best adjustable dumbbells

How to Find the Best Adjustable Dumbbells

When you’re wondering how to find the best adjustable dumbbells, a lot of considerations come into play. They’re all pretty pricy, but when does the extra cost stop being worth it? Does shape matter? Are some safer than others? Here, we’ll explore how to decide if a set of dumbbells is the right choice for you and take a look at some of the best on the market.

Why Are Adjustable Dumbbells a Good Option?

There are so many reasons why adjustable dumbbells might make the most sense for someone starting or adding to their home gym. They save space, grow with you, can be less expensive than individual sets of dumbbells, don’t require special storage, and more.

You Can Save Space

If your home gym area (whether it’s a room or a corner) doesn’t have a lot of extra room, choosing adjustable dumbbells makes perfect sense. Instead of buying a rack or lining your dumbbells up along a wall somewhere (or worse, stacking them up in a disorganized heap that’ll turn working out into a chore as you’re always hunting for the right ones), you can just get the one set of adjustable ones, set them in the corner, and use your leftover space for something else, whether that’s a new machine or just daily living.

You’ll Get the Weights You Need Now and Later

You’ll probably increase your strength faster than you think, which could end up being good news (you’re stronger!) and bad news (you’ll have to spend more money and find somewhere to store your new dumbbells) if you’re not using an adjustable set that allows you to increase weight as you progress.

There won’t be any issues if you’re feeling like you can lift more one day—no stalling until you can pick up a new set in a higher weight. Simply move the slider or turn the dial and you’re good! Obviously, you could still max out with an adjustable set, too, but that’ll take a while for the average user with decent set of weights.

You probably won’t find a new exercise move you want to do but can’t find the right weight for very often, either, whether that’s a high weight or a low one.

You Could Save Money

Unless you know for a fact that you’ll be maxing out on ten- or 15-pound weights (and maybe even then) with no desire to increase weight past that point, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll end up saving money and getting more for your money if you purchase the best adjustable dumbbells for your workouts.

Individual dumbbells are not cheap, and the higher in weight you go, the more they’ll cost. At some point, pretty early on, you’ll surpass the price of a pair of adjustable weights—even the really nice sets.

You Won’t Need Extra Storage

While you could get a stand for your adjustable dumbbells, it’s not completely necessary. With regular dumbbells, once you have a few sets, you’ll probably want to buy a rack to keep them organized and free up some floor space.

The racks aren’t exactly inexpensive, and wouldn’t you rather put that money toward something that improves your body instead? Factor that into the equation when you’re trying to find the best dumbbells for you.

How to Find the Best Adjustable Dumbbells for Your Needs

There are a ton of options on the market. They vary in price, shape, weight, and more. So how to find the best adjustable dumbbells to match your needs? 

Can You Add Weight to the Whole Set?

Some adjustable dumbbells let you ease into the commitment, at least a little. You can buy a set that goes up to a weight that will challenge you. Once you’ve maxed out there, you can buy more weight to add. Keep in mind, these expander sets can sometimes cost just as much as the original set.

What Are the Weight Increase Increments?

Also under the “adding weight” category, look at the increments you’ll be able to increase by. In some cases, the increments are small enough to be ideal for steady progression.

Progressing on upper body work may be easier with smaller increments. If the jumps in resistance are large (like five pounds vs. 2.5), you may have to complete more reps with the lower weight each session until you’re comfortable going up to the next available weight.

When you’re performing lower body exercises and holding the weights in your hands, the increase will be doubled. If you’re using two dumbbells, an increase of 2.5 pounds on each dumbbell is really five more pounds, but if your weights increase by five, you’re adding a whole 10 lbs at once to your squats or lunges, for example). Another option would be to increase the weight on one dumbbell and adjust your grip to perform the move with just one.

What’s Your Budget?

Piggybacking off of the last point, what’s your budget right now, and do you see yourself wanting to make a similarly priced addition to your adjustable dumbbell set in the near future? Will you need to add a line to your budget to make sure the money’s there around the time you’ve “outgrown” the first set of weights?

There’s also the possibility of getting a set with more weight right off the bat if your budget allows it.

