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Adjustable dumbbells are one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can add to your home gym. Over the past eight years, I’ve acquired and reviewed 17 of the most popular options and believe the Powerblock Elite Series are the best adjustable dumbbells for most people.
There is no one better suited to give an opinion on the best adjustable dumbbells than me, Coop. I have used and reviewed more gym equipment, including adjustable dumbbells, than anyone in the world. As I write this, I’m currently staring at eight sets of adjustable dumbbells, which don’t include all of the others I currently have in my garage gym or my training studio. It’s not enough to just own them, though, as I actually use them for the bench, rows, curls, and more every day and get feedback from the home gym community the world over.
In addition to that, I recommend the dumbbells that are actually the best adjustable dumbbells for most people, not the ones that make Garage Gym Reviews the most money, as you’ll see elsewhere. I am confident in that and you can be confident that when you choose our recommendations, you’ll be satisfied with your weight training when you use them.
RELATED: My picks for the best kettlebells
My Top Pick: PowerBlock Elite Series Adjustable Dumbbells
Best Quick Change Adjustable Dumbbells: NUOBELL Adjustable Dumbbell Set
Best for Beginners: MX Select MX55 Rapid Change Dumbbell System
Best Cheap Adjustable Dumbbells: Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells
Best Loadable Dumbbell Option: Rogue DB-15 Loadable Dumbbell
Best Adjustable Dumbbells for Bodybuilders: Ironmaster Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbell System
Best Adjustable Dumbbell Set: PowerBlock Pro Dumbbells
Good for: Most people seeking a durable, high-weight option
My Favorite Things:
The Powerblock Elite Series offers the best price-to-performance ratio of any adjustable dumbbell I have tested. Powerblocks have been one of my favorites since I built my first garage gym nearly a decade ago. There are three reasons they are largely considered the best adjustable dumbbells: they’re quick to change, they have a wide range of weight capacity, and they’re as durable as any dumbbell we’ve tested, including many fixed dumbbells.
I like that the weight can be quickly changed in 2.5- to 5-pound increments and can go up to 90 pounds with added accessories. They are compact and priced extremely competitively to others on the market, coming in at $329 for the pair for up to 50 pounds. To get up to 70 or 90 pounds, you have to pay for extra accessories at $149 each.
A magnetic selector pin changes the weight quickly for a 10-pound jump. If you want to adjust in 2.5-pound increments (something that few adjustable dumbbells offer and 99% of commercial gyms don’t even offer), you slide out the selector pin, pull out the handle and slide in one of the metal cylinders and then reverse the process. As a result, these micro adjustments take a little longer than the 10-pound changes.
In terms of durability, I’ve never had a Powerblock handle come apart from the weight stack, and the pin has always stayed in thanks to the magnets, even on movements like snatches during metcons. Lastly, the value that the Powerblock Elite Set offers is the best in the industry. This is one of the only made in the USA adjustable dumbbells on the market and is extremely affordable when compared to its competition.
For most people, the biggest issue with Powerblocks is the shape. They’re a rectangle, which can be an annoyance to some, especially those that haven’t used them much. Also, the caged handle means your wrist may touch the posts on the bell. Although the posts are comfortable due to the foam that encases them, it’s different than many are used to.
For every last detail on these, see my full Powerblock Dumbbells review.
Good for: Someone seeking fast-changing weights and sleek design
My Favorite Things:
NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells are the best of a new breed of space-saving dumbbells. They consistently had the fastest recorded times for changing weights. In just a matter of seconds, you can change from 5 pounds up to 80 pounds. I tested, trained with, and reviewed the NUOBELL's in-depth.
To be honest, I was reluctant to order these because of all the plastic. Plastic opens the door for durability issues. However, after using these for a while myself, I can say they are well-built and aesthetically pleasing. The flat pancake plate design really sets these apart from other similar products on the market because it gives it a more natural feel than some of its competitors.
In addition to being quick to change, the NUOBELLs are some of the most familiar feeling dumbbells I've used. Due to the use of metal plates and an uncaged handle design, if you closed your eyes during say, a bench press, you wouldn't even know you were using adjustable. This is highly appealing for those who don’t want to deal with more square-shaped blocks like Powerblocks or Bowflex SelectTech's that are extremely wide even at lighter weights.
