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Why buy a rack of weights when you can have a pair of versatile adjustable dumbbells? Collars
Unless you own an at-home training facility to rival that of Dwayne Johnson or your favourite pro sports team, buying racks of single-weight dumbbells would be both mega spenny and take up loads of space.
But, thanks to our best adjustable dumbbells, it's possible to carve out a part-time iron paradise without giving up your garage. Let's level that home workout right up, shall we?
More of a kettlebell guy? Check out our round-up of the best adjustable kettlebells on the market, from just £33.99.
Ergonomic and compact, adjustable dumbbells offer up to 24 different weight options in one, replacing a decadent dumbbell rack with a single, space-saving piece of kit. That leaves more room for full-body dumbbell exercises (think thrusters, lunges and deadlifts) and other fitness gear (that's your barbell, skipping ropes, kettlebells and squat rack).
Sure, the price of some sets may raise a few eyebrows at first glance, but these ‘bells are cost effective. Hear us out. The cost of gym memberships is rising and will soon surpass the singular fee of an adjustable dumbbell. Plus, with fixed free weights, you’d have to splash out every time you made decent progress and needed to challenge yourself with something heavier. No such pain with adjustables; you simply push a button/twist a dial/slap a couple more plates on and feel the burn.
Below, our expert testers at the Men's Health Lab and our own experienced editors have compiled a list of their best adjustable dumbbells for building muscle, strength, endurance and power from the relative comfort (if you'll allow us to call it that) of your living room. Don't say we don't spoil you.
Though there are some obvious exceptions (namely, these Northdeer and Powerblock pairs), most adjustable dumbbells fit into one of three categories: digital, dial and spinlock.
The latest evolution of the humble dumbbell, these innovative bits of kit allow you to change the resistance of your weights with minimal effort (just what you want between energy-sapping sets).
They come with clever holding docks that have a small screen and buttons on the side. When the dumbbell is racked, you can use the buttons to select your chosen weight (displayed on the screen). Then, the relevant plates will attach to the bar, while any unused plates remain in the rack.
The docks have to be plugged in to work, and the dumbbells tend to max out at about 20kg, but those are the only real downsides.
Looking like the lovechild of a free weight, a high-security safe and a Transformer, these nifty training aids can help you look your (Optimus) prime — sorry.
They have the traditional dumbbell design — plates attached to a central handle — but each end is capped with a rotating dial that can be used to select how much weight you want on the bar. You’ll need to re-rack it into its holding dock before changing the resistance. Then, similar to digital dumbbells, any excess weight plates will be left behind while the necessary load will remain attached to the bar.
Some will have a dial on each end, while others save time by only requiring you to turn one dial to switch the resistance. We also like the addition of security locks to a few models, making sure the plates stay in place.
They can rattle a bit in use, but we tested one pair that can load up to 40kg on a single dumbbell, making these a good option for at-home heavy lifters.
Commonplace in teenage bedrooms the world over, these classic bits of kit will no doubt be familiar to you. Usually comprising two bars, a selection of smaller weight plates, and four spinlock collars that twist into place on the grooved ends of each dumbbell to secure the load, these old school lifting implements offer everything you’d want from a pair of weights.
Yes, it can take a while to change the weight as you have to spin each individual collar on and off each time, and the plates can clang when you press them overhead. But their no-frills build makes them a darn sight cheaper than their tech-heavy counterparts.
Never ones to shirk a workout, we sent our MH Lab team on a mission to find the finest adjustable dumbbells on the market.
They then set about putting them to the test, working through a session of bodybuilding staples including lateral raises, lunges, bench press and (of course) the humble dumbbell curl.
Top-scoring models provided the natural, sturdy feel of a fixed dumbbell, with minimal rattling or shaking, and had a practical shape that was easy to wield.
Our pros rounded out their testing by timing how long it took to change the weight of each dumbbell from the lightest load to the heaviest possible, as a quick transition can hold the key to a successful spicy drop set.
The adjustable dumbbells that passed our rigorous testing are stamped with our MH Lab Approved badge. The other entries have been carefully chosen by our editors after impressing them during home gym pump sessions.
The Bowflex's textured rubber handles are more comfortable than their metal counterparts, and its 15 weight options that range between two and 24kg (selected using dials on both ends of the dumbbell) provide plenty of scope for your training.
We found the classic rounded shape of the weight plates was easy to manoeuvre. And, as they're plastic, there was none of the usual metallic clanging when we pressed them overhead — neighbours, you’re welcome.
