What’s the best adjustable dumbbell set to buy?

One of the most useful items that we purchased for the dungeon was an adjustable dumbbell set.  This is definitely one of those scenarios when you could learn from our experiences and save some money.  I didn’t start out researching for the absolute best adjustable dumbbells on the market, in fact, I skimped in this area and ended up paying for it in the long run.  Here is an overview of my experiences with adjustable weight dumbbells and what to look for when purchasing.

Who needs adjustable dumbbells?

After purchasing our Rogue SML-1 rack and bench set along with a texas power bar and 700+lbs of weight I thought our home gym was basically complete.  I knew that we would need to do some dumbbell movements as accessory work but I didn’t really place enough importance on the type of dumbbells necessary for our home gym.  I figured that with all of the olympic plates we just bought a simple set of Olympic dumbbell handles would be all that we needed.  If we wanted to do any dumbbell work they would be there and it would be simple to set up and use.  Boy was I wrong.

In theory, this should have worked really well but theories almost never work really well in my experience.  This held up to be completely true.  I should have done a bit more shopping around and pricing when looking at dumbbells because I ended up purchasing two sets… One that we actually use and one that just takes up space.

Do I need dumbbells?

I will say this, you could have a very good home gym and train pretty effectively and efficiently with a good set of dumbbells and an adjustable weight bench.  As powerlifters, my first concern was a power rack and a decent bench so that we could practice the competitive lifts.  If we couldn’t take care of those needs first then having a home gym wouldn’t have even been an option in my opinion.  If you look around on the site you will see that we did a pretty good job setting up our home gym with those pieces of equipment.  I greatly underestimated how important dumbbells would be to our accessory work and pushing up our bench press training.  If you are asking if you need dumbbells, I will firmly say that yes you do.  Can you train without them? Absolutely.  We did for months.  However, once we purchased a good set of dumbbells, I can’t even understand how I neglected such an important piece of equipment.

Olympic Dumbbell Handles vs. Adjustable Weight Dumbbells

Here’s the deal, I am not going to go over any cheesy reviews of all the popular adjustable dumbbells on the market.  Why? I only have used one set, therefore I can only review something that I have experience with.  This article will focus solely on the reasons why you should be getting a set of adjustable dumbbells compared to dumbbell handles.

Saving Money? Think again

I thought I was saving money by purchasing dumbbell handles to go with all of our plates, but if you take a look at all the purchases that I had to make you can see that it wasn’t really that cost effective either.  Here is the break down of what I purchased as well as my experiences:

  • Purchase Olympic Handles
So for basically $50.00 dollars, I thought that I had solved my home gym dumbbell issue. WRONG! Here is what I discovered (disclaimer: These could be perfect for you, I have no complaints on construction etc….this is just my experience)
    • The collars are a pain to get tight.  I used a small pipe as leverage to really torque the collars down to the point that I felt safe using them.  Regardless of what I did, the question of whether or not my teeth would be rearranged by a plate falling off was something I couldn’t escape.  I bought new collars to solve this and my “price” on my dumbbell solution just increased by 19.99…
    • I underestimated the number of small plates that I would need to buy to make the right adjustments for each exercise.  I only had two 10’s, two 5’s, two 2.5’s and two 25’s….You need at least DOUBLE that if you want to be able to go above 50lbs on exercises.  Looks like I need to buy more plates
    • I realize that I hate using these things.  When my girlfriend trains with me I STILL don’t have enough plates for her to do barbell exercises while I use the dumbbells.  This is a problem as I am not buying any more small plates, I refuse to.  What’s worse, any exercise that requires you to warm up with lighter weights (AKA ALL OF THEM) means you are constantly taking off weird increments of plates and changing.  In short….THIS SUCKS
    • We completely stopped using dumbbells altogether without really voicing our reasoning.  Neither of us wants to admit that this was just a poor purchase.
    • Months go by and then I finally say “we need to do more dumbbell work”.  Girlfriend agrees.  Days later we find a set of powerblock dumbbells (all the way up to 90lbs!) for 300.00 cash.  I purchase them and we live happily ever after.

My solution and advice

I was already out 178.99 for a set of dumbbells that essentially didn’t work for me.  I didn’t realize how much everything ended up costing until it was all said and done.  I felt pretty foolish at this point and I can see how this can happen to anyone.  Take a look at your budget and see if you can afford to sink the money in for a set of adjustable dumbbells.  The ones that you see pictured are the power block dumbbells.  We got a super deal off of craigslist for these (300.00) and they are actually the upgraded set that goes from 5-90lbs.

Some of the paint is chipped on this set and the actual weight amounts are rubbed off so we don’t know how much each set really weighs.  Instead of saying “25lbs” we just call those the “whites”.  As long as you keep track of what you do it really doesn’t matter what they weigh.  Simple as that.

Realistically, this set of Powerblock dumbbells cost me close to 500.00 which is right around where they would’ve cost had I bought the set new (not including the 90lb upgrade).  If you are thinking about getting a set of adjustable dumbbells like ours then I would scout out craigslist first.  You will be able to get a discounted rate and not have to pay shipping.  If this isn’t an option for you then your next stop will probably be amazon.  There are numerous styles of dumbbells that can be purchased online so it really comes down to

  1. Your budget
  2. How much weight you need

Find the set that works with your price range and provides enough weight to challenge your flat dumbbell bench press (strongest mechanical advantage) and you will be good to go.

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