One of the best pieces of equipment for starting a home gym are dumbbells. It used to be the case where you would have to buy a full set of dumbbells that cost $1000 or even more. Thankfully, adjustable dumbbells came into being, and allow you to reap all the benefits of a full set for a fraction of the cost. The best adjustable dumbbells will help individuals new to weight training get started off on the right foot using low weight. Even if your a gym rat, it takes a long time to build up enough muscle to max out with adjustable dumbbells on most major lifts.
11 Best Adjustable Dumbbell Sets 2016-2017
A weight range of 5 to 70 pounds is generally sufficient to perform all dumbbell exercises. For veteran weight trainers, you may want to find a set that goes above the 70 pound maximum.
|Bowflex SelectTech 552||5-52.5 lbs||Two Year (Plates and Parts)|
|Ironmaster Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbell System with Stand||5-75 lbs||Limited Lifetime|
|CAP Barbell Adjustable Dumbbell Set||5-40 lbs||30 Day|
|Power Block Adjustable Speedblock Dumbbell Set||3-24 lbs||10 Year|
|Unipack Cast Iron 105 Pound Adjustable Dumbbell Set||5-25 lbs||90 Day|
|PowerBlock Elite Dumbbells||5-50 lbs (Expandable to 130 lbs)||10 Year Home Use|
|Universal PowerPak Adjustable Dumbbells with Stand||4-45 lbs||1 Year|
|Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells||6 Options 8-200 lbs||60 Day Satisfaction 5 Year Limited|
|Bayou Fitness Adjustable Dumbbells||10-50 lbs||180 Day (All Parts)|
|CAP Barbell Adjustable Dumbbell Set||5-40 lbs||30 Day|
|Starring Chrome Sprayed Adjustable Dumbbells||5-100 lbs||90 Day|
Believe it or not, Bowflex actually makes some great products. Their dumbbells are reputed as one of the best sellers in the exercise equipment industry. Well known for their TV advertisements, Bowflex also manufacturers dumbbells that have risen to the top in terms of popularity. You may have seen this set elsewhere already. These Bowflex dumbells are sleek, modern design in black with red accents. This adjustable dumbbell product excels in both strength training and aerobic applications.
They are mighty expensive, but their build quality and ease of use justify the price tag. The magic behind these dumbbells lies in their fancy SelectTech adjustment technology. They take less than five seconds to figure out, a quick flick of the twist dial knobs and you’re off to the races. They also come in helpful weight tray seats, resting well in these molds it makes them easier to put back into place once finished with an exercise. Though even when you are using light weight the dumbbells are pretty bulky, the perk is that it makes you look badass even when you aren’t using much weight.
This set excels in both weight training and aerobic training because of the smooth adjustment tech. We give the Bowflex 552’s the best all around dumbbells award.
This is one of Ironmaster’s flagship products. These are more expensive than the Bowflex dumbbells, but they come with a stand. Furthermore, they are built with heavy steel, you can drop one of these and it is not the dumbbell that is going to feel the pain. This is one of the best dumbbell sets out there that comes with a stand. The nice thing about these dumbbells are that they are square shape and don’t get in the way as much as the Bowflex dumbbells. They lock up very nicely, making them feel like one solid unit as a traditional fixed weight dumbbell would.
They adjust in 2.5 pound increments, and both dumbbells go up to 75 pounds for a total 150 pound set. The cool thing about Ironmaster is they sell two add on kits for this set. One that goes up to 120 pounds each and a custom add on kit that brings it up to 165 pounds. So pretty much, you buy these for life, and if you become jacked enough to rep 165 like its nobody’s business you just may need to get a Gold’s Gym membership at that point.
For ultimate peace of mind, these come backed with a lifetime warranty. The stand and dumbbells are a rugged chrome and black. These are super duty, constructed with welded steel and chrome plates. A very efficient set, these hardly take up more than 2 square feet in your garage or designated workout area.
The Ironmaster Dumbbells earned our award for the best dumbbell set that comes with a stand.
