Why do you need adjustable dumbbells?
Whether it’s the travel, monthly membership fees, lack of time, or even finding the motivation to just get out of the house, there are a wide range of reasons why you might not see commercial gyms as the best place to get the fitness results you’re looking for.
So what’s the alternative? For millions of people around the world it’s to build up their own collection of home gym equipment.
There are a whole host of benefits that come from creating your own fitness / weightlifting environment at home. Some of the best reasons are listed below:
- No need to spend time and money travelling
- No monthly recurring membership fees
- You can stock and upgrade only the equipment you know you’ll actually get use out of
- Most fitness equipment you buy can be used for the whole family, increasing the amount you save over commercial gym memberships
- Easier to find the time for a quick 20 minutes on the treadmill. Short sessions are better than no exercise at all!
- With the equipment in easy reach, you will be more inclined to workout. This can help you achieve any fitness and weight loss goals much faster.
There are dozens more that we could list here, but for now let’s take a look at a product that has proved one of the most popular additions to home gyms – adjustable dumbbells.
As well as taking up considerably less space than having to buy and store dozens of different fixed weight sets, you also save a large amount of money over buying these sets separately.
This is why we put together this buying guide to some of the best adjustable dumbbells for home workouts. Each review includes explaining the differences in design features, weight range, price, and what to expect from reading the customer reviews!
Our Top 3 Adjustable Dumbbells
|PowerBlock Elite Adjustable Dumbbells||Bowflex SelectTech 552||Universal Power Pak 445 Dumbbells|
|Min. weight: 5 lb||Min. weight: 5 lb||Min. weight: 4 lb|
|Max. weight: 90 lb||Max. weight: 52.5 lb||Max. weight: 45 lb|
|Increments: 2.5 lb||Increments: 2.5 lb||Increments: 5 lb|
|Rating: 5 / 5||Rating: 4.5 / 5||Rating: 4.5 / 5|
|Price range: $600 - $650||Price range: $300 - $350||Price range: $290 - $350|
Factors to consider while buying dumbbells
Is the weight range expandable?
Apart from the system you use to adjust the weight, the most important thing to consider before buying any set is decide just how much weight you will really need to achieve your fitness goals.
Although all 3 of our top adjustable dumbbells have wide ranges when it comes to your choice of weight settings, this is mainly to provide the best value for money.
One example would be if you were to buy a set of dumbbells that had a maximum weight of 25 lb.
If your strength then increased to a point where this was no longer challenging after 6 months, you would need to go through the whole buying process all over again.
Even if you can’t currently lift close to the 90 lb limit of the Powerblock set, this leaves you plenty of options for when you make strength gains in the future. That is, if you are training for strength and size.
For many people, 25 lb will be more than enough weight for their workouts, and they are simply looking to maintain their current fitness level, and perhaps gain some muscle tone.
In this case, the PowerBlock Classics would be a much more suitable option.
It’s all about realistic planning of future fitness and strength goals. If you get that right, then it makes the whole buying decision a lot more straightforward.
So you’ve shortlisted a few sets that have a challenging weight limit, and perhaps even a set that can have this limit expanded in the future. But have you considered exactly how you will achieve those fitness goals?
Whether it’s to lose 10 lb or gain 10 lb of muscle, you will need to perform workouts that work all the major muscle groups if you want to develop and maintain a balanced physique.
The easiest way to reach these bigger goals is by setting smaller ones. Incremental steps that gradually build up to a much greater achievement, and that’s exactly why it’s important to consider the increments of any adjustable dumbbell set.
While our second favourite set, the Bowflex 552s, offers a small 2.5 lb increment at lower weights, once you start getting up to 25 lb you can only adjust the weight in 5 lb increments until you get to 50 lb.
This isn’t the case for the Powerblocks, where weight cylinders loaded into the main handle allow you to adjust the weight by 2.5 lb all the way to its maximum.
Having these smaller increases and decreases lets you really work your muscles to failure, as well as making it less of a struggle when you do make the jump to lifting a heavier weight.
This is another of the reasons why we had to make this our favourite adjustable dumbbell set.
How to adjust the weight
So you’ve seen the dumbbells that have a challenging upper weight limit that will help you achieve your goals well into the future. Also, the increments are small enough to make consistent strength increases more manageable.
But just how easy are the weights to adjust once you start your workout? After all, isn’t the whole point of adjustable dumbbells that you will be constantly adjusting the weight?
Although our top 3 dumbbell sets each essentially have the same function, they all have very different systems for you to actually use.
Which one is right for you will really depend on your style of training. You may find that it takes too long to change the 2.5 lb weights inside the Powerblock handles and opt for the Bowflex set instead.
You may instead find that the Bowflex set is a bit too bulky, and that the smaller size of the Powerblocks would make them much more practical to use and store.
