support” bars)

Cons:

  • Most expensive home use PowerBlock set
  • No stage 4 kit to expand to 125 lbs like on the U-90 set, which the Pro EXP replaced

Rated 5 out of 5

Pro EXP Stage 1/2/3 Sets & Expansion Kits

There are 3 stages of the PowerBlock Pro EXP Set. You can buy any of these stages as a Set (i.e. handles + all weight blocks included in one product SKU). For example, if you want the heaviest dumbbell right now, you would buy the Stage 3 Set.

Alternatively, you can buy one of the lighter stage sets now, and then upgrade to a heavier stage in the future, if you want. For example, if you buy the Stage 1 now, you can upgrade it later by buying the Stage 2 Expansion Kit and then Stage 3 Expansion Kit, which are sold separately.

Here's a more detailed breakdown of the sets and expansion kits:

Pro EXP Stage 1 Set:

PowerBlock Pro EXP Stage 1

The Pro EXP Stage 1 is the base set. It includes the pair of handles plus the weight blocks to make each dumbbell go from 5-50 lbs per dumbbell in 2.5 lb increments.

If you buy the Stage 1 Set now, you can upgrade it to the 70 lb Stage 2 Set later by purchasing the Pro EXP Stage 2 Expansion Kit (50-70 lbs) separately. And then upgrade it again to the full 90 lb Stage 3 Set by purchasing the Pro EXP Stage 3 Expansion Kit (70-90 lbs) separately.

Pro EXP Stage 2 Set:

PowerBlock Pro EXP Stage 2 Set - 5-70 Lbs

The Pro EXP Stage 2 Set includes the pair of handle plus the weight blocks to make each dumbbell go from 5-70 lbs per dumbbell in 2.5 lb increments.​

If you buy this one now, you can upgrade it later to the 90 lb Stage 3 Set by purchasing the Pro EXP Stage 3 Expansion Kit (70-90 lbs) separately. The Stage 3 Expansion Kit includes the weight blocks shown below:

Pro EXP Stage 3 Set: 

PowerBlock Pro EXP Stage 3 Dumbbells - 5-90 Lbs

The Pro EXP Stage 3 Set is final form of the Pro EXP line. It includes the pair of handle plus the weight blocks to make each dumbbell go from 5-90 lbs per dumbbell in 2.5 lb increments.

  • PERSONAL NOTE: This is the one I bought -- It was well worth it for me to get the full 90 lb set right away; as opposed to getting the Stage 1 or 2 and upgrading later. I wanted the heavy weights right away! 😀

Expansion Kits

I've already discussed the expansion kits above. However, I wanted to also include some photos to show you which weight blocks each expansion kit comes with:

Stage 2 Expansion Kit

PowerBlock Pro EXP Stage 2 Expansion Kit

The Stage 2 Expansion Kit includes a pair of the yellow and blue weight blocks. This lets you go from 50-70 lbs per dumbbell.

Stage 3 Expansion Kit

PowerBlock Pro EXP Stage 3 Expansion Kit

The Stage 3 Expansion Kit includes a pair of the yellow and blue weight blocks. This lets you go from 70-90 lbs per dumbbell.

Adjustment Mechanism & Process

Adjusting the weight on the PowerBlock Pro Exp dumbbells is a fast and simple process.

There are actually two types of weight adjustment you can make:

  • Macro-adjustments: Any adjustments that are multiples of 10 lbs, involving adding or removing one or more of the main weight plates/blocks.
  • Micro-adjustments: Any adjustments of 2.5 to 5 lbs, involving the adding or removing one or both of the adder weights from the dumbbell handles.

Depending on the current dumbbell weight and amount weight of weight you want to use, you may have to make just a macro-adjustment, just a micro-adjustment, or both.

Before I list the steps for adjusting, you should first understand the color-coded weight setting graphic that’s printed on top of each handle -- it’s pretty straight forward:

PowerBlock Pro EXP Color Coded Weight Settings
PowerBlock Pro EXP Handle - Closeup

The important things to understand are as follows:

  • The numbers on top are in pounds; the bottom numbers are in kilograms.
  • Each weight setting corresponds to the color on the side rail of each weight block. (Exception: the first weight setting [10 lbs/4 kg] doesn’t have a color; it refers to just the handle, with no weight block attached).
  • IMPORTANT: The weight settings shown in the graphic assume that BOTH adder weights are added to the handle. If you don’t have both adder weights in, here’s how to determine the dumbbell weight:
    • If you have just ONE adder weight in the handle, then the total weight will be the number shown minus 2.5 lbs (~1.1 kg). Example: If you put the selector pin at the green setting with one adder weight in the handle, the total weight is 47.5 lbs (50 lbs - 2.5 lbs = 47.5 lbs), or approx. 21.9 kg (23 kg - 1.1 kg = 21.9 kg).
    • If you have NO adder weights in the handle, then the total weight will be the number shown minus 5 lbs (~2.2 kg). Example: If you put the selector pin at the green setting with no adder weights in the handle, the total weight is 45 lbs (50 lbs - 5 lbs = 45 lbs), or approx. 20.8 kg (23 kg - 2.2 kg = 20.8 kg).
Adder Weights for PowerBlock Pro EXP Handles

Keeping the above in mind, here’s the step-by-step adjustment process:

  1. With the dumbbells in their stand or flat on the floor, remove the selector pin from its current position.
  2. If you need to add or remove adder weights to make a micro-adjustment (i.e. 2.5 or 5 lbs less than the weight setting printed on the color-coded graphic), then do the following:
    • Remove the handle portion from the weight stack.
    • Pull the lever down on the side of the handle to unlock the hollow cylinders that hold the adder weight weights.
    • Add or remove the one or both of the adder weights as needed.
    • You can pull the lever up now to lock the adder weights into place. OR, simply place the handle back in the weight stack, and the lever will automatically be pushed back into the locked position (this is the “auto-lock” feature).
  3. Insert the selector pin through the weight stack and handle at the desired plate setting. The selector pin is two-pronged, with each prong being split into a top and bottom portion. The top portion of each prong insert in the handle slot directly above the plate's side rail; the bottom part of each prong inserts in the slot directly below.
    • Example: For 50 lbs, you’d insert the pin around the side rail of the green-marked plate, such that the top portion of each prong slides over the top of the rail and the bottom portion slides under the bottom of the rail.
  4. Remove the dumbbell from the weight stack by grasping the handle grip and pulling the dumbbell directly up.