Unlike many dumbbell sets that use contoured handles with rubber or foam grips, the NUOBELLs use a barbell-type handle with a surprisingly aggressive knurled finish. This handle makes these dumbbells really appealing to people who normally do barbell movements because you will get to train with the same feeling you're used to. Most rubber hex-head dumbbells use a contoured handle with some knurling, but I think many will grow to like the straight handle on these.
Due to all the plastic, this is not a set of adjustable dumbbells I would suggest dropping from even a couple inches off the ground. Also, I don’t love that these lack upgradability (max weight is 80 pounds with no way to go higher in the future).
Read my full NUOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells review.
Good for: People who need moderate weight from easy-to-use dumbbells
My Favorite Things:
I am a big fan of the MX55s. The thinness of the weight plates is excellent, and they're super easy to change the increments on the weights and get back to strength training. MX makes this set in increased weight loads, but beginners likely only need a pair that goes up to 55 pounds as this set does.
For beginners, the 5-pound incremental changes you can make is ideal. Many people new to lifting weights don’t yet have a firm grasp on how heavy they should go for each exercise. Smaller jumps in these dumbbells lets you try a wider range of options in your home workouts.
What I also like is that the MX55s have more of the look and feel of a traditional dumbbell, with a knurled handle and round plates. Caged versions, like the PowerBlocks, can really throw people off initially. You change the weight by turning a plastic dial on either dumbbell. It’s fast and easy.
I’ll point out that the MX55s are more expensive than some other options, but I do believe that these are durable compared to products that cut costs by using materials like plastic.
Read my in-depth MX Select Adjustable Dumbbells review.
Good for: The budget-conscious crowd who still want a usable adjustable dumbbell
My Favorite Things:
The dumbbells most synonymous with having weights that adjust are the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells, primarily due to their price. The 552's adjust quickly and feel balanced in hand during various resistance training sessions while coming in under $350 shipped to your door. Even if they don't go extremely heavy (max 52.5 pounds) and are rather wide, they still offer a lot of value based on their quality.
Related: Best Budget Home Equipment
The SelectTech Series is all built around the dial system that is placed on the ends of every single dumbbell. The SelectTech Dials are both reliable and quick to change making the 552's only second to the NUOBELL's in their speed of weight adjustment. We're very used to this adjustment system as we've used it in our review of the Bowflex 840 Adjustable Kettlebell.
The 552’s adjust by 2.5 pounds every click of the dial for the first 25 pounds, and then 5-pound changes thereafter, which allows you to increase the weight slower, extending your plateau window. A primary component of strength training and building muscle mass is progressive overload and linear progression. Being able to, literally, dial in the weight to minute amounts is a great feature, especially on movements that are harder to increase on like lateral raises or tricep kickbacks.
My dislikes with the 552's are their lack of durability ("DO NOT DROP" is etched into the side of the dumbbells,) their lack of upgradability (52.5 pounds is their max weight), and their width at every weight increment. Regardless of if you’re at 5 pounds or 52.5 pounds, they're going to be the same width, which can cause them to hit each other and shorten your range of motion on movements like curls and overhead press.
Side Note: The Bowflex 1090 Adjustable Dumbbell Set was introduced after the 552's as an answer to users requests for a heavier option. They use the same selector dial system to change between weights and even have a similar cradle. However, the 1090's are large and may be cumbersome. The 552's offer a great value and a good dumbbell at lighter weights, but I think the 1090's are too large and overpriced compared to their competition.
Check out my full and in-depth Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells review.
Good for: People who want to kick it old school with existing Olympic plates
My Favorite Things:
Adjustable weights aren't limited to proprietary designs. Loadable dumbbells use the Olympic plates you already own and use regularly on your barbells and can go as heavy as you could ever lift. The best loadable dumbbell I've used and has a reasonable cost is the Rogue DB-15 Loadable Dumbbell.
Rogue Fitness makes, by and large, the best Olympic Barbells for most people, and the DB-15 is essentially a miniature version of a Rogue Ohio Bar. The best feature of a loadable dumbbell is the fact that they are adjustable weights that use the iron weight plates you already own and are used to using in your workouts. This makes them typically much cheaper to get started with than other adjustable dumbbells on our list thanks to a lower upfront cost for the majority of home gym owners.
