Dumbbells are an important piece of equipment for every home gym. But a complete set can take up an excessive amount of space and cost you a small fortune. Thankfully, there’s a better alternative: adjustable dumbbells. And you may be surprised at just how effective, convenient, and economical they can be as a substitute for a complete set.
We spent hours taking a close look at six of the most popular models of adjustable dumbbells. Naturally, we started with the biggest brand name in the marketplace – Bowflex – and it did not disappointed. But it was the other, lesser-known options that surprised us the most.
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells (Best Overall)
Bowflex with a solid 4.7 out of a possible 5 stars on more than 4000 customer reviews, the Bowflex adjustable dumbbell is the clear winner in the popularity department and it’s not hard to see why. The SelectTech 552 is a solid entrant in the adjustable dumbbell market. Adjustments range from 5 to 52 1/2 pounds in 2.5 pound increments. Bowflex uses their own patented dial system to change weight settings and they claim this one item can replace 15 individual sets of weights.
There’s no question it’s a well-thought-out adjustable dumbbell. It features a comfortable rubber grip and a durable molding surrounding each of the metal plates to provide a quieter exercise experience while protecting your floors. There’s also a compatible app by Bowflex that allows you to follow professional trainers as they lead you through workouts. Or, you can build your own custom workout and track your momentum in a journal.
There are 15 different weight adjustments that can be made on the SelectTech 552. Simply turn the dial and set it to the specific weight you’re ready to use.
While the compatible stand is an add-on purchase – it is recommended – for storing your weights and minimizing floor clutter. It looks pretty cool too.
The plates are made of solid iron and connect to the bar according to the weight you previously selected. As with any component that features a mechanical component, you don’t want to be slamming these dumbbells down on the floor. In this regard, adjustable dumbbells are generally not as strong as a regular cast-iron set. But the convenience of adjustability and the smaller overall footprint is what makes them so helpful to have in your home.
The cradle that comes with the weights is an important part of the whole system. You dial in the weight you want on the bar. Any remaining weights remain locked in the tray as you lift out the dumbbell, set to your chosen specifications.
While the Bowflex performs quite well, it’s not without some limitations and every smart buyer should be aware of these before they buy.
Let’s start with the most obvious limitation; the maximum weight of 52.5 pounds. Unfortunately, these units are not designed to add additional weight, as get stronger and your lifting requirements grow. Another drawback is that the part that holds the weight to the handle is made from plastic. We all know what happens to plastic in time – it eventually weakens or breaks off entirely.
Another problem (albeit minor ) is that there’s a little bit of wiggle room when stacking multiple plates onto the bar. Some leeway is necessary, of course, or you’d never get the plate to slide on the bar. And as long as you snug it up and check the tightness periodically, you should be good to go.
Overall, the SelectTech 552 is a safe purchase from a well-known brand. The dial is easy-to-use and changing your weight settings is a walk in the park. Additionally, there’s a varying range of set weights built-in to the device. Bowflex dumbbells are fairly well-made, versatile, and a valuable addition to a home gym, even though they may be slightly more bulky than some of the other available options. The Bowflex Adjustable Dumbbell manual is also available here.
Core Fitness Adjustable Dumbbell Weight Set
Considering that the Core Fitness adjustable dumbbell set scores a solid 4.8 out of a possible 5 stars, it’s worth a closer look. But it should be noted that this favorable rating is based on a relatively small number of reviews (slightly more than 50) when compared to some competing models.
One of the biggest advantages we discovered in the Core Fitness model is that you can make changes to the weight setting with just one hand – at least on the lower end of the weight scale. Simply set the dumbbell in the cradle and twist the handle to your desired preference. One simple, lightning-quick adjustment and you’re ready to roll as the corresponding plates safely lock into place.
The handle is contoured and textured providing a soft comfortable grip that feels secure. Another advantage of the Core Fitness adjustable dumbbell is that it feels much like a regular dumbbell. If you’ve ever used those “old-school” dumbbells before, you know exactly what they feel like in your hands. And this one feels much the same and so it takes no time to get used to when you make the switch from an everyday set of dumbbells to an adjustable model like this.
