Back in the day, the concept of owning a full set of dumbbells was realistic only for the most dedicated of muscleheads. The cost was prohibitive, as was the fact that you had to dedicate a substantial portion of your garage or basement to a couple rugged racks stacked with everything from 10s to 75s.
But in the past 10 years or so, the whole game has changed thanks to an ever-growing lineup of adjustable dumbbells. Employing a variety of clever mechanisms, these products enable you to quickly transform, say, 10-pound dumbbells you’re using for weighted arm circles into a 30-pounders for Zottman curls.
Not only do these dumbbells cost less than a complete set, they take up a heck of a lot less space, making it realistic for just about anyone to snag a pair and open up a whole world of great resistance training options.
That being said, there are enough different kinds of adjustable dumbbells out there now that it pays to think about which ones are best for you. Check out a few of our favorites below and get ready to take your home gym — and your physique — up a few notches. One quick heads up: unless otherwise noted, the list price is for a pair of dumbbells.
Best Overall Adjustable Dumbbells
One of the original adjustable dumbbells still rules the roost. Twist the dials on both sides to quickly engage more or fewer plates, then pull them off the trays and start lifting. What makes the this particular set such a winner? Beyond relatively smooth operation, good looks and a fair price is the fact that you can adjust in 2.5-pound increments up to the first 25 pounds. That not only opens up a wider range of lower-weight exercises; it also means that the total number of dumbbells packed into a single unit is a whopping 15.
Best Upgrade Adjustable Dumbbells
Having wowed fitness fiends two years ago with its digitally adjustable kettlebell, JaxJox has now brought the tech to dumbbells. Tap a button to shift the weight from eight pounds up to 50 (in six-pound increments, meaning a total of eight dumbbells per unit). Then take things to the next level with the JaxJox app ($12.99/month), which provides a range of trainer-led workouts and programs you can cast from your phone to your TV — and uses the base stations to dynamically track your progress.
Best Budget Adjustable Dumbbells
Considering these weights pack a total of six dumbbells into a single unit, rising from 2.5 pounds up to 52.5 at a fraction of the cost of most other options, Yes4All’s dumbbells present quite a value proposition. There are even options that let you connect a couple of dumbbells to turn them into a barbell. The big downside? They aren’t nearly as quick to adjust as the competition: you must unscrew the collars at the end of each bar, then remove or add plates to decrease or increase the weight.
Best Adjustable Dumbbells for Going Heavy
Most adjustable dumbbells max out around 50 pounds, which is plenty for the majority of lifters but may leave heftier types feeling undergunned. So a few brands do offer some bigger ones, with this glowingly reviewed Ativafit option leading the pack. The dial-adjustable offering packs an impressive 17 dumbbells into a single unit and tops out at 71.5 pounds, enough to satisfy anyone not named Big Ramy. Note: the price listed is for a single dumbbell, meaning you’ll have to shell out $571.98 for a pair.
Best-Looking Adjustable Dumbbells
Progress from 5 to 50 pounds in style with these beautifully machined steel weight plates from Smrtft. Note that they are also available in a striking white hue and an olive drab edition called tactical for $20 more each (there’s also an 80-pound pair for $745). And keep in mind that as gorgeous as it is, the Nüobell is pretty damn functional too: adjusting in five-pound increments mean each unit is packing the equivalent of 10 dumbbells.
Most User-Friendly Adjustable Dumbbells
Core Fitness earns the user-friendly superlative for one simple reason: Twist Lock technology. Place the dumbbell in the cradle, twist the handle, and you can quickly adjust the weight from five pounds up to 50 in five pound increments. Taking just seconds, it’s about the simplest and smoothest weight adjustment we have seen yet. (For the record, Ativafit and Nüobell boast a similar system, but they cost considerably more.)
Most Versatile Adjustable Dumbbells
If you seek dumbbells that can grow with you, you’re looking at ’em. That’s because the EXPs have an Auto-Lock featuring enabling you to micro-adjust, packing 15 dumbbells into each unit. And because you can purchase add-ons (like this 20-pound, $149 one) that let you boost the total weight per unit to 7o or even 90 pounds. One caveat: the boxy design and pin-based adjustment system make this product noticeably less user-friendly than many others.
Most Motivating Adjustable Dumbbells
With these dumbbells, you not only get 15 weights in one (from 10 pounds up to 55, via tabs you pull up and shift) but also you buy into one year of an iFit Family membership (a $396 value). And that’s where the motivational aspect of these dumbbells come in, because iFit is NordicTrack’s sweeping interactive system boasting a huge workout library, world-class trainers, personalized lifestyle coaching and much more.
Best Adjustable Dumbbells for Beginners
This simple, smooth adjustable dumbbell is great for those just getting started in resistance training. It features a twist adjustment system similar to the Core one, enabling you to access 5 to 25 pounds in seconds. That’s a decent amount of weight for basic moves like biceps curls and triceps extensions, at a price — $109.99 per dumbbell, so $219.99 for a pair — that won’t bust your wallet. (Wanna go bigger? FlyBird also offers 55-pounders for $199.99 apiece.)