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I’m A Certified Personal Trainer & These Adjustable Dumbbells Are The Ultimate Fitness Hack

Author:

Marissa Miller, CPT

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September 23, 2022

mbg Contributing Writer

By Marissa Miller, CPT

mbg Contributing Writer

Marissa Miller is a certified personal trainer and holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition and has over 10 years of experience editing and reporting on all things health, nutrition, beauty, fitness, style and home.

Image by mbg creative

September 23, 2022

Our editors have independently chosen the products listed on this page. If you purchase something mentioned in this article, we may earn a small commission.

When building your at-home workout setup, it can be easy to accumulate piles of bulky equipment–fast. Enter: adjustable dumbbells, the equipment hack that takes up the space of a single heavy dumbbell, yet serves the purpose of virtually all types–from light weights for high repetitions to heavier weights for those serious gains.

As an ACE-certified personal trainer with a specialization in orthopedic exercise, I’m a huge proponent of strength and resistance training to help enhance overall daily functioning, improve posture, boost your metabolism, prevent injury, and promote longevity–and science backs me up on this. A meta-analysis from the British Journal of Sports Medicine confirmed that a regular regimen of muscle-strengthening activities can reduce your risk of mortality, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes by up to 17 percent.

There are a slew of incredible psychological benefits that come with weight-training, too. Research suggests a link between strength training and reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as improvements in sleep quality, self-esteem and cognition. Needless to say, finding the right exercise equipment is key for anyone who wants to reap these weight-training benefits from home. Read on for the best adjustable dumbbells to streamline your next workout.

What is an adjustable dumbbell?

An adjustable dumbbell is a single dumbbell with plates or discs that can be added or removed to modify the weight load. These dumbbells are space-saving, and omit the need for a bulky dumbbell rack, making them an excellent addition to any home gym. They’re also budget-friendly since you get multiple use cases out of a single piece of equipment–and, if you need to quickly modify your load during or in between sets, you can easily add or subtract weight mid-workout.

How we picked:

We selected the most high-value adjustable dumbbells with options that fit a wide range of budgets.

Convenience

The adjustable dumbbells we chose include mechanisms that make it easy to interchange weight plates throughout your workout.

Safety

When working with heavy weights, safety is of the utmost importance, no matter your level. Our picks feature specific safety features to help avoid injury.

User Friendliness

During a heart-pounding workout, the last thing you need is a confusing device. These dumbbells are intuitive to navigate.

Our picks for the best adjustable dumbbells:

Best overall: Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells

Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells

VIEW ON Amazon | From $220VIEW ON Bowflex | $430

Pros

Includes 1-year JRNY membership15 sets in one

Cons

Some reviewers say the plates wobbleExpensive

Locking System: Affixes to base and can be removed via a dial or foot plate.

Materials: Metal

Weight Capacity: 52.5 pounds

These dumbbells can be adjusted from 5 to 52.5 pounds, and are available as a single dumbbell or in a set of two. The non-slip rubber handles make for a more comfortable workout, and the user-friendly locking mechanism helps you avoid injury, by keeping the plates firmly planted when the dial is placed in between two weight values.

These weights have developed a cult following, with over 16,000 perfect five-star ratings on Amazon and thousands of rave reviews. Customers love the dumbbells are self-explanatory, the fact that they can be adjusted by 2.5-pound increments, and how quickly you can switch between the various weights.

One reviewer says, “Absolutely solid and quality dumbbells. These bad boys should be a staple to any home. Love the convenience of having these puppies available to lift whenever I want and they have been putting me to work. Been knocking out full body workouts with these dumbbells so I’m incredibly thankful for these and believe they are a fantastic investment.” On the con side, although you are getting a lot of value out of the set, it is one of the more expensive options, and a few people mention that the plates can wobble slightly.

Best budget: Ativafit Adjustable Dumbbell Set

Ativafit Adjustable Dumbbell Set

VIEW ON Amazon | $100VIEW ON Ativafit | $100

Pros

CompactBeginner-friendly

Cons

Lighter weight range than others

Locking System: Weight can only be adjusted while on the base tray.

Materials: Chrome and plastic

Weight Capacity: 12.5 pounds

Complete with its own organization tray, an ergonomic soft handle and a beginner-friendly weight limit of 12.5 pounds per dumbbell, this adjustable dumbbell set is a less expensive pick that still gets the job done. It serves the function of four dumbbells in one, and comes with two weights in a set–unlike other brands that cost more and need to be purchased individually. While these don’t go up to as heavy of a weight capacity as others, they are great for beginners and those who prefer lighter-weighted workouts.