Do You Need a Traditional Dumbbell Size?

The shape of adjustable dumbbells can sometimes be one of the trickiest things to deal with when you’re looking into buying a set. In some cases, the dumbbells may be especially long, making moves like bicep curls a challenge when you want to perform curls with both arms simultaneously.

In other cases, the weights may have a rectangular shape but shorter width, which could feel strange overall at first, as you figure out where to grip the weights for different exercises.

Ease of Use

Let’s be honest: if your adjustable dumbbells are a pain to use, it’s just one more mental hurdle to jump over when it’s time to work out and you don’t really want to go do it. (It happens to all of us!) One person’s “mildly annoying” is someone else’s “I won’t feel like using those, ever.”

Look at the designs you’re considering with a careful eye. Do you have to remove clamps or collars to add or remove plates? Turn a knob? Slide a piece of plastic out of one set of slots and into another (and how flimsy is the plastic—is the transition quick?).

Beyond just being potentially annoying, there are time concerns with adjustable weights. If you’re doing your own thing and have a large block of time dedicated to working out, even the clunkiest weight changes won’t ruin your workout.

If you’re following videos, though, or tend to only have a quick 30–45-minute chunk of time where every minute counts, you’ll want to be able to make those weight changes quickly and effectively.

Safety Concerns

Look for potential weak spots in the design of any adjustable dumbbell set you’re considering, then check reviews for comments about anything like plastic pieces or plates breaking. If either of those things happen while the weights are in use, you could be injured. That’s one thing regular dumbbells have over the adjustable styles—there’s less to break.

My Top Recommendations

There are plenty of adjustable dumbbell sets out there, with a range of features and price points, but here are my top picks, in case you’re looking for a starting point:

PowerBlock Elite

The basic PowerBlock Elite set will go from 5-50 lbs, adjustable in 2.5-lb increments, but there are two add-on kits you can purchase later (one to increase to 70, then one to take you to 90 lbs). PowerBlocks have a square shape that will take some getting used to, but they’re not clunky or uncomfortable to use. The grips are even padded.

Though the plastic slider that helps you select the weight can be annoying to insert at times because it doesn’t always seem to want to go correctly on the first try, it’s easy to know which weight you’re selecting at a glance because the set is color-coded.

Check out how PowerBlock compares to Ironmaster in our full comparison.

Bowflex SelectTech 552

The Bowflex SelectTech 552s are a favorite because they’re the familiar dumbbell shape and have a comfortable grip, plus they’re easy to use, thanks to the dial design. If you’ll never need over 52.5 lbs, this is a great pick. Since you can’t add to them, this may not be the best choice for lifters who hope to lift very heavy.

You can get financing on these, which is nice. There’s also a 2-year warranty.

NordicTrack Select-a-Weight

Here’s another great set from a trusted name in the fitness world. The NordicTrack Select-a-Weight dumbbells are expensive at $599.00, but there is 0% APR financing for 36 months through the NordicTrack website, so that takes some of the sting out of it.

There’s a 30-day return policy, so you won’t be stuck with them if you find they’re not for you.

You’ll get weights in 10 through 55 lbs, adjustable in 2.5-lb increments. It’s quick and easy to switch between weights and the shape is one of the best out there—similar to traditional dumbbells but with octagon-shaped plates that keep them from rolling.

You also get a year of the iFit app with your purchase, so you’ll have some trainer-led strength training programs to follow. If you have other equipment in your home, like a treadmill, bike, or rower, you’ll be able to use the app with that, too. If you’re not interested in iFit, I wouldn’t recommend these weights unless you can find them for much less (used, perhaps).

Other than that, my only concern with these is the amount of plastic on them. It’s not a dealbreaker, but there are other options out there that have more metal and don’t cost as much.

Flybird Adjustable Dumbbell

The Flybird adjustable dumbbell only has a 5-25-lb range, but it’s sold as a single dumbbell instead of a set. On a tight budget but have enough time to work both sides of your body separately?

Buy the one dumbbell for just over $100.00. Bigger budget but less time (or a need for more weight for lower-body moves)? Grab two for about $250.00. 

