Best Value Adjustable Dumbbells in 2021 – Are They Worth The Cost?

Lets’ face it: for most people, buying adjustable dumbbells is a significant financial outlay. If you’ve been thinking about buying a set, you’ll no doubt be researching the best value adjustable dumbbells currently on the market.

20 years ago, I bought a pair of PowerBlock adjustable dumbbells. Although I considered them to be expensive at the time, they have proven themselves to be worth every penny. If you’ve been asking yourself whether adjustable dumbbells are worth the financial outlay, then this article should help to settle the issue.

According to my research, the most frequently searched phrase about adjustable dumbbells is:

‘what adjustable dumbbells’

My own journey to ownership of adjustable dumbbells started with a similar expression, but it was more:

“What?! Adjustable Dumbbells?!”

Back in 2001 the concept of an adjustable dumbbell giving you the equivalent of 9 sets of conventional dumbbells in a single compact dumbbell seemed like a miracle. Once I’d seen the PowerBlock in my local fitness store, I knew I had to own a set.

Why You Should Buy a Set of Adjustable Dumbbells

If you are working out from home a lot, especially in this time of gym closures due to Coronavirus, then chances are you miss the convenience of having a fully loaded dumbbell rack to hand. That’s exactly what adjustable dumbbells offer.

I actually own two sets of PowerBlock adjustable dumbbells:

  • A set with a weight range of 5lbs – 45lbs, equivalent to 9 dumbbells
  • A set with a weight range of 5lbs – 90lbs, equivalent to 27 dumbbells!

So that’s 36 pairs of dumbbells taking up the space of just two sets of dumbbells!

With PowerBlocks it’s incredibly easy to change weight as you simply use a metal selector pin to select how much of the stack you want to lift. This is secured by a strong magnet (and it’s still strong and perfectly secure after 20 years of hard use).

Being able to work out at home with such a range of dumbbells that are so easy to adjust throughout your workout is amazing.

It makes workouts such as this one which relies heavily upon them, a pleasure. No more losing your mojo whilst you waste 5 minutes changing the weights between rounds.  In too many situations, conventional sets of dumbbells just aren’t practical because it takes so long to change weights – even with spinlock or quick release collars.

Have I convinced you to buy a set of adjustable dumbbells yet? Well let’s take a look at some of the popular models and establish the pros and cons of each.

Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells Pair

When Bowflex first entered the adjustable dumbbell market, I visited my local fitness store to have a look at them. That set seemed quite expensive and I wasn’t all that impressed by the quality of the materials used.

That was many years ago, and the reviews of more recent models suggest that most customers are happy – with a few exceptions.

Their latest dumbbell – the SelectTech 552 – enables the user to change weight from 5 pounds to 52.5 pounds, via convenient dials at the end of each dumbbell. These are quite heavy adjustable dumbbells – the competition tend to max out at 44lbs.

Bowflex SelectTech 552

The selection mechanism is very impressive, but it is just that: a mechanism which could potentially fail. Consequently, I do have some reservations about how durable the SelectTech 552 dumbbells will be.

The weights increase in increments of 2.5 pounds meaning that progression in terms of weight lifted over time can be managed very well.

Whilst I haven’t yet been able to train with a set of Bowflex SelectTech 552 to be able to give a final verdict, it’s clear that they are the top rated adjustable dumbbells on Amazon – and that must be for good reason.

But will they still be working in 20 years time?

PowerBlock Elite EXP

The Powerblock Elite EXP is a renamed version of the adjustable dumbbells I bought back in 2000. I can confirm that they work just as well today as they did when I first bought them and I have nothing but praise for these dumbbells.

The blocky form-factor of PowerBlock Dumbbells divides opinion with many complaining that they feel unnatural. I don’t think I ever had this issue, or if I did, I quickly adjusted to using them.

POWERBLOCK Elite EXP Adjustable Dumbbell

I have always preferred Hex dumbbells to round dumbbells, not least because I often use them in compound movements where they will be used like a push up stand, such as in this variation of the renegade row. PowerBlocks lend themselves perfectly to this type of exercise.

Small space workouts demand that exercise equipment can’t be too bulky and it’s in this area where the PowerBlocks are unrivalled. The PowerBlock Elite provides you with the equivalent of 15 dumbbells! The weight can be adjusted between 5 pounds to 50 pounds in increments of 2.5 pound.

As described above, the weight selection process is incredibly simple through the use of a pin, reminiscent of a classic weight stack used in various types of commercial gym equipment.

So like the Bowflex, changing weight mid-workout couldn’t be easier or quicker. The difference is that I can say with certainty, by my own experience, that the PowerBlocks will be working as well as the day you bought them 20 years later.

Additionally, PowerBlock make the proud boast that their dumbbells are MADE IN THE USA. Can other manufacturers make that claim?

Ativafit Adjustable Dumbbell

A newer entrant into the adjustable dumbbell market is Ativafit with their unique adjustable dumbbells. Beware that they are priced as a single dumbbell, so if you want a pair of dumbbells (and you do) you’ll need to buy two. However, even at twice the price of a single dumbbell, they are cheap compared to their rivals.

ATIVAFIT Adjustable Dumbbell

They are available up to a weight of 44 pounds, which is selectable in increments of 5.5 pounds. That increment is a bit too much in terms of adhering to a system of progressive overload (increasing the reps and/or weight incrementally each session).

In terms of changing the weights, this is done by pulling the weight locking pin, sliding it to the desired weight and then releasing it. It’s a system that most customers think works very well. As with the Bowflex and PowerBlock, it should be very easy to change weight mid-workout.

In fact, customers are generally very happy with these dumbbells and given how cheap they are, I can fully understand why you may be tempted to grab a set. I’d go as far as to say that these appear to be the best value adjustable dumbbells currently on sale.

 The Heaviest Adjustable Dumbbells

If you’re looking for the heaviest adjustable dumbbells then I would again refer you to the PowerBlock. The PoweBlock Elite EXP can be expanded up to 70 pounds per hand and then additionally to 90 pounds per hand.

PowerBlock - Heaviest Adjustable Dumbbells

If that’s not enough you could always check out one of their commercial models that are available in either 125 pound or 175 pound editions! Those are seriously heavy adjustable dumbbells!

The Best Place to Buy Adjustable Dumbbells

It was a hot sunny day, way back in 2000, when one lunchtime I left my office in central Manchester and headed to the fitness store where they stocked PowerBlocks. I eagerly handed over my wad of cash and took ownership of my PowerBlocks.

I’d taken a colleague with me and we set out on the mile-long walk back to the office, each with a 44 pound PowerBlock in hand!

I can still remember the burn in my traps and the tearing feeling in my biceps as I reached the door to my office!

Thankfully, you don’t ever need to know that pain because you can buy your adjustable dumbbells online and they will be delivered directly to your door!

As Amazon has grown, I’ve been known to make many of my fitness equipment purchases on Amazon and all of the above models are available there. However, at the time of writing, you may experience difficulty in sourcing PowerBlock dumbbells on Amazon. This is probably because demand has surged during the Covid pandemic.

With that said, the Bowflex and Ativafit models are available.

The Small Space Workouts Verdict

In terms of the best value adjustable dumbbells, reluctantly, I’d have to give the prize to the Ativafits. Would I personally buy them? No way! Given my experience of using PowerBlocks over the last 20 years, my money would always go to the PowerBlocks.

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