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The best adjustable dumbbells are some of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can add to your home gym. Not only are they a space-saving alternative to owning an entire dumbbell set in different weights, but they are also typically a more cost-efficient option than just a pair of the best dumbbells.
To find the best adjustable dumbbells, our team of certified personal trainers, Olympic weightlifters, and fitness enthusiasts has researched and personally used dozens of products. Many of them reside in our own home gyms and have been through countless workouts over the years. Using our in-depth testing methodology, we rate dumbbells on a scale of 1 to 5 on categories that include:
- Durability: We look for high-quality materials instead of lots of plastic and perform drop tests to gauge construction and hardiness.
- Weight Range and Increments: We assess how many options the user has with each dumbbell, as well as how easy it is to change weights.
- Handle: We score each dumbbell on the quality of the handle, based on features such as diameter, knurling, and whether or not the handle is caged.
- Value: Based on the market, we assess if the product priced fairly for what it offers.
Best Adjustable Dumbbells 2023
Best Adjustable Dumbbells Video
Best Adjustable Dumbbells Overall: Snode AD80 Adjustable Dumbbells
Best Adjustable Dumbbells Overall
- Weight ranges from 10 to 80 lbs
- 10-lb weight increments
- 36mm handle diameter
- Cast iron dumbbell cradle
- Feels like a pro-style dumbbell
Pros & Cons
- Cast iron cradles
- Drop-proof design from up to 32”
- Solid cast iron dumbbell plates with dovetail design
- Flat dumbbell heads
- Knurled handle
- Longer dumbbell
- Only jumps in 10-lb increments
I used the Snode bells and even did some drop tests to see how durable they were. While we don’t recommend you drop any fitness equipment (do as we say, not as we do), it is nice to know that nothing will happen to these if they fall out of your hands.
I dropped these from a 30-inch plyo box at its lightest and heaviest setting and they worked just fine afterward, which can’t be said for many of the dozens of adjustable dumbbells I’ve tested since 2014, which makes them one of the few adjustable dumbbells to earn a perfect 5 out of 5 for durability from the GGR team.
These felt like pro-style dumbbells during testing, which is a huge benefit. The knurling is passive, which I’m not a huge fan of, though not overly passive so that you’ll lose your grip during high-rep workouts.
Another huge plus is the 36-millimeter handle, which is thicker than most other adjustable dumbbells. This gives you a better pump when lifting with them, especially for your forearms.
Here’s the one annoying thing about these adjustable dumbbells: They go up in 10-pound increments. Snode has said they don’t plan on releasing a 5-pound increment version any time soon, which is disappointing since it makes progressive overload a little more difficult. You can buy 2.5 – or 5-pound magnetic plates that can attach to either end, though we would’ve liked to see that on the product due to how pricey it is (to be clear, we do think it’s worth the price due to the heavy-duty construction).
Learn more in our Snode Adjustable Dumbbell review.
|Weight range||10 to 80 lbs|
|Change increments||10 lbs|
|Weight options||10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 lbs|
|Replaces||8 sets of dumbbells|
|Dumbbell size||18.11” L X 6.68” W X 6.68” H|
Best User-Friendly Adjustable Dumbbells: NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells
Good for: Someone seeking high-quality, fast-changing weights with a sleek design
Best Adjustable Dumbbells Overall
- All-in-one adjustable dumbbell
- Weight ranges from 5 to 80 lbs
- Easy to use
- Feels like a standard dumbbell
Pros & Cons
- Feels like a regular dumbbell in hand
- Easy quick-change adjustments
- Knurled handle
- Comes with a stand
- Can be tricky to get in the stand
- Unsure of structural integrity
NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells are the best of a new breed of space-saving dumbbells. They consistently had the fastest recorded times for changing weights, earning a near-perfect 4.75 out of 5 on the GGR weight change testing metric. In just a matter of seconds, you can change from 5 pounds up to 80 pounds. I tested, trained with, and reviewed the NUOBELLs in-depth and keep a pair of them in my own home gym.