The above is my admittedly long-winded description of the adjustment process -- It may look like a long process based on the amount of text I used. However, the process is actually quite rapid in practice.

Urethane Coating

The PowerBlock Pro Series, which includes the Pro EXP sets, is the only line of home use PowerBlocks currently in production that feature Urethane coating on weight plates.

The Urethane is a major upgrade over the Elite/Classic Series, the Sport Series and the PowerBlock Series dumbbells; all of which have powder coated steel plates with NO urethane coating.

The benefits of the urethane coating include:

  • Greater protection of the plates against minor scrapes and bumps from normal use. Urethane is significantly more scratch resistant than powder coated steel.
  • Greater protection of the plates and dumbbells as a whole against accidental drops or any other impacts (which, as mentioned above, you should always try to avoid if possible). Urethane is HIGHLY superior to steel when it comes to vibration- and shock-absorption.
  • Greater reduction of noise. The PowerBlock sets with steel plates aren’t even that loud during use, but they’re not completely silent since there is very slight movement between the plates during use; plus you do get some steel on steel contact when taking the dumbbells out of the stack and putting them back in. Well, with the urethane-coated Pro EXP dumbbells, that minimal amount of noise reduced even further. The urethane almost completely muffles any noise during use and moving the dumbbells in and out to the stack.
  • Complete resistance to rust. The entire part of the weight block that’s covered with urethane simply won’t rust. Whereas, if the powder coating on the steel plates is scratched or chipped, the exposed steel will rust easily.

Weight Blocks Have Non-Welded “Flex” Design

The non-welded “flex” design of the weight brackets is another design element, along with the urethane coating, that is completely unique to the Pro Series dumbbells.

You can see exactly what I mean by “flex” design in the image below:

PowerBlock Pro EXP Block Rails Have Non-Welded Flex Design

The ability of each end of the weight block frame to flex side to side like this makes the dumbbell MUCH more resistant to damage from short drops or other impacts.

The frame can “give” a little bit on impact, effectively absorbing the force without causing permanent damage. You’d need a much greater impact force to cause deformation to the frame with this flex design, compared to the welded/non-flexing plate design seen on all other PowerBlock dumbbell lines (i.e. Elite/Classic, Sport, PowerBlock).

Open Handle Design

The Pro EXP dumbbells have an “open handle” design. This means that there are NO padded wrist supports at the top/opening of the handle. Padded wrist supports used to be the default on all PowerBlock dumbbell series.

However, over the past couple years -- starting with the new Sport Series in late 2016 -- newer models, including the Pro EXP dumbbells, have switched to the open handle design. The only dumbbells currently in production that still have the padded supports on the handle are the Elite 50/70/90.

Open Handle vs Closed Handle Design

The benefit of the open handle design over the closed handle design is that you have a lot more room for you hand, which is especially great if you’ve got larger hands. Second, and just as important, is that the wrist supports don’t get in the way of your wrists/forearms on exercises like biceps curls where your wrists flex.

While some people like the padded wrist supports or at least don’t mind them, many people found it to be a slight annoyance. The open handle gets rid of them completely, which gives you a more natural dumbbell “feel.”

The Pro EXP’s handle has more room inside of it than ANY PowerBlock dumbbell handle, from side to side and front to back.

It even has more room than the other open handed dumbbells (i.e. the Sport & PowerBlock Series). Unlike these other open handed models, the Pro EXP has a “wedge design.” On both sides of the handle, the top portion is angled down and in, toward the center of the handle. This forms a sort of imaginary “V” or wedge shape, as shown in the photo below:

PowerBlock Pro 90 Commercial Set Side View Shows Wedge Design for Extra Room in Handle

Note: This photo shows the Pro 90 Commercial Set, which is visually almost identical to the Pro EXP Stage 3 Set, minus the knurled steel handle shown in the image (and the MUCH higher price tag).

The wedge design gives you significantly more front-to-back space in the upper portion of the handle...

Wedge Handle vs Non-Wedge Handle Design

...Why is this extra space in the upper handle so useful? Because it enables significantly more range of motion for the wrist to move the forearm back or forward (or for the dumbbell to tip forward/back, moving itself closer to the forearm).

When would you need extra room for your forearm in the front or back? Most notably, it could be potentially useful in any exercise where some degree of radial and/or ulnar deviation occurs as part of the movement, or is otherwise likely to happen incidentally:

Radial and Ulnar Deviation
PowerBlock Pro EXP Wedge Shape in Handle - More Room for Forearm

This happens most commonly on (but is not limited to) any exercise where you hold the dumbbells in a neutral grip (i.e. palms facing in). Some example include:

  • One arm rows
  • Hammer curls
  • Overhead triceps extensions
  • The setup part of dumbbell bench press or seated shoulder press (i.e. when you bring the dumbbells up from your knees to your upper torso)
  • Neutral grip bench press
  • Neutral grip shoulder press
  • And many others…

When using the Pro EXP dumbbells, your forearms will rarely even touch the front or rear edges of the handle thanks to the extra room from the wedge design. Whereas, with any non-wedge PowerBlock model, your forearms bump into the edges much more frequently.

