While many beginners start their weight training with fixed weight dumbbells, we feel that if you’re tight on cash or are on a budget, you’ll be better served with the best cheap adjustable dumbbells.
They may be slightly more expensive than fixed dumbbells, but you do get the benefit of being able to use various weights and not just one. This lets you train different muscles using the proper weight and not just make do with that single poundage.
Our cheap adjustable dumbbell sets below comprise of different amounts of weights so you can pick out the one that you’ll need. Do consider getting something that is more than what you currently can lift so that you can progress later on just by adding more plates instead of having to buy a new set.
Our Top Choices
Low Cost Traditional Adjustable Dumbbells
- Ideal for Beginners: CAP Barbell 40-pound Adjustable Dumbbell Set with Case
- Great for Intermediate Lifters: Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells 40, 50, 52.5, 60 to 105 pounds
- High Weight Capacity Dumbbells: One Pair of Adjustable Dumbbells Kits – 200 Lbs (100 lbs. X 2 pc.)
- Top Pick for Selectorized: Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells (Pair)
- Affordable Selectorized Option: PowerBlock SportBlock 2.4
Adjustable Dumbbells vs. Regular Dumbbells
When you look at the dumbbell sets in your gym or those sold in stores, you’ll notice 2 main types of dumbbells. These are the regular dumbbells and adjustable dumbbells.
- Regular dumbbells come with fixed weights. They are a single piece of weight where you won’t be able to add more as you get stronger. Regular dumbbells often have markings like 20 lbs. or 30 lbs. to tell you how heavy they are. In general, regular dumbbells are great for beginners because they’re inexpensive.
- Adjustable dumbbells are similar to regular dumbbells. The main difference is that they allow you to change the amount of weights that they hold. Instead of being one piece of equipment, many cheap adjustable dumbbells come with 3 parts. These include the bar, weight plates and a screw safety that you use to tighten the plates to the bar. The biggest advantage of adjustable dumbbells is that they allow you to add more weight as you get stronger.
- Selectorized adjustable dumbbells. This type of dumbbell falls under the adjustable category. But we separate it here just for clarification. Traditional adjustable dumbbells use weight plates that can be swapped in or out of the bar as needed. Selectorized dumbbells on the other hand have all the weights included in the unit. All you need to do is turn a dial or use the selector to choose how much weight you want. From there, it will only pick up the enough plates for your desired weight. This makes it simpler and faster to adjust the weight in between exercises. Their downside is they cost more than traditional adjustable dumbbells.
Pros and Cons of Adjustable Dumbbells
Compared to other weights, adjustable dumbbells have their pros and cons. They work similar to other gym equipment in that they allow you to lift heavier than you normally would
- You can lift more weight without buying more equipment. This lets you progress and make gains.
- They are easy to use. All you need to do is swap the plates or choose the selector to change the weight.
- They save you space and money since you don’t need extra weights. You also don’t need a long racks of dumbbells like those you see in the gym.
- In the long run, they are cheaper because you can switch between weights of 5 pounds to 100 pounds without buying more weights.
- Traditional adjustable dumbbells take time to switch weights. This slows you down and can be hard for circuit workouts.
- Selectorized adjustable dumbbells are more expensive that regular dumbbells. You pay for the mechanism as well as the weights.
Choosing Adjustable Dumbbells: Buying Guide
1. How Much Weight Do You Need?
The first thing to consider when buying any weight equipment is how heavy do you need to go. The goal with adjustable dumbbells is to choose something that can accommodate your future gains.
With traditional adjustable dumbbells, the most important part is the dumbbell bar. This is what holds the weight plates. If you want to be able to lift 50 pounds or 100 pounds per dumbbell in 3 or 4 years from now make sure to choose a bar that’s capable of holding that weight capacity.
Cheaper bars will max out at 20 or 30 pounds. So, while more expensive, better quality dumbbell bars are a great investment. These are longer and thicker than the regular bars.
One of the main advantages of traditional adjustable dumbbells is that they’re very cheap. And, they’re also the cheapest way to add more weight. All you need to do is buy extra weight plates.
If you decide to go with selectorized dumbbells, you want to choose the maximum weight that’s able to accommodate your future gains. With these weights, the maximum weight is pre-set. So, you can’t just add more weight plates. For this reason, choose the weight you plan on being able to use a few years down the road, and not what you can lift now.
2. Traditional Adjustable Dumbbells or Selectorized Dumbbells?
Traditional adjustable dumbbells are pound per pound the cheapest dumbbells around. Once you get a high quality bar that has a good weight capacity, all you need to do is get more plates should you need to add more weight.
Their main downside is you need swap the plates in and out when you need to change weights between exercises. This can be time consuming and bothersome.
Also, you’ll need to organize the plates and store them properly when not in use.
Selectorized dumbbells are expensive compared to traditional adjustable dumbbells. But, they offer convenience. Switching between weights is just a turn of a dial or adjusting the pin. It’s easier and faster. Plus, there’s no need to organize any weight plates.
3. Your Budget
Ultimately, your budget will dictate how much weight you can buy and whether you choose traditional or selectorized adjustable dummbbels.
In general, you’ll be able to get a solid set of traditional adjustable dumbbells for anywhere between $20 to $50 depending on the maximum weight they hold. If you want to get dumbbells that can hold 100 pounds each, you’ll be able to get them at around $100 or so.
