A friend of mine asked,
“If you could only choose one piece of exercise equipment, what would you choose?”
I thought about it for a moment … then I told him:
“Dumbbell set … check that … adjustable dumbbells!”
Dumbbell exercises can help you get lean and build muscles.
They’re affordable, and they take up virtually no space.
You get all of that in one … or two.
Dumbbells are essential to any fitness program and if you can, you should try to incorporate them in your routines.
What other exercise equipment can give you a full body workout?
Legs, arms, chest, back, lats, and shoulders … you can literally target All of the major muscle groups.
They give you the ability to perform an array of exercise routines without requiring a lot of space.
Just add them to the mix and you’ll end up having a scalable workout program.
What to Expect
If you’ve been in the fitness game for a while like I have, you’ve seen adjustable dumbbells undergo some changes.
The threaded collars and clamps have been replaced by new, creative designs. Adding and removing weights are simpler. With their own unique locking mechanisms, they make working out much easier.
A good pair of adjustable dumbbells can cost you anywhere from $100 to $400+ depending on the make and model whereas a rack of dumbbells can cost you more than double.
Some Problems with Adjustable Dumbbells
Despite the creative engineering, adjustable dumbbells aren’t perfect.
Depending on the type you choose, you may come across some issues.
If you decide on the old fashioned collared dumbbells, it may take a little bit of time to unscrew the collars and add/remove the weights …
… not to mention the fact that you’ll have the unused weights sitting around the floor.
Some of the adjustable dumbbells can’t be treated as rough as you would with regular dumbbells.
Don’t Drop ‘Em
For those who like to drop the dumbbells …
if you can’t put it down, don’t pick it up!
Common sense should tell you that dropping dumbbells are a no no but there are always some knuckleheads in the gym who keep doing it.
FYI, gym owners don’t like it and neither do the guys working out next to you.
There, venting over.
Some of the dumbbells have mechanical parts that can bend or break if they are dropped …
… even with padded flooring.
You don’t have to treat them like glass but you have to be careful …
… so do yourself, your floor, the dumbbells, and everyone else around you a favor and STOP dropping them!
Last problem that we came across is not really a problem for 90% of the users out there but for those who are serious lifters …
… you won’t hit your max.
I wish they could go heavier but finding one that pushes the 100+ mark is difficult to find.
So, Which are the Best Adjustable Dumbbells Out There?
Since there are several manufacturers, we pulled together a short list of favorites that have the fewest amount of complaints.
A few of us have used each of the following dumbbells and continue to use a couple of them …
… because they work!
We mention which ones at the end of the review.
Just keep in mind that the information we gathered here was done by experienced fitness buffs and trainers …
… remember, these are just opinions and preferences.
Like any fitness program or tool, your views or preferences may be different from ours.
Just use common sense and do your own due diligence and test any fitness program or products yourself before purchasing.
Best Adjustable Dumbbells
|Brand||Bowflex 552s||PowerBlock Elite Set Dumbell, Black/White, 50-Pound||Ironmaster 75 lb Quick-Lock|
|Weight Range||5 - 52.5 lbs.||5-50 lbs.||5-75 lbs.|
|Weight Increments||5, 7.5, 10, 12.5, 15, 17.5, 20, 22.5, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, and 52.5 lbs.||2.5, 5, 7.5, 10, 15, 17.5, 20, 25, 27.5, 30, 35, 37.5, 40, 45, 47.5, 50 lbs.||2.5 lbs.|
|Warranty||2 years||10 years||Limited Lifetime|
Everyone has heard of Bowflex …
… especially their home gym equipment.
With a price tag that starts around $299, the Bowflex Selectech is one of the more popular brands.
It brings name recognition along with dependability and ease of use.
Although it also comes in a heavier version, the 1090, for purposes of this review, we will focus on the 552 which has a range of 5 to 52.5 lbs.
In case you’re wondering, the only major differences between the two are the weight range, overall dimensions, and the 552 comes in pairs where the 1090 only comes with one …
… dont’ know why that is.
Despite being a bit on the long side, the dumbbells are fairly comfortable to use for most of the routines we performed.
We were able to get a good grip on the contour handles and finish each exercise with relative ease.
Changing the weight is a breeze as well.
All you have to do is spin the turn dial and the locking mechanism secures the selected weight.
Just lift and start using!
Here’s a breakdown of important elements covering the Bowflex Selectech:
- The Bowflex Selectech 552 is the most affordable of the group that we reviewed but just as effective.
- The Bowflex allows the user to adjust the weights in seconds with just a turn of a couple of dials. Two dials located on both ends of the dumbbell trigger a unique mechanism that locks the weight selected on the turn dials. Once the desired weight is set, the unused weights are left on the tray when the dumbbell is lifted. It’s that simple.
- You can adjust weights in small increments.
- Another advantage is that the Bowflex allows weights to attach or detach on one or both sides. Convenient for overhead tricep extensions.
- The Bowflex is the largest one out of the group. It is very bulky. It has a length of 15.75 inches which remains the same regardless of the amount of weight selected. This can make things a bit uncomfortable for the smaller user, especially when performing chest or arm curls.
- Dumbbell racks are not included. Most of the other brands include the racks.
- Don’t drop them. The weights will get damaged along with the locking mechanism. So don’t drop them, period.
PowerBlock Elite 50 Set
The PowerBlock is another popular brand.
