It’s hard to beat the options at a gym; but for those days where you just really don’t feel like it, having dumbbells at home is incredible. Quality adjustable dumbbells give you flexibility to perform many exercises for most muscle groups at home, even if you have limited space. With that said, choosing the right set of dumbbells can make or break your at home workout experience. Fortunately, we did all the hard work for you! If you’re just raring to go, or already know about dumbbells, our conclusions are coming up. If you need more information, we go through our picks in-depth, and answer frequently asked questions about buying dumbbells.
CAP Barbell Adjustable Dumbbell Set
Our top pick, these adjustable dumbbells are great for beginners and serious lifters alike. The 1″ diameter handle makes finding extra plates easy, and the 17″ handle length plus thinner plates make stacking the pounds on these dumbbells a piece of cake.Our Rating:
Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells
Our runner-up, these dumbbells are durable, extendable (available barbell attachment and support for 100lbs+ per handle), have a great grip, and available at a great price. The plates are top quality cast iron, the gold standard for serious lifters.Our Rating:
Bowflex SelectTech 552
If you’re concerned about your home starting to look like a gym, than this is the set for you. The Bowflex SelectTech 552’s make it fast and easy to switch weights up, and easy to keep everything in place. A bit more costly than competitors, but the ease of use can’t be matched.Our Rating:
|Side-by-Side||CAP Barbell Adjustable Dumbbell||Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells||Bowflex SelectTech 552|
|PROS||1″ Standard diameter, great price, perfect plate dimensions.||Sturdy handle. Cast Iron Plates. Easily expandable. Can support 100+lbs per handle. Low Cost.||Easy to use. Fast to switch weights. High quality construction.|
|CONS||O-rings stretch too easily. Not as aesthetic as other options.||Grip Knurling level uncomfortable for some.||Not compatible with standard plates. Expensive.|
Dumbbell Buying Basics
There are hundreds of dumbbell options out there. Fortunately, most dumbbells are quite similar to each other, rendering a lot of subtle differences and nuances moot. The most important factors to consider when buying dumbbells are the following:
At the end of the day, the most important quality of a dumbbell is how much it weighs. The perfect dumbbell is useless if it’s too light or heavy for you to use for an effective workout. Some dumbbells, such as all the ones we recommend for a home gym are adjustable dumbbells. All that means is that you can add and remove weight from the handle to form dumbbells of different weights as needed. While it’s faster to switch back and forth between fixed weight dumbbells for various exercises, for a home gym, the cost and extra space required for the variety of potential weight you want to use far outweigh those benefits. Plus, some options, like the Bowflex SelectTech 552 we reviewed make switching weight quite fast.
The way you most commonly interact with a dumbbell is the handle. A quality handle is extremely important. When it comes to adjustable dumbbells in particular, note the handle length and diameter. Typical dimensions might be something like 16″ x 1.15″ or 17″ x 1″. The first higher number is the length of the handle. The longer the handle, the more plates you can stack on the dumbbell. This is important for maximum flexibility and if you want to be able to stack some really heavy weight onto the dumbbell. The second dimension is the diameter of the handle.
In the United States, you want the handle diameter to be either 1″ or 1.15″, as those diameters have the most available plates. Whether you choose 1″ or 1.15″ is a matter of preference. We like using 1″, as they are easier to grip and there are more available plates for 1″ standard handles than 1.15″. However, if you have bigger hands and pump some serious iron, you may prefer the wider 1.15″ grip.
Other factors to consider when evaluating a dumbbell handle is the material and the knurling. Knurling refers to the textured handle which prevents your hand from slipping while gripping the dumbbell. Again, how much is a matter of preference. Experienced weightlifters will be used to heavy knurling, while beginners might feel excessive knurling is too rough on the hands. Typically, handles are made of metal, metal with a rubber coating, or vinyl. We like the durability of metal. Vinyl is typically reserved for lighter weights, as the material is not as dense as cast iron. It can also crack. Similarly, rubber around the handle can also crack, and we don’t feel it offers a noticeably better gripping experience.
The plates most of what gives your dumbbell its weight. Key considerations for plates should be the hole size (1″ or 1.15″), the material, the width of the plates, their shape, and naturally, their weight.
Our preference is for cast iron plates, without rubber. However, there are definite benefits to rubber coated plates: the rubber dulls some of the sharper edges of the plates which can reduce the risk of damage or injury. However, rubber can peel and crack over time, and it makes plates wider which interferes with the ability to stack more weight on a small dumbbell.
