Looking to build muscle by pumping iron, AND save space? Adjustable dumbbells could be the key! When I made this splurge purchase in late 2020, it was incredibly hard to find any adjustable weights in stock… so I pounced upon the first set I found in a local gym equipment store: the MX55 Select Adjustable Dumbbell System.
This article is a candid review of the pros and (sizable) cons of this piece of fitness equipment. Does it work to squeeze ten different dumbbells — ranging in 5 pound intervals from 10 pounds to 55 pounds — into one small shelf? Let’s find out.
Honest Assessment of the MX55
Now, I have to be truthful: there are several issues with the MX55 that I wish I’d been fully aware of before purchasing. I’m writing this detailed review now to help you make an informed decision about whether this brand of adjustable dumbbells is a match for your fitness style and goals.
We will also discuss whether another brand of adjustable dumbbells might be better — or whether regular (non-adjustable) dumbbells might actually be worth the space they take up. I have my mind made up about the answer for myself, but you’ll have to read on to see the fit for YOU.
Positives of the MX55
1. Compact Size and Stylish Look.
The biggest thing that drew me to the MX55 (besides the fact that it was the only adjustable dumbbell set in stock at the time) is that it’s not just space-saving — it’s also beautiful. As is evident from the photo above, there’s ample room under the weight holders to store other equipment, and you’re fitting 10 different dumbbell sets into that tiny 18″ by 22-inch footprint!
2. Easy and Secure Weight Adjustments.
The mechanism to adjust from one set of pounds to another is remarkably easy and effective. You push in a button which makes the yellow knobs jump up (“POP!”). Then twist to the number that matches the corresponding weight amount in the chart right below (ex: If both knobs are at 3, the dumbbell becomes 20 pounds).
Push the yellow knobs back down (“THUNK!”) and the weights are now securely attached at the correct amount, meaning you can lift them out of the stands. I’ve been nervous about the plates falling off, but they really do seem well-attached to the handle if the knobs are set up correctly.
3. Good Grip Handles and Weight Range.
The MX55 has a pleasing textured metal grip handle which prevents the hand from slipping — while still avoiding skin irritation. (You may still want lifting gloves, but overall I haven’t gotten bad callouses.) As for weight range, 10 pounds to 55 pounds is an excellently wide set of options for intermediate to advanced lifters.
Cons of MX55 Adjustable Dumbbells
A. Plates feel unbalanced and awkward.
As demonstrated in the photo below, the weight plates (hey, that rhymes!) of the MX55 dumbbells are WIDE circles that are at a DIAGONAL. Those two capitalized words show the problems. First, the wideness of the the plates make exercises like upright rows unwieldy, because the weight heads get in the way.
Second — and most problematic for me — the diagonal slant of the plates make the dumbbells feel awkwardly unbalanced. For some exercises, the weights rotate over to favor the heavier side, forcing repeated grip adjustments. For other moves, the diagonal heft adds a strange tug to exercises which would normally be fluid with regular dumbbells. Bleh.
B. Changing weights can be slow and scary.
Yes, the MX55 has a relatively easy and quick weight change system, as adjustable dumbbells go… but that’s not saying a lot. It still takes a full 30-40 seconds to do a safe poundage change (“Pop-Twist-Pop” times four), which may not seem like a big deal, but it IS problematic if you do fast-paced video workouts that require multiple weight changes.
Further, weights need to be taken out of and put back into their stands VERY carefully. If pulled out at the wrong speed or angle, a heavy 5-pound plate that isn’t attached can fall out onto your toe! (I learned this the hard way.) Meanwhile, putting weights back in the stands is tricky because the angles have to match correctly, or the dumbbell won’t fit.
3/27/21 Addendum: One of the viewers on my YouTube video about this pointed out that you can adjust the cradle from underneath to make it looser or tighter, thus making it easier to remove and put back the dumbbells without incident.
C. MX55 cannot be used for many moves.
Along with the unbalanced shape, these functionality limitations are the biggest bummer: There are WAAAY too many exercises that one simply cannot use MX55 adjustable dumbbells for. Because you’re never supposed to rest your bodyweight on the handles (says the user manual), the classic move of push-ups while balanced on weights is out.