The other feature is that they can go as heavy as you'd like. I've done rows with upwards of 150 pounds (using some body English, of course) with loadable dumbbells, and there's still room to spare. The Rogue DB-15 has a longer weight sleeve than most other loadable dumbbells which has its pros and cons, but I think many will appreciate the extra length.
As the name suggests, the DB-15 weighs in at 15 pounds with collars or 10 pounds without and can utilize the Rogue dumbbell bumpers, although I think they're oversized for most trainees. The rotation system on the adjustable Rogue dumbbells uses bronze bushings which are proven to perform and be long-lasting, although I would recommend using some 3-in-1 oil in the sleeves on occasion.
The biggest downside to the DB-15 from Rogue Fitness is the price. These are made in the USA using high tensile strength steel and high-quality components. If you want a cheaper, lower-quality option, we recommend the Titan Fitness 20-IN Olympic Dumbbell Handle that comes in a pair for less than a single Rogue dumbbell.
Good for: People who want a lot of weight options but want to save space
My Favorite Things:
If you want an upgrade and don’t mind the price, the Pro EXP Powerblocks look great and have a cageless handle that feels more similar to a traditional dumbbell. The Pro EXP is an upgrade to the PowerBlock Elite series mentioned above in that the plates are covered in urethane, providing for a quieter workout. The 2.5-pound weight changes up to 20 pounds means you can get a lot of weights in. In fact, if you add on the 70- and 90-pound expander kits, the EXP replaces up to 28 dumbbells.
I’ve talked about this ad nauseam, but I would love it if Powerblock would offer a knurled handle for the Elite Series as an option. In fact, I’ve talked and asked them so much I think soon they’ll just give in and give the people what they want. At least I hope this is the case.
There is one Powerblock model that I’m not a big fan of and that is the 175 pound commercial set. It’s awesome they can create a dumbbell that goes up to 175 pounds, however, the dumbbell is so large that it both looks and feels comical. For university weight rooms where 300-pound football linemen are training, it probably makes sense, but for most home gym owners, I’d suggest avoiding them.
Good for: People who want heavy weight in the feel of a traditional dumbbell
My Favorite Things:
If you want a more traditional feeling dumbbell, then the Ironmaster Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbell System is what I’d recommend. Ironmasters can go up to 165 pounds, use metal weight plates, and although they aren't the quickest to change, the Quick-Lock System is very smart. I call these the Lifter's Adjustable Dumbbells as they feel most similar to a fixed dumbbell and have the look and feel of an old-school weight room.
Ironmasters are known for their durability. In fact, when I asked our Home Gym Community Group what they thought about Ironmasters, nearly every one that had them remarked on how tough they were. It makes sense as they are made entirely from steel and iron. The handles are chrome plated, and each weight plate is machined and precision cast to ensure a tight fit. They look great, feel great, and can be relied on for years of use thanks to their quality construction materials.
With the ends of Ironmaster dumbbells being flat it is easy to rest them on your quads before starting a set in order to increase stability. Loadable dumbbells can't really compete with this because they will dig into your legs, which makes working out on the floor unsafe. The square weights also make the workout go quicker as they don't roll around all over the place when set on the best home gym flooring.
Ironmasters are also a great tool for those looking to do goblet squats and french presses. These workouts are more difficult to manage with other adjustable dumbbells due to a caged system or how the plates are secured. The balance and feel of Ironmasters, which is really only able to be experienced during a weight lifting session, is a more similar feeling to normal dumbbells than most other adjustables.
The stand-out feature that makes Ironmasters special is the Quick-Lock adjustment system. The rod that holds the weights in place can quickly be removed is what separates these from other spin-lock dumbbells. They aren't as quick to change as others on our list and they do require you to do some mental math similar to a barbell and weights, but the grooved rod that slides in and out quickly is amazing.
Check out my in-depth Ironmaster Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbells review.
The initial sticker price of adjustable dumbbells might shock you. Some are priced the same as the best exercise bikes on the market. However, if you pick the right pair, you might find that adjustable dumbbells are some of the most worthwhile workout equipment you can own.
