Are Adjustable Dumbbells Good Or Bad? A Non-Biased Review Of Their Pros And Cons

Are adjustable dumbbells good or bad

Adjustable dumbbells are one of the most popular pieces of home gym equipment these days, but how good (or bad) are they? That’s exactly what this post will discuss!

Overall, adjustable dumbbells are a very good home weight option. A single unit replaces up to 28 regular fixed-weight dumbbells, saving the user space and money. However, one should be aware that they are limited to 90lbs per dumbbell and do not offer the same durability as regular gym dumbbells.

My 10-year training experience has seen me transition from gym workouts to home workouts.

I’ve tested a variety of regular fixed-weight and adjustable dumbells along the way.

Here’s my non-biased review on adjustable dumbbells!

What I think is good and bad about adjustable dumbbells for a home gym.

7 Reasons Why Adjustable Dumbbells Can Good

There’s no denying it.

Adjustable weights have taken the monopoly in the home dumbbell market.

This is understandable considering so many models receive good reviews and positive feedback.

Here are 7 pros and benefits of adjustable dumbbells that make them a good investment for your home gym:

1) Adjustable Dumbbells Can Save Around 75% Space

Adjustable dumbbells are cheaper compared to regular dumbbells.

The average fixed-weight hex dumbbell typically occupies less than 1 square foot of space.

But remember- you need a complete set with all the individual weight increments to make them worthwhile.

A complete hex dumbbell set usually requires 15 square feet (or more) of floor space to house the rack upon which the dumbbells sit.

Now compare this with a typical adjustable dumbbell pair unit that only occupies 2-4 square feet of space.

That’s around 75% floor space saved!

Thus, adjustable dumbbells can be a good way to fit lots of weights into a small home gym.

2) Adjustable Dumbbells Are Around 60% Cheaper

Adjustable dumbbells require less space compared to regular dumbbells.

Whilst a single fixed-weight hex dumbbell may only cost you around 30 bucks or so, remember that one dumbbell alone is not very versatile.

Chances are you’ll need multiple dumbbells each at different weights.

A set of 5-50lb hex dumbbells in 5lb increments (10 dumbbells total) can easily cost you $1000+.

In comparison, a 5-50lb selectorized adjustable dumbbell like the Bowflex 552 or Powerblock Elites only set you back ~$400.

That’s 60% space savings!

Oh, and owning a pair of adjustable dumbbells also saves you money from not having to buy a gym membership.

Therefore adjustable weights can be a great way to work out at home in a cost-effective manner.

You can go to my other post to find out how much adjustable dumbbells should cost you.

3) Rapid Adjustable Mechanisms Lead To Faster Workouts

Adjustment mechanisms on most adjustable dumbbells are easy to use.

It’s quick and easy to change dumbbell weight in a gym.

Simply re-rack the fixed-weight hex dumbbells in your hand and grab the pair you need.

But this is not always the case with hex dumbbells made for home gyms.

Speaking from personal experience, cheap hex dumbbell sets often have poorly designed stands that make it awkward to rack and un-rack the dumbbell.

As a result, your workouts are prolonged and less enjoyable.

Adjustable weights, on the other hand, allow you to effortlessly change weight using the turn of a dial or the flick of a switch.

This makes adjustable dumbbells a great way for reducing overall workout duration.

4) Small Increments Are Good For Smooth Progression

Adjustable dumbbells give a good range of weight increments for smooth workout progression.

Ever wondered how most gyms have dumbbells that go up in 2.5-5lb increments and nothing more than that?

That’s because small increments allow you to progress more smoothly.

If you think about it, it’s easier to add 5lbs to your bicep curl than it is to add 10lbs right?

A premium set of fixed-weight hex dumbbells should contain small increments, but cheaper sets often do not.

Decent adjustable dumbbells, on the other hand, almost always feature 2.5 to 5lb increments!

This makes them great for making steady strength and muscle gains at home.

5) Adjustable Dumbbells Can Be Good For All Training Goals

Powerblock Elite dumbbells are good to reach all training goals including muscle building and fat burning.

Adjustable dumbbells usually offer more weight settings and increments than a set of hex dumbbells for the same amount of money.

This means adjustable weights are generally more versatile.

That’s because different training goals involve lifting different weight intensities.

For example, building muscle requires heavy lifting whilst fat-burning can be achieved with light lifting only.

The best thing with adjustable dumbbells?

They give you access to light AND heavy weight settings to accomplish both training goals!

Still unconvinced? You may be interested in my other post for 15 other ways adjustable dumbbells are worth it.

