As a self-proclaimed gym rat, I’ve had a lot of fitness equipment pass through my home gym over the years. At one point, my partner and I even built out a fully-equipped gym in our garage — complete with a squat rack, bench, treadmill, punching bag, and tons of accessories — that made working out at home convenient and easy. When we downsized and moved to the city, however, none of that equipment made the cut. Space was precious, and it was far more convenient to hit the gym a few blocks over than to store all of that gear in our downtown condo.
When the pandemic happened and gyms closed, it became apparent that we needed to find a middle ground. We couldn’t fit a full gym in our condo, so we had to be strategic with our equipment purchases. A tiny indoor bike was tucked into the corner of our living room along with resistance bands and a kettlebell, and while it was certainly better than nothing, we both missed the ease and convenience of having multiple weights to choose from.
We considered buying a small set of dumbbells — or even attempting to snag a cheap set of manually adjustable dumbbells — but the former would take up too much space in our increasingly cluttered “gym corner” and the latter would be less convenient than what we already had. We were stuck.
Obviously, this meant I jumped at the chance to try out NordicTrack’s new iSelect voice-controlled dumbbells(opens in a new tab) for myself. Unlike most adjustable dumbbells, the iSelect dumbbells offered a few different features that made us far more excited about making some extra space in our tiny gym corner: Not only are they equipped with Amazon Alexa, but these 50-pound dumbbells are also incredibly sleek — and boast an easier-than-ever method for changing the weight in five-pound increments.
First impressions of the NordicTrack iSelect voice-controlled dumbbells
Straight out of the box, I was super impressed with the iSelect dumbbells. I’ve considered adjustable dumbbells in the past, but I wasn’t a fan of the bulkiness that most offered. Other brands looked clunky and awkward — not exactly something you wanted to have in your living room — and the NordicTrack iSelect were a clear departure from the norm. With nonslip steel handles, the ergonomic square weight plates create a streamlined, futuristic appearance — and keep the dumbbells from rolling when placed on a flat surface (which I’m sure my downstairs neighbors appreciate).
The only downside? Plastic. Lots of plastic. Both the weight plates and the storage tray are made of a thick plastic that doesn’t look quite as good in person as it does in the photos, but the unique design and convenience more than made up for it.
Plus, the physical setup of the dumbbells was incredibly easy. After plugging in the storage tray and placing the dumbbells on it, they were pretty much ready to go. Changing the weight of the dumbbells was even easier — the base has a digital LED screen that shows the weight they’re currently set at, and you just twist the tiny silver knob beneath the screen to adjust the dumbbells at five-pound increments.
The LED screen clearly shows what weight you’re working with.
Credit: RJ Andersen / Mashable
The digital setup, however, was far more complicated. In order to use Amazon Alexa to control your dumbbells, you’re required to download the iSelect app, create an account, and connect it to your Amazon account. The entire process was clunky and not super user-friendly, and it took several tries to get everything connected.
What I loved about the iSelect dumbbells
Ridiculously cool appearance aside, the convenience of the iSelect dumbbells is completely unmatched. I sustained a pretty serious leg injury a few days before receiving the dumbbells, which meant I wasn’t able to walk or leave my house for several weeks. The iSelect dumbbells allowed me to sit in my living room and get a light upper body workout without overdoing it, which helped keep me from going completely frantic during my recovery period.
Above all else, the experience of changing the weight of the NordicTrack iSelect Dumbbells is absolutely phenomenal. Rather than manually adjusting the weight on the dumbbells themselves, you simply place the weights on the base — twist the knob to your desired weight — and lift. The entire process only took a few seconds, and it was so cool I even FaceTimed with my parents to show it off.
Adjusting the weight is as easy as turning a dial.
Credit: RJ Andersen / Mashable
Plus, actually squeezing in a workout with the iSelect dumbbells was a breeze. I was worried that the square design would be bulky and annoying, but I actually liked being able to put them down without worrying about rolling. There was a slight jiggling of the weight plates that initially had me feeling anxious, but they made it through several weeks of workouts — and weight adjustments — with absolutely zero issues.
