Fitness Equipment

As great as home gyms are, all the gear can quickly eat square footage. Traditional dumbbell sets take up considerable space against the wall, which is the most valuable real estate of all in a home or apartment.

In contrast, Bowflex SelectTech 552s can neatly be tucked away in the corner or closet. Each dumbbell is 15.75" by 8" so even those living in a cozy apartment can consider these.

The 552s employs a dial system that moves in increments of 2.5 lbs. Depending on the exercise and your fitness level, each dumbbell can be anywhere from 5 to 52.5 pounds.

This ability to increase or decrease weight in small increments is one of the biggest advantages the Bowflex has over a traditional set. Sometimes moving up 5 pounds can be overwhelming and this makes harder for you to transition into lifting heavier weights. Bowflex has found the sweet spot with 2.5 lbs increments.

It’s wonderfully engineered and unlike any other adjustable set available. The spindles are made of hard plastic that on rare occasion can break. Fortunately Bowflex has been good about sending out replacements in just 5 days when this happens.

The included DVD is surprisingly good because the exercises show you how to get the most out of SelectTech equipment specifically (and use it safely). You’ll learn how to perform over 30 exercises with over 80 variations.

When lifting, the weights feel tightly constructed. The plates firmly lock onto the handle so there is no rattling or movement of the plates. The feel is very similar to the old school dumbbells we’re all accustomed to.

The 15.75” length is fairly long which tends to make the dumbbells great for most exercises but slightly awkward for a few such as Congdon Curls and Flip Grip Twist Kickback.

The Verdict

Although I was skeptical at first due to the bright red plastic components, the Bowflex SelectTech 552 dumbbells have proven to be a workhorse set that can handle the abuse of daily workouts.

Even if you have loads of space, the 2.5 lbs increments have turned me into a believer and at this point I’d find it hard to go back to my basic set made up of 5s, 10s, 15s, and 25s.

On a whim I bought the USS Enterprise of electric toothbrushes. My teeth are important, I reasoned, therefore I need a state-of-the-art tool.

How wrong I was. Once the post-purchase haze settled I went back to the modest but effective manual brush. Using it felt more comfortable.

It reminded me of a lesson I sometimes forget.

Sometimes the simplest, least expensive equipment fits your individual needs the best.

The same is especially true with fitness.

Part of the appeal of P90X is that it eliminates the need for a workout mega-station or a gym membership. All you need to get started is a chin-up bar, resistance bands or dumbbells, and an exercise mat.

People opt for resistance bands for three main reasons. First, because they’re flexible, accommodating a huge variety of exercises. Second, because they’re lightweight and highly portable. Thirdly, they’re wieldier than free weights to some, making the workout experience more natural.

While the varieties of resistance bands look mostly the same, quality, features and extras vary greatly. Excited to start with the program, people often pick up low quality bands on impulse, giving them a bad impression of fitness tubes as a workout solution.

To make the search easier I’ve ranked the five sets I like the best, also putting into account feedback from my workout companions.

Most brands offer a starter set, a comprehensive set and options for people with more specific goals. I’ll be focusing on the best-selling configurations.

Selections are based on overall build quality, value, usefulness of features, and of course how convenient they are to use with P90X.

1. Black Mountain Products Set

Making the top of the list is the popular set from Black Mountain Products. It includes 5 bands with surgical-grade tubing, attachable handles, door anchor, ankle strap and bag.

The clip system allows you to attach multiple bands at once, making it great for rigorous workouts requiring heavy resistance.

The padded handles are top-notch. However you only get one pair. It’s impractical to switch between tubes while keeping up with Tony Horton and his crew. Getting an extra set of handles is a necessity.

2. Bodylastics 12 pcs Set

Bodylastics system is stackable, utilizing a quick clip system to get anywhere from 3 to 96 lbs. of tension. Altogether you get 5 color-coded bands, foam covered handles, 2 ankle straps, heavy-duty door anchor, and bag.

They claim their continuous dipped latex tubes are 99% snap resistant and failsafe. This isn’t just marketing hype because there is a woven cord in the interior of the bands. While it is tough to confirm improved performance anecdotally, Bodylastics bands are well rated by users with few complaints about snapping – a persistent problem with cheap tubes.

Again, you’ll need an extra pair of handles for quickly swapping bands without meddling with the clip system. Every second counts. You don’t want to become a slave to the pressing the pause button, as this will kill your momentum.

3. SPRI Advanced Traveling Trainer

This set includes 3 SPRI Xertubes (light, medium, and heavy), door attachment, and travel bag. You’ll need to purchase ankle straps separately to make lower body exercises easier.

The SPRI set stands out because the handles are pre-attached. This is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it makes changing resistance levels quick; you don’t need to mess with clips. On the other, you can’t combine multiple tubes for more tension.

Quality is comparable to top options although the price is a little steep at $39.99 considering you only get 3 bands rather than 5 like with Black Mountain or Bodylastics.

4. Ripcords Black Sniper Edition Set

Those that want a variety of options in resistance but prefer to have the handle permanently attached will prefer this set from Ripcords. The black sniper edition includes a strong tube that offers resistance levels up to 62 lbs. On top of that you get 5 bands and a door hook, making it a good value at only $54.99.

The most notable difference with Ripcords is the “ergonomic” handle design. Rather than a PVC tube or foam, the handle is molded plastic that slightly tapers towards the ends. To some it’s a little less comfortable but the advantage is your bands don’t smell like a locker room after an intense P90X session.

Ripcords offers a lifetime warrantee incase a band snaps. The catch is you’ll need to pay for shipping. It’s not a perfect solution but still cheaper than buying a replacement.

5. Aylio Basic Set

Ranking fifth the Aylio set is decent but offers less for your money.

Essentially, it excludes the lightest band common in 5 tube sets. You get a low, medium, high, and ultra-high-strength resistance band, door attachment, ankle straps and an attractive pouch.

Although the tube quality is good, users have noted the clips can sometimes snap off the band.

Extra handles are available for $12.99: essential for those following P90X.