To be honest, I was reluctant to order these because of all the plastic. Plastic opens the door to durability issues. However, after using these for a while myself, I can say they are well-built and aesthetically pleasing. The flat pancake plate design really sets these apart from other similar products on the market because it gives it a more natural feel than some of its competitors.
In addition to being quick to change, the NUOBELLs are some of the most familiar feeling dumbbells I’ve used. Due to the use of metal plates and an uncaged handle design, if you closed your eyes during say, a bench press, you wouldn’t even know you were using adjustable. This is highly appealing for those who don’t want to deal with more square-shaped blocks like Powerblocks or Bowflex SelectTech’s that are extremely wide even at lighter weights.
Unlike many dumbbell sets that use contoured handles with rubber or foam grips, the NUOBELLs use a barbell-type handle with a surprisingly aggressive knurled finish. This handle makes this dumbbell set really appealing to people who normally do barbell exercises because you will get to train with the same feeling you’re used to. Most rubber hex-head dumbbells use a contoured handle with some knurling, but I think many will grow to like the straight handle on these.
Due to all the plastic, this is not a set of adjustable dumbbells I would suggest dropping from even a couple of inches off the ground. Also, I don’t love that these lack upgradability (max weight is 80 pounds with no way to go higher in the future). But if you don’t need more than 80 pounds in each hand, these could be a great option.
For more, read our full NUOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells review.
|Weight range||5 to 80 lbs|
|Change increments||5 lbs|
|Weight options||5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80 lbs|
|Replaces||16 sets of dumbbells|
|Dumbbell size||17″ L x 7.5″ H x 7.5” W|
Best Heavy Weight Adjustable Dumbbells: Ironmaster Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbells
Good for: People who want heavyweight in the feel of a traditional dumbbell
Best Heavy Weight Adjustable Dumbbells
- Quickly adjustable in under 15 seconds
- Adjustable from 5 to 75 lbs
- Patented quick-lock design
- Includes a stand
Pros & Cons
- Shaped like a traditional dumbbell
- Quick-Lock system makes weights are easy and quick to change
- Lock does hold tight
- Comes with a stand
- Change weights in 2.5-lb increments
- Weight range 5 to 75 lbs
- Knurled handles
- Compact design
- Flat ends make for ease in resting weights on legs
- Fits a number of accessories like fat grip adapters and kettlebell handles
- Plates marked in kgs and lbs
- Not quite as easy to change as other options
- Priced just under $900
- Cast iron plates could crack if dropped
- Not designed for movements like snatches
If you want a more traditional feeling dumbbell, then the Ironmaster Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbell System is what I’d recommend. Ironmasters can go up to 165 pounds, use metal weight plates, and although they aren’t the quickest to change, the Quick-Lock System is very smart. I call these the Lifter’s Adjustable Dumbbells as they feel most similar to a fixed dumbbell and have the look and feel of an old-school weight room.
The Ironmaster Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbells are known for their durability, and earned a 4.5 out of 5 during the durability testing. Also, when I asked the Home Gym Community Group what they thought about Ironmasters, nearly everyone that had them remarked on how tough they were. It makes sense as they are made entirely from steel and iron.
The handles are chrome-plated, and each weight plate is machined and precision cast to ensure a tight fit. They look great, feel great, and can be relied on for years of use thanks to their quality construction materials.
With the ends of Ironmaster dumbbells being flat it is easy to rest them on your quads before starting a set in order to increase stability. Loadable dumbbells can’t really compete with this because they will dig into your legs, which makes working out on the floor unsafe. The square weights also make the workout go quicker as they don’t roll around all over the place when set on the floor.
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Ironmaster Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbells are also a great tool for those looking to do goblet squats and French presses. These workouts are more difficult to manage with other adjustable dumbbells due to a caged system or how the plates are secured. The balance and feel of Ironmasters, which is really only able to be experienced during a weight lifting session, is a more similar feeling to normal dumbbells than most other adjustable.
The stand-out feature that makes the Ironmaster Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbell special is the Quick-Lock adjustment system. The rod that holds the weights in place can quickly be removed is what separates these from other spin-lock dumbbells. They aren’t as quick to change as others on this list and they do require you to do some mental math similar to a barbell and weights, but the grooved rod that slides in and out quickly is amazing.
