I'm looking to buy a barbell/dumbbell set to start doing P90X again. I came across the Bowflex and the Powerblock adjustable sets, but they just seem so freaking expensive ($300 to start for each).

Are there any that exist that are just as good for a lot cheaper? Or do any of you guys have any gripes about using the adjustable ones?

  • What is P90X? - - Apr 1, 2023 at 9:10

3 Answers 3


I would stay away from the Bowflex or similar 'adjustable' dumbbells, they're basically an overpriced gimmick that would drive you away from using them with their rattling sound and difficulty in setting the weight you want. WHAT I would recommend, especially for P90x or similar routines where you're using light weights, are rubber coated hex dumbbells, take a look at these:

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  • Even the bowflex ones are gimmicks? I would think a company as prominent as them would get rid of any "rattling".
    – slandau
    Aug 9, 2011 at 15:41
  • @slandau - I would suggest going to a sports authority (or any local store that sells them) and check them out. I wouldn't recommend them. Aug 9, 2011 at 18:00
  • @slandau Yes, they all get loose if used for any period of time. Bowflex is well known among consumers, but that's good marketing and shouldn't be confused with quality. If Hampton Fitness made a set, I'd give them a try. Aug 9, 2011 at 18:30
  • @Meade just a small note, if you highlight a piece of text and then add a link to that, it looks prettier!
    – Ivo Flipse
    Aug 13, 2011 at 12:18

This answer is a complement to Meade Rhubenstein's which covered the dumbbell very well. Your question also included the barbell. There are two main types of barbells:

  • "Standard" barbells, the diameter is about 1" on average, but there is no guarantee that the weights from one manufacturer will fit the bar made by another. In short, they are not really standard.
  • Olympic barbells, the bar itself is about 28-29mm diameter and the sleeves for the weights are roughly 2" (the actual measurement is metric). These are designed to true specifications, and you stand a better chance of being able to mix and match bars and weights from different manufacturers.

The average weight for a standard barbell is about 10-15lb, and won't be able to hold a lot of weight. This is both due to the fact that the sleeve for the weights is too narrow, and the fact that the bar will bend if it is overloaded. They are cheaper, and the sleeves (area for the weights) do not rotate at all. They are acceptable as a starter set.

Olympic Bars

Olympic bars come in three standard sizes depending on the category they are designed for:

  • Juniors: 10kg (~25lb) designed for youth weightlifting
  • Womons: 15kg (~35lb) designed for women's weightlifting competitions
  • Mens: 20kg (~45lb) designed for adult men's competitions

The grips range in size, but men's bars tend to be around 28mm-29.5mm depending on if the bar is designed for Olympic lifts (more spring) or power lifts (more rigid).

The more inexpensive bars do not have rotating sleeves, and really can only be used for slow lifts. Rotating sleeves helps prevent lateral torque while you are doing squats or any more dynamic lift. The inexpensive bars have all the dimensions of a competition bar, but can't bear as much weight.

Within the bars that have rotating sleeves, there are two main types:

  • Bushing bars. The sleeves rotate on bushings which is more than enough for slower lifts (power lifts and most body building lifts). The bushings don't wear out and they don't require much maintenance.
  • Bearing bars. The sleeves rotate on needle bearings which provide quick, free flowing rotation necessary for the more dynamic Olympic style lifts. They require more care and maintenance, but reward you with better performance.

With either type of bar, once you get into the training and competition bars, the bar strength is measured in PSI. The higher the PSI rating, the more weight the bar can handle as it moves through the air. A minimum rating for a quality barbell will be about 155K. Best for Olympic lifts would be 195K or higher. These bars will be able to hold more than 1000lbs while being used. The bars that don't publish PSI ratings and claim over 1000lbs load only measure that load with the bar in the rack.

Bottom line, if you are just starting out, you can get a decent starter kit of an Olympic style bar with 300lb of weights for roughly $300 USD (check Amazon). If you scour Craig's List, you might be able to find a really good deal. If you really get into barbell weight lifting, you can invest in a good bar when you are ready for it. Until then, you just need to by a pair of weight plates if you max out your 300lb starter kit.


Weight sets are expensive. There's no getting around the fact that it takes lots of material to make 300lbs of stuff and then make it so it can be lifted and put down roughly without breaking.

The positive is that traditional weight components don't go out of style so once you have them, you're set for decades. Buy good stuff and enjoy it forever.

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