If your forearms do run into either end of the Pro EXP handle, they’ll be up against the flat wedge surface that’s angled in the same direction that your forearm is angled; in other words, it won’t cause any pain or discomfort. Whereas, if you press into the either end of any non-wedge PowerBlock handle, your forearm will be pressing into a corner edge, which could certainly cause some disconfort or at worst slight pain if you’re using a lot of weight.

That all said, this wedge design shouldn’t be a make or break feature when choosing which PowerBlock you want -- It’s minor compared to the big features like urethane coating or the non-welded “flex” weight plate design. Still, it’s a noteworthy upgrade from other handles; it’s one more small detail to put in the “plus” column when considering the Pro EXP vs other sets.

Handle Grip

PowerBlock Pro EXP Handles

Shape

The grip portion of the handle has a contoured shape, meaning it’s thickest in the middle and becomes gradually narrower toward the ends. The idea behind a contoured handle is to be more “ergonomic,” or to better fit into into shape of person’s hand when grasped onto…

PowerBlock Pro EXP Handle Grip

...That’s the idea at least. I know some people prefer the contoured handle because they find it to be more comfortable and easier to hold onto. However, I’m usually a fan of a straight handle. It just feels more natural to me. Contoured or straight -- it comes down to a personal preference.

Even though my preference is for a straight handle, I can still grasp onto a contoured handle just fine. It just takes a little bit of time before you get accustomed to the feel. Handle shape is factor to consider, but it’s not a make or break feature.

For the record, the only PowerBlock models with a straight handle are the Elite and the Pro Commercial (more on this one in the sub-section below):

Grip Material

PowerBlock Pro EXP Handle Grip - Closeup

The handle grip is made out of a thick durable plastic compound, covered by a rubber coating. This is strong and more than “grippy” enough for just about any scenario.

However, it would have been awesome to have a knurled steel handle. That would provide an even more aggressive grip that would come in handy when hand/forearm fatigue sets in on heavy sets, or when you have very sweaty hands. Plus, the quality of the grip would maintain better over the years compared to rubber coating, which will obviously wear faster than steel.

Although knurled steel handle grips would be nice, I wouldn’t consider them a requirement since the rubberized handles do a more than adequate job.

Still, if you absolutely must have knurled steel handles on your PowerBlock dumbbells, there is one option. And it’s pretty much the same is the Pro EXP in terms of look, design and major features -- the Pro Commercial Series:

PowerBlock Pro 90 Commercial Set with Knurled Steel Handles

I would only recommend the Pro 90 Commercial Set (or possibly even the Pro 125/175 if you think you actually need that much), since the Pro 50 Commercial and Pro 32 Commercial sets aren’t nearly heavy enough for serious lifters, and they can’t be expanded later.

There’s a big negative with these commercial sets, unfortunately: They’re expensive. For example, the Pro 90 Commercial Set is over $550 more than the 90 lb Pro EXP Stage 3 Set!

That’s a lot of extra dough, and it’s hard to justify when one of the main reasons you’d get it just for the knurled steel handle. Also, it only has 5 lbs increments; not 2.5 lb increments like the Pro EXP, since there are no adder weights in the commercial version. Still, it’s an option. And it does come with a nice stand.

If you want more than 90 lbs, then the Pro 125/175 is the only way to go. The Pro 90 Commercial can't expand beyond 90 lbs, and neither can the Pro EXP.

You don't get the knurled handle with the Pro 125/175, and the increments are 7.5 lbs (instead of 5 or 2.5 lbs). BUT you do get a ton of extra weight, which is the most important feature if you're strong and need extra heavy adjustable dumbbells to train effectively. In this case, the bigger price tag ($1599 for the Pro 125, $1899 for the Pro 175) is worth it.

Selector Pin with “Flex” Design

The selector pin is made out of a durable plastic composite with flexible properties. Its ends can bend significantly in either direction without breaking, and they’ll always come back to the same position.

Flex Pin for Selecting Weight

This is an upgrade over the older pin styles which were made of metal. While metal may seem better than a plastic composite, that’s not the case for this application. Sure, metal would hold up better in a direct impact scenario, but that’s not something that would happen with this piece of the PowerBlock.

The main damage risk for the selector pin is bending. The plastic compound that the pin is made of, is designed specifically to bend. It can flex many degrees -- much further than it should ever need to -- and will always come right back to a straight position.

Whereas, the metal pin isn’t meant for flexing. The metal can bend slightly, but if it bends beyond a very limited range, it will be permanently deformed.

The flexibility of the new pin design also makes it easier to use and faster to adjust. You don’t have to align it perfectly parallel to the weight setting slot before inserting. You can slide it in at more of an angle.

The only thing to be careful of is to make sure you don’t accidentally insert one side into a higher weight setting slot, and the other into a lower slot.

The other major difference in the new flex pin's design is that the two prongs are split into a top and bottom half:

PowerBlock Selector Pin

On the old metal pins, each prong was just a single (non-split) metal rod, which inserted in just one slot beneath the desired weight plate setting. This new and improved design feature offers two big benefits:

  1. It has the ability to be put in any direction. That is, there is no upside down; either way you flip it, it's right side up. With the old metal selector pin, there was only one "right side up." It was possible to accidentally put it in upside down if you didn't see the up arrows. The new flex pin can never be put in the weight stack upside down.
  2. It is basically twice as secure as the old steel selector pin design. This is because the split prongs give the flex pin four points of contact on the side rails: both prongs are above AND below the side rail thanks to split prong design. Whereas, the old steel selector pin design only has two points of contact on the side rail: both prongs below the rail.
    • Side Note / Fun Fact: For the new flex pin design to work, the PowerBlock handles also had to be redesigned from an older handle design that worked with the old steel selector pins. The reason for the handle redesign was to allow for the flex pin to have its four points of contact on the side rail vs. the steel pin's two points of contact.

