Best Dumbbells Reviews 2018 and Comparison Chart
As opposed to various fitness machines, dumbbells can be used for a wide variety of exercises. Dumbbell exercises create both intra- and intermuscular coordination, which leads to superior levels of muscle activation. They can provide the two main types of overload which leads to muscle growth: metabolic and mechanic. Also, dumbbell exercises considerably stimulate both the elastic and contractile elements of muscle tissue. Due to all these facts, dumbbells are some of the most used free weights for muscle gain and definition.
Evidently, dumbbells are also convenient, as they don’t take a lot of space, and almost anyone can use one or multiple sets at home. However, they come in a plethora of shapes, sizes and feature various constructions. Thus, without a little bit of research you may end up with a set of dumbbells that don’t really fit your requirements.
Therefore, in this post we’ll point out some of the best dumbbell sets available in 2018, along with their pluses and minuses, aiming to help you choose the perfect set for you. So, first of all, here’s a comparison table with 10 of the best dumbbells currently available.
|Bowflex SelectTech 552||L:15.75"|
|Adjustable||Dial||5-52.5 lbs||2.5 lbs|
|PowerBlock Elite 70||L:14"|
|5-70 lbs||2.5 lbs|
|Adjustable||Dial||5-45 lbs||5.0 lbs||Storage|
|PowerBlock Elite 90||L:16"|
|5-90 lbs||2.5 lbs|
|10-50 lbs||10 lbs||Storage|
|StairMaster TwistLock 100 lbs||L:14.5"|
|5-50 lbs||5.0 lbs||Storage|
|IronMaster 75 lbs||L:14.5"|
|5-75 lbs||2.5 lbs|
|Yes4All 105 lbs||L:16"|
|5-52.5 lbs||5.0 lbs||-||5 years|
|Body Solid SDRS550||L:14.5"|
|-||5-50 lbs||5.0 lbs||Storage|
|CAP Barbell 550 lbs||L:14.5"|
|-||5-50 lbs||5.0 lbs||Storage|
Which Dumbbells Are The Best For You
In order to choose the set of dumbbells that fit your needs perfectly, there are several aspects to consider. So, the first and most important one concerns the training regimen that you want to follow. For example, a workout program like P90X requires the use of dumbbell sets of different weights in an alternative manner. Therefore, if you want to follow such a program, a set of adjustable dumbbells with a quick selection system is the best to go with, in case you don’t want a full set of 5-50 fixed-weight dumbbells, for example. Classic adjustable dumbbells, the ones that require the loading / unloading of weight plates onto the bars may really diminish your momentum, as the adjustment of one dumbbell may take up to 40-50 sec. On the other hand, you can opt for several bar sets, load them with the desired weight range for your next workout session, in order to avoid adjusting. But still, in this case, a set of “selectorized” dumbbells is best to get.
When it comes to home fitness equipment, storage space may always be an issue. And this stands for dumbbells as well. Thus, in case you don’t have a lot of space to keep several sets of hex dumbbells for example, or a whole rack, it’s pretty obvious that an adjustable dumbbell set is the best to go with. Some of them actually replace up to 20 fixed-weight dumbbell sets or even more, and with all the weight plates loaded into the bars, they don’t take more than 18″ x 8″ (46 x 20.3 cm) per dumbbell. So, in this case, whether you opt for a Standard or Olympic set, or a “selectorized” set, the results are about the same. They’re all space savvy.
Price is pretty much an important factor for choosing any product. When it comes to dumbbells, it’s pretty obvious that a full set of fixed weight dumbbells, is typically more expensive than a set of adjustable ones. That’s because a set of fixed dumbbells with a weight range of 5-50 lbs, with increments of 5 lbs, has a total weight of 550 lbs. So, even the cheapest poorest set will cost more than $600, because you’ll rarely find a pound of iron cheaper than $1. On the other hand, a set of adjustable dumbbells packs less total weight, and may save you up to a couple of $100s.
Cast Iron vs. Rubber, Urethane And Other Materials
You probably are aware already that many dumbbells are labelled as “rubber”, “urethane” or “neoprene”. The first aspect to be specified here is that these types of dumbbells are not entirely made of these materials. The rubber, neoprene or urethane is usually a coating that covers their weight plates or weight heads. Their handles are typically made of steel, and also may have coating on them. However, there are dumbbells, typically the vinyl ones, for which the weight plates are made of cement. For these, each weight plate is encased in a vinyl shell. In general, the urethane, rubber or neoprene ones are more expensive than the plain cast iron ones. The vinyl weights though, are usually cheaper than the cast iron ones as they integrate much less iron.
