So you’ve decided that you want to get some adjustable dumbbells?
About a year ago I was also in the same position where I got to the point where I’d had enough of the dumbbells I was using. They were the cheap kind of adjustable dumbbells that cost around £30 and come in a plastic case. Even though they worked, they weren’t satisfying to use, and the nut to hold the weights together kept loosening.
I never considered buying a better quality dumbbell and used the same one for years since I believed I had seen everything the adjustable dumbbell market had to offer at the time. To me an adjustable dumbbell only came in one mode, and that was the cast iron ones with the iron discs that are locked in place by the spin lock.
Lol and Behold: There are many Types of Adjustable Dumbbells!
It was only until I read what other adjustable dumbbells people used, that I realised that there are so may different types available on the market. Many of them also solve a lot of the problems that my cast iron dumbbell set had, such as speed of change and max weight. So if you are also looking for some dumbbells this guide is for you and I’ll take you through all the things to consider including letting you know which model I finally chose.
Features to Consider When Buying An Adjustable Dumbbell Set
Before jumping in head first and buying any old set of weights, you will need to think and plan ahead. For example what kind of workouts are the weights for? Are you looking to build some serious muscles or are they for rehabilitation exercises?
In this section, you’ll see some of the factors you may want to consider before making your final choice of adjustable dumbbells.
1) How Much Room Do You Have To Store Your Weights?
One of the first things to think about when buying adjustable dumbbells is the max weight that you want and how much room you have to store them. There are a wide range of plate and handlebars when you look at professional lifting sets that will increase your choices when you work out.
Even though it is an attractive option, you also need to decide if you have enough room to store a big set. If you don’t you may want to just focus on the size of weights that you need at the moment, and then add to the set later.
2) The Styles and Type of Adjustable Dumbbell Set
This is where I was naive. I always assumed there were only the old fashioned cast iron dumbbells with the spin lock that hold the discs in place. Little did I know there were other dumbbells which offered quicker ways to change the weights around.
With this type, you are literally able to dial the amount of weight that you want to work out with. Once you dial the preferred weight, you can life up the dumbbells, and the chosen weight attaches to the ends. Any extra plates will be left on the holder making this a convenient type of adjustable dumbbell.
A spinning lock holds together multiple weight plates, and this is the most common type of adjustable dumbbell. This traditional set allows you to manually place your desired weight onto each end of the pole and hold them in place by twisting a metal lock until it is tight.
It is a more ungainly system than the dial-a-weight style, but it is a lot less expensive.
– Selector Pin Dumbbells
Similar to the dial-a-weight as there isn’t any manual placement of the weights on the bar, but you do have to move a pin to choose the preferred weight that you wish to work with. After you choose your desired weight, the rest of the plates will remain on the holder. This is a great middle area of cost and convenience. The PowerBlock Adjustable Dumbbells (reviewed below) are known for using this method.
3. Maximum Weight You Want To Lift
Depending on your preferences, you can purchase either lighter or heavier sets. Most adjustable dumbbells have a fifty pound per weight maximum, and a total weight maximum of one hundred pounds. It is important to purchase a set that can grow with you as you get stronger, instead of being stuck with a set that you have outgrown (i.e. what happened with me)
4. Weight Increments
When considering a dumbbell set, make sure it is capable for making small and large weight adjustments. You want the adjustable dumbbells to be able to handle large increments when you need to switch from a light weight to a heavy weight, for instance if you are moving from a tricep exercise to a squat. However, it is also important for your adjustable dumbbell set to be able to handle small changes so that you can slowly progress through the weights as you get stronger in a particular exercise.
Look for a set that has increments in 5, 2.5, or 1.5-pounds, so that you can adjust your weight according to your fitness needs.
The good thing about the spin lock dumbbells is that you can usually buy small increments in whatever size you wish, however for the branded specialised adjustable dumbbells, you will have to move up or down in their predetermined weight increments. This is important because if you’re pushing close to your max at a particular weight, and you only need an increase of 1.5 pounds for your next session, it’s not going to be helpful if the next weight increment is 10 pounds or larger. Reviewing the weight increments is an important factor you don’t want to forget to take into consideration.
5. Quality & Budget
When considering quality in an adjustable dumbbell set, you want to pick a high quality brand so that you know your training will be safe and reliable when you use them. The last thing you would want is for a weight to come loose and smash you in the face or on your feet.
Spending a bit more on a good quality set rather than a cheap set is advisable when it comes to adjustable dumbbells.
6. Storage Method
Do you want your dumbbells to be always out and on show and in a position to pick them up with ease or are you fine with storing them in your wardrobe?
Stands make it very easy and convenient to store your adjustable dumbbells, and this features can be a real bonus if you can afford it. They tend to be more expensive, but the convenience is great especially if you are using an area that is not set up as a home gym.