This is a great, basic starter set for beginner weight lifters. It is a 40 pound set that comes with a case, two handles, four collars, four 2.5 pound plates, and four 5 pound plates. CAP also sells barbell standard cast iron weight plates so as you get stronger you can purchase additional plates. Each piece of the set is very high quality, what you’d expect from a company like CAP Barbell. These are constructed to resist rust and last a long time. The build quality is supreme, rubber trim on the collars, ergonomic textured grips, threaded secure fit collars, and a semi gloss finish.
This set is ideal for the beginning weight lifter because of the plate and collar design. The CAP set earned our award for the best dumbbell set for beginners to weightlifting.
Power Block manufacturers many dumbbell sets for all categories and training levels. This set is one of many PowerBlock dumbbells. Their SpeedBlock set adjusts from 3 to 24 pounds in 3 poud increments. The selector pin allows you to choose which weight quickly and easily. They are a very compact set and come with a 10 year warranty. If you are pretty strong, you’ll want something that goes heavier and may want to get one of their more expensive sets.
This set is ideal for aerobic training and has earned our award for the best quick adjustment dumbbell set.
This set comes in two options, a 100 pound option and a 200 pound option. Both are about as affordable as you can get. These aren’t the highest build quality, but they are surprisingly solid and will last a while as long as you don’t abuse them too much. Certainly the best set at this price point we’ve ever seen. These are basic, no frill adjustable dumbbell sets and arguably are the best dumbbells for the money. They are cast iron, with textured chrome handles. They can be set in increments of 2.5 pounds for granular control over your weight lifting.
This set is ideal for weight training because of the plate and collar design. The Unipack has won our award for the best cheap dumbbell set.
Other Recommended Options:
Here are some alternatives to the top 5 options above.
General Thoughts on Adjustable Dumbbells: Versatile, Convenient, and Economical
The biggest benefit of adjustable dumbbells is their versatility. Once you buy a set and get the upfront cost over with, there is no maintenance cost or ongoing fees like a gym membership fee. As long as you don’t get too wild and crazy and drop the dumbbells on a hard floor or something like that, these dumbbell sets are built to last a very long time. Then it is really up to you to stay disciplined and stick to a workout regime. Furthermore, there are many lifts you can execute with dumbbells. Bench press, incline press, decline press, military (shoulder) press, bicep curls, tricep extensions, back rows are just a handful of examples. Whether you want to tone with high reps and low weight, or build mass with high weight and low reps, you can easily adjust the weight to your liking. Truly, it is possible to craft a holistic workout routine with a set of adjustable dumbbells and an adjustable bench.
Another great benefit is the convenience factor. Instead of working up the motivation to make the 10 or so minute drive down to the gym all you have to do is select your weight and pick up the dumbbells to get going, then let your momentum carry you the rest of the way through your workout. Even if you are just doing a set here and there between commercial breaks or what have you, it is still better than doing nothing. Sure, sporadic training isn’t the most optimal way to build muscle, but again something is better than nothing and you will build muscle slowly but surely.
Instead of buying 8-10 sets of single paired dumbbell weights, you simply buy an adjustable “block” of dumbbells. It is as straightforward as turning a knob or sliding a weight pin to select the exact weight you want. Not only will these cost you less, they also have a smaller footprint so they can fit in a corner of a room or small space in your garage. Unfortunately not all of us have enough space to have a roomy dedicated home gym area.
Adjustable Dumbbell Lifts and Exercises
One of the best things about using dumbbells for strength training is that they are free weights. Free weights are best for maximizing muscle development because it forces you to do all the work. Another study in the Strength and Conditioning Journal shows that free weights are superior versus machines. Unlike machine assisted exercises that keep the weight on a dedicated track, you have to use stabilizing and balancing muscles to help support the weight. This means each rep is working many more muscles than using a machine. Furthermore, dumbbells are also harder than barbell and other bar lifts with free weights because you can’t share the weight across both arms. Each arm has to do its own thing. This is why, for example, dumbbell press is much harder than traditional bench press. A person who can max 225 pounds on traditional press will likely only be able to do about 180ish pounds with dumbbells.