Evidently, each type of weight plate coating comes with its own advantages. To begin with, urethane coated weights are usually more expensive, as this material is quite durable. It’s a common misconception that urethane is plastic, but this material actually has several properties that plastic doesn’t have. First of all, it’s not brittle, and will not crack or break due to impact or shock. Since it’s a true elastomer, it’s also elastic actually maintaining its elasticity and strength over a complete range of hardness. Also, as opposed to rubber or latex, urethane doesn’t emanate any smell, and feature a specific gloss, that looks better than rubber.
Rubber is typically used for the weight heads of fixed dumbbells, such as hex dumbbells. It’s also elastic and won’t break or crack if you drop the weights. It endows the weights with a bit of cushioning, so they are less likely to nick or scratch your floors. But then again, rubber doesn’t have the neat aspect of urethane. Rubberized weights usually look a bit rough compared to the urethane ones. Also, rubber weights may release the typical rubbery odor for a while, which can be a problem for some users.
Neoprene is a synthetic material with a rubber-foamy structure. It’s typically used as coating for the small dumbbells used in aerobic training. It’s not as durable as urethane or rubber, and the primary role of this coating is to increase the ergonomics of the weights.
On the other hand, there are the plain cast iron weights, which feature either a chrome or oil paint finish. Obviously, these weights are less expensive than the ones with various other coatings. Depending on make, the chrome or paint may be more or less durable. But in general, even if the finish comes off, they can be re-painted.
Adjustable Dumbbells vs. “Selectorized” Dumbbells
There are two types of adjustable dumbbells: the “classic” ones and the “selectorized” ones. The “classic” type of adjustable dumbbells are mainly the Olympic and Standard ones, which require plates to be manually loaded and unloaded onto the bars, for the weight adjustment of each dumbbell.
“Selectorized” dumbbells are the ones with a quick adjustment system, such as the PowerBlock or PowerPak ones. These feature either a dial or a selector pin involved into the selection of the plates for each dumbbell. They typically come with storage trays which also play an important role in the weight adjustment, as they keep the weight plates in place. By turning the dial or moving the selector pin, you select the desired plates to remain locked onto the handle, the rest remaining onto the trays.
Now, each type of adjustable dumbbells has its own pluses and minuses. On the one hand, the Olympic or Standard dumbbells offer a lot of sturdiness and reliability as the plates can’t possibly fall off the bars, unless the collars or springs are faulty. Also, especially the all-iron ones, without any urethane or rubber coatings, can take a lot of abuse before breaking. But, adjustment can take quite some time.
On the other hand, “selectorized” dumbbells offer quick adjustment, but sacrifice some of the sturdiness. The parts involved into the attachment of the weight plates to the bars may break if the dumbbells are dropped, which can result in the falling of the plates. Also, depending on the plates loaded onto the bars, they may be bulkier than similar, fixed dumbbells. For example, a 10 lbs fixed hex dumbbell, will be much smaller than the Bowflex 552 with the 10 lbs increment selected. But for the 52.5 weight increment there isn’t much of a size difference. Of course, if treated with care, a pair of “selectorized” dumbbells can last just as long as any other set.
Olympic vs. Standard
These are “classic” adjustable dumbbells, which come with circular weight discs and the dumbbell bars for them. Now, their system is pretty much similar, but the specs differ. The Olympic dumbbells feature bars with 2″ (5 cm) diameter sleeves, requiring plates with 2″ (5 cm) holes, while the main grip is usually less thicker than the sleeves.
Standard dumbbells feature 1″ (2.5 cm) sleeves and naturally require plates with 1″ (2.5 cm) holes. The sleeves may or may not be threaded, depending on the locking system required. The grips of the bars feature the same thickness as the sleeves.
Now, in case you’re wondering, it’s possible to load Olympic weight plates on Standard bars, but they will rattle and move during your exercises, so this is not recommended. That’s why it’s important to choose the right plates for the right bars if you purchase them separately.