Unrelated to the "flex" part of the design are the magnetic blocks in the front of the pin. The magnetized part engages on to the front side rail, locking the pin in place during use. I'll discuss this feature more later on the review.

PowerBlock Selector Pin with Magnets on Inside

This flex pin technology was originally developed for the “Urethane Series,” which was the immediate predecessor to the Pro Series. It has also been adopted by all other in-production PowerBlock dumbbell lines, including the Classic/Elite, Sport & PowerBlock Series.

Auto Lock Mechanism for Adder Weights

I’ve already mentioned the “Auto-Lock” mechanism describing the process of adjusting the adder weights. However, it’s a noteworthy feature, so I’ll give it its own section here.

The auto-lock features ensures that the handle’s hollow cylinders holding the adder weights automatically close up when the handle is placed in the weight stack; thereby locking the adder weights inside.

This is done by having a lever controls whether the cylinders are open or closed. If you push it down, the cylinders open and you can add or remove the adder weights as needed. If you pull it up, the cylinders close off and prevent the adder weights from falling out if they’re in…

PowerBlock Pro EXP Handles - Open vs Closed Autolock Lever Postion

...The “automatic” part of the auto-lock feature is build into the design: If the lever is in the down position (i.e. open), it will necessarily be moved into the up position (i.e. locked) when you put the handle back into the weight stack. This is because the lever lines up with side rails on the weights. So when you’re pushing the handle down into the weight stack, the weight stack is effectively pushing up against the lever and flipping it to the locked position. Very smart design!

Of course, you could simply lever to the locked position manually, but that’s one more step. The auto lock feature makes an already rapid adjustment process that much faster.

NOTE: There is one time where you do have to remember to manually lock the adder weight lever -- And that’s when you’re lifting just the handle with one or two adder weights loaded (i.e. 7.5 or 10 lbs per dumbbell).

The Auto-Lock mechanism isn’t unique to the Pro EXP dumbbells. It was first introduced to the newest version of the Sport EXP dumbbells, which came out in late 2016. And the feature has since been adopted all other new models/series since then, including the PowerBlock Series and, of course, the Pro Series dumbbells. The Classic Series (i.e. Elite 50/70/90) has the old manual style adder weight lock mechanism.

Compatible Accessories

The accessories are a BIG reason to go with the Pro EXP vs other sets if you’re on the fence about them.

The Pro EXP dumbbells are one of just two currently in-production PowerBlock models that work with the accessories listed below. The other set is the Pro 50 set. (The Urethane Series U50/U70/U90 sets are/were also compatible, but they’ve been discontinued.):

Note that the Pro Commercial dumbbell sets (Pro 90 Commercial and Pro 125/175 Commercial) aren't compatible with the EZ curl bar or the straight bar.

UPDATE - October 2019: The EZ curl bar and straight bar now have black colored block handles, instead of the ones shown below, which are white. Otherwise, they are the same.

PowerBlock EZ Curl Bar Attachment

With the EZ Curl Bar Attachment, you can convert your pair of PowerBlock Pro EXP dumbbells into a truly adjustable EZ curl barbell set.

PowerBlock EZ Curl Bar - without Weights Added

The attachment includes a steel bar, which is permanently attached to two empty handles of its own (one one each end). The handles fit perfectly inside the nested weight stack of your Pro EXP set.

PowerBlock EZ Curl Bar - with Pro EXP Weights Added

Adjusting the weight is the same process as with the dumbbells. That means increments are in as little as 2.5 lbs using the adder weights (for even loading between left and right side, the minimum increment would be 5 lbs).

PowerBlock EZ Curl Bar Weight Chart

The sticker says it's for the U-90, which is the dumbbell model that the Pro EXP replaced. The numbers are still correct, though.

The minimum curl bar weight with just the bar and empty handles is 20 lbs. If you have the Pro EXP Stage 3 set, you’ll be able to max out the curl bar at 190 lbs! Good luck ever curling that much.

PowerBlock EZ Curl Bar Handle Attachment in Use

PowerBlock Straight Bar Attachment

With the Straight Bar Attachment, you can convert your pair of PowerBlock Pro EXP dumbbells into a truly adjustable straight bar set.

This is NOT to be confused with an Olympic barbell. Rather, a straight bar refers to a short barbell (i.e. ~4 ft) typically used for curls, triceps work, some shoulder work and light lower body work. This PowerBlock Straight Bar attachment is 55 inches long, so a bit over 4 feet long.

PowerBlock Straight Bar - Without Weights Added

The attachment includes the straight steel bar itself, with its own PowerBlock handles permanently affixed to each end. The handles are designed to fit right inside your Pro EXP’s weight stack.

PowerBlock Straight Bar - with Pro EXP Weights Added

Adjusting the weight on the straight bar attachment is the same process as with the dumbbells. That means you can achieve as little as a 2.5 lb increment using one adder weight on one side. Though if you want even distribution between the left and right side, the smallest possible increment would be 5 lbs.

PowerBlock Straight Bar Weight Chart

The sticker says it's for the U-90, which is the dumbbell model that the Pro EXP replaced. The numbers are still correct, though.

It weighs 25 lbs at its lightest, with just the bar and empty handles. Assuming you have the Pro EXP Stage 3 set, you can go all the way up to a maximum weight of 195 lbs! That’s way more than the typical fixed straight bar sets you’ll find at commercial gyms, which usually top out at around 110 lbs.

PowerBlock Straight Bar Handle Attachment in Use

PowerBlock KettleBlock Handle

With the KettleBlock Handle attachment, you can convert your PowerBlock Pro EXP dumbbell set into an adjustable kettlebell system.

The KettleBlock Handle is just a typical looking PowerBlock handle but with a kettlebell grip permanently built in to it.

KettleBlock Handle without Weights Added

It has two adder weights for make 2.5 lb or 5 lb micro-adjustments.