6) Variable Weights Allow A Wide Exercise Variety


Exercises are not created equal.

Big compound lifts such as the bench press require you to lift heavier weights compared to small isolation lifts like the bicep curl.

The great thing about adjustable dumbbells is they give you access to both ends of the weight spectrum.

Just make sure you choose a good pair of adjustable dumbbells.

The Powerblock Elites (see my full review here), for example, go as low as 2.5lbs and as high as 90lbs (with the addon kits).

Simply put, adjustable dumbbells are a good and cost-effective way to maximize exercise variety at home.

7) Adjustable Dumbbells Are Convenient For Beginners

Powerblock Elites are good for beginners because they are convenient to use.

As a beginner, a fixed-weight hex dumbbell set is probably the last thing you need in your home gym.

They’re expensive, take up a lot of space, and the rack requires assembly.

Adjustable weights on the other hand are cost-effective, easy to use, and are ready for a workout straight out of the box.

If you want maximum convenience in your home workouts, then adjustable dumbbells are one of the best investments you can make!

You can check out my other post on the best types of dumbbells for a more detailed comparison between adjustable and regular dumbbells.

7 Reasons Why Adjustable Dumbbells Can Bad

We also need to consider the negatives for this to be a non-biased adjustable dumbbell review.

Adjustable dumbbells are designed to provide maximum function and convenience at the lowest price possible.

As a result, they also come with a unique array of cons and drawbacks as follows:

1) Adjustable Dumbbells Have A High Upfront Cost

Overall, home dumbbells can save you a lot of money since you don’t have to pay for gym costs.

And adjustable weights are the most cost-effective dumbbells you can buy.

But there’s a caveat to this.

Whilst they save you money over the long term, their initial upfront cost is still expensive.

To give you a better idea:

A good pair of adjustable dumbbells will likely cost $300-400, minimum.

This can make them unsuitable for the first-time weight lifter who isn’t yet quite sure if he/she will stick to their home workouts.

You can go to my other post to find out why adjustable dumbbells are so expensive.

2) Moving Parts In Adjustment Mechanisms Can Break

Bad adjustable weight mechanisms can break.

The very thing about adjustable dumbbells that make them good- their selector mechanism- can also be a bad point.

The selectorized mechanisms can be fragile, particularly on budget models (premium models are well-built).

Don’t get me wrong. They’re not exactly flimsy.

After all, my Powerblock Elite and Bowflex adjustable dumbbells have lasted years of heavy use (I made sure to clean and maintain them properly).

But you need to be aware that the dials and pins ARE a potential area of weakness.

Don’t chuck them around or drop them and you’ll be fine.

You can go to my other article to find out why adjustable dumbbells should not be dropped.

3) Not All Adjustment Mechanisms Are Easy To Use

Bad adjustable dumbbells have mechanisms that are hard to use.

Generally speaking, adjustable dumbbell mechanisms are intuitive and easy to use.

But some are easier to use than others.

Spinlock dumbbells and cheap selectorized dumbbells, in particular, can be cumbersome and fidgety.

Spinlock adjustable require you to manually add/remove weight plates, whilst low-quality selectorized dumbbells have dials that frequently jam.

Not only does this make them hard to use, but it can also pose a safety risk if the weight plates aren’t securely locked.

Get yourself an adjustable dumbbell from a reputable brand and you’ll be fine!

You can also check out my other post to find out how safe adjustable dumbbells are.

4) Durability Issues Make Them Unsuitable For Some Exercises

As a result of their potential durability issues, adjustable dumbbells are not suitable for all types of exercises.

They work well with what I call “simple lifts”

These are movements like the bench press, shoulder press, row, squat, bicep curl, lateral raise, etc.

The dumbbells rarely touch the ground in these lifts.

As a result, there’s a minimal likelihood they’ll be subjected to shock impact.

Conversely, adjustable weights are not great for “dynamic lifts”.

These are movements like the snatch where the dumbbell transitions between the floor and air.

With these types of exercise, there’s an increased likelihood you’ll drop and break them.

5) A Lot Of Adjustable Dumbbells Are Bulky

Some adjustable weights are bad because they are bulky and uncomfortable.

Adjustable dumbbells pack multiple weight settings (sometimes up to 20+) in a single unit.

As a result, many of them are bulkier than the regular dumbbell that you find in a gym.

Take the Bowflex 552 dial-a-weight for example.

On the 10lb setting, the dumbbell length measures just over 1.5 feet. That’s almost twice the length of a regular 10lb hex dumbbell.