Ironmaster Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbell System

The Ironmaster adjustable weights are made to last and be extremely safe. There’s not much on them that could break, and they’re made up of iron and steel. They’re available in 5-45-lb and 5-to-75-lb sets, but can be expanded to 165 lbs.

These are exceptionally expensive for adjustable dumbbells, but between the amount of weight you can add, the lifetime warranty, and the durability, you’ll probably never need to buy another set. You may be passing them down to your kids and grandkids one day. If it’s in your budget, this is the set I would recommend above all others.

The Major Differences Between the Top Adjustable Dumbbells and Traditional Dumbbells

Though this isn’t an exhaustive chart that covers all of the choices out there, you can get a good idea about which adjustable set may be right (or close to right) for you, learn what to look for in adjustable dumbbells, see which brands are likely to offer what you want and need, and decide once and for all if adjustable dumbbells make more sense for your needs than traditional ones.

Traditional Dumbbells Bowflex SelectTech 552 Powerblock Elite NordicTrack Select-a-Weight Ironmaster Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbell Set Flybird Adjustable Dumbbell
Weight range and increments (lbs) 1-150+, varies by brand and how high or low the weights are (increments are smaller when working with light weights) 5 to 52.5 lbs in 2.5-lb increments 5-50 lbs, 5-70 lbs, or 5-90 lbs 10-55 lbs, 2.5-lb increments 5-45 or 5-75 in 2.5-lb increments 5-25 lbs in 2.5-lb increments
Expandable No, but you can buy new sets steadily over time as your strength demands and your budget allows No Yes, you can go up to 90 lbs by either buying the whole set at once or adding on later. No Yes, you can add weight for a total of up to 165 lbs. No
Weight changing method Set down one set, pick another one up Turn a dial Magnetic polypropylene pin on the larger weights, dial lock for the 2.5-lb additional weights in the handle Pin, push and rotate a dial Unscrew section on the end, add weight, screw the piece back in Twist the handle to move a dial and select the weight you want (you can adjust the weight with just one hand)
Materials used in design Stainless steel, cast iron rubber, urethane, neoprene (varies by brand and design) Plastic, metal Plastic, metal Plastic and metal Steel and iron Aluminum alloy material
Price Around $1.75 to $100.00+, depending on brand, design, and weight About $350.00 Starts around $320.00 for the 5-50-lb set on PowerBlock.com. Up to about $620.00 for the 5-90-lb set. About $600.00 Just over $450.00 for the basic set that goes up to 45 lbs and around $800.00 for the 75-lb set (includes stand) About $125.00 per dumbbell
Special concerns with this style Some styles may be hard to grip if your hands are even a little sweaty Longer than a traditional dumbbell, which could make some moves awkward, some users report wobbly plates Awkward shape If your goal is to lift very heavy, you may be disappointed, may feel cumbersome to use, some parts are plastic Other than price, none You may outgrow it quickly since it only goes up to 25 lbs
Dimensions Varies 15.75” long, 8” wide, 9” high 14” long, 6.25” wide, 6” high 8.5” high, 19.4” long, 11.4” wide (in the storage tray) 6.7” square x 11.5” long at 45 lbs; 1.25” handle grip diameter, grip width of 6.5” 14.6” long, 7.9” wide, 6.7” high

Pros and Cons

Traditional Dumbbells

Pros

  • Not a large initial investment unless you’re already very strong, you can build your collection over time
  • You can experience different materials and adjust future purchases to reflect your preferences
  • Easy to find when you’re ready to purchase, variety of color options available
  • Easy to switch from one weight to another without delay

Cons

  • A substantial collection is expensive
  • May not be able to find the match to your collection in the weight you need when you’re ready
  • Will need to consider storage options and potentially spend more on a rack

Bowflex SelectTech 552

Pros

  • Two-year warranty
  • Comfortable grip
  • Financing available
  • Traditional dumbbell shape
  • Easy to switch from one weight to another

Cons

  • Longer than a traditional dumbbell,
  • Can’t be expanded
  • Expensive for weight range
  • Shipping could take months as of this writing (due to high demand)