Editor’s Note: Due to high demand and limited supply, Ironmaster has a lottery process each month for interested customers.
To hear more, check out my in-depth Ironmaster Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbells review.
|Weight range||5 to 75 lbs (up to 165 with expansion kit)|
|Change increments||2.5 lbs|
|Weight options||5, 7.5, 10, 12.5, 15, 17.5, 20, 22.5, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 52.5, 55, 57.5, 60, 62.5, 65, 67.5, 70, 72.5, 75|
|Replaces||24 sets of dumbbells|
|Dumbbell size||14.5″ L x 6.7″ W x 6.7″ H|
Best Loadable Dumbbell: Titan Loadable Dumbbells
Good for: People who want to kick it old school with existing Olympic plates
Best Loadable Dumbbell
- High-quality steel material
- Knurling for better grip
- Target multiple muscle groups
- Compatible with Olympic plates
- Sold as a pair
- 15- and 20-in options
Pros & Cons
- Excellent universal workout tool
- Compact design makes easily portable for a great addition to any at home gym
- Quality material
- Knurled grip gives better resistance to slipping after sweating
- Great alternative to preset weighted dumbbells they allow maximum strength training achievement and room for growth
- Not everyone likes a hard knurled grip
- If you do not have Olympic-style plates already, this option could be pricey
- Heavy lifters may want/need more loadable sleeve length
Adjustable weights aren’t limited to proprietary designs. Loadable dumbbells use the Olympic plates you already own and use regularly on your barbells and can go as heavy as you could ever lift. We used to have the Rogue DB-15 Loadable Dumbbells in this spot, but we recently decided that the Titan handles take the pick due to the better pricing and free shipping Titan offers (these handles cost $99, the Rogue handles start around $135).
GGR Head of Content Kate Meier, a certified personal trainer and competitive weightlifter, has had these handles in her garage gym for nearly two years.
“They fit my existing change plates, they are easy to load and unload, they get the job done,” she says.
A loadable dumbbell often mimics one of the best Olympic barbells. The Titan loadable dumbbells feature a diamond knurling that Kate rates a 4 out of 5 (“fairly passive but still gives a good grip,” she says).
Also, because they work with existing weight plates, they are typically much cheaper to get started with than other adjustable dumbbells on the list thanks to a lower upfront cost for the majority of home gym owners.
The other feature is that they can go as heavy as you’d like. I’ve done rows with upwards of 150 pounds with loadable dumbbells, and there’s still room to spare. The Titan dumbbells are rated for as much as 400 pounds each.
There are several options for the Titan dumbbells:
- 15″ handles
- 20″ handles
- 36″ handles
Kate bought the 15-inch handles because they were on sale during Titan’s Black Friday deals a few years ago.
“I recommend the 20-inch handles, especially if you have thicker plates and thick barbell collars,” Kate says. “I have the Rogue change plates, and you can only get two 5-kilo plates on with a standard collar.”
Titan says the steel on these dumbbells is “rust-resistant.” After about two years, Kate’s dumbbells have very minimal rust, and they are kept in a non-climate-controlled garage in the South.
|Weight range||6.75″ of loadable sleeve length (on 20″ dumbbell)|
|Weight options||Unlimited, based on your change plates|
|Replaces||As many sets as your change plates allow|
|Dumbbell size||20″ long (15″ and 36″ options also available)|
Best Budget Adjustable Dumbbells: NordicTrack Select-A-Weight Dumbbell Set
Good for: The budget-conscious crowd who still want a usable adjustable dumbbell
Best Budget Adjustable Dumbbells
- 15 weight options in 2.5-lb or 5-lb increments
- 10-pound knurled handlebar
- Included storage tray
- Includes a 30-day trial to iFIT
- Compact piece of equipment with a smooth weight selection design
Pros & Cons
- 15 weights in one piece of equipment
- Includes storage tray
- Moderate knurling
- Great value, but an investment
- May feel awkward when fully loaded
The NordicTrack Select-A-Weight Dumbbell Set took the title of best budget adjustable dumbbell away from our prior pick, the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells, not only because they’re $100 less, but they’re also built more like a traditional dumbbell, offer slightly more weight at a lower price, and have a better grip. For that, we gave these a perfect 5 out of 5 for value, a score few other adjustable dumbbells have ever received from us.
