Here’s a short guide of the various types of dumbbells available today, their pros and cons, my personal favourite and a review of the best fixed dumbbells & the best adjustable dumbbells.
When I was building a gym, I had a hard time deciding which dumbbell set offered the best value for money while at the same time offering the greatest variation for a large range of exercises. The best dumbbells for you will depend on your budget, the type of workout and where you will work out,
If you have a limited budget you’re probably better off with adjustable dumbbells as they’re significantly cheaper than buying a whole set of fixed dumbbells, while fixed dumbbells have their own advantages, such as durability, weight reconfiguring speed and safety.
First what’s the difference between the two:
Adjustable versus Fixed Dumbbells
Fixed, regular or otherwise known as independent dumbbells are a set weight and you most commonly see these dumbbells in fitness centres and commercial gyms. You can change the weight of an adjustable dumbbell, but you cannot change the weight of a regular dumbbell.
The most popular adjustable dumbbells are dial-a-weight, adjustable selector pin and spin-lock dumbbells. They each have their own pros and cons associated with them.
Advantages of Adjustable Dumbbells
The advantage of adjustable dumbbells is that you can adjust the weight in small increments for less cost than if you purchased many different fixed dumbbells in similar increments of weight.
Another advantage of adjustable dumbbells is that you can replace many sets of dumbbells with one dumbbell, saving space. Also there’s less need to store all the dumbbells on a rack which itself can be expensive.
Advantages of Fixed Dumbbells
Non-adjustable dumbbells are safer than adjustable dumbbells because there’s no weights to fall off and cause injury. They are also more durable and less likely to break as there are less parts. Also it’s even claimed they’re easier to lift as they’re more compact, making them more steady and resulting in less wrist strain.
However be advised that some dumbbells with a rubber coating contain one or more phthalate chemicals known to the state of California to cause birth defects and other reproductive harm.
Another advantage of fixed dumbbells is that they either have a painted enamel finish or a rubber coating on the weight heads. This rubber coating can protect your floors and furniture from marring or scratching.
Adjustable dumbbells are the best Dumbbells to buy if you want to practice a wider range of exercises using many weight increments for less cost. Whereas fixed dumbbell sets are best if you have the storage space and money. A fixed Dumbbell is best for certain workouts that require a quick transition to different weights for different types of exercises.
Adjustable Dumbbell Types
It may surprise you but there are a number of different types of dumbbells. The main types include Dial-a-weight adjustable dumbbells, SpinLock adjustable Dumbbells, and the Selector Pin dumbbells
Dial-a-weight adjustable dumbbells or Dial lock dumbbells are designed to provide a quick and convenient way of adjusting weights between exercises. As the name suggests, the dumbbells contain a dial which when turned selects the desired weight. You then lift the weight and only the weights you require will be attached.
Advantage of Dial-a-Weight Dumbbells
The advantages of dial-a-Weight Dumbbells is the speed at which you can change the weight of the dumbbell, often by small increments, enabling you to rapidly switch from one exercise to the next and exercise with the weight that’s just right for you. It also eliminates the need for multiple dumbbells that would otherwise clutter your gym.
Disadvantage of Dial-a Weight Dumbbells
The disadvantage is that they typically cost more than other types of dumbbells. Another disadvantage is that they are more complicated and so there’s more to go wrong if they are not looked after. This can make them less durable and in some cases even dangerous.
For example, the company Nautilus had to recall it’s Bowflex Dial lock adjustable dumbbells as the weight selector dial on the units could fail, causing weight plates to fall and therefore posing risk of injury.
Selector Pin Dumbbells
Selector pin Adjustable dumbbells are similar to the dial-a-weight dumbbells except you adjust the weight using a pin instead of a dial and they tend to be rectangular in shape.
Weights are easy to adjust using the built in selector pin. You just put the long selector pin into the desired weight slots so you end up grabbing only the weights you want to lift and the rest will be left behind.
Advantage of Selector Pin Dumbbells
The advantage is similar to the dial-a-weight dumbbells in that they offer a quick and convenient method of adjusting weights between sets or exercises. Again, these can be adjusted in small increments that don’t involve having to manually change the weights.
If you’re willing to put up with the unconventional shape, you’ll find their shape can actually help to protect and strengthen the wrists when using the dumbbells. They’re compact and smaller in size compared to other adjustable dumbbells.