Dumbbell training in general is extremely effective, whether you’re looking to build muscle mass, do a HIIT cardio workout or burn fat. People use dumbbells for a number of reasons, including:
The most obvious plus to an adjustable dumbbell is that it saves an enormous amount of space. If you own a home gym, you probably already know that space fills up quickly. A traditional set of dumbbells easily takes up substantial floor or shelving space. With adjustable dumbbells, you can get between six and 30 dumbbells in the footprint of just one pair.
Purchasing an entire set of dumbbells can put a serious dent in your wallet. Depending on which set of adjustable dumbbells you pick, you can save a significant amount of money by essentially buying 12 pairs at once.
For the most part, adjustable dumbbells are built to withstand a lot of wear and tear. The quality ones use iron and steel to form a solid, nearly indestructible piece of equipment. Typical rubber hex dumbbells, alternatively, are prone to more damage.
Since 2013, we’ve researched, tested, and reviewed nearly every adjustable dumbbell with some semblance of quality that’s available. This includes the most budget-friendly, low weight capacity, imported models all the way to the stainless steel, made-in-the-USA dumbbells with a 175-pound weight capacity.
In addition to my own training and testing, I’ve leaned on the collective opinions of the most die-hard home gym equipment owners in the known universe, our Facebook Home Gym Community.
In all this lifting of metal and plastic, I’ve found the things that are important and those which are not. There are certain features marketed by companies to sell their products that, in all honesty, provide little, if any benefit to the user. In all this testing, I’ve found the following criteria to be the most important to look for in adjustable dumbbells:
Fixed dumbbells range in weight from 2.5 pounds all the way to 300 pounds or more. Few trainees need above 100 pounds for dumbbell movements and if they do use more, they’re often using them for only a couple of movements. For this reason, an adjustable dumbbell’s ability to get as close to 100 pounds without being grossly oversized is important.
Dumbbells that can have a higher amount of weight added are even better, although not useful for most. Our favorite adjustable dumbbells allow you to grow the size and weight of your dumbbell over time.
Related: Check out my guide of Barbells vs Dumbbells.
More durable materials like metal and nylon are superior to cheap and thin plastics for longevity and safety of the trainee. Although it’s usually not wise to drop dumbbells, if you do, you better hope it’s made with a lot of heavy-duty metal as opposed to plastic. Metal weight sets are superior in durability.
Gym equipment breaks. Barbells end up bending, bumper plates fold, kettlebell handles separate from the bell, and adjustable dumbbells can, and do break. The longer the warranty period and the more generous the use cases of a warranty, the better.
However, a warranty is only as good as the company servicing it. If a company isn’t going to be around for long, then a lifetime warranty will do you no good, so we factor in the lifecycle of the company making the dumbbells.
Home gym exercise equipment is not an income-producing asset like the equipment bought by a commercial gym. For this reason and others, the price and, more importantly, the value of the adjustable dumbbells is extremely important.
The holy grail for adjustable dumbbells lies in the $500 to $700 range for expandable adjustable dumbbells with a high weight capacity, less and more cost-effective for lower weight increments. Cheaper adjustable weight dumbbells will prove to be more likely to get damaged because they likely sacrifice on the kind of materials used.
Is it easy to tell what weight you’re using? Does it require you to do mental math that can slow down your workout? Check out the labeling on the product. Some dials are simply in “sizes” of 1-10, and you have to do the math to figure out how much is on the bell. Other weight changes are clearly marked
Trainees who come from a commercial gym with access to a full fixed dumbbell set up often remark on how awkward certain dumbbells that adjust can feel. This is true, but only for certain dumbbells, and this often goes away after a few workouts. Balance in the hand is important so the user can focus on the lift instead of their safety.
Typically, the more compact a dumbbell is, the more it costs. Take Watson Dumbbells for instance, the gold standard in the fixed dumbbell world. They’re as compact as humanly possible while relying on stainless steel instead of cast iron. The reason this is so nice is that it prevents the dumbbell from interfering with the movements.
Also, when it comes to home fitness, minimizing the space your equipment uses is often a priority. You can still find adjustable dumbbells with a maximum weight capacity that save you space because they literally put multiple pairs of weights into just one set.
By and large, adjustable dumbbells shouldn’t be dropped. However, when hitting the end of your rep range or maxing out, it can be hard to set the dumbbells down carefully. The ability to be dropped without breaking is something we consider when testing and something you should be aware of before purchasing.