Changing the resistance of these futuristic free weights couldn’t be easier; just rerack them and select the load using buttons on the holding dock to attach the necessary plates digitally in a matter of seconds.
They impressed our experts with their sturdy performance and changing the weight was seamless. The plates stayed secure throughout all movements, and the fact they’re sold as a pair gives them an immediate advantage over lone dumbbells.
These Northdeer dumbbells were different to anything else we tested, with the weight plates themselves having built-in screws and screw holes. These are used to attach them together, with the weight maxing out at 25kg.
There are only four different weight settings, starting at 12kg (a bit heavy for isolation moves like lateral raises). But the weights fix soundly into place, making these dumbbells suitable for more dynamic movements such as snatches.
We’d like to extend a hearty congratulations to anyone who can max this dumbbell out on bench. It has 24 weight options stretching all the way up to 40kg, which should be enough to satisfy most lifters.
You can change the weight in no time by twisting a single dial on each dumbbell, making these a top drop set companion. The metal plates wobble and rattle slightly during some movements, but that’s our only gripe.
If it's flat-bottomed curls you're after, look no further. The flat, stable base of these ‘bells makes them ideal for exercises such as renegade rows, while also allowing them to moonlight as push-up stands if you fancy giving some bodyweight exercises a go. They have nine stacked weight options (between 4.5kg and 22.5kg) which you can switch between using a resistance machine-esque pin.
The PowerBlocks’ solid base, along with the fact the weights slot neatly into one another, makes them compact and easy to store. They feel robust too, and we like the option to buy additional blocks to increase their max weight. The shape, with the handle placed within the weights blocks, took a bit of getting used to and made them less manoeuvrable for some movements, but that was our only complaint.
Ten weight options for under 150 quid is pretty good going, if you ask us. Our most affordable dial dumbbell is easy to use, has a nifty safety lock to keep the weights in place and comes complete with a holding dock. So, we think it's a great value option if you’re looking for your first adjustable dumbbell.
The rubber knurling (the grooves on the handle of a weight that give you more grip) feels a bit cheap compared to its metal competitors, and the long shape can be a bit clumsy when curling. But most movements were unaffected, making this a handy (and affordable) training tool.
There’s something nostalgic about spinlock dumbbells, whether they remind you of your first free weight set or a spit and sawdust gym you used to frequent. This 20kg kit was no different, with 12 cast iron plates combining to provide a range of weight options.
Now, with 90 years in the weightlifting game, we expected big things from York, and the brand didn’t disappoint. These well-built dumbbells oozed quality, with the spinlock collars moving smoothly to secure the weight’s plates. They aren’t particularly heavy, even when maxed out, but work well if you want to supplement your weekly gym routine with some at-home sessions.
If you're after a bit of thrifty lifting then look no further — you get a lot for your money here. Namely, an 18-piece set containing two bars, collars and a selection of weight plates ranging from 0.5kg to 2.5kg.
Reliable and effective, there’s no faulting the functionality of these spinlock dumbbells. We preferred loading 20kg onto one bar for unilateral work, as if you split the plates between two bars the weight peaks at 10kg. But the inclusion of 0.5kg plates was welcome, helping us make steady progress by upping the load in smaller increments.
Going from 2.5kg to 25kg, this adjustable dumbbell from Body Technics features a plate-locking mechanism and a contoured, soft grip non-slip to keep blisters at bay. Comes as a pair.
Fancy something a little heavier? Try MuscleSquad's adjustable dumbbells on for size: increments start at 5kg and adjust to 7.5kg, 10kg, 12.5kg, 15kg, 17.5kg, 20kg, 22.5kg, 25kg, 27.5kg, 30kg and 32.5kg
With weight settings ranging from 2kg up to 20kg, Stairmaster's adjustable dumbbells are hard to beat. When you twist the handle, the adjustment mechanism helps you switch between weights with ease – and the handy cradles keep everything locked into place. An investment for life.
These adjustable dumbbells are on the lighter side of the spectrum, ranging from 2.5kg from 12.5kg. They're ideal for accessory work — think bicep curls and lateral raises — or cranking up the heat to hit your chest, back and shoulders.
Featuring iron plates and threaded steel bars for safety, Domyos' adjustable dumbbells come with a two-year warranty. Grab these and you'll receive two 2 kg threaded weight bars, four chrome-plated collars, eight 1 kg plates and four 2 kg plates. Ideal for less than £50.
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