The weight range of the Core Fitness goes from 5 to 50 pounds. So it’s like having a set of 10 separate dumbbells in one. Adjustments are made in 5 pounds increments, so you can gradually increase resistance as you grow stronger.
Plates on the Core Fitness adjustable are made of cast iron and come complete with a urethane coating to prevent damage. This one is a durable, well-made set of dumbbells that come complete with a lightweight aluminum cradle. After all, why not save your energy for the heavy lifting of an actual workout – instead of moving equipment around?
A clever design means that it’s easy to use to switch weights whenever you want and the grip is so comfortable, you won’t need gloves or any special tape on the handle itself.
One interesting observation is that these dumbbells become shorter as you lighten the load. For example, at just 10 pounds of weight, the bar measures 9 3/8 inches long. At 25 pounds, the length grows to 11 7/8 inches. And at 50 pounds, it extends to the maximum size of 14 3/8 inches.
What buyers love most about this model is the ease with which the weight changes can take place in the cradle simply by turning the handle. When moving the Core Fitness adjustable dumbbells to a lighter setting, it’s easy to do with one hand. When you get to the mid to high range however, you may need your other hand, or foot on the side of the cradle to hold it, in order to glide the plates smoothly and definitively into place. It’s a little thing that just makes life easier and less stressful.
It’s probably a good idea to spray a little WD-40 oil on the adjustment mechanism to make sure it functions as it should for a long time to come.
This quick adjustment mechanism saves precious time during workouts and time is something none of us seem to have enough of these days. The ease and simplicity allows for quick changes, without the need to move back-and-forth to change the plates manually. It’s a 5-second solution instead of a 5-minute job.
It’s clear that sound engineering played a huge role in the development of the Core Fitness adjustable dumbbell. It’s something you just have to experience to fully appreciate. There’s a center bar that protrudes outward to connect with each of the plates. This helps keep the dumbbells short.
Simple details make a big difference. For example, the plates are covered in plastic so they don’t bang against one another. And the bottom edge is flat to prevent them from rolling away. The handle features a comfortable grip with its rubber coating, making it a pleasure to use. In fact, this one feels the most authentic in terms of being like a typical dumbbell lifting experience.
On the downside, there are some limitations.
For example, you cannot take this model beyond the 50 pound mark. It’s great for a beginner or student. And in fact it’s useful for anyone who wants to stay in this lifting range. But it’s probably not the best long-term option for a competitive athlete.
There’s a little bit of play when connecting the plate to the bar – although some play is necessary in order to get the plate into place.
With the bar fully loaded to its 50 pound capacity, it tends to get stuck in the cradle. You can solve this problem and save your back from unnecessary strain by picking up the compatible stand at the same time. On the stand, this problem disappears altogether.
The Core Fitness adjustable dumbbell manual is also available here.
Power Block Adjustable Speed Block Dumbbells (Best for Women)
One obvious difference we noticed right away with the Power Block, is that weight adjustments are in multiples of three-pound increments. This means weight adjustments go like this: 3,6 ,9, 12, 15, 18, 21 and 24 pounds. Maximum weight is 24 pounds per side and this one comes with a 10 year warranty.
The manufacturer states that this adjustable dumbbell replaces eight separate dumbbells. To change the weight, you simply select a pen and place it in the appropriate slot. As you lift the bar, all the weights pertinent to the selected weight are lifted at the same time. So you can go from 6 pounds to 12 pounds easily.
The biggest problem with this model has nothing to do with the product itself. Instead, it’s the confusion created by the seller who has buyers wondering whether they are getting one dumbbell or a set of two. You can easily avoid the problem altogether by buying from our recommended source right here.
When you go to change the weight of your Power Block adjustable dumbbells, it’s a good idea to do so only on a hard surface. Some buyers report having difficulty trying to adjust these weights on carpeted or padded surfaces. So for best results, use it on a hardwood, laminate, tile, or cement floor surface.