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You’re usually not getting any type of knurled handle on an adjustable dumbbell set that’s around $350, but you do with these NordicTrack dumbbells. The knurling is passive enough to not bother anyone, but also is a good feel for any home fitness enthusiasts that enjoy a good knurled grip. In my testing of these, they felt very much like traditional dumbbells. They rested easily on my legs between sets and they felt great in hand.
The adjustment mechanism isn’t as smooth as Bowflex’s, which had you turn the handle. Instead, you’ll have to slide weight pin selectors to choose your desired resistance. It’s still pretty quick, though if you’re someone who prefers HIIT-style workouts you might struggle with quick adjustments on these.
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It’s impossible to overstate just how high-value these adjustable dumbbell sets are. One of the biggest benefits is that they’re shaped and feel like actual dumbbells, unlike the Bowflexs which had some slight variations that made them a bit cumbersome.
Although there’s more metal in this set than other budget-friendly adjustable dumbbells, it’s still not a set that you want to drop.
You can choose between a maximum weight of 25 or 55 pounds, but since both cost the same amount we recommend getting the 55-pounders since it will give you more value.
Learn more in our in-depth NordicTrack dumbbells review.
|Weight range||10 to 55 lbs|
|Change increments||2.5/5 lbs|
|Weight options||10, 12.5, 15, 20, 22.5, 25, 30, 32.5, 35, 40, 42.5, 45, 50, 52.5, 55|
|Replaces||15 sets of dumbbells|
|Dumbbell size in storage tray||19.4” L x 11.4” W x 8.5” H|
Best Adjustable Dumbbell Set: PowerBlock Pro Dumbbells
Good for: People who want a lot of weight options but want to save space
Best Adjustable Dumbbell Set
- Easy to use
- Accounts for 28 pairs of dumbbells and 2,565 lbs of free weights
- Changes in 2.5-lb-increments from 5 to 50 lbs
- Cageless handle
Made in USA
Pros & Cons
- Easy to use
- Accounts for 28 pairs of dumbbells and 2,565 lbs of free weights
- Weight range 5 to 50 lbs
- Cageless handle
- Purchase add-ons for up to 70 or 90 lbs per hand
- Weight changes in 2.5-increments
- Cost upward of $500/pair
- Expansion packs cost extra
- Rubber grip on handle opposed to knurled steel
If you want an upgrade and don’t mind the price, the Pro EXP PowerBlocks look great and have a cageless handle that feels more similar to a traditional dumbbell set. These are actually my favorite dumbbells from PowerBlock, and they are an upgrade to the PowerBlock Elite series. I rated all the PowerBlocks a near-perfect 4.75 out of 5 on weight adjustment speed and ease of use.
The plates on this particular set are covered in urethane, providing for a quieter workout. The 2.5-pound weight changes up to 20 pounds mean you can get a lot of weight in. In fact, if you add on the 70- and 90-pound expander kits, at $199 each, the EXP replaces up to 28 dumbbells.
I’ve talked about this ad nauseam, but I would love it if PowerBlock would offer a knurled handle for the Elite Series as an option. In fact, I’ve talked and asked them so much I think soon they’ll just give in and give the people what they want. At least I hope this is the case.
There is one PowerBlock model that I’m not a big fan of, and that is the 175-pound commercial dumbbell set. It’s awesome they can create a dumbbell that goes up to 175 pounds, however, the dumbbell is so large that it both looks and feels comical. For university weight rooms where 300-pound football linemen are training, it probably makes sense, but for most home gym owners, I’d suggest avoiding them.