The majority of the reviews on these dumbbells are positive, with a ton of Amazon shoppers commenting on how easy they are to use and to store. Keep in mind, that you get what you pay for–and these are not the highest quality weights out there. One reviewer says, “Good product for beginners. Not very sturdy but good for folks who are looking for a light workout.”

Best set: NordicTrack Select-A-Weight Dumbbell Pair

NordicTrack Select-A-Weight Dumbbell Pair

VIEW ON Amazon | $330VIEW ON Dick’s | $200

Pros

Free iFit trial with purchase15 weight settings

Cons

Reports of damage on arrival

Locking System: Slide the plastic pin between plates to select your weight level and release to lock in place.

Materials: Steel and plastic

Weight Capacity: 55 pounds

This adjustable dumbbell set serves the purpose of 30 dumbbells in one, with 15 possible weight levels. Each dumbbell has a weight capacity of 55 pounds, which makes this set perfect for building strength and power, using a low-rep, high-weight formula. You can even use the handlebar on its own as a moderate 10-pound weight–so the weight training options are seemingly endless.

Choose between 5- or 2.5-pound increments when adjusting the weight, and use the plastic pin to lock the plates into place. The set comes with a custom-molded storage tray that takes up a fraction of the space of a typical set of dumbbell weights. You’ll even get a free iFit trial with your purchase, which you can use to stream thousands of trainer-led workouts.

While these may appear bulky with the heaviest weight setting, reviewers note that these dumbbells do not restrict their motion in any way during their workouts. One satisfied shopper says, “After having used these dumbbells about 4-5 days a week since I got them, I can definitely say this was a solid purchase. Super convenient, weight selection is very nice and quick, no major gripes at all.”

Best heavy: Bowflex SelectTech 1090 Adjustable Dumbbell

Bowflex SelectTech 1090 Adjustable Dumbbell

VIEW ON Amazon | From $400VIEW ON Bowflex | $800

Pros

Free JRNY trial with purchase17 weight settings

Cons

BulkyExpensive

Locking System: Affixes to base and can be removed via a dial or foot plate.

Materials: Metal and plastic

Weight Capacity: 90 pounds

As one of the heaviest adjustable dumbbells in the game, the Bowflex SelectTech 1090 is incredibly versatile and can be adjusted up to 90 pounds. It features a user-friendly weight selection dial that allows you to change the weight by five-pound increments. These dumbbells help you stay safe during your workout, with the same durable locking tabs as the SelectTech 552. The tabs can be removed by using a dial or the foot plate.

While these offer the most versatility at their 90-pound capacity, they are the most expensive dumbbells on this list. With that in mind, you’ll be eligible for a free yearlong trial of the JRNY app ($149 value) with your purchase, through which you can stream on-demand, full-body strength training classes.

There are over 1,000 five-star ratings for these adjustable dumbbells on Amazon, with people raving about how easy they are to use and how little space they take up. One reviewer says these saved her “a ton of space and time,” adding that they are “Very fast and easy changing weights in the rack. Just as fast as going back to the dumbbell rack in the gym and grabbing a different pair.”

Best for beginners: FYGL Adjustable Dumbbell Set

FYGL Adjustable Dumbbell Set

VIEW ON Amazon | $54

Pros

3-in-1 designMultiple colors

Cons

Too light for some users

Locking System: Slide weight blocks into the handle bar and seal it shut before use.

Materials: Thermoplastic rubber

Weight Capacity: 3.8 pounds

If this is your first foray into weight-lifting, this 3.8-pound set will help you avoid injury while building your strength and endurance with a comfortably low weight range. As a three-in-one device, these weights function as adjustable dumbbells, resistance bands, and a barbell all in one, contributing to a well-rounded workout. They’re also light enough to introduce into cardio-based or high-impact training, should you wish to kick your sweat sesh up a notch.

With overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon, these dumbbells receive praise for how versatile they are and how simple it is to adjust the weight capacity. “I really like that I can unscrew the end and easily change the amount of the weights on each end. The resistance bands clip easily onto the barbell for workouts,” a satisfied shopper notes. One common drawback is that this set does not come with instructions.