We’ve purposely avoided any systems that use an exposed plastic switch to slide between the different weight settings. Although these would most likely make it into our top 10, we had to be sure that we were providing you with a small collection of the very best adjustable dumbbells.
After reading numerous reviews about the difficulties of the sliding clip not locking into place or getting damaged when the dumbbell is dropped on some sets, we felt these 3 designs were the most solid and streamlined options.
Level of build quality
The final point, but one that definitely can’t be overlooked, is the overall build quality. While our own reviews will certainly be useful, it’s always good to get as balanced an opinion as possible, from as many people as possible.
That’s why we recommend setting aside some time to properly read through the reviews of Powerblock, Bowflex, and Weider dumbbells we chose for our top 3.
One of the best sources for finding dozens (if not hundreds) of reviews is by browsing the Amazon online marketplace. As well as in depth text and video reviews, you’ll also find a useful collection of questions asked by people in the same situation as you, and answered by people who have bought and used the sets.
Top 5 adjustable dumbbell reviews
If you haven’t yet had a chance to read our own in depth product articles for the sets shown above, we’ll put the links for them below:
From our own experience we have found these to be the most effective sets for improving fitness and achieving strength goals. That being said, we know that not everyone will need the 50 lb limit, or may not have the $300 to invest in one of these options.
So as a bonus, we’re extending our list of recommended adjustable dumbbells to cover 2 more sets, specifically to cater for lower budgets and weight requirements!
If you’ve ever used a set of PowerBlocks in the past, it probably comes as no surprise that we’ve chosen the 90 lb set as the best adjustable dumbbell set.
It’s their small weight increments, wide weight range, and smooth weight changing system that really makes them stand out. Not to mention their small size, which adjusts to suit the amount of weight you currently have attached.
Although our in-depth review mainly focussed on the 90 lb set, this was mainly due to providing a weight range that was suitable for all levels of strength and fitness. Offering so many other weight options in their range is another reason why we chose the PowerBlocks for the top position.
If there’s any dumbbell set that’s better known than the PowerBlocks, it’s going to be the Bowflex SelectTechs.
Their popularity and high quality design are just a couple of reasons why we chose the SelectTechs to be in our top 3, but there are also a couple of reasons why they just missed out on the number 1 position.
While the quality of each set (552 and 1090) is high, the range is relatively small compared to the PowerBlocks.
We wanted to judge the dumbbells based on the suitability to different strength levels and budgets, which is why the PowerBlocks were our top choice.
We actually found it really difficult to choose between the Universal Power-Pak set and the Ironmaster 75 lb Quick-Locks.
These are two sets that are certainly worth adding to your shortlist. The main differences being that the Ironmaster set offers a weight upgrade, and that the size of the Ironmaster set decreases as you lower the weight.
That being said, there were a couple of important features that meant we had to give the last top 3 spot to the Power-Pak set.
The dial at each end makes it easier to keep track of how much weight you have loaded onto the bar, and you don’t risk lifting an unbalanced weight that can be caused by loading the weight unevenly.
Although this is mentioning another of the sets provided by PowerBlock, there really isn’t a higher rated set available at this price point.
Buying a full pair of the dumbbells will usually cost between $160 and $200, which is considerably lower than the price of the expandable dumbbells in their ‘Elite’ range.
Featuring the same high quality, quick adjustment system, the 2.4’s are ideal for lighter workouts and lower budgets. There’s also no sacrifice on quality, being from one the global leaders in fitness equipment.
5. Stamina Versa-Bell II Dumbbells
The main reasons we included the Versa-Bells in our top 5 are the lower price and weight range. Although this particular set still offers up to 25 lb of resistance, you can often find a set available for less than $200.
The reason they didn’t make it higher up our top 5 is due to the limited weight range, as well as a lack of a dumbbell stand designed specifically for this set. This is a feature that the PowerBlocks, Bowflex, Power-Paks and IronMasters all offer.
While the 25 lb maximum weight will certainly prove a challenge to many, there is no option to upgrade once your strength gets beyond this level. This means you may eventually have to start looking at one of the heavier sets anyway, which would most likely lead you back to one of the sets in our top 3.
The best adjustable dumbbells for specific training goals
Whether you are starting a new fitness program, looking to supplement your current commercial gym workouts, or looking to setup your own home gym, finding a dumbbell set that’s high quality for an affordable price is extremely important.
The best adjustable dumbbell sets provided in this guide are, we feel, the most attractive options in terms of quality and price. They are ideal for if you are looking to invest in a set that not just lasts many years, but is also capable of providing a constant challenge.
For anyone looking to tone up and improve their overall fitness, you probably don’t want to pay for weight you won’t ever need. In this case, the PowerBlock Classics, 2.4’s, or even the Versa-Bells would be a more cost effective option.