Read more in my PowerBlock Adjustable Dumbbells review.
|Weight range||5 to 50 lbs|
|Change increments||2.5 lbs|
|Weight options||2.5, 5, 7.5, 10, 12.5, 15, 17.5, 20, 22.5, 25, 27.5, 30, 32.5, 35, 37.5, 40, 42.5, 45, 47.5 and 50 lbs|
|Replaces||20 sets of dumbbells|
|Dumbbell size||13″L x 7” W x 7.25″ H|
Best Adjustable Dumbbells for Beginners: FLYBIRD Adjustable Dumbbells
Best for Beginners
- Clear and easy-to-use dial that allows you to change weights with just one hand
- Weight ranges from 11 to 55 lbs per dumbbell
- 11-pound change increments
- Textured handle and cast iron weight plates
Pros & Cons
- Intuitive and easy-to-use
- Enhanced safety features
- Feel comfortable in your hand
- Safe spacing
- Quickly adjust with a dial
- 11-pound increments for weight change is a big jump in weight
With a traditional dumbbell shape, the FLYBIRDs are ideal for those not ready to take on the boxy design of something like PowerBlock. Also, the adjustment process is simple: The dumbbells come with a tray where you place the weight, line up the plates, twist the handle to the weight you want, listen for the “click,” and pick up the dumbbell.
The weight ranges include a 5-to-25-pound option, or an 11-to-55-pound option. The lighter weighted dumbbell can be changed in 5-pound increments, which is ideal for beginners.
I like that you can buy just one dumbbell at a time if you’d like. While there are many advantages to getting two, and I’d recommend getting two weights for more versatility in your workout, I know some people new to lifting may feel more comfortable easing into the process.
We did rate these lower on the durability side, at 3.5 out of 5. Why? For starters, the handles are made of plastic, not knurled steel. For the experienced lifter, this may be jarring initially. However, for the beginner, this could be a welcome design for those unaccustomed to the feel of knurling. We’re also confident that these wouldn’t pass the drop test.
It’s key to point out that on the 55-pound dumbbell, the weight changes in 11-pound increments. That’s a tad unusual, and could be a big jump for a beginner.
For more, check out my in-depth FLYBIRD Adjustable Dumbbell Review.
|Weight range||5 to 25 lbs or 11 to 55 lbs|
|Change increments||5 or 11 lbs|
|Weight options||11, 22, 33, 44, 55 lbs|
|Replaces||5 sets of dumbbells|
|Dumbbell size||16.1” L x 7.9” W x 6.9” H|
Best Ultra-Budget Adjustable Dumbbell: Kensui AdjustaBELL
Good for: People on a budget who still wants to lift moderately heavy weight
Best Adjustable Dumbbell Set
- Loadable dumbbell
- Compatible with 1" and 2" plates
- Slip-resistant rubber guard
- No overhang
Pros & Cons
- Money-back guarantee
- No overhang when you add weights
- Can use both 1” and 2” plates together
- Lifetime warranty
- Made of nylon
- Customers complained using 2” plates could be tricky without adapter
- Only available via company website
The Kensui AdjustaBELL is a loadable dumbbell that’s made of hard nylon to make it super-affordable, lightweight, and more portable. At under $100 (and frequently on sale for under $50), these loadable dumbbell handles offer some of the best value of any piece of home gym equipment, earning a 5 out of 5 for value.
In use, the AdjustaBELLS feel great. Each handle has an end cap that allows the adjustable dumbbell to sit flat on your legs while setting up for moves like the shoulder press. The end caps are secured with a thread, which means that adjusting the weights does take some time compared to something like the NÜOBELLs. The end caps work surprisingly well at eliminating any wiggle room between the weight plate and the handle.
AdjustaBELLs’ handles have a cross-etched pattern that they call “knurling,” but in my opinion, it’s just too passive to be called that. You will get some grip from it, though not nearly as much as on a metal handle.
I usually advise against equipment that’s made with lots of plastic, never mind entirely made of it, but the AdjustaBELLs are durable and as long as they’re not dropped should hold up for many years. They’re also surprisingly heavy-duty, holding up to 70 pounds per handle. While that’s not the heaviest weight out there, it’s enough for most home gym athletes and the fact that it works with 1- and 2-inch plates is a huge bonus.
