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Working out is something I’ve made a priority in my life since reaching early retirement at the end of 2018. I’ve worked out at home, done different gyms, and even bought an over-priced set of dumbbells in the U.S. while we were living in Panama just so I’d have something to use when visiting.
Now that we’re back in the U.S. to live, I needed to figure out what I’d use for my workouts here.
I initially planned to use the gym in our apartment complex, but I’m just not happy with the equipment available. I also considered using a nearby gym like Planet Fitness, but I know me. Unlike Boquete, Panama where we were living, we have winter here in Ohio. I hate the cold and the snow and know that it’s pretty likely that I’d slowly stop going.
So, I decided to buy some basic equipment to keep and use in our small 2-bedroom apartment. I already had a basic set of dumbbells that allowed up to 30 pounds on each dumbbell. What’s cool though is that I actually outgrew those and needed more weight. I resolved to sell these and buy something better to replace them.
I spent a lot of time researching and looking at what I wanted. Supposedly, fitness equipment is overstocked right now both in stores and with folks trying to get rid of it, so prices are supposed to be low.
Even so, my cheap butt just spent $300 on a set of dumbbells and I couldn’t be happier!
My old dumbbells served their purpose but had a couple of issues…
I purchased two sets of CAP dumbbells during COVID after returning to the U.S. from Panama on a humanitarian flight in the summer of 2020. We didn’t know how long we’d be back in the U.S. and I needed something to continue my workouts. I bought them on OfferUp for $40 for each set, which is overpriced but getting your hands on fitness equipment during COVID was a struggle (supply and demand!). I bought two sets because it was the only way I could get up to 30 pounds on each bar…
They did the job and worked just fine. A downside though is that the collars slow you down. Constantly changing out the weights for various exercises and different weights adds quite a bit of wasted time to every workout.
So, now that I’ve outgrown the 30-pound limit per dumbbell, it was time to re-evaluate and kill two birds with one stone. I wanted a bigger max weight but I also wanted to get something that would be more efficient to work with.
Since we don’t have a big apartment right now, getting any type of home gym or some other type of machine just wouldn’t work – we simply don’t have the space for it. So I decided to stick with dumbbells.
The choices boiled down to getting a set of adjustable dumbbells or getting a rack with different size dumbbells on it. Although a rack of dumbbells would be even easier to work with, that also would take up a lot of space – plus, it would be a lot more expensive.
So, an adjustable set of dumbbells it is!
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Set of Dumbbells
If you know me, you know that I have this problem where I sometimes over-analyze things… especially when it comes to purchases. I’ll easily spend an hour researching before buying a $20 item on Amazon. Although it usually makes me feel like I’m making the right decision on a purchase, it’s also a lot of time thrown out the window.
Regardless, I spent a lot of time deciding on a set of dumbbells that would be a smart purchase for years to come. I was actually surprised at how many different options there were in the adjustable dumbbell space. However, all roads seemed to come back to the Bowflex SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbells.
Yes, there were lower-priced options (and higher-priced ones!), but most of the less expensive dumbbells generally had one or both of these issues:
- A maximum weight of 40 pounds per dumbbell (or less), which wasn’t giving me much of an increase over what I already had.
- The weight increments you could set weren’t very incremental – say 5-10 pound increments. So maybe you could set them to 20 pounds or 30 pounds but nothing in between – that’s a tough jump in range!
And then there were issues on how they handle, how well they work, how reputable is the brand, etc.
In the end, though, I decided on the Bowflex SelectTech 552 dumbbells for a multitude of reasons…
- Reputable brand – I think almost everyone is familiar with Bowflex from all the specialized fitness equipment they’ve released over the years.
- Each dumbbell maxes out at 52.5 pounds. I eventually might need more than that but I can make do with that for a long time.
- The adjustable increments allow you to quickly set a dumbbell to weights of 5, 7.5, 10, 12.5, 15, 17.5, 20, 22.5, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, and 52.5 pounds.
- They come with a 2-year warranty.
- Although there are other choices, folks throughout the internet tend to point out how much smoother these are to use than others.
Are they expensive? Yes.
But sometimes you need to be smart and know that you get what you pay for. I was still hesitant because of the price anyway but as my wife, Lisa, said – “It’s not like you’re buying some new toy that you’re going to use for a week and then be over it. This is something you’re doing to stay healthy and fit. Plus, you already work out 5 days a week so just spend the money.”