Because of the annoying diagonal angle of the plates, any exercise which requires holding the ends of a dumbbell just doesn’t work. Unfortunately, this rules out using a single dumbbell for heavy sumo or goblet squats. This angle paired with the nervous-making rattle of the plates makes any swings inadvisable, too. Phooey!
Further, dumbbells can’t be smacked together (and CERTAINLY can’t be dropped without breaking), so chest presses, for example, need to be done delicately to avoid the usual satisfying “Clang!” metal weight kiss at the top. Grumble.
Judgment: Is the MX55 Worth It?
Oof — this is painful to admit, but my answer to whether the MX55 is a good purchase would be: “No.” The cons really outweigh the pros. In short, the compact size of these adjustable dumbbells does not make up for the what is lost in functionality from regular weights.
Who IS the MX55 Good For?
The sole reason I would advise that you SHOULD buy the MX55 is if the only lifting you do is very slow, heavy, and traditional — and is not accompanied by fast instructional videos that require several dumbbell size changes during a single workout.
Moves that the MX55 does work well for include: suitcase squats, weighted lunges, curtsey pulses, and chest or shoulder presses. Interested? See purchasing options and other reviews at the affiliate link here.
Other Adjustable Dumbbell Options
I asked my network to (ready for a pun?) WEIGH IN (hah!) on their experiences with other brands of adjustable dumbbells, and this section is the result of that research. Links here are affiliates which provide a small commission at no extra cost to you.
PowerBlock weights seem popular because they’re always out of stock! A fellow writer reported that he likes his PowerBlock Pro EXP weights because they are “secure, expandable, and comfortable,” but he does explain they suffer from some of the same issues as the MX55 such as a rattle (though the polyurethane coated one does not).
Bowflex SelectTech adjustable dumbbells get positive reviews from two friends (both of whom are also Beachbody workout users like me) — although they admit that the weight changes take time, and they usually need to pause the exercise videos to complete the adjustments. See Bowflex SelectTech here.
Nüo adjustable weights, including the Nüobell and Flexbell have had great reviews recently, with some people writing in to my YouTube channel to say that they like them best of all adjustable dumbbells on the market.
The low-tech manual option where you screw on plates with a nut by hand actually might be a solid choice in terms of balance, durability, and affordability (see examples here), but a buddy who has a chrome version of these says they flake off splinters, so seek good materials.
Another friend likes the Funcode Adjustable Dumbbell (see it here) which has just a 5-25 pound range. My thinking in getting the MX55 was I wanted a wider range with the option to go beyond my current weightlifting comfort (which is in the 30s). In retrospect, adjustable dumbbells get more unwieldy the heaver you get.
Are Regular Weights Better than Adjustable?
Ultimately, I’ve gotten more mileage out of my neon vinyl-covered 10 pound non-adjustable dumbbells then I ever thought imaginable. (And they go well with my armor leggings, too!) Now, do I use my adjustable MX55s? Sure — almost every day, so they are not going to waste. But do I love them like I love my bright orange regular weights? Nope.
In sum, if you can spare a foot more of space, just get a compact weight rack and fill it with regular dumbbells. That doesn’t take up much more room than the MX55 (or other adjustable weight systems), and you can fill that rack affordably with secondhand dumbbells which neighbors are constantly posting on neighborhood group boards.
Weigh in on Adjustable Weights
September 2022 update: I ended up selling my MX-55 adjustable dumbbells to a friend and buying individual weights (and a shelf to put them on) for my lifting needs, instead. I’m much happier with this new configuration! The MX-55 was not a good match for my exercise needs.
Now, what’s YOUR take on adjustable dumbbells? I’m curious which brands you’ve tried, and what pros and cons you’ve experienced. Did you come to the same conclusion as me that regular weights are better, or do you prefer the fancy adjustable option? Do share.
Enjoy watching my entertaining two-toned hair on screen? Check out my Movement Breaks video (easy 5 minute exercises and stretches for kids and adults), or my tutorial about how to build a DIY sit-stand desk that’s high enough for tall people!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!