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Are NordicTrack's Latest Smart Dumbbells as Smart as They Seem?
These unique Alexa-powered adjustable dumbbells can change weights with a simple voice command.
Giselle Castro-SlobodaFitness and Nutrition Writer
I'm a Fitness & Nutrition writer for CNET who enjoys reviewing the latest fitness gadgets, testing out activewear and sneakers, as well as debunking wellness myths. On my spare time I enjoy cooking new recipes, going for a scenic run, hitting the weight room, or binge-watching many TV shows at once. I am a former personal trainer and still enjoy learning and brushing up on my training knowledge from time to time. I've had my wellness and lifestyle content published in various online publications such as: Women's Health, Shape, Healthline, Popsugar and more.
Traditionally, adjustable dumbbells have dials on the side that you have to manually set, so I was excited to try out smart dumbbells, since they are still a relatively new concept in the fitness world. Having recently tested various adjustable dumbbells, I had a clear idea on what to look for when choosing a good pair and how the iSelect stacks up to its more traditional competition.
So do the NordicTrack iSelect adjustable dumbbells live up to expectations? Read on to learn more about how they work and whether they're worth the money.
Customize your weight programs via the iSelect app
Can be bulky for some exercises, such as overhead presses
The Wi-Fi and Alexa connection to the dumbbells can be an issue, depending on proximity
The voice control feature may lag
You need to purchase an Alexa device separately if you don't have one
How we tested
Adjustable dumbbells are convenient because they save space while also giving you several sets of weights at once. Nordictrack stepped it up by adding smart technology to its latest version of adjustable dumbbells. When testing these out, I looked at several aspects:
Ease of use: We tested how easy it was to change weights using the voice-control option as well as the manual dial.
Materials: We looked at the quality and durability of the materials that make up the dumbbells, as well as the rack they sit on.
Comfort: We observed how comfortable it was to hold the dumbbells, as well as their handle design. Additionally, we looked at how the dumbbells held up during certain exercises and if they felt secure, even at the heaviest weight.
Weight range: We judged whether the NordicTrack iSelect offered a decent weight range to replace various sets of dumbbells.
Smart capabilities: Because this is a smart dumbbell, we looked at how versatile the smart features are and how they stack up to the competition.
Generally, adjustable dumbbells can run you between $200 to $500 or more, depending on the weight range and brand. The iSelect adjustable dumbbells retail for $599, or you can choose one of two payment plans: $50 per month for a year, or $16 a month for 39 months.
The dumbbells range between 5 and 50 pounds, which is standard for most adjustable dumbbells. This set comes with a tray that needs to be plugged into an outlet in a room where you'll have a decent Wi-Fi connection as well as an Alexa device. The tray also has a tablet rack that you can attach if you plan on streaming your workouts from a tablet or smartphone.
If you don't own an Alexa device, you may find it disappointing that it's not included with your order. Although the Alexa generally isn't too expensive, it's still an added expense you're probably not looking to pay after shelling out $600 for the dumbbells.
In addition to your iSelect purchase, you'll receive a free 30-day iFit family membership, which gives you access to many live or on-demand workout classes straight through the iFit app. After the trial, you have the option to keep the membership for $39 a month. I should note, an iFit membership is not required to continue using the dumbbells.
How the iSelect dumbbells work
Before I get into the installation process, some good news: You don't necessarily need to have an Alexa device to use these dumbbells. The iSelect adjustable dumbbells have the option to change the weight manually using a digital dial knob that can be found on top of the rack. I found this to be my favorite way to change the weight anyway, because it changes quickly with just a twist of a dial. However, if you do want to use the voice-control option, you will need an Alexa device. To do this, you will need to follow the instructions that come with the order to set up the dumbbells through your Amazon account, which is also linked to your Alexa device.
This can be tedious, because you have to make sure that wherever you choose to set up your dumbbells not only has access to a power outlet, but also a good Wi-Fi connection and is in close proximity to an Alexa device. This can pose an issue for anyone who doesn't have their Wi-Fi or Alexa set up in the same space. If the Wi-Fi or Alexa is too far away from your dumbbell set up, the voice-control option can still be used, but the connection might be spotty. I installed it in my living room, which has the best Wi-Fi connection in my home as well as an Alexa.
