Dumbbell Rumbbell – Bowflex SelectTech vs. Nuobell
There may be no better proof of your achievement than the crop of new rivals vying to out do you. So it goes with adjustable dumbbells. Not long ago, Bowflex was the challenger – addressing the convenience and safety issues of existing selectorized dumbbells with a bold new design. Its SelectTech system featured dial-in weight selection - based on the tumblers of safes - and a tray that instantly picked up or left behind the correct combination of individual, incremental plates. Users loved its quicker adjustment, less complicated operation, and no math to do.
Imitators and challengers have been popping up with their own innovations for a dozen years now. One Swedish manufacturer is getting much attention – it certainly got ours. Nuobell Adjustable Dumbbells have been billed as “the most innovative ones on the market.” American distributors seem convinced.
But how does this new brand stack up against Bowflex? We've consulted nine online reviews and comparisons of the SelectTechs, Nuobells and other top adjustable dumbbells. These sources include the New York Times, CNET, NBC, and top fitness sites.
Not every article mentioned both Bowflex and Nuobell, but they all provided plenty of points to ponder. Our Distillation is based on criteria mentioned in our Adjustable Dumbbell Buying Guide.
Compact design is a big selling point for those with limited space. Adjustable dumbbells usually replace between three and 15 sets of regular dumbbells. Here’s how much space two Bowflex and two Nuobell dumbbells take up – and how much they save:
As you can see, the specs are pretty close, but there is one difference when it comes to lifting:
Both Bowflex and Nuobell employ a “pick-up what you want, leave behind what you don’t system. However, the Nuobells leave behind the outermost plates, getting shorter as they get lighter. The Bowflex Adjustable Dumbbells leave behind selected plates at various points between its two outer adjustments, so the dumbbells themselves are always at full length.
The difference comes down to a few inches. That might seem minute compared to the square footage a full dumbbell rack would gobble up. However, our reviewers point out that length can make a difference in another way.
All of the reviewers agreed that how a dumbbell feels in your hand can affect the quality of your workout. Most preferred the idea of the lighter weights also being shorter. They felt smaller lifters might find bicep curls, lateral raises, and other exercises awkward and unwieldy using longer dumbbells.
Many reviewers also liked the Nuobell’s tightly stacked pancake plates, which made it feel more like a single, solid traditional dumbbell. One dissenter preferred Bowflex's even load distribution to having all weight plates concentrated on the ends.
Another reviewer wasn’t crazy about the bulky shadow the SelectTechs cast on him during overhead presses and deadlifts, but he liked using them for chest presses, bicep curls, lunges, and squats.
Opinions were mixed on handles. Some liked the grip and real dumbbell/barbell feel of the Nuobell’s none-too-aggressive knurling. However, they suggested bigger hands might feel squeezed on its 30 mm bar. Others preferred the comfort of the SelectTech’s big-in-the-middle, rubber-wrapped handle – especially when they worked up a sweat. Both dumbbell designs featured open access to their handles –much appreciated by traditional dumbbell users.
Time Saving Adjustability
If you’re exercising to build muscle endurance, you’ll want to shorten your rest intervals between sets. Ironically, the more athletic you are, the more quickly your heart drops back to its resting heart rate. So when changing your lift weight, faster is always better.
Bowflex SelectTech dumbbells make light work of your pit stops with an adjustment dial on either end of the dumbbell frame. You just click adjustment dials to your desired lift weight and pick up your dumbbell. The correct combination of weight plates stay locked to the bar. The others remain in the tray. No figuring or screwing and unscrewing lock nuts.
What could be better?
Nuobell dumbbells employ a twist-handle system that requires only one adjustment. A central metal bar threads outward through a sequence of metal plates in its cradle and stops flush at your selected weight. Coop from Garage Gym reviews called them “the quickest adjusting dumbbells we’ve ever tested or reviewed (and we’ve used a lot of them).”
The question is whether you really need to go twice as fast.
Our reviewers said they could dial the SelectTech Bowflex in 20 seconds or less. Coop did it in eight. You’d have to be very athletic for your heart rate to plummet in that time. However, as Coop points out, that extra speed could be helpful if you work out with a partner.
Both dumbbell designs feature clearly visible weight indicators. That’s especially important with the SelectTech as it’s possible to unintentionally select two different weights on the same dumbbell.
So why doesn’t Bowflex avert that potential problem by jumping on the one-and-done adjustment bandwagon? The very-good reason has a name: Offset Weight Selection. Bowflex left that option open for specific forearm muscle exercises involving supination and pronation of the wrist.
An NBC News tester said his pandemic-purchased SelectTechs were the first at-home fitness equipment that could actually re-create many gym lifts. A Wirecutter staff member loved how easy his 552s were to use, but having a slimmer build, he had to adjust his form to compensate for the bar’s length.