Powerblock Elite

Pros

  • They’re not that much wider than a regular dumbbell, they’re expandable
  • They’re reasonably priced
  • Usually easy to find online
  • There are several ways to hold these which can be advantageous during some moves
  • Padded handles

Cons

  • Plastic sliding pin feels flimsy and can be difficult to insert at times
  • The shape can make some movements (like tricep exercises) more difficult to manage
  • Making small incremental changes can take a while
  • Smaller weights in the handles can fall out if you forget to lock them in place
  • They may not be the best choice for large hands due to handle placement

NordicTrack Select-a-Weight

Pros

  • Financing is available through the NordicTrack website
  • Comes with a year of iFit access to give you trainer-led workouts to follow (not just strength-training)
  • Storage trays included
  • Flat edges keep them from rolling

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Some upper body moves may require less weight than the 10-lb starting point with these
  • Spending more money than you need to if you don’t want to use iFit
  • Not expandable

Ironmaster Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbell Set

Pros

  • Highly unlikely to break, no obvious safety concerns with the design
  • Expandable to 165 lbs
  • Very little difference in feel when using these compared to conventional dumbbells
  • Can change weights in about 15 seconds
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons

  • One of the most expensive options
  • Only goes up to 45 lbs unless you spend even more
  • You’ll have to store separate plates

Flybird Adjustable Dumbbell

Pros

  • Good option for those on a budget
  • Can change the weight easily with one hand, fairly small for an adjustable weight
  • Similar in shape to a conventional dumbbell so it won’t be awkward to use
  • Non-slip handle

Cons

Advantages of Adjustable Dumbbells

There are plenty of advantages to consider when you’re looking at how to find the best adjustable dumbbells. Not all sets will have all of the advantages, but there’s quite a bit of overlap. After that, it mostly comes down to personal preference.

  • They take up very little space compared to sets of traditional dumbbells, if you were to buy a set for each weight increment and try to store them.
  • There’s a good chance you’ll spend less on the adjustable set than you would on a variety of traditional dumbbells.
  • You can get an adjustable weight set that gives you room to challenge yourself while also allowing for smaller incremental increases.
  • When you buy a pair, there’s not a big jump from one weight to the next; when you’re buying traditional dumbbells, you may not be able to find the exact weight you need for your collection when you’re ready.
  • You don’t need (though you can purchase) a weight stand or rack. With traditional weights, you’ll eventually need a rack to help you stay organized.

Disadvantages of Adjustable Dumbbells

Though adjustable dumbbells make a wonderful option for most people who lift weights at home, they’re not perfect. Here are some disadvantages to take into consideration:

  • It takes more time to adjust the weight on a set of adjustable dumbbells than it does to set down one pair of weights and pick up another one, assuming the collection of weights is well-organized.
  • There are more moving pieces on a set of adjustable dumbbells than there are on a regular set of dumbbells, which means there’s more that could go wrong, like cracked or broken plates, piece to lose, plastic pieces that break, etc. Plus you have treat them with more care than you would a regular pair of dumbbells (always set them down gently).
  • Certain shapes or sizes won’t be as conducive to certain exercises as traditional dumbbells or even other types of adjustable dumbbells.
  • Weights can stick and take a few more seconds to change, and some designs (like the selector pin one of the PowerBlocks) may not always be quick to work with.

 Safety Tips for Using Adjustable Dumbbells

There are a few things to think about when you use adjustable dumbbells that you don’t really need to consider when you’re using traditional dumbbells.

  • Check for damage before each use. Adjustable dumbbells have moving parts, unlike conventional dumbbells, and that means there’s room for things to break.
  • Make sure everything is secure on the dumbbell before you start to lift. For example, the PowerBlock Elites have the option to insert or remove extra small weights in the handles and those need to be secured.
  • Be especially gentle with them—no dropping them or tossing them around. Again, they’re easier to break than other options.
  • Always, always read as many reviews as you can for any set to get a feel for what may commonly go wrong. Some sets are prone to breakage and may result in injury.

