As the year draws to a close, many people are getting ready for 2022 with New Year’s resolutions. And traditionally, some of the most popular resolutions are around health and fitness: A December 2020 survey from YouGov found that the most common New Year’s resolutions were exercising more, eating better and saving money.
If you want to adopt a healthier lifestyle in 2022, you may be looking to upgrade your home gym situation. And if you don’t have a lot of space for equipment, adjustable dumbbells offer a compact alternative to a rack of dumbbells. Unlike regular dumbbells, adjustable dumbbells can transform their total weight, as the name implies. They tend to be more expensive than a single set of weights, so to help you decide which one is right for you, we spoke to personal trainers about what to look for in an adjustable dumbbell. We also asked them for their picks and rounded up some other top-rated options based on their advice.
What are the benefits of adjustable dumbbells versus regular dumbbells?
The experts we spoke to noted that adjustable dumbbells can save a lot of space if you want to keep a range of weights on hand for home workouts. “It’s all in one unit versus having, say, 50 different units,” according to Kyle Sullivan, a certified personal trainer and founder of Sullivan Personal Training in Farmington, Missouri. “You get all the weight and you get all the options, but you don’t have to have a massive, heavy duty storage rack and the extra square feet to store it at your home.”
The experts we consulted also agreed that adjustable dumbbells are a relatively more affordable option than a whole set of weights. “Not only do [sets of weights] take up space, but it’s gonna cost you a lot of money in comparison to some of these [adjustable dumbbells],” said Jordan Rowe, a certified personal trainer and founder of NOEX Fitness in Richmond, Virginia. “You save a lot of money.”
The best adjustable dumbbells for home gyms
To help you find the best adjustable dumbbells for your home gym, we asked personal trainers and fitness pros about their favorite adjustable dumbbells based on their experience and expertise. Taking their guidance into account, we also rounded up some highly rated adjustable dumbbells from popular brands in the space.
Sullivan doesn’t have any adjustable dumbbells in his gym since he has the room for a dumbbell rack. However, he said that if he were going to invest in a set of adjustable dumbbells to use with his clients, he would opt for PowerBlocks — they are more heavy duty and have attachments that allow them to go up to 90 pounds per dumbbell, he explained. The weight on the PowerBlock is adjusted by inserting a pin into the weight of your choice. One caveat is that they have more of a square shape than traditional dumbbells, which can make them more difficult to use for two-handed exercises like goblet squats.
According to Rowe, the BowFlex adjustable dumbbells are great if you are an average gym goer and you “just want the basic stuff.” The dumbbells feature circular weights and grip-coated handles and can adjust from 5 to 52.5 pounds. In order to change the resistance, all you have to do is place the weights in their resting tray and twist the selection dial. Select editorial director Gideon Grudo uses these adjustable dumbbells at home and said they were the first at-home fitness equipment he could actually use to recreate many gym lifts — he bought them after the pandemic sent him home and has been using them for almost two years now. I’ve also used these weights several times and love how much they resemble normal dumbbells. For more serious lifters, Bowflex also makes an adjustable dumbbell that goes up to 90 pounds.
Though these 5-to-80-pound adjustable dumbbells are on the pricier side, Rowe said that they are a great option for fitness enthusiasts looking for a more expansive weight range. “These have much more room for progression,” she noted. She also highlighted their easy-to-use adjustment mechanism, which simply involves twisting the handle. “They don’t have [a] dial and so they work a lot better,” she explained.
Like the Nuobell Adjustable Dumbbells, the Core Home Fitness Adjustable Dumbbells can be adjusted by turning the handle when they’re in the base. The dumbbells are also designed to be smaller when they’re being used with less weight in order to make your workouts easier, according to the brand. The dumbbells come in a set of two, and they can be adjusted from 5 to 50 pounds.
The Ativafit Adjustable Dumbbells are another good option for those looking for a bit more weight: The brand offers two adjustable dumbbell sets, the larger of which goes up to 71.5 pounds but starts at a weight of 11 pounds. The dumbbells use the brand’s DialTech knob mechanism to adjust the weight when they’re in the base. A popular pick with Amazon shoppers, the Ativafit Adjustable Dumbbells boast a 4.6-star average rating from 506 reviews.
FLYBIRD’s Adjustable Dumbbells come in two weights: 5-25 pounds and 11-55 pounds. Like many other adjustable dumbbells, these ones from FLYBIRD use a weight dial system that is adjusted by turning the dumbbell’s handle when the weight is in its tray. Unlike the other options on this list, the weights are sold individually.
How do adjustable dumbbells work?
Adjustable dumbbells combine an entire set of weights into one single pair of dumbbells. According to Sullivan, most of them are pretty easy to use and to adjust — though the mechanisms vary, they typically require you to “twist something and figure out which weight you want on,” he explained. “I think anyone can use them.”
Typical adjustable dumbbells can adjust from 5 pounds to 50 pounds, though some can go as high as 90 pounds. Depending on the make and model, adjustable dumbbells can also be adjusted in different increments, ranging from 2.5 pounds to 10 pounds, though 5-pound increments are what you’ll typically find.
What to consider while shopping for adjustable dumbbells
Depending on which workouts you like to do, certain adjustable dumbbells might not work for your regimen due to their shape. If you like to do two-handed exercises like goblet squats and Russian twists, for instance, it might be more difficult to grip an adjustable dumbbell like the PowerBlock with a less traditional shape. As you’re shopping, Rowe said it’s important to “remember what you are going to be using them for” — this may not even be a factor if you’re only using your dumbbells for one-handed exercises. “For 80 to 90 percent of the workouts that you do, adjustable dumbbells will be just fine,” she added.
Rowe also advised to pay attention to reviews online. “The quality of the product is something that you’re always gonna look for so read the reviews. What are other people’s experiences?” she said.
Both experts warned that adjustable dumbbells aren’t as durable as regular weights, since they have a lot of sensitive moving parts. However, while Sullivan said they “might not hold up to the commercial beating that the other ones do,” he noted they should be fine for home gyms where fewer people are using them on a less frequent basis. If you’re worried about durability, experts said to look for adjustable dumbbells with fewer plastic components and fewer moving parts, in general.