Adjustable dumbbells are the most versatile types of dumbbells.
The price of a set can range from around $30 to $800 depending on the make, the brand and the weights.
There are two types of adjustable weight dumbbells fit for home use: a traditional/standard one and an innovative one.
A traditional set for 2 standard dumbbells would include:
How do they work?
You’ll have to change the weights of these dumbbells manually.
To change the weights of a dumbbell, there are 3 steps involved. First you unscrew the two collars. Second, you add or remove appropriate weight plates. Then you screw the two collars back on.
These dumbbells are a one-piece dumbbell with many weight plates attached to a bar.
These innovative dumbbells such as Powerblock and Bowflex solve (or at least try to solve) the problem of having to change weights manually - a problem you get with traditional adjustable dumbbells. You can change the weights in a fraction of the time it takes you with traditional dumbbells.
This feature is particularly useful if you do a lot of circuit type training where you have to move from exercises to exercises without rest.
Another problem these dumbbells address is storage space. All you need is space to store the two complete dumbbells. You don’t need to have lots of weight plates lying around in your room as you do with traditional dumbbells.
How do they work?
Typically, these dumbbells have a base or a tray where multiple weight plates sit with the handle in the middle. You set a dial or move a pin or a knob to the appropriate weight number in the markings. Then you lift the bar.
And bingo! you’ve got just the weights you want in your hands. The other weight plates stay behind in their base.
Traditional adjustable dumbbells are typically a lot cheaper than more innovative ones. You can get a decent set of those for a lot less than $100. But you’re looking at well over $200 for more innovative quick change dumbbells.
On top of the price there’ll be shipping charges. If you’re buying from amazon.com, quite a lot of the merchants offer “free super saver shipping.” So, if you don’t get free delivery from the product seller, you might want to calculate the overall cost including the shipping fees.
How long do you want them to last?
Some of these dumbbells come with a few years’ warranty. The Ironmaster Quick Lock Adjustable Dumbbell System for example even offers a lifetime warranty. So, if the durability is very important to you, you can choose to pay a bit more and get the dumbbells that are sure to last you a long time.
Check whether the manufacturer offers a warranty and if so, how long it is.
How much weight do you need?
If you’re a beginner, a 40 lb (for each dumbbell) set will give you good enough workouts. But if you intend to progress from beginner status, you might want to consider going for a heavier set of weights.
Depending on the price and the make, you can choose to have a set that will give you up to 120 lbs in weight for each dumbbell and even more. That’s more than the average exerciser is ever going to need.
Another thing about weights is to look at what weight increments you can have. That’s important as you get stronger. A sudden increase of 5 lb might be too much for your muscles.
Quite a lot of these dumbbells offer a smaller increment. Ironmaster Quick Lock Dumbbells for example offer steps of 2.5 lb, which is much more manageable. So, look carefully at the increments available in the dumbbell set you’re considering.
Do you need to change the weights very quickly from exercise to exercise?
Will you be doing circuit type strength training exercises where you have to move from one exercise to the next with little rest? And does each exercise in your workout also need different weights?
If that is the case, adjustable dumbbells which you can change very quickly would be recommended. Otherwise, you’ll lose some of the intensity of the workout.
So, before buying those dumbbells, find out as much as you can about how long it takes to change weights. As a rough guide, with traditional dumbbells, it can take me about a minute to change two weight plates at each end of the two bars.
Suppose you’re strapped for cash and can only buy a set of traditional dumbbells. And your main workouts include using different weights in a circuit style. What can you do?
Well … there is something you can do to avoid having to stop a long time during the workout to change the weights.
Buy an extra pair of dumbbell bars. And even an extra set of weights. With the extra dumbbell handles, set one pair of lighter dumbbells and another pair of heavier dumbbells so you can just grab them during the workout.
That way, you won’t need to stop during the workout to add or remove weights from the dumbbell bars to work different parts of your body.
Another thing I found handy is to buy four 1.25 lbs standard weight plates. Their role is to increase the weights gradually. 4 plates will allow you to increase by 2.5 lb each dumbbell (1.25 lb at each end of the dumbbell = 2.5 lb).
My reason for doing this is that most traditional dumbbell sets have different weight plates which only allow you to double your weights.
For example, supposing you were able to use a pair of 5 lbs dumbbells for your shoulder raises in your last workout. In this workout, you want to increase the weights only a little bit for that exercise to challenge your muscles further. The next heavier available weights are 10 lbs. But your arms and shoulders are not ready to double the strength like that. 10 lbs is still unmanageable for you. What do you do?
That’s where these little 1.25 lbs weight plates come in handy. You put two 1.25 lbs plates on each of your dumbbells. So you get only 2.5 lbs increase in weight instead of 5 lbs.
If you type in standard weight plates, you’ll see a choice of weight plates available in amazon.
One thing to be careful with is to make sure these little plates can actually fit on your dumbbell bars. If you’re not sure, ask the merchant.
You can even buy one more pair of dumbbell bars and get 3 different pairs of dumbbells ready for your workout. That’ll still be cheaper than buying those innovative dumbbells.
The only issue with this approach is the storage space. You’ll need a lot more space than buying a pair of innovative dumbbells.
How much space do you have to store those dumbbells?
Well … as I said above, cheaper traditional dumbbells will take up more space in your house. More expensive innovative dumbbells take little space in your room since they’re only one “lump”.
So, it depends which is more important to you. Space or cost?
Will you be comfortable using those dumbbells?
Some innovative quick change dumbbells may be longer than traditional ones. They have to have lots of weights attached to the handles to make them just one piece. Will you be OK using longer dumbbells?
It depends on which of the abovementioned key features are the most important to you. There are a lot of great dumbbells out there. Each of them has its own pros and cons.
So, your best approach would be to check out different makes. And read users’ reviews to make sure the dumbbell set you’re going to buy actually “does what it says on the tin”.
Type in adjustable dumbbells in amazon.com and you’ll see lots of makes along with users’ reviews.