Dumbbells, as the name suggests, are not meant to be complicated, but selectorised pairs – a type of adjustable dumbbell that does away with spin collars for rapid addition or removal of weight plates – have started to get ideas above their station. Bowflex uses a dial. JaxJox even connects to an app.
PowerBlock adjustable dumbbells are a welcome return to simplicity. You slide a large plastic clip attached to a bungee cord in and out to change the weight. Each plate is colour-coded and the weight each colour represents is spelled out on the top of each dumbbell.
Most importantly, the PowerBlock Sport 24 dumbbells are the most affordable pair of selectorised dumbbells I’ve come across. They don’t go as heavy as their rivals, admittedly, but if you’re just starting out the weight range is just right for going light when working your shoulders and heavier for squatting. And PowerBlock also has heavier sets that still manage to undercut rivals. As a pair and as a range, PowerBlock dumbbells are a worthy addition to our best dumbbells round-up.
POWERBLOCK SPORT 24: PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
The PowerBlock Sport 24 is the entry-level model to the PowerBlock world. It costs $199/£159 and there are two dumbbells in a box (many selectorised adjustable dumbbells like these are sold individually). In the UK, PowerBlock is sold through online retailer Sweatband(opens in new tab), while in the US you can buy direct from PowerBlock or go to Amazon(opens in new tab) or other third-party retailers.
The Sport 24 has two bigger brothers, the Sport 50 and Sport EXP. The EXP signifies “expansion”, as in you can buy more plates for it.
The Sport line is the most affordable of PowerBlock’s dumbbell range, being smaller than the Pro and Elite series. The key upgrade with the Pro line is that you can buy extra attachments allowing you to use the weight plates as a kettlebell or barbell, although if you plan on investing that much money in home weights I think you’d be better served buying better-quality individual free weights.
Other selectors dumbbells tend to use a cradle and a dial to change the weight of the dumbbells. PowerBlock takes a different approach, with seven weight plates and a handle each weighing 3lb (1.36kg) a piece. The weight plates are connected by side rails and all eight pieces nest together. A selector pin – a plastic clip attached by a bungee cord – slots through the side rails so you can select how many weight plates are attached to the handle.
It’s a neat idea and more foolproof than complicated dial-operated methods. I have, for instance, spent 20 frustrating minutes trying to get a Bowflex kettlebell to work again after not putting the weights back in the cradle properly and then attempting to change the weight, jamming the mechanism.
The other key design feature of the Sport 24 is that they are compact. The dimensions are 10.5 x 5.35 x 5in (26.7 x 13.6 x 12.7cm). Having a slightly shorter pair may come in handy if you plan to slip the dumbbells under a sofa or bed when you’re not using them.
HOW I TESTED THESE DUMBBELLS
Adjustable dumbbells are ideal for completing our dumbbell home workout plan, so I tried all four workouts using the PowerBlock Sport 24. That means I tried seven types of presses, three types of rows, three dumbbell curls and 12 more besides, including a woodchop and halo – if ever a weight plate was going to come loose it was when I was making a chopping motion or passing it around my head. Since the exercises in our plan are done with a controlled tempo, I also completed a dumbbell shred on Fiit (the best workout app in our opinion) to get the weights moving more dynamically.
I confess to being something of a weightlifting novice and spend most of my time running and playing sport rather than hefting iron, so the weight range was usually always more than enough for me. Squatting while holding 48lb – a dumbbell in each hand – was a challenge, and at the lighter end, 3lb was a good starting point for the shoulder-focused workout. However, when I shifted to one dumbbell only for a goblet squat it was too light. .
I feared that, even though the plates nestle neatly together, the dumbbells would make a racket but mostly they didn’t. They were silent during the up-down movements in the chest and back dumbbell workout. There was noise performing arm exercises with the free weight travelling in an arc as I flexed my elbow – enough to be heard upstairs – but apparently it sounded as if I was ironing.
The movement, and therefore the noise, was minor, and I didn’t get the impression that the clip holding the plates in place was loose, even when moving it next to my head, as in overhead triceps extensions, or whirling it in a circle around it, as in the halo.
The flat, stable base of the Sport 24s meant I had no problems with renegade rows or dumbbell press-ups. However, the position of the narrow-grip dumbbell press-up meant one of my wrists scraped the side rail as I lowered, to the point that I switched to the usual hands-on-floor position after the first set.
It was also a minor irritation when performing moves like the woodchop or halo that required holding the grip of one dumbbell in two hands, but in both cases it wasn’t so annoying that I couldn’t finish the set. If you count yourself as someone with big hands and thick wrists, it may be worth upgrading to the Sport 50, which has a bigger diameter (1.49 vs 1.18in/38 vs 30mm).
Even if you upgrade to a PowerBlock, I think the caged design means you’ll have to discount alternating dumbbell snatches, swapping hands mid-air. I tried it in the Fiit workout but needed an open-grip hex dumbbell.
The Sport 24 also have slightly shorter handles, but I found them comfortable to grasp and the textured thermoplastic rubber (TPR) had more than enough grip even for fully loaded bells.
The only downside was how tricky it was to switch between weights in the middle of supersets. Ideally, there should be as little rest as possible, but for the front raise/shrug combo I wanted to switch from the lightest to the heaviest setting. This tended to take me 20 seconds although during one transition the clip wouldn’t slot in and it took me a minute. It’s a minor issue and not one at all if you plan to only do straight sets – but in that scenario I imagine a pair with a dial would get the job done quicker.
ARE THE POWERBLOCK SPORT 24 DUMBBELLS WORTH IT?
This is a fantastic pair of adjustable dumbbells for beginners at an unbeatable price. While there are limitations, they won’t bother someone just starting out. If you look at these dumbbells and think they look a little light, and you want to keep costs below £200 or so, I’d recommend a couple of fixed-weight pairs. If you’re set on adjustable dumbbells and need a greater range of weights, it may be worth looking at an option with an open design around the grip.