If you plan on doing any sort of isolation or bodybuilding movements that involve supersets, being able to change the dumbbells quickly is an important feature. We timed how long it takes to go from the minimum weight to the maximum for all of the dumbbells and recorded the times.
I judged each model on its versatility and how well it performed during typical training used with dumbbells. This means I did bench press, incline press, lunges, alternating curls, hammer curls, tricep extensions, lateral raises, single leg RDLs, and a host of other movements. Benching? Check out my take on the best weight benches here.
Everyone trains differently and has different fitness levels, so it’s important to note how each dumbbell feels during each movement and how it differs from others, and what they’re trying to mimic: fixed dumbbells. I asked myself if the shape of the dumbbell limited range of motion, if they felt unbalanced or uncomfortable, or if we closed our eyes, would we know we were using a dumbbell substitute?
In addition to the host of training exercises, I weighed each dumbbell at various increments to see how accurate to the stated weight they were. This is something I’ve done hundreds of times for barbells and weight plates, but I haven’t as much in the past for dumbbells.
I also timed weight changes; I wanted to see how long it took to change the weight when fatigued (say, in the middle of workout) or from the start. If the dumbbells take too long to set up, they’ll be used less thus being an impedance to reaching one’s training goals.
Also, instead of just doing movements typically found in a general training environment, we also did movements that may be found in the best CrossFit equipment for a home gym that requires more dynamic movement, such as snatches, swings (not everyone has kettlebells,) clean, and even bear crawls.
Which adjustable dumbbells are best?
This is somewhat of a hard question to answer. However, what I can say is that I think the Powerblock Elite Series are the best pair of adjustable dumbbells for most people. If you want cheaper and less weight, go with Bowflex SelectTech 552's. If you want more weight and a more typical dumbbell experience, go with Ironmasters.
Are adjustable dumbbells worth it?
Anything with adjustable weights has its downsides. However, for 99% of trainees working out at home, adjustable dumbbells are vastly superior to fixed dumbbells for their space and cost savings.
Why are adjustable dumbbells so expensive?
Nearly all gym equipment is expensive when compared to many other consumer products. The reason being is due to the size and weight of the items. What gym equipment lacks in technology, it makes up for it in other areas. Adjustable dumbbells are so expensive because they have rather complex weight changing mechanisms, require a lot of weight and are therefore expensive to ship.
Despite their expense, they're much cheaper than the comparable standard dumbbells that are found in most commercial gyms. You can certainly find cheap adjustable dumbbells on Amazon, but I don’t recommend a lot of those inexpensive brands because they are likely to break.
What are the heaviest adjustable dumbbells?
The adjustable dumbbells that can go the heaviest are the Powerblock Commercial Pro 175's that can go up to 175 pounds. I have a set of these and although they go that heavy, I wouldn't recommend them for most as they're enormous. Almost comical to be honest. For most people, the Ironmasters that go up to 165 LB are a better option at heavier weights.
Should I buy an adjustable dumbbell set because of the accessories?
No. Most of the accessories that go with adjustable dumbbells are an afterthought of the company to sell more products. The kettlebell attachment for Powerblocks is okay, but still not that good unless you're just using it for swings and carries. The barbell attachments are almost always bad, and I think most people would be better off not buying them.
HAVAK Adjustable Triad: These are a somewhat underground adjustable dumbbell featuring three different handles at different diameters to increase grip strength. I'm a big fan of these, but they're a very different weight option from what else is out there and are honestly in a somewhat separate category.
FLYBIRD/ATIVAFIT Adjustable Dumbbells: These are essentially the same dumbbells and are white-labeled by many importing from China companies. They're cheap dumbbells that won't last and I don't recommend them.
BaadAss Adjustable Dumbbells: BaadAss Adjustable Dumbbells and Pepin Dumbbells are very similar in style. The big difference is that BaadAss are practically indestructible, however, they have a worse fit and finish in their current iteration and cost more. I hope BaadAss improves some of the parts of their dumbbells and if done, I think they could end up better than Pepins.
Pepin Adjustable Dumbbells: These are great. The problem is that they can't be dropped and take a long time to change in comparison to Ironmasters. That said, we do recommend them, especially to those that want a spin-lock style dumbbell with a great handle. Be sure to also check out our DIY Concrete Dumbbells guide here.
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