We could’ve also called this the best portable adjustable dumbbell since they’re light enough to fit in a bag and used at a hotel gym that has weight plates.
Read our complete Kensui AdjustaBELL review.
|Weight range||Up to 70 lbs per handle (extensions available)|
|Change increments||N/A (based on your weight plates)|
|Weight options||Unlimited (based on weight plates)|
|Replaces||As many sets as your weight plates allow|
Other Adjustable Dumbbells We Have Tested
Rogue DB-15 Loadable Handles: These are quite possibly the best loadable handles I’ve ever used. The only real issue I have with them is the price. There are really good options on the market for less money than these. If you want to splurge, though, the knurling on these is fantastic. They are basically a mini Ohio Bar.
Pepin Adjustable Dumbbells: These are great. The problem is that they can’t be dropped and take a long time to change in comparison to Ironmasters. That said, we do recommend them, especially to those that want a spin-lock style dumbbell with a great handle. Be sure to also check out our DIY Concrete Dumbbells guide here.
Bowflex SelectTech 552: We recommended the NordicTrack Select-A-Weight Dumbbell Set over these because they’re cheaper, built more like a traditional dumbbell, and have a slightly heavier maximum weight. The Bowflex dumbbells are still a good set, though just not as high-value as NordicTrack’s.
HAVAK Adjustable Triad: These are somewhat underground adjustable dumbbells featuring three different handles at different diameters to increase grip strength. I’m a big fan of these, but they’re a very different weight option from what else is out there and are honestly in a somewhat separate category.
MX55 Rapid Change Dumbbell System: These are great and compact; however, they don’t have add-on extension kits available. We do like how quickly they change and how balanced they are.
Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells: I have yet to get my hands on these. At first glance, there are a lot of options: Singles pairs up to 105 pounds and even sets that come with a connector that changes the dumbbell into a barbell. The loadable plates are cast iron, and the handle is chrome. They are priced incredibly low–a 60-pound pair sells for just over $60. That signals to me that there may be quality issues, but I’ll report back after testing them.
NiceC Adjustable Dumbbell: The NiceC Adjustable Dumbbell is a two-in-one where the loadable dumbbells can turn into a barbell. The weight options range from a 22- to 88-pound barbell with corresponding dumbbells of 11- to 44-pound pairs. However, the “barbell” doesn’t really resemble a barbell because it just connects the two already-loaded dumbbells, so there are plates essentially in the middle of the bar. The price point is a little more expensive than the Yes4Alls, but I need to get my hands on these before I assess the quality. This could potentially be a good option for people who want to do light resistance training at home without a huge investment.
BaadAss Adjustable Dumbbells: BaadAss Adjustable Dumbbells and Pepin Dumbbells are very similar in style. The big difference is that BaadAss is practically indestructible, however, they have a worse fit and finish in their current iteration and cost more. I hope BaadAss improves some of the parts of their dumbbells and if done, I think they could end up better than Pepins.
How We Tested and Picked the Best Adjustable Dumbbells
Each model is tested by our testers based on its versatility and how well it performed during training. This means that among many other movements, we performed lunges, alternating curls, hammer curls, tricep extensions, lateral raises, single leg RDLs, and bench presses on a weight bench. To help you choose the best adjustable dumbbells for your home training needs, our testers spent time lifting each model.
Everyone trains differently and has different fitness levels, so it’s important to note how each dumbbell feels during each movement and how it differs from others, and what they’re trying to mimic: fixed dumbbells. Personally, when I was testing the equipment, I asked myself if the shape of the dumbbell limited range of motion, if they felt unbalanced or uncomfortable, or if we closed our eyes, would we know we were using a dumbbell substitute?
In addition to the host of training exercises, we did the following:
- Weighed each dumbbell at various increments to see how accurate to the stated weight they were
- Timed weight changes
- Dynamic movements to see how the weights felt
- Drop tests: Could dumbbells withstand being dropped (spoiler alert: don’t ever drop any of these, they aren’t meant to be dropped)
Our rating system assigns a score to each dumbbell on a scale of 1 to 5 in categories that include the following:
- Weight change speed: How long does it take to adjust the weight?