KettleBlock Handle Attachment

The handle is made to fit right inside the Pro EXP weight stack. The product description states that it’s only meant to be used with Pro EXP Stage 1 weights, meaning it would go from a minimum 10 lbs (just the handle, no adder weights) to a maximum of 55 lbs…

KettleBlock Handle with 55 lbs Added

...However, it can actually work with ALL of the weight plates on a complete Stage 3 set, meaning the max weight is actually 95 lbs (with both adder weigths)!

KettleBlock Handle with 95 lbs Added

Of course, the more weight you put on the KettleBlock, the longer it gets and the more awkard it is to use -- After a certain point, you may not be able to do many exercises because the kettlebell is too long. Just take a look at the image below to see what I’m talking about:

KettleBlock Handle with Max Weight of 95 lbs

KettleBlock with 95 lb loaded on. The set shown is the U90 Stage 3, which has since been replaced by the Pro EXP Stage 3. Image source: n1 qualified man

I’m assuming they said the max weight was 55 lbs, because you can still do most kettlebell exercises without issue at that size. Still, there are certainly many exercises you could do at heavier weights, so it’s great that you at least have the option to add a full 40 lbs over the stated limit.

PowerBlock Pro EXP vs Other PowerBlock Models

I’ll tell you about the main differences between the Pro EXP dumbbells and some of the other PowerBlock sets that you might be considering. I will not discuss all the other sets -- only the ones that are comparable in terms of max weight capacity (i.e. only models going up to 90 lbs per dumbbell).

Pro EXP vs Sport EXP

Feature

Pro EXP

Sport EXP

Plate Coating

Black urethane

Grey powder coat paint

Plate Frame

Non-welded, “flex” frame

Welded, rigid frame

Plate Design

Rounded top, flat bottom; PowerBlock logo

Rounded top, concave bottom; no logo

Weight indicator

Machined steel, powder coat paint that shows weight setting, located on both side rails of each block, with color coded rings

Snap-on band that shows weight setting, located on side rail on just one side of each weight block; no color coding

Handle Design

Open handle with wedge design

Open handle design (no wedge)

Dimensions (LxWxH)

Stage 1 (50 lbs):

12.5”x7”x7.25”


Stage 2 (70 lbs):

15”x7”x7.25”


Stage 3 (90 lbs):

17”x7”x7.25”

Stage 1 (50 lbs):

12”x6.5”x6.5”


Stage 2 (70 lbs):

14”x6.5”x6.5”


Stage 3 (90 lbs):

16”x6.5”x6.5”

Price

Stage 1 Set (50 lbs): 

$439 + 59 S&H

​​​​

Stage 2 Set (70 lbs): 

$588 + $79 S&H 


Stage 3 Set (90 lbs): 

$737 + $99 S&H

Stage 1 Set (50 lbs): 

$339 + $59 S&H


Stage 2 Set (70 lbs): 

$478 + $79 S&H


Stage 3 Set (90 lbs): 

$617 + $99 S&H

Pro EXP vs Elite 50/70/90

Feature

Pro EXP

Elite

Plate Coating

Black urethane

Black powder coat paint

Plate Frame

Non-welded, “flex” frame

Welded, rigid frame

Plate Design

Rounded top, flat bottom; PowerBlock logo

Square shape (flat top, flat bottom); no logo

Weight indicator

Machined steel, powder coat paint that shows weight setting, located on both side rails of each block, with color coded rings

Snap-on color coded band located on side rail on just one side of each weight block; entire length of indicator band is colored; doesn’t show actual weight number

Handle Design

Open handle with wedge design

Padded wrist supports at top makes it a closed handle design

Dimensions (LxWxH)

Stage 1 (50 lbs):

12.5”x7”x7.25”


Stage 2 (70 lbs):

15”x7”x7.25”


Stage 3 (90 lbs):

17”x7”x7.25”

Stage 1 (50 lbs):

12”x6.25”x6”


Stage 2 (70 lbs):

14”x6.25”x6”


Stage 3 (90 lbs):

16”x6.25”x6”

Price

Stage 1 Set (50 lbs): 

$439 + 59 S&H

​​​​

Stage 2 Set (70 lbs): 

$588 + $79 S&H 


Stage 3 Set (90 lbs): 

$737 + $99 S&H

Elite 50 Set (50 lbs): 

$299 + $59 S&H


Elite 70 Set (70 lbs):

$428 + $79 S&H


Elite 90 Set (90 lbs):

$557 + $99 S&H

Pro EXP vs PowerBlock EXP

Feature

Pro EXP

PowerBlock EXP

Plate Coating

Black urethane

Black powder coat paint

Plate Frame

Non-welded, “flex” frame

Welded, rigid frame

Plate Design

Rounded top, flat bottom; PowerBlock logo

Rounded top, concave bottom; no logo

Weight indicator

Machined steel, powder coat paint that shows weight setting, located on both side rails of each block, with color coded rings

Snap-on band that shows weight setting, located on side rail on just one side of each weight block; no color coding (all indicator bands are red)

Handle Design

Open handle with wedge design

Open handle design (no wedge)

Dimensions (LxWxH)

Stage 1 (50 lbs):

12.5”x7”x7.25”


Stage 2 (70 lbs):

15”x7”x7.25”


Stage 3 (90 lbs):

17”x7”x7.25”

Stage 1 (50 lbs):

12”x6.5”x6.5”


Stage 2 (70 lbs):

14”x6.5”x6.5”


Stage 3 (90 lbs):

16”x6.5”x6.5”

Price

Stage 1 Set (50 lbs): 

$439 + 59 S&H


Stage 2 Set (70 lbs): 

$588 + $79 S&H 


Stage 3 Set (90 lbs): 

$737 + $99 S&H

Stage 1 Set (50 lbs):

Check price


Stage 2 Set (70 lbs):

Check price


Stage 3 Set (90 lbs):

Check price

Warranty

The PowerBlock Pro EXP has a 5 year limited warranty. This is the same standard warranty that ALL other non-commercial PowerBlock models have...

