ProForm are known for their cardio equipment, I’ve been reviewing their cardo gear for years, and most of the time, I’ve been impressed, it’s not high-end, but bang for your buck, these guys deliver. However, they don’t have much experience with lifting gear, which really showed with some of their early poorly designed dumbbells sets.
New ProForm Adjustable Dumbbells – Surprignly Good
Still, the new ProForm Adjustable Dumbbells, the ones we’re looking at today, are surprisingly good, they’re compact, fast to adjust and affordable, yeah they have a few drawbacks which ill cover later, but overall they are much better than previous models and even good enough to rival the popular Bowflex and Powerblock sets.
Let’s take a quick look at the product specs of the ProForm Dumbbells then we’ll get on with the review!
Weight – 50lb per dumbbell
Solid as a pair
Adjustment system – rapid strike weight selector
Weight Increments – 10lb 20lb 30lb 40lb 50lb
Material – Alloy steel and plastic
Why Do We Like The ProForm Adjustable Dumbbells?
The best feature of the ProForm Dumbbells is that do not have a fixed length handle. A fixed-length handle is a handle that stays the same length no matter the weight lifted, you can lift 10lb or 50lb, and the length of the handle stays the same. Many fast-to-adjust sets like the Bowflex 552’s all come with fixed-length handles.
The problem with fixed-length handles such as the Bowflex handles is that they are awkward to train with. The 16″ handles of the Bowflex can take weeks to get used especially when setting up for presses and curls.
What we want is a handle that only changes in length when more weight is added such as the ProForm dumbbells handles. This gives the dumbbell a much more natural feel, similar to the fixed weight dumbbells in commercial gyms.
Adjusts In Under 5 Seconds
Another feature I love about the ProForm Rapid Strike Dumbbells is how easy they adjust. All you need to do is pull the rapid strike selector and slide it across to the desired weight you wish to lift. It’s that easy.
You’ll need to adjust both sides of the dumbbell, so it takes a little longer than the twist lock systems of the sets like the Core Fitness dumbbells, but it takes under the desirable 5 seconds to adjust so we can still perform drop sets which is great news.
When I say solid, this doesn’t mean you can throw them around. What I mean by solid is there’s no plate movement when you’re lifting; they feel solid in hand, just like a fixed weight dumbbell. They really are a nice sets of bells to lift with.
How Much is too Much Plastic?
For over two decades, I’ve seen company after company using a ton of plastic in their selectable dumbbell sets, which is an issue. Why? Because this stuff cracks when dropped. It’s a common problem with the Bowflex sets and the now more popular Core Fitness sets of dumbbells.
And just like the Bowflex and the Core Fitness, the ProForm dumbbells have plastic casing surrounding the weight plates. This plastic casing is the first thing to break if you drop a dumbbell like this. If the casing cracks, it makes the dumbbell unusable, and because drops are never covered in the warranty, you’ll end up with a hefty repair bill.
And it’s not just the plastic surrounding the plates; there’s also a ton of plastic in the adjustment system. Adjustment systems are delicate even when made of steel, so be extra careful if your adjustment system is made from plastic like the ProForms.
Is all this plastic a deal stopper? No, but you’ll need to be very careful not to drop an adjustable dumbbell like the ProForms from height. They’ll survive a drop of 6 inches or so but don’t train to failure and drop.
10lb Weight Increments – That’s a Big Jump
Small weight increases are one of the keys to progress, regardless of exercise or apparatus, and for dumbbells, we really need the ability to increment the weight in 5lb jumps anything larger than that will slow progress.
Large weight increases are by far the biggest drawback of a set of bells like the ProForm Rapid Strikes, increments of 10lb are too large for proper progression. Think of its this way, if you can curl a 20lb dumbbell for ten reps and you want to continue adapting, curling a 30lb dumbbell represents a 50% increase in the load. That’s a huge jump!
Still, it’s not all lost with this set from ProForm, as you can adjust each side of the dumbbell independently, which will allow for the 5lb increments you need. This does however create an unbalanced dumbbell, but you can use an unbalanced dumbbell for many tricep isolation exercises like kickbacks and extensions, hammer curls for biceps, and a ton of leg exercises.
Anything Else Worth Mentioning?
I thought it was worth mentioning that the ProForm Dumbbells are sold as a pair. You’ll see many adjustable dumbbells sold in singles, but the good thing about the ProForms is they sell as a pair, and as a pair, they cost almost the same as some singles I’ve reviewed. The ProForm dumbbells are one of the most affordable 50lb per dumbbell sets I’ve come across.
Also you need to think about growth when buying a pair of bells. 50lb per dumbbell is a hefty amount, and the majority of people may never need a heavier dumbbell, but gains come quickly when you first start lifting, and you could quite easily outgrow a 50lb dumbbell in a year.
A set like the ProForms does not offer weight expansion packs; 50lb is the heaviest these things will ever go. If you’re really serious about lifting, you might want to think about a set of PowerBlock Elites that allow for expansion packs right up to 90lb.
Compact natural feel dumbbells
Solid no plate rattle
Fast to adjust – under 5 seconds
Space saving design – replaces 5 sets of fixed weight dumbbells
dumbbells come with their own cradles
conventional design – look and feel like a fixed weight dumbbell
Great price for a pair of 50lb adjustable dumbbells
Plastic weight plate casing can crack when dropped – drops not covered in the warranty
10lb increments means slow progression (can adjust in 5lb but dumbbell will be unbalanced)
No weight expansion packs available
Bowflex 552 Adjustable Dumbbells
The Bowflex 552 adjustable dumbbells have been on the market for a long time; they outsell every other set of adjustable dumbbells by a mile, mainly because a well-known company makes them, and they offer a lot for the beginner.
What I like about the Bowflex and the reason I’d recommend them to any beginner is that you can adjust the dumbbells in 2.5lb weight increments up to 25lb and then 5lb increments up to 52.5lb.
It’s impressive to find a dumbbell set that adjusts in 2.5lb increments as it allows the beginner to progress quickly. There are no huge weight increases to deal with. You can adapt at a fast pace which makes this set so desriable.
Still, the Bowflex come with their own issues because, just like the ProForm dumbbells, they have the plastic casing surrounding the weight plates and plastic in the adjustments system, so they’re another set of bells you have to be careful with.
Also, the Bowflex dumbbells have fixed-length handles, which means even when lifting 10lb. You gonn have to deal with a 16″ handle, which can be awkward, especially when setting up for curls and presses.
And lastly, they’re expensive, they cost at least $100 more than the ProForm, and they don’t really offer that much more apart from the smaller increments of weight.
Overall the Bowflex 552’s are a decent set of dumbbells, great for beginners, and super fast to adjust, thanks to their dial select system. Overpriced at the moment? Maybe, but if they come back down to around $400 again once the pandemic is over they’re worth it.
To Sum Up
ProForm got a lot right with their new set of dumbbells. I love the compact design; it’s what sells this set of dumbells. They feel natural and solid when lifting, and that’s exactly what you want.
Also, they’re speedy to adjust, and the system is easy to use and foolproof. But the ProForm Rapid Strike Dumbbells have drawbacks, such as the large jumps in weight and the plastic used in the build. Still, these problems plague many of the new sets of adjustable dumbbells, it’s whether you can live with them or not? As for the 10lb increments? There is a way to adjust in 5lb increments, so it might not be the deal-killer I first thought.