Adjustable dumbbells are a great way to save money and space in a home gym. There are tons of sets that are all a little different. Here are the four best adjustable dumbbell sets and what you should look for to select one.
Adjustable dumbbells are a good choice for most home gyms since they are smaller and cheaper than a full set of fixed dumbbells. For most people dumbbells with a weight range of 5 to 50 lbs. with 2.5 or 5 lbs. increments are good. Also pay attention to the selection mechanism.
Here’s what you need to know.
Best Adjustable Dumbbells
Here are the best sets of adjustable dumbbells. There are many models on the market and they are all slightly different. Let’s look at what the best sets of adjustable dumbbells are for a certain characteristic. Not everyone is looking for the same thing but here are the four best sets for different things many people are looking for.
#1: Best Overall
The best set of adjustable dumbbells for most people is the BoxFlex ST552. They are affordable, well built, have a range of 5-50 lbs., and have a solid but easy to use adjustment mechanism.
Up to 25 lbs. the weight increments are 2.5 lbs., after 25 lbs. the increments are 5 lbs. This means you have plenty of adjustment to pick exactly the weight you need. The adjustment mechanism is a simple dial so adjusting the weight is super easy. Just return the dumbbells to the base station, turn the dial and the dumbbells will pick up the right weight. It’ll just take a few seconds.
These look like normal dumbbells and can be used in the same way as any other dumbbell so there is no learning curve there. On top of all that, they aren’t too expensive, especially compared to a similar range of fixed dumbbells, and they come with a 2 year warranty.
Need more weight? BowFlex got you covered with the BowFlex ST1090. These have a weight range from 10 to 90 lbs. with 5 lbs. increments. This is a very wide range and should cover the needs of most avid weightlifters. 90 lbs. per hand is more than most people need. These are basically the bigger version of the ST552. The lowest weight is 10 lbs. which might be a bit too much for the smallest exercises but a separate pair of 5 lbs. dumbbells is easy and cheap to get. Much cheaper and smaller than getting a pair of 60 lbs. dumbbells if you’d need them.
Of course you’ll have to make some compromises. A dumbbell this style that goes up to a high weight is larger. So even when you leave most of the weight off, the core of the dumbbell is larger than the lighter dumbbells. They are also more expensive but that is to be expected since you have more weight.
These are sold as singles so you’ll need to order two.
Not sure if you need heavy dumbbells and would like the option to expand your weight later on? While you could buy a light and a heavy set, there are other options. Some of the adjustable dumbbells are expandable. The dumbbells where this is (sometimes) a possibility is the Power Block style of dumbbells.
PowerBlock EXP models have this option. The EXP stands for expandable. That means you can buy add on weights that attach to the original dumbbells. You can get 20 or 40 lbs. extension weights to get the maximum weight up to 70 or 90 lbs. There is a pretty big BUT here. The expansion weights are made by a different company. While they are endorsed by PowerBlock, it’s still a risk. The fit and finish could be slightly off.
If you’re sure you need the heavier weight at some point, just get the heavier dumbbells from the start.
#4: Small and cheap
Don’t want to spend that much money? Check out the FLYBIRD adjustable dumbbells. They range from 5 to 25 lbs. and are significantly cheaper than the other dumbbells on this list. There is also a model that goes up to 55 lbs. but that one is not much cheaper than the BowFlex ST552 which have better features so that should be your choice if you need more than 25 lbs.
These FLYBIRD dumbbells are simple but well built. The plates don’t move once they’re attached to the handles and the adjustment mechanism works well and is easy to use. The 25 lbs. versions adjust in 5 lbs. increments and are quite a bit cheaper than anything on this list.
What makes good adjustable dumbbell?
You might wonder what good adjustable dumbbells should do. Here are the most important points you should look for.
- Easy to use selection mechanism: The weights should be very easy to select. With fixed dumbbells you can grab another pair in just a few seconds. Adjusting an adjustable dumbbell shouldn’t be much more difficult.
- Sturdy selection mechanism: The selection mechanism should be long lasting. This is often the weak point of an adjustable dumbbell so you don’t want it to be built in a cheap way. If this part breaks you’ll have to fix it before you can use the dumbbells again or it turns into a very expensive fixed dumbbell.
- Comfortable to use: Think about which type of exercises you want to use it for. For many exercises the shape doesn’t matter. For others the shape does. The PowerBlock shape can get in the way on exercises like a pullover. There aren’t too many exercises where this is a problem but give your workout program some thought.
- Customer service: Because adjustable dumbbells have more points of failure than fixed dumbbells, buy from a brand that has good customer service and parts availability.
- Weight range: The weight range for most people should be from 5 to 50 lbs. That is enough range for most people to do most exercises. If you’re strong and know you’ll need more than 50 lbs., go for a model that goes up to 70 or 90 lbs.
- Increments: The weight should be possible to increase in small enough increments. Big jumps in weight might cause you to plateau because the next step is too heavy. The best increment is 2.5 lbs. up to about 15 lbs. and 5 lbs. increments after that.
- Expandability: Not a necessity but very nice to have is expandability. Some PowerBlock models have the option to add 20 or even 40 lbs. of extra weight on top of the 50 lbs. maximum.
Fixed or Adjustable dumbbells?
Should you get a set of ‘normal’ fixed dumbbells or go for a pair of adjustable ones. The differences are pretty clear but what is the right choice for you?
Let’s go through the pros and cons:
Fixed dumbbells pros and cons
- The standard. Everyone is used to them
- Multiple people can use a set at the same time
- Almost impossible to break
- Easy to expand
- Takes up a lot of space
- A full set is expensive
Adjustable dumbbells pros and cons
- Cheaper for a full set
- Much more compact
- Just as effective in building muscle and strength as fixed DB’s
- Larger size is sometimes a hindrance on a few exercises
- Selection mechanism could wear out/break
- Most models cannot easily be expanded in weight
What’s best for you?
So is a set of fixed or adjustable dumbbells best for you?
With the pros and cons above you can probably make a good decision if adjustable dumbbells are right for you. Most people that treat their equipment with a little care and work out alone, will be well served by adjustable dumbbells.
Since home gyms are often a little limited in budget and space, a set of adjustable dumbbells is often a good choice. Are there a few downsides? Yes but they are relatively minor. However, if you’ve got the space and the money, I would still go for the full set of fixed dumbbells. They’re just a little bit more flexible to use and will last longer. However, they cost a multiple of a set of adjustable dumbbells and take up much more space.
If you’re looking for a compact and simple home gym setup, a set of good adjustable dumbbells is the way to go. You can just put them in a cupboard when you don’t want to see them and they’re out of sight. That means you don’t even need a dedicated home gym space.
Favorite home gym tools
Many people often forget a few important pieces of their home gym that isn’t directly gym equipment. Here are my favorite home gym tools.
- Interval timer: To time your intervals and all types of other workouts, the GymNext Flex is easily the best and easiest to use.
- Mirrors: Fab & Glass (Amazon link) makes the best large mirror sheets so you can see your exercise form.
- Flooring: American Floor Mats gym flooring (Amazon) or equipment mats make your gym quieter, easier to clean and keeps your floor and equipment safe.
- Fan: The Rowenta VU5670 (Amazon) is a great way to stay cool while working out.