Disadvantages of Selector Pin Dumbbells
Some disadvantages of the Selector Pin Dumbbells is their durability and price as they generally cost more than the more simple Spin-lock Dumbbells.
Also when using Selector pin dumbbells you’ll need to have your weights on a flat surface. They don’t really work on a carpet as it makes it easy to misalign the pin when inserting it into the holes. This could result in you dropping a weight and injuring yourself. You can buy stands for these weights but they’re also very expensive.
Spin-Lock / Collar Clamp Dumbbells
Spin-Lock Dumbbells are simpler and more straightforward than other adjustable dumbbells in that you manually add or remove plates and use a lock that twists onto the handle, or a collar to secure the weights to the bar.
Advantages of Spin-Lock Dumbbells
The advantage of Spin-Lock Dumbbells is their simplicity. The simplicity of the design means there’s less to go wrong and so they tend to be more durable than other adjustable dumbbells. They also tend to be less expensive than their dial-a-weight or selector pin counterparts.
Disadvantages of Spin-Lock Dumbbells
The Disadvantage of Spin-Lock Dumbbells is that it takes longer to adjust the weights, as they have to be manually removed and tightened. This makes it harder to switch between exercises, which is a pain if you want to perform exercises that require rapid transition from one exercise to the next.
Also the separate plates that come with these dumbbells may increase the amount of storage space required in your gym.
What to Consider before Purchasing Dumbbells
What to Consider before Purchasing Adjustable Dumbbells
Before purchasing adjustable dumbbells, there are a number of factors you should consider to ensure you choose the best dumbbell’s for your budget and strength. These include:
You want an adjustable dumbbell with a wide weight range as this gives you many different weight combinations to choose from. This versatility will enable you to both increase the weight as you grow stronger and vary the exercise depending on the workout.
Time to Reconfigure Weights
For some workouts you need to change the weight quickly between sets. For example the excellent Body Beast workout, invented by Sagi Kalev relies upon quick weight changes between sets , so there’s no time to be fooling around with plates, handles, and clips.
Ergonomics is dependent on comfort and weight distribution. You want a dumbbell that provides a fairly compact weight distribution as this will make it easier to lift. Nice textured handles are preferable. I personally prefer the thicker handles as they just feel more comfortable to grip.
What to Consider Before Purchasing Fixed Dumbbells
If you’re considering purchasing a full set of individual dumbbells, you have two options to choose from: rubber coated cast iron or non-coated cast iron, with the rubber coated cast iron dumbbells being more expensive.
Which you prefer will depend on where you use them. If you’re not using the dumbbells in your home and on hardwood, tiles or a laminated floor I recommend going with the non-coated cast iron dumbbells because they’re both cheaper and safer. Some dumbbells with a rubber coating contain one or more phthalate chemicals known to the state of California to cause birth defects and other reproductive harm.
On the other hand, the rubber coated dumbbells will protect the floor or any surface if the dumbbell gets dropped.
Best Adjustable Dumbbell Set
Here’s a review of the three categories of adjustable dumbbells – Dial-a-Weight, Selector Pin and the Spin-lock / Collar Clamp Dumbbells. Also, a review of what I consider to be the best fixed non-adjustable dumbbells.
I’ve rated the dumbbells based on factors such as design, ergonomics, and material. I also factored in value for money and the range of weights available for a wider variation of exercises.
Adjustable Dumbbell Comparison Click “Read Review” to Expand.[image]
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells
Review: 8 out of 10
Value per weight : 7 out of 10
[Tick] 5 – 52.5 lbs
[Tick] 2.5 lbs Increments
[Tick] Space-efficient and Flexible
[Tick] Easy to adjust
[Cross] Prone to damage if dropped from a height
Why the Best Dial-a-Weight Adjustable Dumbbell?
The Bowflex SelectTech 552 come as a pair and provide one of the quickest ways of changing weights at a significantly lower cost than fixed dumbbells.
This makes the Bowflex SelectTech 552 perfect for both endurance and strength training and workouts such as Sagi Kalev’s Body Beast Workout that require a quick transition to different sized weights.
They’re a great option if you’re short of space and don’t want to spend significantly more money on all the dumbbells it would take to replace all the different weight combinations.
The handle is ergonomic and fits well in the palm of your hand providing better grip when lifting. The handle is somewhat thicker than most other dumbbells and feels more comfortable when being held.