Top Q&A

You probably have a few questions rolling around in your mind about how to find the best adjustable dumbbells and whether they’re even the right choice for you. I’ll try to answer them here:

Question: Which adjustable dumbbells are the best?

Answer: It really depends on your needs. Some of the best are PowerBlock Elite, Bowflex SelectTech 552, NordicTrack Select-a-Weight, Flybird, and Ironmaster.

Question: Are adjustable dumbbells worth it?

Answer: If you have the space and budget for conventional dumbbells, maybe not. If you want the most you can get for your money and have limited space, then absolutely.

Question: Where can I find adjustable dumbbells?

Answer: Sporting goods stores (Dick’s Sporting Goods, Academy Sports, etc.), Amazon, even Walmart and Target carry some. You can also go to the brand’s website (for example, PowerBlock, Bowflex, Ironmaster, NordicTrack, etc.) in some cases and order directly from there.

Question: Are Bowflex adjustable dumbbells worth it?

Answer: Yes. The length can take some getting used to, but they will help you build strength and they’re comfortable to use. Some people prefer the shape of these over others, like PowerBlocks, because they’re similar to regular dumbbells.

Question: Why are adjustable dumbbells so expensive?

Answer: There are a couple of reasons adjustable dumbbells are such an investment. In reality, they’re not that expensive compared to conventional dumbbells; it’s just that you don’t get the option of buying the different weights over time. You’ll be buying at least the equivalent of several pairs of dumbbells at one time. A more complicated design is also involved with the adjustable dumbbells, so you’ll be paying for the time and skill that went into making them.

Question: Can dumbbells get you big?

Answer: With a diet that supports your goal, the right program, and enough of a weight range to continually challenge your muscles, yes. You may prefer to switch to a barbell or other gym equipment over time, but dumbbells can help you put on quite a bit of muscle.

Question: Are PowerBlock dumbbells worth it?

Answer: Yes. These are durable and a length that shouldn’t interfere with your ability to do most exercises. The shape may take some getting used to, but they’re easy to use and expandable.

Question: Where can I buy cheap adjustable dumbbells?

Answer: If there’s a secondhand store near you, try that. Even better if they specialize in fitness and sports equipment, like Play It Again Sports. Some sets are available at Walmart for around $50.00, and if you’re in a pinch but just want to get started with something, even if it’s not the largest range of weights, you may have some luck on Amazon.

Question: What size dumbbells should I buy?

Answer: That depends on how strong you are now, how much you hope to be able to lift later, and whether you’re interested in expanding the set you have at the time or would be fine with selling the old set to upgrade to a newer set with a higher weight range when the time comes.

If you have some dumbbells or other items that you can use in their place on hand, see how many reps you can do before you can’t do anymore. If you can do 15 with ease, you’ll need something heavier.

If hitting eight reps is a challenge, you’ll need something lighter. If you have the opportunity to try different weights in a gym or at a store, you should be able to get a good enough idea to determine the range you need for a few basic exercises.

Play around to get an idea of how much weight you need right now and how much you think you’ll need in the near future. Then you can decide which are the best adjustable dumbbells for you.

Conclusion: How to Find the Best Adjustable Dumbbells

So, how to find the best adjustable dumbbells?

Look at your current routine and goals.

Take an honest look at your current routine and your future goals. How much weight do you need right now and how much do you think you’ll need later? Can the set you’re looking at be expanded, or will you need to replace the whole set once you’ve gained strength?

Consider shape and size against your frame.

Is there one shape you prefer over others? One that’s better for your body type? For example, if you’re petite, you may find some moves with the Bowflex weights more uncomfortable to perform than they would be with, say, PowerBlocks. If you have large hands, PowerBlocks may not fit your frame well and you’ll do better with another option with a more traditional dumbbell design.

How will you pay?

What will your budget allow? Would 0% interest financing make you comfortable with a heavier pair or one with a design you prefer?

When do you need “the” set for you?

How soon do you need them and is your top choice available? Would you be okay with the “best adjustable dumbbells” right now, with the plan to sell those and upgrade when what you really want is available later?

Adjustable dumbbells with a decent amount of weight involved are an investment, so there’s a lot to think about and consider.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top