Friday, June 25, 2010


If you are one of those at-home workout people, you will appreciate this one. As I’m sure you have figured out by now, I live in a part of the country that does not have the conveniences of a city. I can’t say that I live in the middle of nowhere, because I don’t really believe that to be true. I actually think that my town has a lot going on, it’s just not a lot of the type of going-on that city-dwellers are used to. If you crave the outdoors, where I live has it all. If you are looking for fine cuisine and high culture, the pickings are a little slim. They are not completely absent, but you have to really search, be willing to drive a distance, and wait around for the Central NH stop on the performing arts tour. There are, interestingly enough, about 8 different Chinese restaurants in about a 15 mile radius, but other than that one is hard pressed to find anything other than Italian or bar food. There are no upscale pet stores, no fancy restaurants, no spontaneous “hey let’s go to the theatre” nights and no running down to the store for some milk without getting into your car. There’s a university and a hospital 7 miles south, a Staples 15 miles north, and a smattering of bars within spitting distance in any direction. There’s a lot of fresh air and clean water and a few moose. There is no good gym. There are several gyms, but all the ones that are within 20 miles, pretty much suck.

I spend a decent amount of time travelling to various larger cities for work, and so I get my fill of “culture” such as it is. I get to experience the crushing throng of humanity, the litany of restaurants and ethnic cuisines and the convenience of city living. I get to sit in the traffic and have the distinct luxury of periodically being flipped off for crossing the street. I also get to use a “real” gym which is usually within walking distance of where I am temporarily located, or at least under five miles away. At these times I am grateful for my city experience. In a gym, people are usually happy, not flipping anyone off and pretty much keeping to themselves. Just the way I like people.

All that said, since I don’t always have the convenience of a fully functional, large fitness facility with decent hours nearby, I am often left to my own devices. To assure that I can get a good workout no matter where I am, I have multiple at-home fitness products and one of them is the SelectTech 552.

You may have seen the infomercial for these babies. The SelectTech is a Bowflex product. They are the dumbbells that give you the flexibility to adjust the weight to what you desire. There are 2 SelectTech products. The 552 and the 1090. As the name implies, the 552 can be adjusted to weights ranging from 5 to 52.5 lbs per dumbbell. Using the same logic, the 1090 can be adjusted to weights ranging from 10 to 90 lbs per dumbbell. Because I am not that strong, I have the 552s, which I might add are plenty heavy enough for your average at-home weight lifter. BowFlex claims that the SelectTech product line replaces 15 sets and 17 sets of weights respectively. This could be a true claim if you were to purchase every set of dumbbells out there from 5 to 52.5 lbs in 2.5 lb increments (or from 10 to 90 lbs in 10 lb increments), but most people don’t actually do that. I suppose you could, but unless you are opening a gym, of your own, you probably wouldn’t.

The SelectTech weights (weight plates, actually) and bar sit in a cradle. The ends of the bar spin and are marked with the different potential weights. The weight plates are notched so that as you spin the end of the bar to a particular weight, the notches on the bar engage with the notches on the plates and you end up with an adjustable dumbbell.

Its’ quite ingenious actually. It means that you don’t have to buy multiple sets of dumbbells to have decent workout. If you have limited space, don’t want to look at a full weight tower or don’t have a plethora of doors to prop open, it may be the answer to all your ills.

The only issue I found with the SelectTech dumbbells, is that they are a little large. The bars are a good size for an adult hand, but the plates themselves are a little large. This is not a huge problem with most exercises, but I find that I need to do bicep curls with one hand at a time because the two dumbbells together force my curls apart, causing bad form. The other element to be aware of with the SelectTech is that if the plates are sitting backwards in the cradle, the weight adjuster-spinner on the end of the bar won’t spin. I actually had this problem once and it took a good 30 minutes to figure out what the issue was. I thought the spinning mechanism was broken, but instead it was the stupidity of someone who wasn’t supposed to be in my house using my things.

All in all this is a durable, quality product that makes getting a good workout at home pretty easy. Completely utilitarian, fabulously compact and completely adjustable for a complete upper body workout, SelectTech is worth the price tag ($399 for the 552, $599 for the 1090). Given how little in this world can actually be relied on, this is a product that won’t let you down.

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