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Best Adjustable Dumbbells

Updated December 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 56 Models Considered
  • 12 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 114 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best adjustable dumbbells

    Last Updated December 2018

    When people initially think about slimming down, they turn to diet. Once they feel they’ve reached a healthy weight, they often turn their thoughts to increasing muscle mass. For more effective results, consider putting these two processes together. For a society obsessed with multitasking, bulking up and slimming down at the same time fits perfectly!

    To improve your weightlifting results at home, you no longer need bulky sets of free weights. These expensive sets occupy a lot of space. Instead, consider the best adjustable dumbbells for a more efficient exercise routine at home.

    Read our shopping guide to learn more about the best adjustable dumbbells. Use the information in the guide with our product selections to find the best set for your needs.

    Adjustable dumbbells save money over the long run versus gym memberships or full barbell sets.

    Adjustable dumbbells explained

    An adjustable dumbbell uses a series of removable plates to achieve different levels of weight. The ease of removing and replacing these weight plates makes adjustable dumbbells a desirable, flexible option.

    The weight plates sit in a rack with the bar in the middle. To select the desired weight for the adjustable dumbbell, twist a dial or move a pin to a new position on the rack.

    The rack then attaches the needed weight plates to the bar to equal the selected weight. When you lift the dumbbell, any unused plates remain in the rack.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Adjustable dumbbells have a mechanism for selecting and locking in the weight plates; traditional barbells don't.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    A rack of adjustable dumbbells carries a common size of roughly 16 by 8 inches with 8 inches in height.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Some adjustable dumbbell weight plates are made from plastic, others are primarily steel.

    Systems for selecting the weight

    Ease of use is a key characteristic of adjustable dumbbells, and designs for selecting the proper weight vary widely. With some sets you must manually slide and lock the weight plates onto the bar. Others implement rack mechanisms that lock the plates automatically.

    What about cost? Clamp systems cost less than other types of adjustable dumbbells. Dial and selector pin systems are offered at similar price points. Beyond the weight selection system, the cost for the adjustable dumbbells depends on the amount of available weight and number of weight plates included.

    Clamp system

    An adjustable dumbbell that uses a clamp system requires you to slide the weights onto the bar manually. You spin a nut or collar onto the end of the bar to secure the weights with the clamp system. This system differs from some other adjustable dumbbells that automatically attach the weight plates.

    Dial system

    The dial system is the easiest adjustable dumbbell configuration to use. You simply turn a dial on a rack of plates, setting it to the desired total weight.

    This locks the weight plates equal to the desired weight onto the bar. Simply lift the bar, and your weightlifting session begins.

    To change the amount of weight locked onto the bar, just set the bar back into the rack. Twist the dial again to reset the desired weight, locking the new plate configuration onto the bar. Then lift the bar again with the new weight.

    Selector pin system

    The selector pin system works in a manner similar to the dial system for adjustable dumbbells.

    Instead of twisting a dial to set the desired weight, though, you slide a selector pin into the hole representing the desired weight.

    As with the dial system, the selector pin locks the weight plates onto the bar.

    Some people choose to purchase a stand for adjustable dumbbells to make them easier to reach. Some weight racks ship with a stand included.

    Pros and cons of adjustable dumbbells

    Compared to other exercise equipment or gym memberships, adjustable dumbbells can be quite advantageous. They also come with some limitations. The pros and cons of this type of equipment depend largely on the exercise scenario you desire.

    Cons

    • Locking Process: Some adjustable weights use an automatic locking system for safety. Others require you to lock the weight plates manually. Should you forget to lock the weights in place, the weight plates may fall, causing injury.

    • Huge Weights: Adjustable dumbbells lack the sheer weight needed for powerlifting. A gym with large free weights and machines works better for bodybuilders and powerlifters.
       

    Pros

    • Small Size: Adjustable dumbbells require a limited amount of storage space versus other types of weightlifting equipment. Because of the small size, adjustable dumbbells work well for moving to new rooms or locations, and simply not taking up much space in your home.

    • Low Cost: Adjustable dumbbells come at a lower price point over the long run compared to other weightlifting choices. That’s especially true when compared to a monthly gym membership.

    • Moving weights around: Simplicity in design exists at the heart of using adjustable dumbbells. Although it takes a bit of time to adjust the weight on each barbell, this method works easier than adjusting weights on large barbells.