...It should be noted that the Classic Series and Sports Series used to have longer warranties (10 and 15 years, respectively). However, as of recently, ALL new PowerBlock dumbbells sold have a 5 year warranty. I mention this in case you see other literature online stating that these other models have longer warranties -- If you see that, it's outdated information.

While a 10-15 year warranty would be awesome, a 5 year warranty is still VERY good when it comes adjustable dumbbell sets. Most other companies selling selectorized dumbbells have a 1 year warranty or less.

In terms of what the warranty covers and what it covers, here's the basics:

  • It does cover any defects in materials or workmanship
  • It does not cover design defects, normal wear and tear (i.e. chipping, pealing, scratching of paint or color bands), and any problem that is caused by abuse, misuse, alteration, improper handling or storage, any improper assembly or attempted repairs by you or a 3rd party, or acts of God (e.g. flood).
    • Example of abuse: dropping the dumbbells from a height of 12 inches or greater.

Tips for Proper Adjustment & Use

I’ve already described the adjustment process step-by-step, above. It’s fast and pretty straight forward.

However, there’s a few things to avoid to ensure each adjustment is done correctly. This way, you’ll ensure handle and weight plates remain securely attached from weight selection through completion of the exercise:

1. Insert Pin Evenly (Do Not Cross)

Make sure the pin is set at the same setting on both sides of each handle. Don’t use the dumbbells if the pin is crossed. See the photo below for the right and the wrong way:

Inserting Pin PowerBlock Pro EXP - Correctly vs Incorrectly

2. Insert Pin All the Way to the Other Side

Slide the pin all the way through the handle. You'll know it's all the way through when:

  1. the front of the pin, which is magnetized, attaches on the front side rail, which is of course magnetic.​
  2. you can see the ends of the pin coming out the back side of the dumbbell, just slightly beyond the rear side rail -- as seen in the image below:
Selector Pin Ends Coming Out Back of Dumbbell When Fully Inserted

3. Never Remove (or Damage) the Tether Cord

The tether cord should always be secured between the first weight block and the selector pin. Do not remove the cord or damage it...

Tether Cord MUST Stay Attached to First Weight Plate

...It’s there for two important reasons:

  1. To prevent the selector pin from getting lost.
  2. As a safety precaution to prevent the pin from falling out in the unlikely scenario that the pin loses magnetic contact with the front side rail (e.g. if you accidentally hit the weights against each other or other equipment, in just the wrong way).

4. Lift Dumbbells Straight Out of the Stack (Do Not Rotate)

Pull the dumbbells straight out of the weight stack (i.e. perpendicular relative to the surface they’re stored on).

How to Remove the PowerBlock Dumbbells from the Weight Stack

Don’t rotate them to the side as you lift them out. This can cause unselected weight plates to stick to the selected weights. You may accidentally pick up one or more extra plates that could fall off during use.

Even if you don’t pick up extra plates, the selected weights could still be jammed together; and if they “un-jam” during your set, this could potentially knock the pin loose.

5. Lift Dumbbells Out of the Stack with the Handle Grip Only

You should only ever lift the dumbbells out of the weight stack with the center handle grip. Do NOT grab them by the weight brackets, as this could cause the pin to move out of place and the weight plates could potentially fall.

6. Inspect Pin Before Completely Removing Dumbbells from Stack

Give a quick glance to both of the dumbbells before pulling them all the way out of the weight stack. Specifically, make sure the magnetic front part of the selector pin is engaged on the front of each dumbbell.

Also make sure the ends of the pins pop out the back of the handle, just past the rear side rail -- See the image below (which I already showed for tip #2, but it's worth showing again):

Selector Pin Ends Coming Out Back of Dumbbell When Fully Inserted

7. Avoid Hitting the Dumbbells Together, Against Your Body or Anything Else

If you accidentally hit dumbbells together lightly, chances are nothing will happen.

However, you should just make it habit to avoid any type of impact of the dumbbells (against each other, yourself, other equipment or anything else). Hard impacts, or impacts near any exposed part of the selector pin, increase the likelihood of the selector pin to dislodging.

8. When Removing Adder Weights, Hold Handle Up Before Moving Lever to “Open"

If you have the handle upside down (i.e. the opening of the hollow cylinders is pointed to the floor), then the weights fall right out onto the floor -- or your foot -- if you move the lever to the open position.

You can easily prevent this by simply positioning the handle right side up before opening.

9. Ensure Adder Weights Are Locked Before Use

This isn’t something you usually have to think about since the “auto-lock” feature ensures the lever is automatically moved up into the locked position when inserting the handle into the weight stack.

However, if you are just using the handle (for 7.5 or 10 lbs), then you have to manually pull the lever up into the locked position. Otherwise, the adder weight(s) will drop or fly out during use.

10. Don’t Drop the Weights (Especially from 12" or Higher)

The PowerBlocks are tough. Especially the PowerBlock PRO Exp sets; they’re the toughest of all the models.

That being said, they’re not designed for throwing around or constantly dropping. Sure, they’d likely survive accidentaly drops, but it does elevate the risk of damage. And drops from a height of 12” or higher will void the warranty if you damage them.

If you do drop the dumbbells, always inspect the before using again to make sure selector didn’t get knocked out of place (or for any other damage).

Conclusion

...All in all, the PowerBlock Pro EXP dumbbells are an excellent product. They're by far the best overall non-commercial PowerBlock model you can buy, in my opinion.

The only question for you is your budget. Are you willing to pay extra for more features, quality, durability, and the option to get the EZ curl/Straight Bar/KettleBlock attachments that are only compatible with the Pro EXP?