It has the same starting price as the Bowflex and is a solid, durable dumbbell used by many serious lifters.
It comes in three different series: the Urethane, Sport, and Classic and under each series are different models but for purposes of this review, we’ll stick with the Classic Elite 50 Set.
The only significant differences between the model series are the shape of the weights, grip, and material.
Many people wonder about the enclosure surrounding the handle/grip and if it would impede your workout in anyway.
To give you a simple answer …
… yes, it did get in the way of a few routines which was disappointing.
There were certain overhead exercises that are difficult to do with the PowerBlock.
- The PowerBlock Elite 50 is compact and in many cases shorter in length than other regular dumbbells.
- It has straight handles and uses removable pins to select the weights. Each weight is color coded and defined on the top. You simply insert the pin on the side of the desired weight and lift.
- You have the option to increase or expand the weight up to 130 lbs.
- Not a fan of the pin mechanism. It’s easy but sometimes the pins get misaligned so you have to double check to make sure they are inserted correctly.
- The weights are supported by a narrow steel bar. If you drop them, chances are they’re gonna break or bend. One of our guys lifted a little too much and ended up dropping one and bent a couple of the weights. Not good.
- The grip is enclosed making it uncomfortable with some routines.
Ironmaster 75 lb Quick-Lock
Although it’s a bit pricier than its counterparts ($529 with stand), the Ironmaster Quick-Lock is very durable and safe.
The locking mechanism consists of a one inch steel lock screw inserted at both ends that just requires a short turn to add or remove the iron plates.
You can adjust the dumbbell from 5 to 75 lbs in 2.5 lb increments.
The Ironmaster also comes in a 45 lb. set for about $80 less but since the 75 lb. set is adjustable to a minimum of 5 lbs. it makes sense to cough up the additional money and go with the higher model.
Performing routines feels just like regular dumbbells.
They’re balanced well, and the handles provide a comfortable grip.
One of our colleagues decided to test its durability. After yelling at him for several minutes trying to convince him otherwise, he dropped it from a standing position. After careful inspection, we discovered no damage.
Considering the price for these dumbbells we were a little reluctant on testing it further so we concluded that the Ironmaster dumbbells were strong enough to withstand a drop from about 3 feet on concrete floor.
- Extremely durable and sturdy.
- Aesthetically pleasing. More so over its counterparts.
- Quick-lock mechanism makes it easy to change the weights.
- Includes stand.
- Able to expand to 165 lbs.
- Lifetime warranty.
- Costs more than the other adjustable dumbbells.
- May take a bit longer than other adjustable dumbbells to change the weights.
Good Ole Fashioned Cast Iron Adjustable Dumbbells
These bad boys are the original cast iron adjustable dumbbells that are still used in our arsenal of home gym equipment.
If you have 1 inch plates lying around, just throw them on as they use any 1 inch plate and come with 50 – 100 lbs. per dumbbell.
There’s various weight increments as small as 1.25 lbs. to the heaver 10 lb. weights which makes it ideal for users of all levels …
… and the best part?
You can add 100+ lbs.
None of the others mentioned have that weight capacity.
These are all extremely durable.
There are various manufacturers of this particular type of dumbbell but they all have the same durability for the most part.
Oh, forget the chrome …
… I know it looks pretty and shiny …
… but it “flakes” after a while and can get pretty messy …
… and sometimes it will cut your hand.
Another small problem is the collars occasionally coming loose.
We’ve improvised by sliding a rubber gasket purchased from Lowes before screwing on the collar.
Overall, these are excellent dumbbells that are durable and will last virtually a lifetime.
- Extremely durable and sturdy.
- Can increase and decrease weights in small increments
- One of the more affordable adjustable dumbbells
- One of the originals and still being manufactured.
- Takes a bit longer than other adjustable dumbbells to change the weights.
- Chrome may flake.
Drum roll please …
Remember, everyone has their own preference.
Unless you’re a heavy lifter, all of the adjustable dumbbells will be well suited for you.
While each dumbbell has its own advantages and disadvantages there are several important factors you should consider: price, durability, weight range, and comfort.
You can’t always base your decision on just a single factor as one always affects another.
For example, price maybe an issue so you may be leaning towards a Bowflex but what if the 52.5 lbs. becomes too light? If you’re just looking for lean muscle, then it’s probably perfect for you but what if you’re looking for strength and mass? Since Bowflex doesn’t expand, you’re going to be stuck with buying another heavier set.
So careful consideration is important since these types of dumbbells aren’t cheap …
… unless you’re rich.
With all of that mentioned, the one’s that we favor are…
Ironmaster. Although this is on the pricier side, this bad boy is worth every penny.
It’s tough, comfortable, and pretty much what an adjustable dumbbell should be.
The weights are easy to change, although may not be as fast or convenient as the other two but that didn’t phase us.
Just remove or add the desired amount of weight.
We also choose the good ole’ fashioned adjustable dumbbells …
… you know, the one with the screw on collars.
The ONLY reason why we chose this one was because of its weight capacity.
What About Other Brands?
They’re all good.
But we lift heavy and can be clumsy with the weights.
If you don’t need anything too heavy, then any one of the ones we mentioned are good …
… but when push comes to shove …
… Bowlfex …
… and if you can, bump it up to the 1090.
They make changing the weights ridiculously easy.