This bulky shape can offset the center of gravity (making it awkward to handle for some beginners) and can cause them to bang against each other in some exercises like the dumbbell curl.

That said, not all adjustable dumbbells are like this.

The Powerblock Elite dumbbell is highly recommended

I find the Powerblock Elites to have one of the most compact and comfortable designs in an adjustable dumbbell.

6) Some Adjustable Dumbbell Handles Have Bad Grips

This is something you don’t find out until you’ve tested multiple adjustable dumbbell models.

In my opinion, the handles on adjustable dumbbells are incomparable to those you find on regular dumbbells at the gym.

Where gym dumbbells have high-quality knurling (the etching on the dumbbell bar), adjustable dumbbells usually only feature plastic sleeves on their handles.

To be honest, these sleeves are generally acceptable for most beginners.

But they’re not the best if you want maximum grip and comfort.

7) Adjustable Dumbbells Have A Weight Limitation

I interviewed one of the guys at Muscle Squad UK, asking them why adjustable dumbbells don’t exceed 90lbs per dumbbell.

According to them, the internal locking mechanism found in adjustable dumbbells can only handle so much weight before the integrity is compromised.

Thus, the maximum weight load in adjustable dumbbells is usually capped at 90lbs per dumbbell.

Now, this is plenty of weight for most people to build muscle, tone, and lose fat at home.

But for bodybuilders, powerlifters, or advanced lifters, this may not be enough for the big exercises like the bench press.

Why Adjustable Dumbbells Are Good For A Home Gym

Adjustable dumbbells are generally good for most home gyms. A pair of adjustable dumbbells can replace up to 28 or more individual dumbbell weights. This can help beginners and advanced lifters alike to save space and money building their home gym.

Most people belong either to the beginner or intermediate class of lifters.

If this sounds like you, then adjustable dumbbells can be a great addition to your home gym if you have the money for it.

Recommended adjustable dumbbell and bench home gym setup.

A simple dumbbell and bench setup are all you need to build muscle, tone, and burn fat at home.

Even for advanced lifters who need more oomph from their home dumbbells, an adjustable dumbbell pair can still be extremely beneficial.

For example, imagine you need a complete hex dumbbell set to go from 5-120lbs in 5lb increments (24 weights in total).

Powerblock Elites are an example of good adjustable weights.

Rather than buying each of the 24 weights individually, you could purchase a single Powerblock Elite with stage 2 and stage 3 kits to cover the first 90lbs and then supplement with individual heavy hex dumbbells to take your setup to 120lbs.

This would save you a considerable amount of space and costs!

You can go to my other post to learn more about which dumbbell material and type is best for you.

Are Adjustable Or Regular Dumbbells Better?

Overall, adjustable dumbbells are better than regular dumbbells for most people. Although adjustable dumbbells may not be as durable or have as high a weight capacity as regular hex dumbbells, they make up for this with their convenient and cost-saving design.

As an intermediate-advanced lifter myself, my opinion is that adjustable dumbbells are the better option for most people.

It’s not worth the money buying a complete set of hex dumbbells.

That’s unless you’re a bodybuilder, powerlifter, or simply a home gym enthusiast.

If this sounds like you, then you’ll probably need the heaviest and most durable dumbbells you can buy.

In which case, fixed-weight dumbbells may be the better option.

But even then, you might still find better value for your money by simply signing up for a commercial gym membership.

You may also be interested in my other post to learn more about whether home dumbbells are worth buying.


I’ve explained whether adjustable dumbbells are good or bad.

For the majority of beginner to intermediate lifters, adjustable weights are a very good addition to a home gym and the better alternative to regular dumbbells.

They allow you to work out for muscle gains and fat burning in a cost-effective and space-saving manner.

However, you should be aware that they’re limited to 90lbs per dumbbell and don’t have the same durability as regular gym dumbbells.

How do you feel about adjustable dumbbells?

Feel free to send me a message if you have any questions! You can find my details on the “contact us” page.

You may also be interested in the downloadable Kalibre Blueprint PDF which details exactly how I gained 40lbs of lean muscle (it’s 100% free!). It details the exact exercises and nutrition (with printable worksheets) I used to go from skinny to ripped!

Thanks for reading guys!

Peace Out,


(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)


I'm Kal (B.S, M.S)- a health & fitness writer and owner of Kalibre Fitness. I love to nerd out on weight training and nutrition. My primary interests are in muscle hypertrophy mechanisms and strength development. You can connect with me in the "Contact Us" section below!

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