    EXPERT TIP

    Look at the range of weight an adjustable barbell offers to determine whether it not only meets your needs, but also includes more weight for future needs.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    To meet your exercise needs, consider purchasing two sets of dumbbells — one with a lighter maximum weight for arm exercises; and a second, heavier set for legs.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    If you have limited space for exercising in your home, adjustable dumbbells are a great option. They provide a compact design perfect for at-home use.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Picking the proper adjustable dumbbell set

    To gain the most from an adjustable dumbbell set, you must select the right design and weight limit.

    • Look at your storage space

    Some adjustable dumbbell sets include a stand for the racks. Such stands sit at waist height, making it easier to grab each bar and adjust the weight plates. Others racks sit directly on the ground. Racks with a stand require more space, so consider this before purchasing.

    • Consider automatic vs. manual sets

    Some adjustable dumbbells are configured by  sliding the weight plates onto the bar manually. You attach a collar or nut to the end of the bar to ensure the weight plates remain in place. If you prefer an automatic selection and locking process, a dial or selector pin system works better.

    • Start with the desired weight

    Any adjustable dumbell set offers a range of weights. Determine the amount of weight needed for your exercise routine – if the dumbbells fit your entire routine, you’re more likely to use your purchase regularly. Adjustable dumbbell sets that offer more weight carry a higher price point, so choose carefully to avoid wasting money.

    • Consider types of exercise

    To help you determine how much weight you should purchase in your set, think about your exercise plans. If you plan to do mostly arm exercises with the weights, a smaller maximum weight fills your needs. Exercises such as bench press and squats require larger amounts of weight.

    FOR YOUR SAFETY

    Before beginning any serious weight training, consult with your doctor if you have not been exercising previously.

    Understanding weight increments and weight range

    Understanding the minimum weight increments and weight ranges for the weight plates within your dumbbell set helps you pick the right set.

    Weight range

    The weight range is the difference between the smallest total weight in the set and the largest total weight. The minimum weight consists of the bar and nothing else. The maximum weight includes all of the weight plates on the bar.

    An adjustable dumbbell set with a large weight range provides more flexibility in the types of exercises you can perform. It also allows multiple people with differing weightlifting experiences to use the same set. In other words, a large weight range in an adjustable dumbbell set provides more versatility than a set with a smaller weight range, but might not provide the precision in increment found in a smaller set.

    Weight increment

    The weight increment is the difference between weights in the set. The increment should align to the loads you need for the exercises you perform. For example, if your array of exercises includes 12 pound, 14 pound, and 18 pound weights, a set with increments of 5 pounds won’t do.

    • Small Increments: If the minimum weight in the set measures 1.5 pounds, for example, your changes to the weight bar must occur in 1.5 pound increments. This means when switching to a larger weight, minimal differences occur. When starting out with a 5 pound weight exercise, the next level increase becomes 6.5 pounds. Such an increment works very well when using small amounts of weight.

    • Large Increments: On the other hand, if you purchase a set with 5 pound increments,the set will provide a greater maximum weight than a set with 1 pound or 1.5 pound increments. This increased weight range gives you more options for types of exercises and weight in a given exercise.

    When comparing prices of adjustable dumbbell sets, check whether the set includes a single dumbbell or a pair. Most sets ship with two dumbbells, one for each arm, but some only contain one.

    FAQ

    Q. What is the easiest type of adjustable dumbbell to use?

    A. Even though they come at a higher cost, adjustable weight sets with dials and selector pins remain the easiest to use. Such systems allow you to pick a desired weight and begin working out without needing to manually slide weights onto the bar.

    Q. Will I save some money with adjustable barbells?

    A. Adjustable barbells represent one of the least expensive options for weightlifting. Expect to pay roughly in the $50 to $125 range for an entry-level set of adjustable barbells. More advanced sets exist in the $125 to $300 range. Understand that you may need more than one set to receive the ranges of weight you need for your various exercises. Overall, the expense remains low when compared to other types of weightlifting equipment, such as traditional barbells. And when paying roughly $40 per month for a gym membership, adjustable barbells save money in the long run.

    Q. Which companies create the best brands of adjustable dumbbells?

    A. Stick with well-known brands to receive the best quality in adjustable dumbbells. Some of the best brand names include Bowflex, CAP Barbells, Power Block, Unipack, and Yes4All.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Jeff
      Jeff
      Editor
    • Jennifer
      Jennifer
      Writer
    • Kyle
      Kyle
      Writer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor

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