The 10 Best Adjustable Dumbbells
This wiki has been updated 21 times since it was first published in March of 2015. Loading up your living room with an assortment of dumbbells for every possible exercise doesn't sound like the most aesthetically pleasing approach to interior decorating. With a set of adjustable weights, however, you can have access to all that variety in just about the same amount of space that two 50-pounders would occupy, providing you with versatility and tidiness. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best adjustable dumbbell on Amazon.
May 27, 2019:
We believe people buy adjustable dumbbells for two reasons — to save space and/or save money. While the cost of the some of the models on our list may look expensive at first glance, when one considers that a single pair of fifty pound dumbbells can cost well over $100, all of a sudden $250 for an adjustable set that can range from 10 to 90 pounds no longer seems like all that much. Bowflex has long been known for making quality fitness equipment, so it should be surprise that they claimed two of the top three spots. Casual lifters will be well-served by the slightly more affordable Bowflex SelectTech 552, but if you are looking to pack on serious mass, then the Bowflex SelectTech 1090 is a better choice, since it has a 90-pound capacity. Be aware though, it comes as a single unit. If you are looking for an option that is most similar to traditional dumbbells, we recommend the Core Fitness Space Saver. Unlike most other models, these don't have a fixed length bar running through the center. Instead, they get wider as you add more plates, meaning the less weight you use, the smaller they will be, allowing for more versatility in exercises and a greater range of motion. The PowerBlock Elite and Powerblock Exp Kit are very unusual-looking options, but we think most people will appreciate that they are expandable, so you can start off buying the units with a 50-pound capacity, and then as your strength increases, you can buy an expansion kit.
Why Adjustable Dumbbells (As Opposed to Traditional Ones)?
In terms of costs, adjustable dumbbells are a one-and-done investment.
In terms of costs, adjustable dumbbells are a one-and-done investment.
Anyone who's been to a public gym has undoubtedly seen the endless racks of dumbbells, shaped like hexagons or cylinders, available in an assortment of weights and styles and sizes. In a public setting, traditional dumbbells make sense. Members can simply grab what they need without any need to switch out plates or tighten screws.
But in a private setting, like, say, a rec room or a home gym, adjustable dumbbells represent a much more practical solution. One of the reasons for this is that adjustable dumbbells take up a fraction of the space required for a full set of weights. What's more, adjustable dumbbells are a one-size-fits-all solution, meaning that you can increase or decrease the weight on a single bar with relative ease. In terms of costs, adjustable dumbbells are a one-and-done investment. Traditional dumbbells, by way of comparison, necessitate that you buy a new pair every time you want to ratchet up the weight.
Adjustable dumbbells are so compact that you can take them with you on a road trip or a vacation. These dumbbells are so accommodating that you can use them to get in an entire workout at a public park or on a beach.
They are also generally made out of aluminum or plastic, which means that they don't "clang and bang" like a lot of other fitness equipment. This could be a major benefit if you happen to be a parent in that you can still sneak in a late-night - or early-morning - workout without being concerned that you might wake up sleeping kids.
3 Basic, Effective Exercises You Can Do With a Dumbbell
Perhaps the most well-known exercise that you can do with an adjustable dumbbell is the bicep curl. The resting position for a bicep curl requires that you stand upright while holding a dumbbell near your waist. Slowly raise (or curl) one arm until that arm is folded, with the dumbbell touching your shoulder. Hold, and then lower the weight until that arm is resting at your side. Bicep curls can be done while sitting or standing. They can be done with one arm, by rotating back and forth between both arms (with a dumbbell in both hands), or with both arms simultaneously.
Perhaps the most well-known exercise that you can do with an adjustable dumbbell is the bicep curl.
Another popular dumbbell exercise is known as the chest press (aka "bench press"). The resting position for a chest press requires that you lie flat with your back against a bench. With a dumbbell in both hands - and both hands running parallel to your chest - slowly push both bars up until your arms are stretched out vertically. Hold, and then lower the dumbbells until your arms are running parallel to your chest. Pause, and then repeat that same motion several times.
Once you've gotten comfortable with the bicep curl and the chest press, it might be time to attempt some lat raises. Lateral raises are completed by sitting or standing with your feet hip-length apart. Clutching dumbbells in both hands, swing - or spread - both arms until they run parallel with your shoulders (imagine a bird spreading its wings). Standing with your arms fully extended, slowly bring those arms back in until the dumbbells come to rest in front of your waist. Hold, and then repeat.
Over time, you want to build up to doing 10 repetitions, and then 3-4 sets, of each of these exercises. To avoid muscle strains or other stress-related injuries, focus on doing different exercises (thereby developing different muscle groups) on different days.
A Brief History of The Dumbbell
The earliest dumbbells, which were invented by the Ancient Greeks, were used for providing forward momentum during a competitive long jump. Standing jumpers would swing their arms in unison, building momentum until they launched into the air, thrust forward by the weight of these crescent-shaped stones (known as halteres). Once airborne, these athletes would drop both halteres, thereby maximizing their trajectory upon descent.
Iron weights had acquired their modern shape by the early 1700s.
The Ancient Egyptians were known for using their own dumbbells, referred to as meels. Meels were generally relegated for wrestlers, who would develop muscle in the hopes of winning matches and earning prestige. Egyptian meels were made of wood and they were shaped like giant bowling pins. The Persians eventually took to calling these weights "clubs" as a result of their design.
Iron weights had acquired their modern shape by the early 1700s. A poet from that era named Joseph Addison is widely credited with coining the term "dumbbell" by way of an essay that he wrote for a British newspaper (i.e., The Spectator). While Addison's intention remains unclear, the Oxford Dictionary has since gone on to describe a dumbbell's origin as being based on a noiseless (or "dumb") apparatus "similar to that used when ringing a bell."
Dumbbells haven't changed a great deal over the past 300 years. The biggest innovation - short of more progressive equipment - has been the adjustable dumbbell, which allows users to slide weighted plates on and off as need be. Dumbbells remain popular because they force bodybuilders to develop complete muscle groups, whereas stabilized machines render it more difficult to acquire elite levels of strength.
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