- Durability: Can this be dropped and not break?
- Value: Is the product worth the cost?
- Customer reviews: We take into account reviews on the brand’s and third party sites
- Weight range and change increments: How many dumbbells does this replace?
Together, our team then comes up with an overall score for each dumbbell and determines what makes this list.
Benefits of Adjustable Dumbbells
The initial sticker price of adjustable dumbbells might shock you. However, if you pick the right pair, you might find that adjustable dumbbells are some of the most worthwhile workout equipment you can own.
Benefits of Traditional Dumbbells
Dumbbell training, in general, is extremely effective, whether you’re looking to build muscle mass, do a HIIT cardio workout or burn fat. People use dumbbells for a number of reasons, including:
- Unilateral work identifies and eliminates imbalances
- Increased muscle stabilization
- Countless exercises for the upper body, lower body, and core muscle groups
- Greater range of movement and variability in the exercise
- Space-Savers: The most obvious plus to an adjustable dumbbell is that it saves an enormous amount of space. A traditional dumbbell set easily takes up substantial floor or shelving space. With adjustable dumbbells, you can get between six and 30 dumbbells in the footprint of just one pair.
- Cost-Effective: Depending on which adjustable dumbbell set you pick, you can save a significant amount of money by essentially buying 12 pairs at once.
- Durability: For the most part, adjustable dumbbells are built to withstand a lot of wear and tear. The quality ones use iron and steel to form a solid, nearly indestructible piece of equipment. Typical rubber hex dumbbells, alternatively, are prone to more damage.
What to Consider in an Adjustable Dumbbell
Since 2013, we’ve researched, tested, and reviewed nearly every adjustable dumbbell with some semblance of quality that’s available. This includes the most budget-friendly, low weight capacity, imported models all the way to the stainless steel, made-in-the-USA dumbbells with a 175-pound weight capacity.
In addition to my own training and testing, I’ve leaned on the collective opinions of the most die-hard home gym equipment owners in the known universe, our Facebook Home Gym Community.
In all this lifting of metal and plastic, I’ve found the things that are important and those which are not. There are certain features marketed by companies to sell their products that, in all honesty, provide little, if any benefit to the user. In all this testing, I’ve found the following criteria to be the most important to look for in adjustable dumbbells:
Fixed dumbbells range in weight from 2.5 pounds all the way to 300 pounds or more. Few trainees need above 100 pounds for dumbbell movements and if they do use more, they’re often using them for only a couple of movements. For this reason, an adjustable dumbbell’s ability to get as close to 100 pounds without being grossly oversized is important.
Dumbbells that can have a higher amount of weight added are even better, although not useful for most. Our favorite adjustable dumbbells allow you to grow the size and weight of your dumbbell over time.
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More durable materials like metal and nylon are superior to cheap and thin plastics for the longevity and safety of the trainee. Although it’s usually not wise to drop dumbbells, if you do, you better hope it’s made with a lot of heavy-duty metal as opposed to plastic. Metal weight sets are superior in durability.
Gym equipment breaks. Barbells end up bending, bumper plates fold, kettlebell handles separate from the bell, and adjustable dumbbells can, and do break. The longer the warranty period and the more generous the use cases of a warranty, the better.
However, a warranty is only as good as the company servicing it. If a company isn’t going to be around for long, then a lifetime warranty will do you no good, so we factor in the lifecycle of the company making the dumbbells.
RELATED: Kettlebells vs Dumbbells
Home gym exercise equipment is not an income-producing asset like the equipment bought by a commercial gym. For this reason and others, the price and, more importantly, the value of the adjustable dumbbells are extremely important.
The holy grail for adjustable dumbbells lies in the $500 to $700 range for expandable adjustable dumbbells with a high weight capacity, less and more cost-effective for lower weight increments. Cheaper adjustable weight dumbbells will prove to be more likely to get damaged because they likely sacrifice the kind of materials used.
