Dumbbells are an excellent way to build muscles in your arms. They can also be a tremendous waste of money.
The problem with most dumbbells is that they’re only as good as their weight. After a while, as you get used to the weight of the bells and your strength grows, the effectiveness of the dumbbells diminishes.
After a while, they’re not doing anything except getting in the way.
That’s why adjustable dumbbells are the way to go. Although they’re somewhat more expensive than regular dumbbells, they don’t outgrow their usefulness nearly as quickly. In the end, you’ll end up saving money, because instead of going out and buying a new set of dumbbells, you’ll just put more weight on your existing set.
Don’t you wish everything in life was that easy?
Things to Consider
Buying adjustable dumbbells makes sense, but it doesn’t make sense to go out and buy them without thinking things through first. If you want to be a smart shopper, here are a few tips to keep in mind before you swipe your credit card.
Weight is, obviously, the most important thing in a dumbbell, but it factors into the picture in several different ways. You want to consider the minimum weight of the dumbbell, the maximum weight of the dumbbell and the weight of the incremental increases to the dumbbell.
One advantage of standard dumbbells is security. Since they’re often one solid piece, there’s no chance of the dumbbell breaking or getting imbalanced. This is not necessarily true of adjustable dumbbells. The last thing you want is for the weights to slide off and land on your toes.
Just how much space does that dumbbell take up, anyway? One of the big reasons to choose adjustable dumbbells over standard dumbbells is the fact that they’re more compact. But if you buy a clunky adjustable dumbbell, you may not be doing yourself any more favours.
4. Ease of use
Some dumbbells are a real hassle to modify. You want a dumbbell that you can adjust quickly and easily. That way, if you decide to increase the weight mid-workout, you can do it without losing your stride.
As I said, adjustable dumbbells are quite a bit more expensive than regular models. Many of them cost $100 or more. Buy what you need, but don’t buy a fancy dumbbell that you can’t afford.
The Best Adjustable Dumbbells
Best Adjustable Dumbbells Under $100
CAP Barbell Adjustable Dumbbell
Although it’s definitely on the low end of the weight spectrum, the CAP Barbell Adjustable Dumbbell Set is a good adjustable dumbbell set, especially if you’re just getting started or you want more control over how you add weight to your exercises.
The total combined weight of the CAP Barbell weights is 40 pounds. This includes four 6-pound plates and four smaller 2.5-pound plates. Each dumbbell weighs three pounds, adding up to your total of 40 pounds. Two spin-lock collars are included, so the weighted plates don’t go sliding off the handles.
This is a basic, no-fuss, easy-to-use dumbbell system especially helpful for beginners. There’s a good chance you might outgrow these somewhere down the line, but if you’re on a budget, this might be a good place to start.
Ringstar Starring Adjustable Dumbbells
There’s not a lot of difference between the Ringstar dumbbells and the Unipack dumbbells. Both offer 105 pounds of weight, and they even distribute the weight in the same way. The main difference is aesthetics. The Ringstar dumbbells are shinier and a little more attractive.
Like the Unipack, the set includes sixteen 5-pound plates, four 2.5-pound plates four two 1.25-pound plates. The handles weigh 5 pounds and are secured with screw-on collars. The dumbbells are made of cast iron and are treated with a shiny metallic chrome.
The only reason to choose these dumbbells over the Unipak is that you prefer the chrome look to the standard black iron. They’re the same weight, and at the time of this writing, these dumbbells cost $10 more. They work well though and are recommended.
Best Adjustable Dumbbells Under $150
Unipack Set of Adjustable Dumbbells
There’s a big difference in weight between the Unipack Adjustable Dumbbells and the CAP Barbells listed above. The Unipak costs almost twice as much but delivers nearly three times as much weight. If you’re looking for affordable dumbbells around 100 pounds, this is your best bet.
The set includes sixteen 5-pound plates, four 2.5-pound plates and four 1.25-pound plates. Each dumbbell handle weighs 5 pounds, and there are also two screw-on collars to secure the dumbbells.
The main problem I have with the dumbbells is that they’re a little bulky. The dumbbell is already somewhat larger than your standard dumbbell, and balancing the larger size takes a bit of getting used to. There’s no getting around the fact that these dumbbells are a great value, however.
Bayou Fitness Adjustable Dumbbell
These dumbbells from Bayou Fitness are a perfect example of why the CAP Barbells are such an excellent value. CAP offered two 20-pound dumbbells for around $50. Bayou Fitness offers one 50-pound dumbbell for over $120.
Still, what a dumbbell. The handle itself weighs ten pounds and comes with eight 5-pound plates so that you can lift from 10 to 50 pounds at a time. The dumbbell is made of chrome-plated steel and is designed to be ultra-compact. It even comes with a storage tray to keep your home gym neat and organized.
Still, there’s no getting around the fact that you’d need to drop over $250 to work out with two of these dumbbells at once. At this price, you’re better off buying the single and working out one arm at a time.
Best Adjustable Dumbbells Under $175
BalanceFrom Cast Iron Adjustable Dumbbells
Like the Unipak and Ringstar sets, these cast iron adjustable dumbbells combine for up to 105 pounds of weight and are extra-long to accommodate the additional incremental weights.