I love the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dial-a Weight Dumbbell because it’s a breeze adjusting the weight. About 5 seconds is all the time it takes for me to change the dials and continue with a different exercise. This is great for certain workouts – for example the Body Beast Workouts, which requires rapid transition to different sized weights.
Earlier models were less durable than the latest models because the tabs that hold the weights were made of plastic. Thankfully their more recent model eliminate many of the complaints of the early versions and the tabs that hold the weight plates in place are now made of metal.
The Bowflex SelectTech 552 goes up in 2.5 lbs increments and has a maximum weight of 52.5 and a minimum weight of 5 lbs on each hand. If you’re a powerlifter and looking for more weight I recommend you go with the very similar Bowflex SelectTech 1090 Adjustable Dumbbell which provides a higher weight range of 10 lbs to 90lbs.
PowerBlock Elite Dumbbells
Review: 9 out of 10
Value per weight : 8 out of 10
[Tick] Selector Pin
[Tick] 5 – 90 lbs
[Tick] 2.5 lbs Increments
[Tick] Compact and Flexible
[Tick] Easy to adjust
[Cross] Takes slightly longer to adjust than Bowflex
The PowerBlock Elite Dumbbells come as a pair and are a great option if you’re short of space and don’t want to spend significantly more money on all the dumbbells it would take to replace all the different weight combinations.
They’re compact and smaller in size compared to other adjustable dumbbells such as the Bowflex SelectTech 552 and have a weight range of 5-90 lbs per hand
The PowerBlock Elite replace 28 pairs of dumbbells or 2565 lbs of free weights. Just like the dial-a-weight dumbbells you can adjust the weight in seconds, although taking somewhat longer than the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dial-a Weight Dumbbells.
Unlike the dial-a-weight dumbbells you adjust the weight using a long selector pin rather than a dial. This is placed into the desired weight slot so you end up grabbing only the weights you want to lift.
I love the fact that the PowerBlock Elite allows you to adjust the weights in such small increments of only 2.5 lbs while not having to manually change weights on the bar. This gives you a lot of flexibility.
It’s slightly more complicated changing the weights on the PowerBlock than the Bowflex but the color coded design lets you know exactly where to place the pin.
While the unconventional shape may not be to your liking, the shape of the PowerBlock Elite Dumbbells can actually help to protect and strengthen your wrists as they offer support on either side.
The great thing about the Powerblock is that you can buy additional weights if you ever need them so you only need to purchase the weights you need.
Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells
Review: 8 out of 10
Cost per weight : 10 out of 10
[Tick] 2.5 – 200 lbs
[Tick] 3 lbs Increments
[Tick] Reliable and Sturdy
[Tick] Very large Weight Range
[Cross] Takes longer to Adjust than Dial-a-Weight or Selector Pin Dumbbells
Why the Best Spin-lock Adjustable Dumbbell?
Designed for a tough workout these weights are heavy duty, and should last a lifetime. They’re great if you need heavier weights but can’t afford the more expensive dial-a-weight and selector pin dumbbells.
If you’re main objective is boosting your strength as fast as possible you’ll love these weights as they offer a massive weight range of up to 200 lbs. These dumbbells are for serious body-builders who want a more intense workout and gradually work up to a heavy weight. I found the 3 lbs increments in weight to be just right for when you need to advance to the next level.
Although these weights have ergonomic textured solid chrome handles and will offer a secure grip, don’t expect as comfortable grip as the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells. These weights aren’t designed around comfort but heavy lifting and hardcore workouts. They’re designed to push you to the limits and accelerate your strength.
The weights are reliable and sturdy and I’ve never noticed the star-lock coming undone after being tightened. Just make sure you screw them on tightly and they shouldn’t come loose.
The only downside to the Yes4All adjustable dumbbells is that it will take you longer to change the weights than the dial-a-weight or selector pin dumbbells. This isn’t so great for certain workouts that require a quick transition to a different weight between sets. However because these dumbbells are so affordable you could always purchase another pair to prevent the inconvenience of changing weight between sets.
CAP Barbell Cast Iron Hex Dumbbell
Don’t spend time changing weights on a bar with these fixed high quality, durable, solid cast iron dumbbells. The cast iron dumbbells without the rubber coating are significantly less expensive than their rubber coated counterparts, particularly for the larger sized dumbbells, and without the potentially toxic rubber coating that goes with them.