Weight Indicator Readout
Is it easy to tell what weight you’re using? Does it require you to do mental math that can slow down your workout? Check out the labeling on the product. Some dials are simply in “sizes” of 1-10, and you have to do the math to figure out how much is on the bell. Other weight changes are clearly marked
Balance in Hand
Trainees who come from a commercial gym with access to a full fixed dumbbell set up often remark on how awkward certain dumbbells that adjust can feel. This is true, but only for certain dumbbells, and this often goes away after a few workouts. Balance in the hand is important so the user can focus on the lift instead of their safety.
Typically, the more compact a dumbbell is, the more it costs. Take Watson Dumbbells, for instance, the gold standard in the fixed dumbbell world. They’re as compact as humanly possible while relying on stainless steel instead of cast iron. The reason this is so nice is that it prevents the dumbbell from interfering with the movements.
Also, when it comes to home fitness, minimizing the space your equipment uses is often a priority. You can still find adjustable dumbbells with a maximum weight capacity that save you space because they literally put multiple pairs of weights into just one set.
RELATED: Compact Exercise Equipment
By and large, adjustable dumbbells shouldn’t be dropped. However, when hitting the end of your rep range or maxing out, it can be hard to set the dumbbell set down carefully. The ability to be dropped without breaking is something we consider when testing and something you should be aware of before purchasing.
If you plan on doing any sort of isolation or bodybuilding movements that involve supersets, being able to change the dumbbells quickly is an important feature. We timed how long it takes to go from the minimum weight to the maximum for all of the dumbbells and recorded the times.
Single Adjustable Dumbbells vs. Pairs
Beware, some adjustable dumbbells are sold as individual dumbbells and not in a pair. Some manufacturers hide this fact in fine print, while others make it well known. Some people may like just having one adjustable dumbbell because it works for their training purposes, but most people should look for an adjustable dumbbell set.
Best Adjustable Dumbbells FAQs
Who makes the best adjustable dumbbell?
This is somewhat of a hard question to answer. However, what I can say is that I think the Powerblock Elite Series are the best pair of adjustable dumbbells for most people. If you want cheaper and less weight, go with Bowflex SelectTech 552’s. If you want more weight and a more typical dumbbell experience, go with Ironmasters.
Is it worth buying adjustable dumbbells?
Anything with adjustable weights has its downsides. However, for 99% of trainees working out at home, adjustable dumbbells are vastly superior to fixed dumbbells for their space and cost savings.
Why are adjustable dumbbells so expensive?
Nearly all gym equipment is expensive when compared to many other consumer products. The reason being is due to the size and weight of the items. What gym equipment lacks in technology, it makes up for it in other areas. Adjustable dumbbells are so expensive because they have rather complex weight-changing mechanisms, require a lot of weight, and are therefore expensive to ship.
Despite their expense, they’re much cheaper than the comparable standard dumbbells that are found in most commercial gyms. You can certainly find cheap adjustable dumbbells on Amazon, but I don’t recommend a lot of those inexpensive brands because they are likely to break.
What are the heaviest adjustable dumbbells?
The adjustable dumbbells that can go the heaviest are the Powerblock Commercial Pro 175’s which can go up to 175 pounds. I have a set of these and although they go that heavy, I wouldn’t recommend them for most as they’re enormous. Almost comical to be honest. For most people, the Ironmasters that go up to 165 LB are a better option at heavier weights.
How do adjustable dumbbells work?
Adjustable dumbbells have several weight stacks on top of each other, and you can choose how heavy you want them to be at a given time by using the adjustment mechanism. For some this is a revolving handle that you twist when the adjustable dumbbells are in the cradle, and others involve using a magnetic pin to make your weight selection.
How heavy should my adjustable dumbbells be?
The answer will change for most people, but generally, you want your adjustable dumbbells to be heavy enough that it’s a challenge but not so heavy that you’re struggling to pick up the maximum weight. A beginner should look for an adjustable dumbbell with a maximum weight around 50 pounds, and ideally should be expandable. More advanced lifters will want to look for models with a maximum weight of around 90 pounds.
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