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Once you've run the tests to make sure your Alexa device can link to your dumbbells, you're all set to begin using them.
You will also want to download the iSelect app (available for iOS or Android), which will let you set up your own personalized weights. This was my favorite feature when using the weights because through the app I was able to personalize weights for 15 different exercises such as bicep curls, deadlifts, squats and bent-over rows.
To use the voice command option you have to say things like, "Alexa, change the weight to 40 pounds," or "Alexa, reduce weight by five pounds." If you opt to use the personalized weights option, you can speak commands such as, "Alexa, set weight to bicep curl," and the dumbbells automatically change to the weight you have programmed for bicep curls.
When I first tried the voice command option, I found that there was about a 6-second lag between the command and the weight being changed. Once the machine got warmed up, the dumbbells received the commands a few seconds faster. There were still times where it seemed Alexa would get confused and not follow through with the command.
What I liked about the set up for these dumbbells is that even though the rack looks bulkier than other adjustable dumbbell racks, it blended in with my apartment easily. These dumbbells measure 7.28 inches by 7.28 inches, so they take up minimal space. This makes them ideal whether you live in an apartment or house since they don't require a lot of room.
Workout programs available
Although it's not necessary to have the iFit membership in order to use the dumbbells, it's a nice option to have if you want to try out strength training classes with the weights. I personally used the dumbbells with my own strength training program and found they worked well with the exercises I was doing. The shape of these dumbbells made it more comfortable to hold in front of my body when doing Romanian deadIifts, goblet squats and front squats compared to other adjustable dumbbells I've used in the past. I appreciated that you aren't locked into a program to use these smart weights and can use them at your own leisure.
Pros and cons
The square shape of the dumbbells are more exercise-friendly than traditional round adjustable dumbbells.
These dumbbells are comfortable to hold for most exercises.
Having options to use both voice-control and a manual dial to adjust weight.
The ability to personalize your weights through the iSelect app.
The price tag is a bit on the higher side compared to other adjustable dumbbells.
The "smart" aspect is not as versatile as I would have liked (it doesn't count reps or correct form).
There's a slight rattling sound that appears as the weight gets heavier.
The Alexa voice-control option doesn't always function well.
How other smart dumbbells compare
With the rise of smart home gyms, it's only a matter of time before other fitness brands catch on and start making one-off pieces of smart gym equipment. Although there aren't many, brands other than NordicTrack that currently offer smart dumbbells include JaxJox, Mirror and Tempo Move. Compared to these, the NordicTrack iSelect adjustable dumbbells seem less impressive because the others have more smart features. For example, JaxJox dumbbells can keep track of your reps and sets while the Mirror and Tempo Move dumbbells can correct your form during a class using sensors and AI technology, although you need to own the entire smart home gym system.
While I liked being able to personalize my weights, I would've preferred if the NordicTrack iSelect adjustable dumbbells offered a little more with its smart features. For example, it would've been great if the weights or the iSelect app could determine when it was time for me to increase the weights if it detected I'd been using them regularly. After all, if I'm going to be using smart dumbbells, I'd like for them to challenge me.
Final verdict: Should you buy?
Any fitness equipment of this nature is going to be an investment. It all comes down to what your budget is and your desired features (including smart capabilities).
The NordicTrack iSelect adjustable dumbbells are a solid pair of dumbbells, are comparable in price to competitors, and they get the job done during a strength workout, with one big plus being their square shape, which is different from traditional dumbbells. But as "smart" dumbbells, they don't match up to the competition -- they only have one smart feature, Alexa voice command, and it's spotty at times. If you don't mind the lack of smart aspects and are primarily looking for a great adjustable dumbbell, they might still be a worthwhile purchase for you. But if you're hoping for the latest in smart fitness gadgetry, you're better off looking elsewhere.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.