I hate it when she’s right… but she is.
The good news is that because most people aren’t stuck in their homes anymore from the pandemic, stores and people are struggling to get rid of all their fitness equipment. Folks are outside now and they’ve either given up on working out or have gone back to the gyms.
Those are affiliate links so I may get a small commission if you click through and buy them. That said, I only recommend products I wholeheartedly believe are worthwhile and in your best interest.
Personally, I’d recommend that you could also check places like Facebook Marketplace and OfferUp to see if you can get the set of dumbbells at a cheaper price (though they might be used in many cases if that bothers you). I don’t get any commission for either of those places – I just think it’s worthwhile to check those out as part of comparison shopping.
And that’s exactly what I did. I ended up finding them new and unused on the Facebook Marketplace for $300 for the set. That still sounded a little expensive to my frugal nature until I thought more about how much use these will get over the next several years.
It’s an investment in your health and that’s what truly matters, which makes the price a no-brainer.
My Home “Gym”
So, what does that make my home gym look like? Well, what can I say? I don’t have a lot of equipment to really constitute having a gym but I do have enough for my needs.
I have the set of dumbbells that this post is about. I’ve used them for about a week and a half now… and I love ’em!
I wasn’t done with just the dumbbells though. The one problem is that I get back pain sometimes and there are exercises I enjoy doing but they’re harder on my back by themselves. For instance, I like doing dumbbell rows.
You might remember how much I like using the Fitbod app to guide my workouts. For someone who wants a little guidance without going with a trainer, Fitbod fits the bill perfectly and has helped me tremendously over the years.
On a side note, if that’s something that sounds good to you, go to fitbod.me/redeem and enter the code RETIRE in all caps. You’ll save 25% on your membership!
But Fitbod likes to give me an exercise called “Elbows Out Bent Over Dumbbell Rows”…
I would do ’em because I’m a glutton for punishment and then I would complain the next day about how my back hurts. Lisa loved my complaining about that (yeah, there’s some sarcasm there! 😉 ).
So I decided to get a weight bench. In a small apartment like ours though, every inch of space counts. So that led me to look for one that folds up.
In the end, I found a barely-used (essentially new) FLYBIRD Weight Bench that retailed for $170 on Amazon. I got it on Facebook Marketplace for $60.
I like it a lot. It’s extremely well-designed, sturdy, and adjustable. And then it easily folds up to nicely so I can put it out of the way.
Now I can still use my set of dumbbells to do exercises like rows, but I can do them with the bench taking some of the pressure off my back…
I also have a pull-up bar – this thing’s gotten its share of use from me over many years. I like the portability of it…
Fitbod likes to mix in a lot of different chin-up and pull-up exercises as well, which is great for workout variety.
And finally, I currently have a ProsourceFit Dip Station.
You might be thinking, “What an odd choice to have when you’re limited in what you can have in your apartment.”
However, it was a “new – open box” item that I won in an online auction for $16 (normally over $70 on Amazon). Let’s call it an impulse buy! 😉
It comes apart pretty easily and can be stored without taking up much space. Regardless, I don’t need it or want it. I just put it up for sale on OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace, and Nextdoor for $60… we’ll see what happens. I’ll keep dropping the price if needed but maybe I can make a few bucks on it.
UPDATE: SOLD!! Sold this dip station yesterday for $50… not too shabby!
It’s nice to just be able to easily add or remove the equipment I have right into Fitbod. It also lets me have multiple gyms so I can have a home gym, the gym for the apartment complex, and a hotel gym for example. It’ll then generate my workout for the day based on the gym selected and the available equipment in it.
So really, my equipment is going to be the set of dumbbells I love, the adjustable weight bench I love, and the pull-up bar that loves to torture me with pull-ups.
Not much, right? But guess what – that’s all I need right now to continue getting a full workout 5 days a week. And because it’s right here in the apartment, I don’t have any excuse not to do it.
The amount of gym equipment that you have isn’t what matters. The question is “are you using what you have?” If not, then it doesn’t matter. Otherwise, a good set of dumbells like the Bowflex ones I have will be put to good use and that’s tremendously valuable.
I might not love working out, but I’m getting to the point where I’ve accepted it and just make it happen. It’s taken some time, but seeing results has become a nice motivator. Sure, the main reason I do it is that it’s healthy but seeing muscle development is some good encouragement to continue nonetheless.
Plan well, take action, and live your best life!
Thanks for reading!!