With the 24-pound capacity, this model is best suited for petite women, teens, and beginners who are new to weight training and can therefore grow with this set for an extended period.
The piece that selects the weight is made of plastic and therefore, probably won’t last as long as it would had it been fabricated from metal.
Like any adjustable dumbbell, this takes a bit of getting used to with the unique design deployed. But once you’re up to speed, chances are you’ll enjoy using these Power Block dumbbells.
On the downside, there’s no way to expand with this system beyond 24 pounds. So with this set, you’re limited to 24 pounds and that’s it. If this falls within the range for you over the foreseeable future, it’s a great buy. And you can always increase your weight capacity with another model later.
Power Block with a solid 4.2 out of a possible 5 stars on more than 613 customer reviews.
The Power Block adjustable dumbbell manual is also available here.
Unipak Adjustable Dumbbells (Best Budget Set)
Maybe you’ve heard of this brand before – maybe not. But it scores a solid 4.3 out of a possible 5 stars with nearly 500 customer reviews reporting. So it merits further investigation.
With this set, Unipak offers 100 pounds of weight per dumbbell, or 200 pounds in total. The two solid shafts with chrome handles, plus the two sets of collars, supply 5 pounds of weight each. You also get sixteen 10-pound plates, four 5-pound plates, and four 2.5-pound plates. Collars are threaded to provide a secure fitting on each end.
This is a set you can grow with over time. Each dumbbell can be adjusted from a low 5 pounds all the way up to 100 pounds. That’s quite a range.
It’s important to note that the plates provided are specific to dumbbells and cannot be used on a barbell. But the bar on these is standard size, so you could probably substitute other dumbbell weights if you wanted to.
These Unipak adjustable dumbbells feature heavy-duty construction and solid, well-made plates. By the way, those plates are standard size, so nearly any dumbbell bar should work with them. This is helpful to know as you add additional equipment or begin working out with other down the line.
At the end of each bar is a heavy-duty thread that looks like it’s built to last for decades. Total length of each dumbbell is approximately fifteen and three-quarter inches – so it’s almost a couple of inches longer than most competing brands, providing added capacity.
All in all, this is a solid dumbbell set that’s durable and will work well for those who prefer the more traditional style.
Perhaps most appealing about Unipak’s dumbbells is that they are offered at a price that’s considerably less than the big name-brand competition. Therefore, it wins our selection as the best budget dumbbell choice.
You’ll save money and have a set of dumbbells that will last. The fact that each dumbbell has a capacity of 100 pounds, means that you can grow with this set over time – instead of requiring a major upgrade down the track. These aren’t perfect. No product is.
The rubber rings tend to break down over time. And the lockdown screw doesn’t seem to fasten as securely as we’d like. It does an adequate job, but it doesn’t feel as though it’s locked into position. But this didn’t seem to be a problem once we started using these dumbbells. It’s always a good idea to double-check these things anyway.
Adjusting weights with this “standard” style of dumbbell set obviously takes more time. And to get the most out of it, you’ll need a sturdy bench to go along with it.
The handles are knurled and may be a little too rough for delicate hands. Painted plates may flake a bit over time or smell a little oily. But you can count on these to last a very long time as long as you take care of them.
Sure, it’s a little inconvenient to change out the weights as you increase or decrease capacity – considering the other “push-button” choices available today. But for the price, this is an excellent option. You won’t find a better value deal on dumbbells anywhere.
While the painted plates may flake a bit over time or smell a little oily, the weights themselves are durable and you can count on these to last a very long time. But as with any gym equipment, you’ll need to take care of them.
Bayou Fitness Adjustable Dumbbells
This model from Bayou Fitness scores a respectable 4.1 out of 5 possible stars, from 277 customer reviews. Clearly customers are satisfied with what they’re getting.
The set offers two adjustable dumbbells of 25 pounds each, with storage trays. Each plate is 2 1/2 pounds with a maximum of four plates per side. And each bar features heavy-duty chrome plated construction and they look fantastic.