What I didn’t like about the iSelect dumbbells
A month into using my iSelect dumbbells, I experienced my first major hiccup at the beginning of my workout. The dumbbells were on the dock, I turned the knob to adjust the weight, and an error flashed on the screen. I shrugged and grabbed the weights anyway, deciding to just use them at the weight on the display, but when I lifted the dumbbells only one of them had set itself to the correct weight. At the time, I was doing a virtual personal training session, so I did what every average person would do: I grabbed the single dumbbell that was at the correct weight, went back to my trainer, and promptly learned that was a mistake when one of the weight plates went crashing to the floor.
Thankfully, no one was hurt, but I ditched the dumbbells and returned to my workout with the intention of addressing the safety issue the next day. After taking a second look at the manual, I found the problem: My dumbbells had become “misaligned” so the locking mechanism wasn’t functioning properly. Three minutes later, I managed to fix the issue with nothing but a screwdriver, but it made me think twice about wanting to use these dumbbells.
Obviously, I love the form factor of the dumbbells. They’re so cool and convenient, but I didn’t like how easily something could fall off if I didn’t inspect every aspect of the dumbbells each time. The manual does encourage users to do this prior to each workout, so the issue was definitely a “user error”, but it’s a mistake that I think the average user is likely to make. After all, having to fully inspect and test your equipment before each use kinda detracts from the convenience. Combined with the fact that I can feel the weight plates rattle slightly when I lift them, I’m not sure I feel comfortable using these dumbbells in certain situations — especially while doing shoulder presses or anything that involves lifting the weight over my head.
The Alexa connectivity didn’t feel “worth it”
Here’s the thing, building Amazon Alexa into your dumbbells sounds like a cool feature, but it’s also a little more flashy than functional. Not only did it take a little extra work to get the dumbbells connected to my Amazon account, but I also didn’t love the experience of actually using Alexa to change the weight. Yes, it was fun to say, “Hey Alexa, change the weight to 15 pounds,” but there are a few things that made it less convenient than it sounds.
One, the dumbbells need to be on the base to do so — meaning your hands will be right next to the dial to change the weight yourself — and two, there was a decent lag time between when I gave Alexa the command and when the weight actually changed. Throughout the process, I couldn’t help but think, “It’s faster and more convenient to just change it myself.”
Two, both dumbbells need to be on the storage tray if you want to change the weight, meaning you can’t set the dumbbells to two different weights. For most users — myself included — this wasn’t a huge deal, considering how effortless it is to change the weight, but some people might be annoyed by that limitation.
I also didn’t like that I needed to download a separate app just to manage this connection, especially since NordicTrack offers users a free 30-day iFit Membership to use their iFit app with the dumbbells. I didn’t really want to add two apps to my phone, and the additional functionality didn’t really seem worth the struggle.
I will say that the prospect of using the iSelect dumbbells with the iFit app seems pretty cool because you’re able to use the iSelect app to create “user presets” for different workout movements. That means you can create a preset for the weight you typically use for each exercise — like bicep curls, tricep extensions, deadlifts, etc. — and the dumbbells will automatically change the weight (after lowering them back to the base) while you’re doing your workout in the iFit app.
However, it was a struggle to get the iFit app to sync with the dumbbells, and again, it felt like too much hassle around a process that didn’t need to be that complicated. If I already have to lower the dumbbells to the base, I’m really not losing that much time twisting the dial versus creating a user preset…especially since that preset will change over time as I get stronger.
Are the NordicTrack iSelect dumbbells worth the price?
If we’re going off style and cool factor, then the answer is a resounding maybe. Despite my issues with the locking mechanism, Alexa connectivity, and the clunky apps, I really wanted to love these dumbbells. However, when I double-checked some of the reviews on Amazon, I found several other users who experienced the weight plates falling off.
Plus, these dumbbells require electricity to function — the handles themselves even have batteries in them — so when you combine that with the plastic material of the storage tray and weight plates, the whole thing starts to be a little bit of a disappointment…especially given the $429 price tag on Amazon(opens in a new tab).
Was it a complete dealbreaker? I’m on the fence. Now that I know what to look for, I’ll probably keep using these dumbbells at home. I don’t think I’d recommend them to anyone who is shopping for adjustable dumbbells on a budget, especially with some of the hiccups. However, if you’re looking for an aesthetic option that is fairly easy to use, techy, and super cool — and you make sure to check the equipment and heed the safety warnings — then I could definitely see why you would want these in your home gym.