Best Adjustable Dumbbells Reviews for Strength Training, Conditioning and Both
Rejected home gym equipment: you’ve seen it, right? Whether it be on a local for sale website or splashed across social media, it is fairly easy to find displeased consumers trying to make some quick bucks from what they once thought was a great investment.
One such item I frequently see is a spare set of dumbbells that someone has either outgrown or does not find beneficial.
What’s ironic is that dumbbells are one of the best gym tools you can have for building muscle, adding aerobic resistance, and conditioning in general. Not to mention they're also space saving, affordable and easy to operate. So why do these gems seem to be cast away so easily by home gym owners?
It's because to really benefit from your using dumbbells in your workouts, you need to have a wide variation of weights. You don’t want to use the same dumbbell for a front raise with your small shoulder muscles as you would for a row, using your entire back, right?
In this sense, dumbbells become a limiting factor, because you can’t really do everything you’d like to do. Luckily, there’s a solution: adjustable dumbbells.
What's So Great About Adjustable Dumbbells?
The first thing you notice about adjustable dumbbells is that they can look much different from traditional dumbbells...sexier, for sure, but that's not the only thing they've got going for them.
TRADITIONAL DUMBBELLS VS ADJUSTABLE DUMBBELLS
The basic premise is that you have one main bar which can load or unload weight at your desire. So, if you want 10 pounds for that front raise and 35 pounds for your one-arm row, then you can easily make that happen by adjusting the weights on the main bar.
Flexibility with your options lends to freedom in your workouts, which will boost your attitude toward making your home workouts happen.
One of the main appeals to investing in adjustable dumbbells is the fact that they are so much more cost-effective than their traditional counterparts; you can expect to spend around $1000 trying to get a good weight range of traditional dumbbells, whereas adjustables typically come in at less than half of that price.
Here's a quick example...
TRADITIONAL DUMBBELLS VS ADJUSTABLE DUMBBELLS
Traditional dumbbells set ranging from 5 lbs to 50 lbs = over $500
Adjustable dumbbells pair ranging from 5 lbs to 52.5 lbs = less than $300
Also, let’s talk about the space factor. If you buy a full set of dumbbells that you need, then you are definitely looking at sacrificing major wall space for their safe keeping. The main advantage of adjustable dumbbells is that you get a condensed version of an entire rack of dumbbells, enabling you to save a whole lot of space.
Just take a moment to compare these two options...
TRADITIONAL DUMBBELLS VS ADJUSTABLE DUMBBELLS
Traditional dumbbells rack with weights ranging from 5 pounds to 50 pounds. Measures 40-by-30-by-20 inches.
Adjustable dumbbells pair ranging from 5 pounds to 130 pounds. Replaces 34 pairs of traditional dumbbells.
Finally, investing in adjustable dumbbells means that you can yield greater results in your training. Your body quickly adjusts to the resistance you put against it; that means as you increase in strength and endurance, you have to increase your resistance. A single pair of traditional dumbbells does not allow for this, and you will have to keep buying new sets ($$!).
Your adjustable set will give you a better sense of your training gains, as you can constantly vary your resistance and move up in weight when you’re ready.
How to Choose the Best Adjustable Dumbbells for You
So, what makes for a great set of adjustables? There are options…lots of options!
Adjustable dumbbells have actually been around for approximately 50 years, but the market has exploded with variations, as technology has evolved in the last 10 years or so. Major at home-fitness programs like P90x and Beachbody are to thank for this; the old-school option of screw on collars is not convenient when moving through a quick circuit.
Manufacturers agreed and decided to up the choices, and now you have a lot to consider. So, this handy list is your go-to guide for determining what set would be best for you.
- How will you be using them?
This is, perhaps, the most important factor for deciding which set will work best for you. If you are trying to light up your fat-burning furnace with fast-paced conditioning workouts (also great for building endurance), then you have a different need than someone who prefers traditional weight training with stand-alone exercises (for building muscle strength and mass).
If you are primarily doing circuits or aerobic exercise, then you know your rest breaks are limited - like, 30 seconds max kind of limited. However, if you are strength training, then you typically get three to five minutes between sets. So the ease of adjustability is the biggest factor here, given you need a set that is quick and easy to adjust if you’re circuit training.
- What if I want to use them for both conditioning and strength training?
That’s awesome. You should definitely look for a set that can be adjusted quickly (for aerobic conditioning) but has a maximal weight that will challenge you for strength training. See our best adjustable dumbbell reviews below to find your perfect fit!
- Okay, what about maximum weight?
On average, most of these weights top out at about 50 pounds each, or about 100 pounds total. But there are definitely some that exceed that, if you’re looking to bulk up and need some heavy iron.
You also need to consider your current fitness level here and remember that you want a weight that will grow with you. Something else to look at with the weight options is the increments that the weight can be adjusted. Determine if you want a set that can be adjusted at 2.5 pound increments or 5 pound increments. Some heavier lifters consider the 2.5 pound increment a wasted feature.
- What are the different styles of adjustment, and how easy are they to adjust?
Adjustable dumbbells...adjust. But they don't all do it the same way and these differences that determine whether you pick a set that you love or a set that you can live without. Devils in the details, right?
So what are the styles of adjustment? The big three options are spin-lock, dial and selector pin. Let's take a closer look at each one...
The more traditional option, this one features multiple weight plates held together with a lock that spins. It’s pretty simple in that you load up how much weight you want on either end and then twist the metal lock until it is tight.
Hey strength-trainers, this is your go-to because it takes a bit more time than the dial option. You could go with this for aerobics too, if you’re going to use the same amount of weight for your workout. The plus-side of this option is that it’s typically the most affordable.