Like most dumbbells, the bar on these Bayou Fitness dumbbells measures 14 inches long. There’s also a 50 pounds set available although the bar is thicker and therefore the weights cannot be changed between models. So it’s important to choose the right set for you from the start.
Construction quality ranks high with only a little visible plastic. The pin locking the weights in place is made of metal and creates a safe and secure connection. That’s exactly what you want so you can focus on your training and not worry about any movement of the plates on the bar.
Adjustments are quick and secure. And unlike other dumbbells that require you to use the accompanying cradle, with this one, you can simply place the dumbbell on the floor and make quick adjustments during your training sessions. This is a huge advantage if you’re following a workout program on DVD or YouTube, since you can make changes on the fly.
The handle feels slightly larger than other dumbbells. For some, this is an advantage. But for those with smaller hands, you might want to consider one our other recommendations instead.
Pick up the Bayou Fitness dumbbell and you’ll notice that it feels solid and comfortable in your hand. Build quality here is excellent and the weight locking mechanism is brilliantly designed and easy to use. All the important pieces are made of metal unlike competing brands where they cut corners and costs by substituting plastics, or other inferior materials.
Setting your chosen weight is simple. It involves lifting and sliding to the right position relative to the desired weight. It takes a few uses to get the knack of it. But if you practice making these adjustments before you start using dumbbells in your workout, you’ll have a much easier time of it.
Merax Deluxe 71.5 Pounds Adjustable Dial Dumbbells (Best Value)
Merax ranks 4.5 out of 5 possible stars, from 60 for customer reviews – a respectable showing.
What stands out about this brand – for better or for worse – is that the measurements are in kilograms. What this means is that each dumbbell adjusts in odd sizes – from 11 pounds to 71.5 pounds, in 5.5 pounds increments. These odd sizes are due to the metric-based build and European design of the Merax Deluxe.
But don’t let that turn you off. You can easily print out a simple conversion table of the equivalent weights in pounds and post this in your home gym. Potential problem solved.
With its wider range of weight adjustments, the Merax seems like it was designed for the more athletically inclined or ambitious lifter. There are 12 different weight settings, each differing by 5.5 pounds.
Although the cradle is included with your purchase, you might want to consider getting these adjustable dumbbells along with the compatible and compact rack designed specifically for them. While not absolutely necessary, this will facilitate easy pick up and return, along with safe secure storage, while maximizing the efficiency of your workout space.
While this model doesn’t come with any set instructions, it’s pretty easy to figure out. You just have to set the weights you want in the tray with the slot facing up. Then place the dumbbell bar inside and lock it into place. Plates should load out from the handle, thickest to thinnest – in that order.
What buyers like about this set is the weight capacity up to 71.5 pounds. Some people looking at this option are also considering the BowFlex. But due to better price offered by Merax, this one is getting a lot of attention.
It is the look and feel of a quality well-made piece of equipment. The handle on the bar is covered with a comfortable rubber making it easy to get a solid grip. The plates are provided in a painted finish on metal. And overall length is about 16 inches. What’s notable is that the switching mechanism is smooth ,easy and firm – so it’s very easy to lock in the weight of your choice.
Another advantage this set has over the Bowflex is that you only have to adjust one side of the plates to set each dumbbell to the desired weight. On the bow flex, you have to ad just both ends – requiring twice as much the time. Not a big deal for some. But a game-changer for others.
On the downside this model doesn’t feel as quite as polished as the Bowflex. The metal against metal will eventually cause the paint to wear off. And the dumbbells tend to stick to the base plate – as they do a lot of dumbbells – when fully loaded.
There you have it. These are our selections for the best adjustable dumbbells for 2018. For the best overall pick, click here. For our recommended top budget dumbbells, click here. For the best overall value, choose this one. And for the best dumbbell set for women, click here.
Consider you specific needs and then choose your favorite from our top six picks. You can’t really go wrong here. And as is the case with all gym equipment, if you take good care of it, it will tend to take good care of you.
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