There’s one more aspect to be mentioned here, though. There are certain dumbbell sets similar to the Olymipc and Standard ones, but they feature sleeves of different specs. For example, the Yes4All dumbbells, although they seem like Standard dumbbells, they feature 1.25″ (3.1 cm) bars, so Standard plates won’t fit on them.
Commercial Grade vs. Home Use Weights
If you’ve been on the lookout for dumbbells, you’ve probably noticed that there are types which are labelled as “commercial”. And the first aspect about them that you’ve noticed is that they come with expensive prices. These dumbbells do offer better quality than the ones made for home use. They typically feature a sturdy construction, urethane coating on weight plates and sometimes on handles too, and superior ergonomics. Also, they typically come with a consistent commercial warranty.
However, in case you want a dumbbell set for your home gym, a set of commercial grade dumbbells may not worth the financial effort. A set of hex dumbbells, rubberized or not, or a Standard adjustable set is much cheaper and can last for many years. You don’t need any warranty for these types of dumbbells as they can take a lot of abuse, and they simply serve the purpose perfectly.
A Few Recommendations By Price
Depending on set, brand, materials used, adjustment system and other factors, the prices of dumbbells can largely vary. Now, in case you want a set for your home gym, we’re pretty sure you would want it to be as versatile and as durable as it gets. Therefore, here are several recommendations by price.
Price: Under $250
Yes4All offers adjustable dumbbells sets of various ranges. They’re not the highest quality dumbbells, but they’re some of the most affordable that you can find at the moment. In fact, the 105 lbs set (2 x 52.5 lbs dumbbells), costs less than $100! This means you’ll be paying less than $1 per pound of iron, which is not bad at all.
The Yes4All 105 lbs set features classic adjustable dumbbells, similar to the standard ones. However, the bars are not standard 1″ (2.5 cm). As we’ve mentioned above, they’re 1.25″ (3.1 cm), so you won’t be able to use Standard weight plates. However, at 5-52.5 lbs weight range per dumbbells, these are great for beginners, intermediate users and even advanced users. The set described here features weight plates with a black paint finish, but there’s also a set featuring chrome plates… Read Full Review.
Unipack dumbbells are quite similar to the Yes4All ones. The only difference is that they comes with Standard, 1″ (2.5 cm) bars, construction and price per pound of iron are basically the same. This particular set also comes with simple, cast iron weight plates, dyed black. The handles are knurled and have a chrome finish.
As the title suggests, the weight range per dumbbell for the Unipack MTN Gearsmith 200 lbs set is 5-100 lbs. In other words, it’s a dumbbell set that can work quite well for advanced users. However, since weight increments are 5 lbs (2.26 kg), these are actually great for users of all levels… Read Full Review.
The last set among the “cheapies” that must appear on this recommendation list, is the Starring 200 lbs set. These dumbbells are similar to the previous recommended ones. They also cost approx. $1 per pound of iron which is quite advantageous. However, the downside is that they don’t come with Standard 1″ bars either.
The sleeves of their bars are knurled and feature a thickness of 1.125″ (2.8 cm), which means Standard 1″ plates won’t fit on them. But then again, the set comes with weight plates which can provide 5-100 lbs (2.26 – 45.3 kg) of weight per dumbbell, which is great for users of all levels… Read Full Review.
The Bowflex 552 are some of the highest rated adjustable dumbbells, with a selectorized adjustment system. Even though the first series had some issues with the connections between the weight plates and their sustaining discs, for the newest series this design flaw was corrected. They’re pretty durable dumbbells, but just as most selectorized ones, they should be treated with a bit of extra care.
The Bowflex SelectTech 552 as the name suggests, offer 5-52.5 (2.26 – 23.8 kg) weight range per dumbbell. They offer weight increments of 2.5 lbs (1.13 kg) up to the 25 lbs (11.3 kg) setting, and then up to 52.5 (23.8 kg) the increments are 5 lbs (2.26 kg).
These free weights feature cast iron plates with a heavy-duty plastic composite coating… Read Full Review.
These are also “selectorized” adjustable dumbbells, similar to the Bowflex SelectTech ones, but with several differences. First of all, they cost a little bit more, and offer a lower weight range, between 5-45 lbs (2.26 – 20.4 kg). In other words, it’s a set for beginners and intermediate users. On the other hand, as opposed to the Bowflex, they offer a safer locking mechanism for the plates. The plates cannot actually be removed or fall from the handles unless they’re on their trays.