They’re hexagon shaped so won’t roll around like the round barbells and they’re easy to store on a rack.
The weight range for CAP Barbells is anywhere between 5bs and 120lbs so you should find a weight that’s right for you whether you’re into endurance training or strength training.
It’s great to have a collection of these dumbbells in different sizes for those workouts that require a quick transition to different weights between sets, rather than adjustable weight dumbbells that take a little longer and aren’t so durable.
I recommend you purchase these dumbbells in pairs so you have a balanced weight on either arm when doing any strength training. Also I recommend you buy more than one size as this helps to increase muscle tone.. By default these dumbbells come as singles.
The handle is pretty plain and not so comfortable to hold as the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells, but then comfort should not be the greatest priority when purchasing dumbbells.
CAP Barbell Rubber Coated Hex Dumbbell
Just like the CAP Cast Iron Hex Dumbbell these are durable and high quality, particularly with the rubber coating which provide an extra layer of protection. Unlike the CAP Cast Iron Hex Dumbbell these dumbbells have a nice contoured chrome handle which provide a more comfortable and secure grip when lifting.
While the rubber coating make them more expensive, especially for smaller weights, if you plan to exercise in your home they do provide some protection if dropped, both for your home and the barbells themselves.
In most cases you’re better off just buying the less expensive cast iron, non-rubber coated barbells which aren’t covered by the rather foul smelling odor from the rubber on the outside of the dumbbell.
The weight range for the CAP Barbells is anywhere between 5bs and 120lbs so you should find a weight that’s right for you whether you’re endurance training or strength training.
I recommend you purchase these dumbbells in pairs so you have a balanced weight on either arm when doing any strength training. Also I recommend you buy more than one size as this helps to increase muscle tone. By default these dumbbells come as singles.
Made of high quality, durable, solid cast iron
Hexagon shaped dumbbell heads are designed to prevent rolling and provide easier storage
Exercise all major muscle groups including chest, arms, back, legs and core
The CAP Rubber Coated Barbell is
BRAND CAP Barbell
MATERIAL Cast Iron
MIN SIZE 5 LBS
MAX SIZE 120 LBS
Best Dumbbell Brand
ironmasters or powerblocks
Selector pin dumbbells
Dial lock system
Spin Lock System
BRAND CAP Barbell
MATERIAL Cast Iron
MIN SIZE 5 LBS
MAX SIZE 120 LBS
Phrases to use
Designed for a tough workout
Serious body-builders can gradually increase their weights for a more intense workout.
Ideal way to build, strengthen and tone upper body muscles
I found assuming and changing the weights only took seconds
without having to swap add or remove plates.
Saves a lot of space in the room
Well made & sturdy construction
normal cast dumbbell’s might take to being dropped but the selection mechanism on these looks as if could be easily broken
Saves an awful lot of time reconfiguring weights
Adjust from 4 to 45 lbs giving you a wide range of versatility
Get pumped without taking up a ton of space in your house
At home I had the dumbells with the spin lock on, so in the middle of a workout stopping to adjust was a pain. These men’s health adjustable dumbells are brilliant, press the button and turn the dial to the weight you want and away you go. And because of the ends being flat you can bump them up off of your knees. Highly recommended.
Slightly more robust holder to ensure weights relocate precisely when returning to holder. Slightly more robust feel to blue plastic – black grip feels more premium and tactile by comparison. Not a complaint by any stretch, just an observation, but I am ex-industry, so expect top end finish.
The heavy duty construction allow them to stand up to hardcore daily use for years.
really well priced in comparison to other brands
May look out of place in your gym as it has a very unusual style
can knock into each other with certain movements but its not a problem
Introduction[Collapse] [/Collapse] [Collapse] Difference between non-coated cast iron Dumbells, and rubber coated cast iron Dumbells
Rubber coated are quitter to use
Rubber coated are less likely to cause damage on surfaces
Rubber coated are slightly less dangerous if they fall on you
[/Collapse] [Collapse] Difference between Plate-Adjustable Dumbbells versus Station-adjustable Dumbells
SPRI dumbbells run a little higher than the CAP rubber dumbbells
Glossary of terms
Dial Lock System versus Spinlock
dial system for changing the weight is so easy and so much quicker than the spinlock type ones
Safety lock secures plates in place
Side dial weight switching