PowerBlock Sport 24 review in a sentence: a great Bowflex rival for newcomers to home strength training, even if they do look a little peculiar.
Strength training with the best dumbbells is a great way of toning up, building muscle and burning fat. However, they are fairly bulky and require a decent amount of room to house a good spread of weights for performing a variety of exercises. So, what if you don’t have enough space for a full, commercial gym-style weights rack?
This is where a pair of adjustable dumbbells come in and the PowerBlock Sport 24 is a solid answer to replacing up to eight individual sets of dumbbells with one, rapidly adjustable system. In this case, that system revolves around solid steel ‘stacks’ that are selected with a magnetic polypropylene selector pin that slides out of the side of the PowerBlock Sport 24.
Measuring 25cm in length and 14cm in width, the Sport 24 are the most compact set of weights that PowerBlock currently offers and, as a result, can’t be expanded with additional kits. Instead, these nifty little numbers offer 1.5kg to 11kg in approximately 2.25kg increments (they are originally for the US market, so weight is listed in poundage, which is irritating).
Perfect for HIIT (high intensity interval training), where swapping between weights and exercises is frequent, or punishing drop sets, an adjustable dumbbell allows for quick and easy weight adjustment without the need for a massive selection of dumbbells.
They might not look like the traditional rubber or steel dumbbells - or even the twist-to-select adjustable dumbbells from Bowflex and Men’s Fitness - but they actually feel surprisingly good in the hand, offering a stable grip and proving compact enough to perform a variety of strength exercises, from lying presses to bicep curls and beyond.
But how does the PowerBlock Sport 24 fit into a daily exercise routine and can it really replace a standard dumbbell? Put the kettle on, grab a protein snack and read the rest of the PowerBlock Sport 24 review to find out…
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Powerblock Sport 24: design and build
The Powerblock Sport 24 is very, erm, blocky. Essentially, it looks like someone has poured concrete into a shoebox and added in a couple of steel handles (with plastic covers) but they are a little more complex than that.
Essentially, steel weight stacks sit within one another like buff, bicep-building Russian Dolls and it’s up to you, the exerciser, to select the appropriate weight by sliding a plastic selector pin into one of the reinforced rails at the sides. Handily, these are colour coded so you quickly get to know the weights with a visual cue.
It’s not quite as intuitive as the “twist-to-select” models, like the Men’s Fitness Adjustable Dumbbell and the Bowflex 1090i that I’ve tested, but it still offers a quick adjustment of weight once used to the mechanism.
Due to the steel construction, it all feels well built and solid too, with the weight stacks only emitting a mild rattle when in use. Trust me, some of the other adjustable dumbbells I’ve used make a hell of a racket and these are fairly quiet by comparison, but that’s likely to get worse if you opt for some of the heavier models where more stacking kits are involved.
On top of this, the urethane-covered handles feel a bit cheap and not particularly nice in the hand (knurled steel would have been better), while that plastic selector pin also feels flimsy. That said, PowerBlock claims the pin can handle almost 230kg, so maybe it’s tougher than it looks.
As previously mentioned, these are the most compact Powerblock adjustable dumbbells you can buy, but they still err on the large side. Considering it only offers 11kg of mass, they feel quite bulky in the hand, leading me to believe the heavier units must feel absolutely massive.
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Powerblock Sport 24: performance
After a few weeks of use and numerous punishing CrossFit-style workouts, which involved weighted exercises and the use of rowing machines, exercise bikes and air bikes, the Powerblock Sport 24 quickly became integral to my regular home-based strength building and cardio sessions.
Admittedly, 11kg isn’t really heavy enough to make good progress on the bigger movements, such as squats and pressing, but incorporating the weights into higher-rep or slow tempo sessions reaped solid rewards in the form of burning muscles and aching limbs a day or so afterwards.
Mastering the weight selection proved a bit fiddly at first, as you have to get the prongs of the selector pin flush with the rail of the weight that you want. Otherwise, it’s easy to accidentally partially select a weight and have the interior slide out without the desired weight connected.
This is more prevalent when more stacks (thus more weight) is selected, but it doesn’t take long to work out a method of rapidly changing weight. Handily, there’s an elastic loop that keeps the selector pin from dropping and also helps guide things into place.
Despite the appearance, the recessed handle is easy to live with and allows for plenty of wrist mobility, so it is possible to carry out complex compound movements, such as dumbbell clean and press or lunge movements with curls.
That said, they only offer one grip style, making it difficult to adopt a crush grip (two hands around the handle), nor can you grasp the ‘bell’ element of a traditional dumbbell when performing goblet sumo squats and the like.
Admittedly, these are fairly niche moves and it’s highly likely you’ll have access to a gym (when they open) or boast an existing dumbbell collection of you are throwing crush grip press outs or super heavy sumo squats into a routine.
Above all else, it is quick and relatively easy to swap weights, which his what most people will look for, and they don’t take up a lot of room. You can easily push these under a bed or sling them behind a sofa when not in use.
One particular element I liked, and thought was much better than rivals from Bowflex and Men’s Fitness, is the fact that the weight plates don’t require their own plastic tray. With the aforementioned rivals, you have to first lug the dumbbells (with maximum weight selected) and then the plastic tray into position if you want to be able to swap weight plates without them flying all over the place.
Here, it’s simply a case of selecting the heaviest weight and moving the entire unit into position. alternatively, you can leave some of the heavier stacks near the workout station that require them (floor bench press or squat, for example) and keep the lighter stacks with handles for curling and other trickier exercises.
Powerblock Sport 24: verdict
Although not as enjoyable to use or as versatile as traditional dumbbells, there’s no escaping just how useful a set of adjustable dumbbells is for most folk looking to get fitter, build muscle or burn fat from home. With its unique stacking system, the units feel well balanced even when fully loaded. The recessed grips allow plenty of range of motion for various exercises.
The Powerblock Sport 24 take up very little room, making them really easy to store, and offer a very affordable way of achieving a decent weight spread, without the need for an entire rack or tower full of individual dumbbells. They are around half the price of purchasing a set of 1-10kg pairs with a stand or rack, and require a fraction of the space.
Adjusting or swapping the weight stack can be fiddly, but gets quicker and more fuss-free as you get more attuned to their mechanism.I’d not recommend dropping them, mind.
Those looking to hit PBs and really bulk up might want to look towards other PowerBlock products, like the Pro Series or USA Elite Series, as these feature a knurled steel handle and various expansion kits that take them up to 40kgs. Be warned that the price starts heading upwards rapidly, once you start getting more serious about your Powerblock options.