– No Stand
This less expensive option can also be an unwieldy problem when you are not using the dumbbells. If you have a basement or home gym, they won’t be in the way on the floor, so the lack of stand won’t be an issue.
The Top 5 Adjustable Dumbbells
As I was doing my research the same names kept coming up as recommended dumbbells. Not surprisingly these were the sets that made the list.
What I had decided when I was looking for a set for myself, was that I didn’t mind spending a significant amount of money on these weights. I figured that a good quality pair would last me a life time and therefore any high prices wouldn’t scare me away. I believed that they would become a valuable investment. Spending around a few hundred pounds or dollars on a set of good dumbbells that last a lifetime is always better than going for a cheap pair that cause frustration and break easily.
1. Ironmaster Quick Lock Adjustable Dumbbells
- Comes with a Quick-Lock design that adjusts from 5-75 lbs in increments of 2 1/2 lb increments
- Made of a super heavy duty construction with welded steel, chrome plated handles
- This system includes two dumbbells at 75 lbs each
- Comes with free stand and exercise poster
- Have a super space efficient design that takes up less than 2 square feet
- Comes with a limited lifetime warranty
- The stand is compact, and it is not too tall
- Having these dumbbells is as good as having a complete rack of dumbbells
- Moving the set is very easy and efficient since the plates stack together well
- If you are not careful to tighten the pins, the plates can become loose
- Does not work well with quick change exercises such as super sets or drop set.
- Paint chips off with the lightest use
The Ironmaster Quick Lock Adjustable Dumbbells offer durable construction with weights that range from 5 to 75 pounds in increments of 2.5-pounds, and they do come with a stand.
This set has the quick lock adjustment system, and unlike other dumbbells that take several minutes for weight adjustments, the Ironmaster can be adjusted in under 15 seconds.
They are also very flexible with the amount of weight that you can use during your training, and you can purchase either the 45 or 75 pound set. Plus, there is an add-on kit that can be purchased that will increase your weight options to 120 pounds.
This set is a good investment for a home gym that will help you maintain your fitness routine in your own home. Changing plates is easy and fast with the quick lock technology, and the ability to purchase additional weights allows the set to grow with you as you train.
2. PowerBlock Elite Dumbbells
- Has a weight range of 5-50 lbs per hand (depending on model)
- Can expand to 70 90 or 130 lbs per hand (depending on model)
- Comes with a 10 year home use warranty (Lifetime for the U series)
- Will replace 16 pairs of dumbbells in the space of 1
- Well-made, comfortable grip, worth the price
- Very east to adjust the weight, very stable
- If you do a chest press with more weight, it gets challenging since the set gets wider
- Go up in 5 pound (2.5 kg) increments which is too much for some people
- Selector mechanism can be fiddly and cumbersome
- Not resistant to damage when dropped
Buying the PowerBlock Elite Dumbbells is like getting sixteen different sets of dumbbells instead of one for your training. It has a 50-130 maximum weight range so that you have everything you need to hit your training goals. This set uses the selector pin system to adjust the weight, which is similar to the weight machines in the gym, and just as easy to use.
The PowerBlock Elite Dumbbells are made of a strong material that is very durable, which is great if you are using them several times a week. These dumbbells will definitely stand up to whatever type of training you have planned, since the PowerBlock brand is known for its toughness, and holding up to challenging circumstances.
After the first five pounds, the weight goes up in 5 pound increments. These are a very versatile set of weight, and can be adapted to suit your needs. The pin system is simple and easy to use, so that you can change out the weight to increase your training when you wish. They also come with a 10 year warranty if you use these dumbbells in your home.
3. Universal PowerPak Adjustable Dumbbells
- Each of the dumbbells adjusts from 4 to 45 pounds in increments of 5 pound increments.
- Allows you to quickly switch from one exercise to the next
- Are a great space and money saver as they replace 9 sets or 18 individual dumbbells
- Includes an ergonomically designed dumbbell stand that will neatly store your dumbbells
- Has a durable thermoplastic rubber handle for a comfortable non-slip grip
- Comes with a workout guide
- Great for low to moderate weight lifting
- Great price, and quick weight adjustment
- You can change the weight on either side of the dumbbell
- Maximum weight is only 45 pounds
- Limited lifting options with only nine settings
- Weights shift back and forth as you use them
The Universal PowerPak Adjustable Dumbbells with Stand is a dial-a-weight system that can adjust from 4 to 45 pounds in increments of five pounds with just the touch of a dial. They feature handles with no-slip grips for additional safety, and a comprehensive workout guide to help you maximize your workout, plus a space-saving storage shelf.
The maximum weight of the Universal PowerPak is 45 pounds, and it comes with nine weight settings. They have an easy twist and go adjustment, and it is one of the more affordable set of dumbbells on the market. They also come with a one year warranty.
4. Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells
- Each of the dumbbells can adjust from 5 to 52.5 pounds in increments of 2.5-pound increments up to the first 25 pounds
- Allows you to quickly move from one exercise to the next
- Allows you to combine 15 sets of weights into one, using a unique dial system
- Gets rid of the need for multiple dumbbells cluttering your workout space
- Comes with a two year warranty on weight plates and parts
- High quality product that is adaptable for different training programs
- Weight variety makes it easy to adjust
- Great for beginners
- Weight plates don’t feel completely secure when lifting
- Less durable than traditional dumbbells
- Dumbbells are too long
The Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells are one of the best-selling sets of dumbbells on the market. The have adjustable weight from 5 to 5.25 pounds in increments of 2.5 pounds, or 10 to 90 pounds in increments of 5 pounds. They have the dial-a-weight system, so you can conveniently adjust the weight you are working with a quick twist of a dial.
The BowFlex SelectTech are very versatile with a great price tag. They come with fifteen different settings for each of the dumbbells, and they give you a wide range of weight options to choose from. You also don’t have to purchase the set as BowFlex will give you the option of just buying a single dumbbell.
The comprehensive DVD will help you make sure you are lifting in a safe manner. These are high-quality dumbbells that you can adapt in a lot of different ways depending on your training routine. They are ideal for beginners as well as the advanced athlete.
5. XMark Adjustable Dumbbells
- Comes with two 25 lb. adjustable dumbbells with storage trays
- Made of heavy-duty chrome plated steel construction
- Will get rid of the need for multiple dumbbells
- Has a compact and easy to use design that saves space and time
- Great price, very durable
- Can buy a single dumbbell if you prefer
- Do not get damaged when dropped
- Weight increments are too large
- Only good for lifting 50 pounds or less
- Hard to secure plates before you workout
The XMark Adjustable Dumbbells are a great option, if you are looking to buy a single 50 pound weight dumbbell, a pair of 25-pound maximum weight dumbbells, or a pair of 50-pound dumbbells. The versatility of the product allows each of the options to adjust their weight with just a simple twist of a knob. They are made of heavy-duty chrome plated steel construction, and they will not get damaged when they are dropped.
The XMark Adjustable Dumbbells have a minimum weight of 5 pounds on the 25-pound max weight dumbbell, and a 10 pound minimum weight on the 50-pound max weight dumbbells. The ability to purchase just a single dumbbell is a great money saver while still maintaining a high-quality training program.
Narrowing the Choices Down: SelectTech vs PowerBlock
As I was doing my research the same two names kept being recommended over and over again and these were the Bowflex SelectTech and the PowerBlocks, so for me it was going to be one of these two that I would choose.
Watch the video below for a comparison between the two.
At first when I saw images of the two dumbbells I immediately looked at the Bowflex SelectTech and said, ‘those are the ones!’ Not because I can tell quality but because I couldn’t work out what the PowerBlocks were or how they even worked.
The other thing about the Bowflex was that they have a dial to choose what weight you want, whilst the PowerBlocks had some fiddly piece of plastic that you have to slot in carefully to get the right weight you want.
But what turned me back to the PowerBlocks is that I read some people had experienced the plates on the SelectTechs coming loose whilst using them. To be honest I have no idea how legitimate these claims are but a couple of them have surfaced. This was a major turn off.
The other major factor for me for not choosing the Bowflex was just how long in length the Bowflex SelectTechs are. Even at low weights they are always the same length (which to me look so long they resemble mini barbells). Even with my existing spinlock dumbbells they had a metal rod that would catch on my clothes, and when I would do fly’s, they would smash together. I’d imagine it would be much worse with the SelectTechs because they look a lot longer.
However with the PowerBlocks they are incredibly compact. If I want to do a dumbbell curl I can keep the dumbbell close to my body rather than having to spread my arms further out to accommodate the length. With the PowerBlocks, they get longer as the weight increases.
My Choice of Adjustable Dumbbell: PowerBlock U90’s
After all my research in the end I went with the PowerBlock Adjustable dumbbells. In particular I went with the PowerBlock U90’s.
I do favour the dial a weight and the smaller increment jumps on the Bowflexs but not enough to turn me back to them.
PowerBlock dumbbells have different ranges and I went for the U90’s which are the most expensive in the range. The reason I went with this particular PowerBlock is that the u90s (as opposed to the u50’s) don’t really have a maximum weight as you can add another kit to it if you want to go over 90lbs, whilst 50lbs is the max for the other version.
The other different is that you can get standard PowerBlocks without the ‘U’. The U stands for Urethane and provide a softer quieter experience rather than having the clanging plates of the standard models. I figured since I was spending so much I may as well get the ones I really want. Someone may choose this option if they work out early in the morning and don’t wish to wake anyone else in the house.
I hope that this guide has been useful and will help you choose the right dumbbell for you!
Also feel free to share your experiences with any of the models you use, or mention any dumbbell sets that you think should have been on the list.