We don’t think the shape of a plate really makes much of a difference, though some prefer non-circular plates since the dumbbells have less tendency to roll around when placed on the floor.
Last but not least, be sure your dumbbell set has an ample variety of weights: you don’t want to have to choose between working out with either 10lbs or 40lbs.
Only relevant for adjustable dumbbells, the collars keep the plates stacked on the dumbbell in place while you exercise. Look for sturdy collars that spin tightly onto the dumbbells, especially if you plan on lifting heavy weight. Most dumbbell collars are spin-locking, meaning you spin the collar along the handle until it reaches the outermost plate.
Our Top Picks In Detail
If you still aren’t sure which dumbbell set is best for your home, let’s dig a bit deeper into our top picks.
Our top pick, the CAP barbell adjustable dumbbell set gets the features that matter most to the serious lifter right, and that’s why it earned our top pick. The slightly longer than normal 17″ handle, combined with relatively thin plates per pound, makes it easy to stack one dumbbell with a lot of weight. That’s perfect for dumbbell rows, dumbbell chest press, and shrugs. The 1″ diameter is the most common hole size for dumbbell plates, making it easy to replace damaged or lost plates.
Some issues include reports the O-ring (rubber around the collar lock) came loose too easily and the overall aesthetic of these leaves something to be desired. Then again, weights don’t need to look good. Lastly, we would note that they are not “select” adjustable, which means they are less suited for workouts involving super sets or rapid changing of resistance.
Our runner-up, the Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbell set comes in a variety of different weight versions. We like the 105lbs version (52.5lbs each dumbbell) because the mix of plates does well for exercises you’ll typically be doing at home.
The quality of these dumbbells is top notch, and they are one of the more aesthetically pleasing adjustable dumbbell sets. The collar worked extremely well and the weights and handle were both pretty smooth to the touch (minus the intentional knurling) despite not being rubber coated.
The main drawback of the Yes4All dumbbells is the 1.15″ diameter handle and the fact that the weights are on the thicker side, which makes stacking a lot of weight on one dumbbell more difficult.
A very different type of adjustable dumbbell than the other two we liked, the Bowflex SelectTech 552 is a great option if fast easy switching of weights is of paramount importance. Changing the weights on typical adjustable dumbbells can take around 30 seconds each, not with the Bowflex SelectTech 552. If you do a lot of pyramids, super sets, or some HIIT type training, and want to do that at home, these dumbbells are a must.
Another nice thing about the Bowflex SelectTech is that it’s easier to load the weights up if you’re doing heavy bench presses or similar–with other adjustable’s it’s not that comfortable to rest them on your thighs because of the bar.
However, the convenience does come at a cost: The Bowflex SelectTech 552 is usually more than double the price of the previous two options, and since it uses non standard weights, you can’t add plates as easily as you can with the other options. Lastly, there having been reports of the selection mechanism breaking down.
Frequently Asked Questions
How accurate are weight plates?
Surprisingly, most weight plates vary in weight by up to 3%. That’s almost 1lb on a 25lb plate. In order to get truly accurate plates, you have to look into calibrated steel plates which are significantly more expensive than almost anything you’ll find at a typical gym, let alone home gym. Fortunately, lifting is about resistance training and progress, so accuracy is actually not critical except during competition.
Can I load different brand plates onto my dumbbells?
Absolutely, as long as the diameter of the plate hole is compatible with the dumbbell handle.
What are those colorful dumbbells made of?
Most colorful dumbbells are made of vinyl. Vinyl is perfectly suitable for lower weight dumbbells, but they are rarely found in adjustable dumbbells and because the material is less dense than iron or steel, they are also rarely found in heavy dumbbells.
How heavy can dumbbells get?
Most quality handles can load around 100lbs per, if not more. There are dumbbell handles that can support even more: some professional strongmen and bodybuilders regularly workout with dumbbells weighing over 200lbs each!
What exercises can I do with dumbbells without a bench?
There are countless exercises you can do with dumbbells, even without a bench. Some include bicep curls, concentration curls, overhead tricep extensions, shoulder raises, standing rear-delt raises, shrugs, upright rows, lunges, and toe-raises.
How do my dumbbells ship?
Don’t worry, you won’t have a 150lbs package on your doorstep! Most heavy weight sets, including adjustable dumbbells ship as multiple more manageable packages. However, each package will still usually be quite heavy.
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