Best quality: PowerBlock Elite EXP Adjustable Dumbbells

PowerBlock Elite EXP Adjustable Dumbbells

VIEW ON Amazon | $360VIEW ON Dick’s | $360

Pros

ExpandableEasy to store

Cons

Expensive

Locking System: Lock in place using the magnetic polypropylene pin.

Materials: Steel and polypropylene

Weight Capacity: 50 pounds

When working with heavy weights, quality is incredibly important for both the safety and the efficacy of your workout. These PowerBlock dumbbells are an outstanding quality, thanks to their ergonomic design and easily adjustable plates. They max out at 50 pounds (with expansion kits available to bring them up to 90 pounds), and are ideal for more experienced athletes.

The squared-shaped design also comes in handy for floor exercises like plank rows and tricep dips. Rubber padding on the handle makes these dumbbells extremely comfortable to use (even during longer workouts), and the set is durable and built to last for years to come. The brand even offers a 5-year warranty should you need a replacement.

While the square shape might take some getting used to, reviews are mostly positive about these dumbbells-particularly about the quality. One reviewer notes, “The weights are easy to use, and the square shape has grown on me very quickly. These weights never roll away and the shape actually works better for all of my favorite compound motions. I’ll be picking up the expansions next!”

Editor’s pick: LifePro Adjustable Dumbbell Set

LifePro Adjustable Dumbbell Set

VIEW ON Amazon | $191VIEW ON Lifepro | $180

Pros:

Easy to useCompact

Cons:

Some reviewers say the knob can get stuck

Locking System: Weights lock into place with a pin and can only be adjusted when on the base tray

Materials: Metal

Weight Capacity: 50 pounds

This adjustable dumbbell set has made our editor’s home fitness routine accessible and easy. The weights are incredibly user-friendly, and can be adjusted in 5-pound increments by simply placing the dumbbells back onto the bench and moving the knob to your desired weight marker. On top of their ease of use and versatility, they have a compact design that will save you a ton of storage space.

This set has a 25-pound weight capacity, but LifePro also offers a single 50-pound adjustable dumbbell. While a few Amazon shoppers do mention that the knob can stick a little, our editor says these feel safe and sturdy–and the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. One says, “The first thing I noticed about Lifepro’s adjustable weights was [that] they are sturdy with a smooth transition mechanism. You can change the weights really quickly compared to my last set.” Another notes, “I really like the overall appearance and shape of these dumbbells – they are not clunky or too large in any way. They are easy to hold and complete any exercise with and do not get in your way.”

How to choose the best adjustable dumbbells:

When choosing the best adjustable dumbbells for you, you should first determine your level–there’s no need to choose the model with the highest weight capacity if you won’t actually use those heavier weights. Look for safety features, such as locking mechanisms and soft grips, to help prevent injury and promote comfort and proper hand and wrist positioning. Bonus points for included storage trays to keep you organized and stop your weights from rolling around your closet (or, even worse, potentially hurting someone). If you plan on performing weighted floor exercises (such as planks, man makers, renegade rows, or weighted burpees), opt for square-shaped adjustable dumbbells that will stay put beneath the weight of your body without rolling forward.

FAQ

Are adjustable dumbbells a good investment?

Adjustable dumbbells are a good investment if you’ll actually use them. Adjustable dumbbells can be far more practical than standard dumbbells, due to their customizable nature–so there’s a lot more potential for finding them useful as you scale down or level up your workouts.

Do adjustable dumbbells break?

As with anything you use over time, wear and tear is quite common with adjustable dumbbells (especially if you opt for less expensive sets). Users report that some plates tend to get stuck when adjusting levels, and lighter and flimsier materials like plastic tend to break off. If dumbbells are slammed down on hard floors and not used with care, they have a tendency to shape-shift as well.

How heavy do adjustable dumbbells get?

Adjustable dumbbells typically peak at 90 pounds per dumbbell. Certain brands like Bowflex and Ironmaster offer extensions that can be purchased separately to increase the weight capacity. These extensions are typically only recommended for advanced weight-lifters.

The takeaway.

If you’re still on the fence about adjustable dumbbells, know that it certainly doesn’t hurt to give them a fair shot when incorporating them into your workouts. Not only can adjustable dumbbells save a ton of space, but they can help you advance in your workouts–without breaking momentum while you wait for a new pair of weights to arrive. Always be sure to practice proper form with your dumbbells. Keep your core engaged, and bend at the knees (not the spine) when lifting them up from the floor or putting them back down–and always respect your body’s limits when adding weight. You’ve got this!

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