The set includes two 5-pound handles, sixteen 5-pound plates, four 2.5-pound plates and four 1.25-pound plates. What sets this set apart from the other two is the handles. They’re textured and contoured to provide you with a softer, more comfortable grip, making your exercises a little easier to get through. They’re also covered by a two-year warranty, although its hard to see what can fail with a dumbbell.
Although this set is a little more expensive than the other two, I think it’s the better for it. The textured handles are a lot more comfortable to use and improve my grip tremendously. Sometimes it’s worth paying a little extra for quality and comfort.
PowerBlock Sport 24 Adjustable Dumbbells
I’ve never seen a set of dumbbells quite like Power Block. This innovative design makes it easy and quick to change the weight of your dumbbells even during your workout. Even better, the dumbbell set is compatible with additional weight packs to increase the maximum dumbbell weight further down the road.
The set includes sixteen 3-pound weights. Each dumbbell comes with eight weights, and you adjust the dumbbells in 3-pound increments. Each of the weights is color-coded, and a selector pin at the top makes switching out weights a cinch.
The balance of these weights is frankly incredible, and I love how compact they are and how much freedom is afforded. That said, these dumbbells are fairly expensive and don’t provide that much weight. You can add additional weights, but that’ll put your total cost around $200. With a ten-year warranty, however, it just might be worth it.
Best Adjustable Dumbbells Under $200
Unipack Pair of Adjustable Dumbbells
The successor to Unipak’s 105-pound dumbbells, Unipak ups the ante with a pair of 100-pound dumbbells that is sure to give your arms and pectorals a serious workout.
The set includes sixteen 10-pound plates, four 5-pound plates and four 2.5-pound plates. Each dumbbell handle weighs 5 pounds, and the weights are secured by a screw-on collar. Like the other Unipak dumbbells, these are a little longer than your standard dumbbells, although, with the extra weight, that’s a welcome change.
I honestly can’t tell you how balanced they feel when the weight is maxed out. I can’t lift 100 pounds with a single arm so that I couldn’t test it out. This is a good set of dumbbells, but you need to know what you’re getting yourself into. 100 pounds is a lot of weight, and if you’re not strong enough to handle the weight, you could injure yourself.
Best Adjustable Dumbbells Under $350
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Weights
At some point, there must be a law of diminishing returns as far as dumbbells are concerned. The BowFlex Dumbbells, like several other sets of adjustable dumbbells on this list, combine to weigh 105 pounds, but they are sold at a premium price.
Unlike the other sets of 105-pound dumbbells, the Select Tech 552 uses a different incremental set of weights. There are seventeen 2.5-pound weights and ten 5-pound weights. Each bar weighs 5 pounds, and there are dials on the ends to secure the weights.
The weights can be used with the BowFlex mobile training app for iOS and Android, connecting you with tools to maximize your training and workout potential. For me, the performance isn’t worth the extra cost, but I’m not a professional athlete or bodybuilder either. If you can afford to pay a little bit more, then you’re sure to be pleased with these dumbbells.
Best Adjustable Dumbbells Under $500
StairMaster Pair of TwistLock Adjustable Dumbbells
Stair Master utilizes twist-locking technology to create the most efficient and easy-to-adjust dumbbells yet. I’m not convinced they’re worth $500, but everything is worth what it’s purchaser will pay for it.
Each bar weighs five pounds, and the set includes twenty 5-pound plates. Thanks to the innovative design that lets you twist and lock each plate together, the dumbbell is much shorter than a lot of adjustable dumbbells, which makes it less cumbersome to handle than other similar models. The handles are cushioned and offer both excellent grip and minimal discomfort, which helps you push harder for longer.
With dumbbells like this, it’s all about how seriously you take your performance and your workout. Every little bit of advantage can be an advantage worth pressing. For someone like me, these dumbbells are way too expensive. But if you’re a professional bodybuilder, your priorities are a lot different than mine.
Best Adjustable Dumbbells Under $600
Bowflex SelectTech 1090 Adjustable Dumbbells
Like the 200-pound pair of Unipak dumbbells, I could not test these dumbbells at their maximum range of weight. I’m simply not strong enough. These BowFlex dumbbells are even more slick and streamlined than their predecessors. While they carry a premium price tag, they deliver precision performance you can depend on.
Each handlebar weighs 10 pounds, and the set includes 32 5-pound plates. Each plate locks onto the previous plate in succession, just like the Stair Master dumbbells, all the way up to 90 pounds each. The metal plates are covered in a durable moulding to give them a modern, space-age design. Like the other BowFlex dumbbells, you can coordinate with your BowFlex app to maximize your training potential.
There isn’t much else to say here. If you’re serious about fitness and you have the means to buy these dumbbells, then you absolutely should. But if you blanch at the thought of spending $600 on a set of dumbbells, there are plenty of cheaper options on this list.
As you can see, if you’re looking to buy adjustable dumbbells, there are plenty of options for you to choose from, both in weight and in price. There are several options that didn’t make it on this list that is perfectly capable dumbbells, and there’s not a lot of wrong answers here.
If you want to combine value and comfort, the BalanceFrom Cast Iron adjustable dumbbells are a wonderful choice, but there isn’t a bad pick on this list.
*All prices mentioned above are at the time of publishing.
Durable cast iron plates and handles
Durable cast iron plates and handles