Or would you rather get the Sport EXP, Elite or PowerBlock EXP, which are all excellent sets and cost somewhat less, but lack some of the key features or capabilities that I've discussed throughout this review.

I strongly recommend the Pro EXP, and believe they are worth the higher price -- even if that means buying the base set first, then getting one or both of the expansion kits at a later date if your budget budget is tight.

I bought a set of the Pro EXP Stage 3 dumbbells for myself in early 2019. I absolutely love them! They met, and in some ways, exceeded my high expectations.

PowerBlock Pro EXP Stage 3 Dumbbells on Stand - Side View

I hope this PowerBlock Pro EXP review has helped you make an informed decision on the best adjustable dumbbell for you. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below.

12 thoughts on “PowerBlock Pro EXP Dumbbells Review: What You Should Know”

  1. Thank you for the information. I am considering purchasing a set of PowerBlocks. My dilemma is that I need to purchase a set that exceeds the 90 pound limit. In your opinion, do I need to explore the commercial series PowerBlocks and if so which would be the best?

    Thank you in advance

    1. Hi Todd,

      You have a few options:

      1. If you get the commercial version, you’ll have to get the Pro 125 or the Pro 175. FYI, if you get the Pro 125, you can get the 125 to 175 expansion kit later on if you want. NOTE that you can’t get the Pro 90 Commercial Set, since it is NOT expandable beyond 90 lbs. While either the Pro 125 or Pro 175 commercial sets will work for your needs, they will not be cheap — That said, I don’t know your budget, and the prices may be well worth it for you.
      2. Buy one of the recently-discontinued U90 sets. You can’t get them from PowerBlock.com, but it looks like a couple places still have the Stage 1 set (5-50 lbs) — try this place or see if you can find a pair on eBay or Craigslist. THEN, you can buy the expansion kits you need from PowerBlock.com since they still carry them, and likely will for a while since other people who bought the U90s in the past can still upgrade their set. Here’s links to the different expansion kits you would need: U90 Stage 2 Kit, U90 Stage 3 Kit & U90 Stage 4 Kit. This option will get you 125 lb dumbbells at a much lower cost than option 1. The only possible downside is I’m not sure how the warranty would work with the buying from a 3rd party–so maybe consider asking the 3rd party retailer about that before you buy from them.
      3. Lastly, did you consider getting the Ironmaster Quick-Lock Dumbbells? The main set starts at 75 lbs with stand included for approx. $650 — Then you buy add-on kits to increase it first to 120 lbs per hand (and even as high as 165 lbs per hand with their second add-on kit). You could get up to 120 lbs per dumbbell for less than the first 2 options. Of course, these aren’t as rapid change as the PowerBlocks, though you can beat em up a lot more than PowerBlocks… it’s a trade-off. You can read my Ironmaster review here if you’re interested.

      Hope that helps!

      Best,
      Alex

      1. Alex,

        I’m so glad I stumbled onto your blog and reviews. They’re excellent! I’ve read the powerblock pro exp and the ironmaster reviews in depth. It’s likely my shortcoming, but I still don’t know which if there two are you preferred adjustable dumbbells. I’m really struggling in making the choice. I haven’t lifted for a while and want to get back into it. I’ve historically been a gym man, but with kids, I have less time on my hands and so want the flexibility of a home workout whenever I can squeeze one in. Ironmaster is appealing as its form is so close to a normal dumbbell. But powerblock pro exp will allow a quicker shift in weight. I’ve read powerblocks have more plastic and components so are more likely to potentially fail over time? But the big one for me is which is better for use and good form. For e.g. I can’t work from watching videos of bicep curls and overhead tricep curls as to whether they are as effective with the powerblocks vs ironmaster given that powerblocks have the strange box form. Generally speaking, are certain exercises better with one over the other? Finally, I want to invest in kettle bells and am unsure if I should allow this to be a factor as I may just get traditional kettle bells seperately instead of trying to use the powerblock or ironmaster to do everything.

        Your thoughts on which you really do prefer for all standard dumbbell exercises would be great!

        Thanks,
        N

        1. Hi Naeem,

          Sorry for the late reply, I just saw your comment now.

          It’s really not a case of one being better overall than the other. The PowerBlocks are best if you care most about the ability to save time in your workouts because of the rapid adjustment, which is my number one priority right now. Also, you avoid some of the clutter you inevitably with storing and moving around the Ironmaster plates during your workout.

          That said, if you want to do every dumbbell exercise exactly like you would with a traditional dumbbell, the Ironmaster is best. It feels the same in terms of balance and size, and has a natural knurling feel to the handle. There’s also no clicking at all (which you get with the PowerBlocks depending on how fast you lift the dumbbells, but it’s not actually loud or disruptive to the movement).

          In terms of movements that you’d have to do differently, it’d just be a few exercises for the PowerBlocks — namely, anything where you’d normally grab the dumbbell end by both hands (e.g. two-handed overhead dumbbell triceps extension, dumbbell pullovers). However, you can easily do a workaround for these by grabbing the dumbbell by the two adjacent columns on the outside of the handle.

          If you want to get more serious with kettlebell training, it’s probably advisable to get a traditional set. If it’s a less serious part of your training either the PowerBlock or the Ironmaster kettlebell adapters will do the trick. They’re different shaped than traditional kettlebells so their size and balance will be different than a round kettlebell. But I’m a casual user, so the PowerBlock works for me great; and whenever I visit my folks’ house, the Ironmaster kettlebell works great, too. In terms of which kettlebell is better between the two, I have to give the edge to the Ironmaster since it maintains the same, relatively small width as you add weight (though it gets longer); whereas, the PowerBlock gets significantly wider as you add weight, making impractical to use for certain kettlebell exercises beyond a certain weight (though the PowerBlock one has a heavier max weight by 15 lbs — 95 lbs vs 80 lbs).

