As one of the universal tools in the gym, dumbbells cover all of the core exercises for the body. They can be used for bicep curls, triceps extensions, bench press, lunges, shoulder press and more. Usually, there are two types of dumbbells out there. One type isdu the fixed weight dumbbells, which have a fixed weight and are made as a one piece. The other type of dumbbells have plates, which are placed on a bar so the user can choose and change the weight as he likes.
What makes dumbbells useful and better choice than cable machines is they are much cheaper, and way much more versatile. Generally speaking, what makes exercises with free weights better than the ones on the cable machines is the ability to include and activate better all of the secondary muscles. Now, depending if you're a beginner or on an advanced level you can choose what type suits you the best. If you are new to exercising, the adjustable kit would probably be the best for you, since you still don't know your highs and your lows. If you have some proper experience in the gym and want to rip those supersets, then a couple of fixed dumbbells would be the better choice.Considering how much more room you will need with the fixed set, it would be a good idea to get the dumbbell rack too. Other necessary equipment should be in your gym room such as adjustable weight bench, inversion table, etc.
In search for the best Dumbbell set out there – My Reviews
After browsing for some time, and choosing the few most interesting and popular choices on the market, I’ve put them all in numbers of tests. Here are the results, and my impressions.
1. AmazonBasics Dumbbell Set – Good looking and practical set for beginners
Hexagon shaped dumbbell set comes with three pairs of dumbbells in 2-pound, 3-pound and 5-pound sizes. These dumbbells are fixed, coated with Neoprene, and they came with a weight stand.
Neoprene coating helps ensure a firm grip while exercising. It also provides the protection needed for accident dropping; it can save the surface dropped on. The grip on the bar was good and comfortable, even though I’m a fan of that cold steel touch. When I was on a superset and got to that moment when muscles cancel out, I just dropped them from the air to the floor with bigger confidence. Each weight has its color, so it’s easy to remember what dumbbell you need for what type of workout.
The weight stand was very helpful to store them in one place, so I didn’t have to experience tripping over them, because I don’t know how else I would store them, except pile them all up. It was quite easy to cover an entire upper body workout when I was able to pick up one set, put it back in its place and pick up another. And all that while standing in front of the weight stand.
- Weight stand, an absolute space saver
- Different color for each weight
- Three weight variants to cover multiple workouts
- Neoprene coating for a tight grip
- Can be used indoors and outdoors
- Hexagon shape for rolling prevention
- Maximum weight of the dumbbells is 5 pounds
- Some pairs have lopsided weights
- The rack is not so sturdy as I would like it to be
- A bit inconsistent coating
2. Bowflex SelectTech Dumbbells – Unique and Versatile Set
Now, this set caught my eye with its innovative and unique design. Are they a fixed dumbbells, or adjustable ones? Well, they are both, sort to speak. They can be adjusted from 5 to 52.5 pounds with 15 sets of plates. This set eliminates that pause you have to make between the workouts just to set the weight right.
By using its unique dial system, changing weight was easy and exciting, something new nonetheless. This was the first time I was able to use different amounts of weight and not to have plates all over my floor. Having these was like having 15 pairs of various weight dumbbells. When I finished the first set of reps, I was able to change the weight in a second, by just putting the dumbbell in the holder and turning the dials up.
With this kind of dumbbell, you can cover an entire body workout due to a big weight choice. I was able to hit arms, shoulders, back, chest, abs, and legs with the max weight. The bars are a combination of steel and rubber, so the grip was fine, I didn’t have any slipping accidents.
The warranty on this set is a two year period on plates and parts. There is also a free training app for iOS and Android to come with, called “Bowflex SelecTech.”
- Space saving! They can be stored almost anywhere.
- Very attractive design
- Good value for money
- A lot of workout options
- Wide range of weight settings
- If you are on an advanced level, you will need more weights
- It has moving parts, which means there will be some rattling while in use
- I was not so confident dropping these on the floor, with all the moving parts
- A bit longer than I’m used to, you might need some time to adjust to it
3. Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells – No School like Old School
This old school, classic looking dumbbell set, came in two packages composed of two 16”x1.15” handles, sixteen 5-pound plates, four 2.5-pound plates, four 1.25-pound plates, four collars handles and it’s a total of 105 lbs.
All cast iron plates included fit 1.15” standard bars. Black colored paint finish keeps them rust free and durable for a long time. The handles are made out of diamond knurled chrome, the grip while working out was all right, but if you are not used to handles like this, you might get blisters on your hands.
The locks that come with the bars have loose-resistant rubber trims, but even with that addition, I wasn’t so confident that they won’t loosen up. I had to put an effort in securing them in.
As they can be disassembled, they don’t require a weight stand and can be stored very easily. But also they take the time to be set up for each exercise. While I’m a fan of the old school steel dumbbells, I do not prefer these type of locks. From my experience, the spring locks proved to be much better. But I know some people who prefer these over springs, so I guess it a personal preference.