Here are some of the top core dumbbell exercises:
- Dumbbell Press. Just like bench press, dumbbell press is an essential lift for building the chest and arm muscles.
- Dumbbell Incline Press. This exercise is a variation of the dumbbell flat press, but instead you’re honing upper chest muscles.
- Dumbbell Shoulder Press. This exercise is performed sitting down, ideally with some form of back support. It works the shoulder and upper chest muscles.
- Dumbbell Squats. Squats are a core lift of any workout regime. Combine dumbbell squats with lunges and you’re legs will be feeling in the next day.
- Dumbbell Curl. One of the most common dumbbell lifts is the curl. This isolates the bicep and gives it a thorough beating.
- Dumbbell Tricep Kickback. Along with dumbbell press, the tricep kickback will help develop the largest arm muscle: the triceps.
- Dumbbell Kneeling One Arm Row. This is an effective back exercise that is much better than using a machine row.
- Dumbbell Lateral Raise. The lateral raise is a shoulder exercise that hits the side deltoid muscles. You can also combine this with front raises and shoulder press for a total shoulder workout.
- Dumbbell Upright Row. Another back exercise, this hits many of the muscles that the kneeling one arm row misses.
- Dumbbell Stationary Lunge. One of the most effective leg exercises with dumbbells is the lunge. You can either stay put or if you have room you can walk and alternate legs.
- Dumbbell Toe Raise. The toe raise is an excellent exercise for working out the calf muscles.
Bodybuilding.com has a great comprehensive list of dumbbell exercises if you’re looking for more.
Another idea is Virtual Trainer Dumbbell. It is an excellent smart phone app that will give you many ideas about how to use your new dumbbells. There are dozens of exercises featured in the app. It also shows you which muscle groups are targeted and how to perform each exercise. You can read more about their collection of apps for iOS and Android at their website.
Types of Adjustable Dumbbells
The main distinction between dumbbell products is whether they are best for strength training or conditioning workouts. Strength training aka pumping iron to build muscle mass obviously involves lifting heavy weight and doing a lower amount of sets. Bodybuilders or anyone interested in putting on some bulk will want to buy a set optimized for this use. The goal here is to keep increasing to heavier loads, and in turn your muscles will grow. With this style, it is best to take plenty of rest between sets, so swapping and making weight adjustments on the fly is not necessary.
Aerobic dumbbell sets are used for activities like CrossFit style or P90X workout videos. This incorporates the high rep many sets style of lifting. The main goal here is to increase cardiovascular health and overall endurance. You are looking to burn fat, sweat a lot, and “get in shape.” Typically there is very little time between sets (about 15-30 seconds). This is because you want to keep your heart rate up as sustain it for the duration of the workout.
Some experts recommend a training program that involves some of both styles. Most dumbbells are designed for one lifting style or the other, but a few excel in both categories.
Adjustable Dumbbell Features
There are a few things to keep an eye on when shopping for adjustable dumbbells.
- Max Weight: Some adjustable dumbbells top out at 50 pounds per dumbbell, while others may go up to 100 pounds.
- Weight Increments: There are sets with over 28 weight settings and have increments of 2.5 pounds while some have only a dozen weight settings with increments of 5 pounds.
- Adjustment Type: Dial, Pin, Locking Screw, Knob.
- Grip: Do users report a comfortable, firm grip? It is a good idea to look for grips that have texture just in case your hands get really sweaty in the thick of things.
- Brand: Some people prefer only buying brands they are familiar with.
- Warranty: If you see a 10 year warranty you know the company stands firmly behind their craftsmanship.
- Product Dimensions: How big is the set? Will it fit in your desired space?
- Custom Stand: Some dumbbell sets are sold with a stand for easy access, some are sold separately, and some do not have stands designed specifically for them.
- Shipping: Watch out for the shipping costs, some companies will hit you hard with these because adjustable dumbbells make for one heck of a heavy package.
- Extras: Sometimes dumbbell sets will come with exercise handbooks and even stands to rack the weights when you are done with a set.