The PowerPak 445 feature a dial adjustment system. However, even though they have dials on each end, they’re not independent from one another. Differently put, you won’t be able to create an off-set weight as for the Bowflex… Read Full Review.
PowerBlock offers adjustable dumbbells with an unconventional design and adjustment system. They’re actually a full set of dumbbells stacked together, rather than a group of weight plates loaded onto a bar. Each set of weight plates is connected via steel rods, and is locked onto the main handle via a selector pin. The connection between the weight plate sets and the main handle is quite solid, even though the locking / selecting pin is not metallic. It can actually hold much more weight than 70 lbs, the maximum increment for each dumbbell.
The PowerBlock Elite 70 lbs is the set that so far benefits from the most positive reviews. That’s because the Elite series offers a sturdier and simpler construction… Read Full Review.
The IronMaster 75 lbs are quick-lock adjustable dumbbells, with a system similar to the standard one. The difference is you don’t load up the weight plates onto the main handle, you stack them together on each side, and then connect and lock them to the main handle with a pin-knob which screws into the main handle. These dumbbells feature square weight plates, and one of their advantages is that they’re quite small even with the maximum 75 lbs (34 kg) plate load each. In other words, using these dumbbells, you won’t find your movements restrained in any way.
The IronMaster 75 lbs set comes with a stand with shelves for keeping weight plates stacked and organized. It’s sturdy enough to hold up to 600 lbs (272.1 kg) worth of weight plates… Read Full Review.
Evidently, fixed weight dumbbells are not to be left out from out recommendation list. And in case you want a 5-50 lbs (2.26 – 22.6 kg) weight range set, you should check out the SDRS550 set from Body Solid. This set presented on this websites comes with the GDR363-RFWS 3-tier rack, but it’s also available without the rack.
The Body Solid SDRS550 set includes classic hex dumbbells with rubberized weight heads, and knurled handles with a chrome finish. The handles are also arched to offer more comfort. Of course, since the whole set plus the rack weighs more than 550 lbs (250 kg), it’s not exactly cheap. However, with the rack included, it costs less than $1,000… Read Full Review.
There’s quite a multitude of free weight sets under the name of CAP Barbell. Nonetheless, there are several fixed weight sets available. One of the best and highest rated is the 550 lbs hex rubber dumbbell set.
The CAP Barbell Rubber Hex Dumbbell set offers dumbbells quite similar to the Body Solid SDRS550. It offers a weight range of 5-50 lbs (2.26 – 22.6 kg), with weight increments of 5 lbs (2.26 kg). The dumbbells feature rubberized hex weight heads, and knurled, arched handles, with a chrome finish. The set also comes with a 4-sided vertical rack, with a small footprint of 23.6″ x 23.6″ (60 x 60 cm). These weights are great for users of all levels… Read Full Review.
Final Pick: Best Adjustable Dumbbells For Home Use
All dumbbell sets presented in the recommendations above come with an excellent price / quality ratio, and they all benefit from 4.5 to 5-star reviews from many users. But when it comes to dumbbells for home use, our final pick is the PowerBlock Elite 70 set, and there are several good reasons behind this choice.
First of all, this PowerBlock set belongs to the Elite series, which features metallic weight sets not urethane, dyed with a thick, durable enamel. The Elite series is manufactured in the U.S. and comes with a solid warranty. These adjustable free weights feature an extremely secure, stable and compact locking system, being less likely to fail than various other models.
Since they’re “selectorized” free weights, weight adjustment is done quickly. It doesn’t take more than 5-6 seconds to select the desired weight on each dumbbell, as opposed to 40-50 sec. that it takes to load the desired amount of plates on a Standard or Olympic dumbbell.
Another important aspect to mention regarding these dumbbells is their price. Considering that this set covers 22 pairs of dumbbells, in other words, it replaces 1575 lbs (714.4 kg) worth of fixed dumbbells, and costs less than $500, the value / price ratio is quite high… Read Full Review.
Choosing the right set of dumbbells to use in the comfort of your home may not be quite an easy task, as there are many types out there, which can pretty much fulfill the same purpose. But even though these fitness tools are pretty straightforward, there are quite many aspects to consider when choosing your set. Therefore, if you’re on the lookout for a set of dumbbells for your home gym, the selection we’ve pointed out into this post should help serve you as a starting point on choosing the set that fits perfectly to your needs and budget.