- Very durable and rust resistant
- Plates openings fit a standard bar, can be used on barbells
- Diamond knurling provides a good grip
- Good price for the value
- Beginner friendly
- Very easy for storage
- Paint was kind of bit chipped on the plates, seems they are easy to scratch
- Adjusting the weights takes time
- Screw locks
4. CAP Barbell Dumbbell Set – Intro to Bodybuilding
Coming with a total weight of 40 pounds, this set includes two handles, four 2.5-pound plates, four 5-pound plates, four collars, and a plastic storage case.
Steel handles have a good grip; they come with a set of rubber trim collars, they somewhat help in securing the plates. Plates are durable and have a semi-gloss finish, so there was no rust to be found, and no maintenance required.
I liked that they came with the carrying case, so I could put all the pieces back in, and place it on top of my closet. It’s plastic, but it does the job. It can also be used for easier transport, but I didn’t have any need for that kind of thing.
As most of the steel handles, these are knurled for a secure grip. But as I said, if you’re not used to using steel handles with bare hands, you might get blisters, but you can prevent them with a pair of training gloves. Since you can pile up to 40 pounds, this set can be used by beginners and advanced users as well. If you are a beginner, you will be just fine with this amount of weight if you are on an advanced level. However, you could use these for definition oriented workouts.
- Useful carrying case for better storage and transportation
- Durable build
- Firm grip
- Color finish
- Suitable for beginners and advanced users
- Plates have a strange smell, would be best for outdoor usage
- Screw locks
5. PowerBlock Elite Dumbbells – For Some Serious Work
Now, I’ve finally got to a something that’s a bit more suitable for some of you weight lifting enthusiasts out there. This set has a weight range of 5-70lbs per dumbbell. It replaces 22 pairs of dumbbells or 1575 lbs. of weights. Also, it can be expanded to 90 lbs.
They are a bit bigger as expected, so they came in two separate packages. Dimensions are 14” length x 6.25” width x 6” height.
What I liked about this set comparing to other adjustable sets is the square shape, so they do not roll over on the floor. This might be the heaviest set for a home usage, some of the heaviest models are expandable to 125, 130 and 175 pounds. That’s some serious weight. Pair that up with a bench, and you can do some serious strength and muscle mass workouts. I even tried doing squats with the max weight, and it can be done, you just have to know how to hold them properly.
The construction of this dumbbells is sturdy, and the design is pretty compact. I didn’t waste any time on figuring out how they work. The storage was also not that big of a problem since they are so compact. They could do look a bit more appealing, I know it’s not that important, but they look like a very heavy tool box.
- Very fast weight changing
- Easy storage
- Sturdy build
- Can be expanded to serious weight ranges
- Square shaped
- Not very suitable for users that are on a budget
- Incompatible with other different models
- The design of handles could be better
Types of Dumbbells
1. Fixed Dumbbells
Materials used in the production:
Fixed dumbbells have their advantages over the adjustable ones; you don't have to take them apart and set them up for every exercise, you just choose your weight and start sweating. Also when you get serious in your training, you can use big weights, which you couldn't get with the other type, since there is not much space on the bar to stack the plates on.
2. Adjustable Dumbbells
The main advantage of the adjustable dumbbells is the ability to store them while conserving space. You can take them apart and store all the parts individually. Just take the plates, stack them all up and put them in a corner, it's that easy. When you get stronger, you can always buy more plates to increase the weight. But there's always a problem when you want to move from one workout to another because you will have to stop and set them up.
3. Dumbbell Plate Sets
This kind of set consists out of two bars, four bar locks and a couple of plates. The plates usually come in weights from 0.25kg to 5kg, depends on the set itself. This can be a good solution for home users that want to save up space. If you are planning on getting a barbell as well, keep in mind that these home plate sets can't be used on a barbell, since they are much smaller than the Olympic size ones.
4. Studio Dumbbells
For a light version of dumbbells and exercises that are not focused on building the size of the muscles, you can get a studio dumbbell set. They are specially made for cardio workouts. The grip on them is quite easy considering the coating they are completely covered with. They come in various colors, and for some, each color represents a certain weight.
Weight range is up to 10kg, which is more than enough for studio workouts and cardio.
Dumbbells features to pay attention to
There are two main dumbbell shapes: Hexagonal and round. Round shaped dumbbells are the most common ones but have nothing special to offer. Hexagonal ones, on the other hand, are a better choice because they stay in their place when put on the ground.
The choice here is to be made based on the type of your training. If you're focused on strength, then heavier sets are the obvious choice, for a muscle mass based training you can go with medium weight set and for a better muscle definition a lighter set for the bigger number of reps.
The most common material used is steel. For a better grip and impact, resistant rubber coated barbells are the right choice. As for durability and easier cleaning steel ones are the winners.
In Conclusion – The Versatile the Better
When you are a weight lifting enthusiast, and you want to do all the workouts in the commodity of your home, you have to pay attention to a serious factor of storage. I used to pile all of my plates in the corner of the living room, and when I got the need for more serious weights, that pile just got taller and taller. That’s one of the main reasons I think PowerBlock Elite Dumbbells are the clear winner here. That plus the ability to go from a beginner to an advanced lifter makes it a really good package.