          Hope this helps and doesn’t just confuse you more. 😀

          Best,
          Alex

  2. Alex

    Thanks for the detailed review. I was wondering if the powerblock Pros would hold up to an exercise like a renegade row where the handles would be supporting my body weight? I weigh about 165 lbs. I’d appreciate your thoughts on this knowing that you don’t speak for Powerblocks.

    Charles

    1. Hi Charles, I’ve personally used mine for push ups many times — And I weight 215 lbs right now. They’re super sturdy. As long as you don’t slam them against the floor on renegade rows, you’ll be fine.

      If you look at the image below, you’ll see that the handle is has plenty of strength to hold against your bodyweight — the large steel bolt in the center goes through the side of the block and into the grip handle, providing a lot of support:

  3. Hi Alex,

    Thanks for your very detailed and informative review.
    I am currently with the Elite 90, everything is fine, only complain about two things:
    1. noise during use or take up/ down from the stack.
    2. feel little movement between plates during use
    May I know if the these two issue are improved on Pro PowerBlock Pro EXP model?

    Another question is I check Powerblock online store, the Pro series has expandable and non-expandable model, are there any different between them, like durability or comparability?

    1. Hi Kelvin, yes, the Pro EXP is much better in both of those ways.

      • First off, the steel plates are covered in a protective urethane coating (a type of durable rubber polymer). This means there is no steel-on-steel contact, which is where most of the noise comes from on your Elite dumbbells.
      • Second, there’s zero movement between the plates on the Pro EXP. The only movement you may feel is between the handle block and the first plate (there’s maybe 1/8″ of room between them). However, it really only happens on movements where you’re somehow turning the dumbbell (e.g. biceps curls) or if you’re doing explosive reps (e.g. dumbbell push press). And when it does happens, it’s not at all a loud noise since it’s rubber-on-plastic (it’s almost a *click* noise) — You can hear it, but it’s not loud or distracting. It’s not something I notice or think about during my workouts.

      As far as the non-expandable models (Pro 32, Pro 50) vs the expandable models (Pro EXP Stage 1, Stage 2 & Stage 3) — the durability is similar between all of them. However, there other key differences:

      • First off, the MAJOR difference is that the non-expandable models (obviously) can’t go any higher in weight; so you’ll never be able to buy an expansion kit to make the Pro 32 dumbbells go higher than 32 lbs, or the Pro 50 go higher than 50 lbs. Whereas the expandable models (Pro EXP sets) can be expanded to a max weight of 90 lbs (i.e. Stage 3). For example, if you get the Pro EXP Stage 1 now, you’ll have 50 lb dumbbells at first, but if you want more weight in the future, you can buy expansion kits from 50-70 lbs and from 70-90 lbs. This alone makes one of the Pro EXP (i.e. expandable) sets the best choice if you’re serious about strength training.
      • The Pro 32 has 4 lb increments with no adder weights. The handle weighs 4 lbs, and each of the 7 plates are 4 lbs. There are no unavailable increments between 4 and 32 lbs.
      • The Pro 50 has 2.5 lb increments with 2 adder weights per dumbbell. The handle weighs 5 lbs, and each of the 8 plates are 5 lbs. There are no unavailable increments between 5 and 50 lbs.
      • The Pro EXP sets have 2.5 lb increments with 2 adder weights per dumbbell. The handle weighs 5 lbs and plate weighs 10 lbs (the stage 1 set has 4 plates; the stage 2 set has 6 plates; the stage 3 has 8 plates). There are a few unavailable increments on the Pro EXP sets (from 5-50 lbs: 12.5, 22.5, 32.5 & 42.5 lbs are unavailable; from 50-70 lbs: 52.5 & 62.5 lbs are unavailable; from 70-90 lbs: 72.5 & 82.5 lbs are unavailable)
      • Only the non-expandable Pro 50 set and the expandable Pro EXP sets are compatible with the EZ Curl Bar Attachment, Straight Bar Attachment and the Pro Series Kettlebell Handle (formerly the “KettleBlock Handle”). The Pro 32 is NOT compatible with these attachment — and neither is any other PowerBlock model currently being sold (Elite, Sport, etc.).
  4. Hi Alex, great review! I am interested in the Pro 125 because I have outgrown my Elite set at 90 lbs per hand for presses. I and was wondering if the straight bar and ez curl bar fit the Pro 125/175 models. Of course I cannot imagine loading anywhere near that much weight for skull crushers or whatever, but I would like it if I could have the bar also.

    1. Thanks, Kirk! Unfortunately the Pro 125/175 aren’t compatible with the straight bar and EZ curl bar. It’s just the Pro 50 and Pro EXP that work with that handle geometry on these bars.

      If you really want to go over 90 lbs and be able have the EZ curl and straight bar option, I recommend looking at the Ironmaster Quick-Lock dumbbells. They can go up to 120 lbs with the 75-120 lb add-on kit, which you can actually increase to 135 lbs with their new heavy handle plate kit (or you can even go to 165 lb with their custom 165 lb add-on kit, which you have to custom order). They have an EZ curl bar and straight bar, which hold the quick-lock plates, and close with a spin-lock collar. The EZ curl bar has a max weight of 165 lbs and the straight bar has a max weight of 228 lbs.

      The trade-off, however, is that you lose the main benefit of the PowerBlocks, which is the very rapid weight adjustment. The Ironmaster dumbbells aren’t slow too adjust, but they do take significantly longer than the PowerBlocks. If you do prefer the PowerBlocks, I’d say go for the Pro 125 — then buy a cheap but decent EZ curl bar like this one from Titan to use with your Olympic weight plates (assuming you have those weights in your home gym).

      If you’re interested in the Ironmasters, I’d recommend you read my review of the Ironmaster Quick-Lock Dumbbells here for more information.

      Hope this helps!

      Alex

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