Like other super-quick, cradle-based, selectorized dumbbell systems, both the Nuobells and the SelectTechs can occasionally lock up during the selection process. Both Bowflex and Nuobell offer video instructions on how to resolve mechanical issues.
Everyone was duly impressed with the speed and simplicity of Nuobell’s selection mechanism. Reviewers also found its clicking motion created a gratifying sense of control (the Bowflex SelectTech also clicks). However, because the Nuobell is so new, the jury’s still out on how long it will continue to function so well, which brings us to our next point:
Longevity and Durability
The focus here was on materials. Both adjustable designs featured a metal handle, but most reviewers deemed their plastic cradles were potential wear and breakage points. The SelectTech plates are also made of plastic (albeit a rugged ABS plastic), while the Nuobells use machined steel weight plates.
That doesn’t mean you should feel free to drop your Nuobell – and not just because of what up to 80 lbs. of heavy metal plates could do to your floor. Several reviewers remind us that although the metal exterior looked nigh invulnerable, the components providing the Nuobell’s intricate adjustment were not. Of course, the same rule applies to the SelectTech (even though one tester said he’d dropped his set several times, and they still worked perfectly).
The takeaway is no matter how much an adjustable might look and feel like a solid dumbbell, it won’t absorb impact as well. As for those plastic cradles, simply taking an extra second to make sure they slide straight down into their interlocking positions could reduce lockups and add years of usage. Either design could last a long time if you treat it right.
But how long will you need your dumbbells?
Range, Increments, and Expandability
All adjustable dumbbells are designed to help you progress toward your goals. The difference is often where you start and how far you can go with them.
While the Nuobells offer a quicker change, the SelectTechs offer the broader margin of improvement –with the most incremental options along the way. Their addition of 2.5 lb. plates lets you start lifting as little as 5 lbs., compared to the Nuobell's 10 lb. start.
If you opt for the Bowflex SelectTech 1090, you can go 10 lbs. heavier than you can with the Nuobell 580. In between, you can take the progressive scenic route, stopping at exotic lifting destinations like 17.5 and 22.5 lbs. That’s a plus for lifters who like to gain big results from little changes and get a better warm-up and cool-down, not to mention those fine-muscle wrist exercises.
One note: if you start the Bowflex 5 to 90 lb. route on the 552s, you’ll need to buy a set of 1090s along the way. Alternatively, the Nuobell system offers an optional expansion kit to convert your 550 into a 580 - and it costs less than half the price of a new 580.
Whichever adjustable you choose, you may reach a point when you progress into even heavier weights. That’s why most of our selected reviews rated the Bowflex SelectTech and Nuobell systems as good beginner-to-intermediate training resources.
How long you’ll need them depends on how far you’ve progressed on your strength-training journey. If you’re relatively new to using weights and perhaps a little self-conscious about going to the gym, both adjustables are great options.
The Nuobell’s metal plates and single adjustment make it pricier than the SelectTech, but neither are one-payment purchases for many consumers. Fortunately, there are financing options for both. (Flaman Fitness offers its own financing through Flexiti.) The 552s, 1090s, 550s, and 580s all offer standard warranties with options for an extended warranty. Just make sure you understand what is and isn't covered.
Training Resources and Accessories
You can get a free- Bowflex JRNY app (iOS and Android) isn’t just for bikes and treadmills. The same free 1-year membership also applies to your SelectTech Dumbbell purchase. Bowflex also offers a How-to video page and an impressive YouTube library to get you going.
Nuobell developer Nuo Athletic Innovation might be the new kid on the block, but it’s establishing its own YouTube presence. In addition, US Nuobell distributor SMRTFT offers a FREE iOS app (Android coming soon).
When you’re ready to set those weights down after your workout, you might not need to crouch or hurt your back bending over. The Nuobell Adjustable Dumbbell Stand meets you halfway with two solid-steel trays to support your 550s or 580s. The Bowflex Selecttech Dumbbell Stand is likewise versatile, supporting the 550s, 1090s, and 560s. It also has a media rack for your smart device while you watch your training videos.
Weighing Your Options
Yep, here comes another “decide for yourself” conclusion. That might seem like waffling, but it's based on thorough scrutiny of nine sources we recommend you check out yourself:
Both adjustables took top honours in at least one review and didn’t appear in others. Each review was based on an individual set of criteria for a specific audience. Like the reviewers, you have your own criteria to weigh in making your decision.
We can say we fully support your quest for stronger, healthier bodies. If you’re interested in either or both of these tremendous adjustable dumbbells, you’re off to an excellent start.
Meet the Bowflex and Nuobell Experts at Flaman Fitness.
It takes a lot of smarts to make a dumbbell decision. So when you drop by your nearest Flaman Fitness location, you’ll find experts trained to guide you to a much more nuanced and ultimately satisfying decision process.
Bring them your needs, goals, experience, budget, available space, and preferences. Then, they’ll send you home with adjustable dumbbells you’ll easily adjust to.