Top 5 Best Adjustable Dumbbells of 2016
You’re thinking about finally getting in shape, but don’t want to have to go to a gym every day? You’re experiencing sticker shock when looking at the price of home fitness equipment?
Relax. If your primary (or initial) goal is building muscle, developing better-looking abs and increasing upper body strength, there’s no reason to shell out thousands of dollars. A quality set of adjustable dumbbells is the perfect way to start your bodybuilding program – and they’ll only cost you hundreds of dollars, not thousands. Just as attractive as their price is their durability; if you don’t abuse adjustable dumbbells, they should last a lifetime.
The best manufacturers feature dumbbell sets which hold a maximum of 50 pounds per weight (or 100 pounds per set), but also offer similar sets which are lighter and heavier. We’ll primarily focus on those 50-pound weights in this review of the top 5 adjustable dumbbells, but be aware it’s usually easy to find basically the “same set” with a higher or lower weight maximum.
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells (Pair)
It’s nearly impossible to watch late night TV for more than an hour without seeing ads for Bowflex products. If you didn’t know anything about fitness equipment, you might think Bowflex was just another fly-by-night company pitching sub-standard products on infomercials. Guess again. Bowflex is well known for making terrific equipment and their SelectTech 552 dumbbells are just one example.
The first thing you notice with the 552s is that they feel solid and comfortable, thanks to rugged steel construction and ergonomically-designed, textured rubber grips. What’s also obvious is that these dumbbells are the “dial-a-weight” style, meaning you don’t have to manually add or remove weights; you just select your preferred amount of weight while the dumbbells are in their holder, and when you pick them up, the system will have added the correct number of plates to the bar. This style of dumbbell is more expensive than the ones which require you to do the work manually, but it’s incredibly convenient.
Another plus to this Bowflex SelectTech model is that it gives you a bigger choice of weight than most competitors, from five pounds all the way up to 52 ½ pounds (the adjustable dial system increases weight in 2 ½ pound increments). That may not be enough for competitive athletes or advanced workout warriors, but it’s a great weight range for those who are just starting out and slowly building their strength. The 552s have been among the world’s best-selling dumbbells for several years, and it’s easy to see why.
Specifications for the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells:
- Weight Range: 5 to 52 ½ pounds (per dumbbell)
- Weight Settings: 15, in 2 ½ pound increments
- Dimensions: 15.75 inches long, 8 inches wide, 9 inches high
- Warranty: Two years
- Extras: Workout guide and DVD
Power Block Elite Dumbbells
This set of versatile dumbbells is also adjustable, but in a different way than the Bowflex model. These have selector pins which you move while the dumbbells are in their holders, to choose how much weight you want on the bars when you lift them; the process takes only a few seconds if you’re adding or removing ten pounds of weight at a time, but requires switching out weights if you only want to move up or down in 2 ½ pound increments. That makes them less convenient than dial-a-weight dumbbells, and selector pin models are a little more likely to have weights become loose during use. Even so, they’re still a lot easier to use than models where you have to add and remove each weight manually.
The real advantage to the Power Block Elites is that you can buy expansion weight kits which let you go all the way up to 70 or 90 pounds without having to buy a complete new set of dumbbells. These are made of durable steel, and the grips are the traditional “cage” style which may be a bit less comfortable for new users but protect users’ wrists better than most designs. The weights are also more compact than many competitors, lessening the chance that you’ll hit yourself with the dumbbells as can happen during some exercises.
The Power Block Elites are durable, relatively easy-to-use, and basically a professional-level dumbbell at a home gym price. Looking at the specs for the Power Block Elite Dumbbells:
- Weight Range: 2 ½ to 50 pounds (per dumbbell), expansion kits available for 70 or 90 pounds
- Weight Settings: 16, in 2 ½ pound increments
- Dimensions: 12.75 inches long, 6.25 inches wide, 6.5 inches high
- Warranty: Ten years
Ironmaster 75 Lb. Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbell System With Stand
This “traditional” set of dumbbells is more expensive than our first two choices. The upside is that it comes with a standard weight range from 5 to 75 pounds, so there’s no need for most users to add extension modules or buy a second set of dumbbells. By traditional, we mean that you must add or remove plates whenever you want to change what you’re lifting – but the “quick-lock” feature makes that process fast, easy and secure, requiring only 15-20 seconds to unlock the weights, make the changes, and snap everything back into place with no danger of the plates falling off.