This type of adjustable dumbbell is pretty simple: a dial allows you to choose how much weight you want to lift. When you turn the dial to that amount of weight, you then just have to lift the barbell, and the amount of weight that you chose will be attached to the end. Easy breezy, right?
The remaining plates stay in the holder until you’re ready to change again. The functionality makes this type ideal for those who want versatility in using dumbbells for both aerobic conditioning and strength training. These are definitely the easiest and most convenient, but because so, they can be pricey.
Similar to the dial option listed above, you do not have to manually change the plates to get the desired amount of weight. All you need to do is move a pin to choose which weight you need for the exercise at hand; any unwanted weight remains in the holder.
While this option typically serves as the middle ground for convenience and affordability, they are not always the sturdiest options. Some users have experienced the weights coming loose during high-intensity workouts, so these may not be best for fast movements.
What are the Best Adjustable Dumbbells?
Okay, now that we have been through Adjustable Dumbbells 101, let’s talk about the best options we have found. These reviews should give you a great starting point as you decide which adjustables you want in your home gym.
This dial-system set is a fan favorite for its well, sexy, design and ease of adjustability. Bowflex currently offers two models. For the SelectTech 552, each dumbbell adjusts from 5 to 52.5 pounds, in 2.5 pound increments.
If you want a heavier option, the SelectTech 1090 allows you to adjust from 10 pounds all the way up to 90 pounds in 5 pound increments. And all you have to do is turn the dial to the weight you want.
Both come with a two-year warranty on weight plates and parts.
Because of the rapid switch ability, this is great for those doing high-intensity aerobic conditioning. If you’re looking to lift heavier weights and simply strength train, these may not be heavy enough for your goals. Also, for you heavy lifters - these aren’t made to be dropped, so lifting to failure may not be an option for you with this set.
The PowerBlocks use a magnetic pin system and can go all the way up to 130 pounds (when purchasing an add-on set). The basic set only goes up to 50 pounds.
The weight is changeable in 5 pound increments, and the pin system allows for a quick and easy adjustment. These are good-space savers as they come in a block and won’t roll, given their square shape, and they come with a 10-year warranty.
One frequent complaint falls on the design of the weights; there are four pillars around your hand/wrist that can feel very awkward when lifting heavy weights and performing certain exercises (chest flys, for example). They are definitely sturdy, but when getting up to heavier weight settings, can rattle around some.
Overall, this set is great for those who want to both strength train and lift heavy without buying a gigantic barbell rack for a range of weights.
- Adjustment: Selector pin system that allows you to choose the color (corresponds to weight) that you want to lift very quickly
- Maximum weight: The basic set goes up to 50 pounds but you can purchase extensions all the way up to 130 pounds for each hand
- Increments: The PowerBlock Elite can be adjusted by as little as 2.5 pound increments so you can create more weight combinations. The classic PowerBlock is only adjustable in 5 pound increments.
Strength trainers, this one’s for you. The quick-lock design adjusts from 5 to 75 lbs in 2.5 increments; of course you have to manually add and remove weights, but the durability of this set makes up for it.
If you want a heavier load, you can even get the 120 pound add on kit, which adds up to 45 pounds on each dumbbell for a total load of 120 pounds on each hand.
Ironmaster's adjustable dumbbells boast “super heavy duty construction with welded steel, chrome plated handles.” They also have a limited lifetime warranty and are major space savers, taking up less than two square feet.
Another major perk for this set is that the bar is only as wide as the amount of weight you are using, so that helps to maintain pristine form. The weights do not shift or move around once they are tightened, and the design makes them feel balanced regardless of the amount of weight on them. These can even be dropped, given their sturdy construction.
The downside? Due to the time it takes to manually change plates, these are not the best option for those doing circuits and aerobic conditioning. But for strength training? They're the best adjustable dumbbells you can get your hands on.
Oh, the Ironmaster adjustable dumbbells set also comes with a sleek stand to keep your dumbbells and weights on so that's an extra perk.
- Adjustment: Spin lock system that takes a little more time than a simple dial or selector pin adjustment system but is very secure - perfect for lifting
- Maximum weight: The basic set goes up to 75 pounds but you can purchase an add on kit to take it all the way up to 120 pounds for each hand
- Increments: Can be adjusted by as little as 2.5 pound increments so you can create more weight combinations
The Universal PowerPak Adjustable Dummbells (stand included) use a dial system and allows for adjustment from 4 to 45 pounds in 5 pound increments.
Despite using a dial system, the manufacturer uses a proprietary locking system for safe, sturdy workouts, and there is minimal shaking/jiggle when using the dumbbells. The stand that is included is very well-designed and makes changing the weights much easier.
Because these only go to 45 pounds, they are definitely better for those who are doing aerobic conditioning and light strength training. Another bonus is their cosmetic appeal: this is a really nice looking set that saves space.
The Bayou adjustable dumbbells go up to 50 pounds, in 5 pound increments, and it’s made with heavy-duty, chrome-plated steel.
This system uses a pin adjustment system in the form of a knob, so adjusting is quick and easy. All you do is move the adjustment knob to the desired weight. The overall design is an ultimate space saver, and is also aesthetically pleasing.
This adjustable dumbbell set also comes with its own stand, but it acts more like a weight cradle than a stand.
Similar to others, the quick adjustability makes it ideal for workouts that need a variety of weights which can be changed out fast. The downside is that the 50-pound capacity can be limiting if you’re looking to make some serious weight training gains.
With the boom in demand and evolution of technology, you should have no issues finding the perfect adjustable dumbbell for your personalized home gym.
We always love to hear your feedback; which adjustable do you think is the best? How do you use it? Let us know if there’s a “diamond in the rough” that we missed in our product reviews, too! Happy lifting.