These are well-made dumbbells made to last, constructed from chrome-plated steel. They don’t have the bells and whistles of adjustable models, but they’ll do what they’re supposed to do without making the process difficult. A somewhat-bulky storage stand comes with this system so you’ll need a little more space than you would with the Power Blocks, but the stand is quite convenient.
You can save a little money on this Ironmaster system if you downsize to the option which only has 45 pounds worth of weights, but 75 pounds seems like a value to us. An add-on kit taking each dumbbell up to 120 pounds is also available. A closer examination of the Ironmaster 75 Lb. Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbell System’s specifications:
- Weight Range: 5 to 75 pounds (per dumbbell)
- Weight Settings: user selected, with 12 5-pound plates and four 2 ½ pound plates
- Dimensions: 14.5 inches long, 6.5 inches wide, 6.5 inches high
- Warranty: Limited Lifetime
- Extras: Exercise Poster
StairMaster Pair of TwistLock Adjustable Dumbbells
Another system based on the same dial-a-weight approach as the Bowflex SelectTech (but patented by StairMaster under the name “TwistLock),” this set of dumbbells is more compact than other sets we’ve seen – but you’ll pay for the convenience, as the StairMasters are definitely more expensive. That’s one of two reasons why they don’t rank higher on our list, because this is a very nice piece of equipment. (The other reason they rank lower is that you can only add weight in five-pound increments, rather than adding 2 ½ pounds at a time.)
You can feel the quality of the TwistLock adjustables as soon as you pick them up, because they feel like something you’d use in a professional gym: strong and well-built. Their grips are contoured, soft and textured for a comfortable feel, and the ability to adjust weights just by turning a dial lets you change your workout level without even having to take your hand off the dumbbell. Aluminum weight cradles are also included. It would seem to us that they could charge a little less for this system, and you may be able to find it for lower than StairMaster’s list price; if you can, it’s a great product.
Examining the specs of the StairMaster Pair of TwistLock Adjustable Dumbbells:
- Weight Range: 5 to 50 pounds (per dumbbell)
- Weight Settings: 10, in five-pound increments
- Dimensions: 14.5 inches long, 7.9 inches wide, 7.5 inches high
- Warranty: Two years
- Extras: Exercise Poster
Universal Power-Pak 445 Adjustable Dumbbells With Stand
For those whose fitness equipment will be in a living room instead of a garage or basement, we think the Universal Power-Pak is by far the most attractive set of quality dumbbells on the market. There’s a beautiful, ergonomically designed silver-colored stand, which matches the silver-and-grey design of the dumbbells. The unit looks great – at least, to us.
Of course, what really matters are features, durability and performance, and the 445s hold up pretty well in all three areas. They are dial-a-weight style, with dials conveniently located on both ends of the bar. The dumbbells are well-built, although it’s important to note that the weight plates are coated in plastic, so it’s crucial not to drop the dumbbells on the ground. The grips are no-slip thermoplastic, which are extremely easy to hold for long periods of time. One drawback, as with some of the models lower on this top 5 best adjustable dumbbells list, is that weight increases are limited to increments of five pounds.
The Power-Pak 445 and Bowflex Select-Tech 552 are both designed by Nautilus, so they are often compared to each other. The Power-Pak is less expensive with fewer features and a bit less durable, but they’re both good products. We prefer the Bowflex. Your mileage may vary.
Examining the specs of the Universal Power-Pak 445 Adjustable Dumbbells:
- Weight Range: 4.5 to 50 pounds (per dumbbell)
- Weight Settings: 9, in five-pound increments
- Dimensions: 14 inches long, 8.5 inches wide, 7 inches high
- Warranty: One years
- Extras: Workout guide
Looking for something slightly different why not check our Top 5 Best KettleBell Reviews.