Selectorized dumbbels will cost you more. This is because of the extra mechanism that makes it easy to switch between weights. The lowest options which come with 20 pounds per dumbbell will easily cost you over $100. Higher end units easily cost $200 to $500 depending on the features.
4. Where Will You Store Them?
Storage is the final thing to consider. With traditional adjustable dumbbells you’ll need to find a method of organizing your weight plates. This keeps them out of the way and prevents you from stepping on them or stubbing your toe (ouch!) on the metal plates.
Selectorized dumbbells often come with a stand where the remaining weights that aren’t being used are left. The stand is like a small table which makes it easier to position in the corner of your room. It also eliminates the issue of having to organize the weights.
Best Cheap Adjustable Dumbbells Reviews
This is a good starter set for beginners. It comes at a low price which lets it make our best cheap adjustable dumbbell reviews. This set consists of:
- a pair of handles
- four 5 lb. weight plates
- four 2.5 lb. weight plates
- 4 spin lock collars
- a storing case for all the weights and handles
You’ll notice that the total amount on of the weights only comes out to 30 lbs. That’s because the handles and the collars weigh a total of 10 lbs., of which 5 lbs. for each hand. This gives you the 40 pounds total.
This is a simple to use set that is very inexpensive so you can workout in your own room. They have a cast iron construction making them durable and coated with enamel to protect the exterior. The handles are likewise knurled to make it easy to grip and so they won’t slip
To get more weight options you can try looking at Yest4All’s adjustable dumbbell sets. They offer 4 different weight packages starting from 40 lbs., which is similarly priced as the CAP Barbell set above. The breakdown of the weight plates are exactly the same so get the that 40 lbs.
To break things down you can choose from:
- 40 pound set of dumbbells
- 52.5 pound set of dumbbells
- 60 pound set
- 105 pound set
Each of the sets come with different number of plates to make the total poundage so they’re priced differently. But, on a cost per pound basis they come out among the cheapest around.
As you’d expect the higher up you go the cheaper the cost per pound gets, with the 105 lb. set costing less than $1.00 per pound of weight.
The collars work well and don’t slip out or lose tread as you lift keeping you safe. However, as with most of the cheap dumbbell weight sets, you’ll notice a paint smell when you get the package. This comes from the weights and it isn’t pleasant. But you can expect that from just about all the inexpensive brands. Good news is that the smell does go away over time.
If you lift heavy or are an intermediate lifter, the smaller poundages just won’t work for you. This 200 lb. set is something that’s more up your alley. Each side goes up to as much 100 lbs. so you can do heavy flat or incline presses on a weight bench.
This will definitely allow you to build up not only your upper body but also your lower body. The high amount of weight makes it heavy enough to use for squats, lunges and split squats so you can workout your lower body just as much as your upper body.
This set may also be a good idea if you are committed to your workout. If you’re consistent with your training, you’ll eventually need heavier weights and getting something that can go up further than what you can already lift now saves you from having to buy another set. The advantage of this is you can go as low as 5 lbs. per hand and work your way up.
The weights are made from high quality cast iron construction while the handles are chrome so they are durable and strong enough to hold the heavy weight.
Up to this point, our top picks have been those with the traditional plate and lock design dumbbells where we have a spin lock or clip that holds the plates in place.
The issue with this method is whenever you want to change the weight, you’ll need to take the locks off, then switch out both sides of the bar’s weights and clip the lock back on. Then do the same with the other.
This is fine if you don’t change the poundage much. But if you do, it becomes a chore. It also doesn’t work if you you’re doing something like P90X or circuit training where you want to be able to quickly transition from one exercise to another.
This is where selectorized dumbbells come in. By turning a dial or changing the position of a selector pin you can modify the weight in less than 3 seconds.
If that’s what you need here are what we recommend.
These aren’t the cheapest adjustable dumbbells around but they offer you great value for money. How they work is that each dumbbell comes with proprietary trays. When you turn the dials on the outer ends of each unit the weight changes to the number that’s written on top.
The rest of the weights are left on the trays so you only lift the amount you selected. You get a pair of dumbbells by the way for this package.
This lets you change weights in under 3 seconds. Each side allows you to choose from as low as 5 lbs. to 52.5 pounds. So the total maximum weight of the 2 dumbbells is 105 lbs.
The increments of the weights go up by 2.5 pounds in the lower weights (up to 25 lbs.). After 25 lbs. it each turn in the dial increases the weight by 5 lbs.
This is a good option if you don’t want to have a lot of weight plates lying around or an entire collection of dumbbells.
A more affordable option to the Bowflex SelectTech 552 is this PowerBlock dumbbell. It works very similarly to the SelectTech but uses a different design. Instead of the usual round shape it has a rectangular block shape.
The blocks themselves work like the tray in the Bowflex unit where you’ll only pull out the amount of weight you’ve selected. With this device though, instead of a dial, you use a selector pin to change the poundage, much like how you do it with the gym machines.
This costs much cheaper than the Bowflex, though it does have a more limited maximum weight, which may be ideal for your workout requirements. The SportBlock 2.4 lets you lift between 3 lbs. to as much as 24 lbs. and goes up in weight at increments of 3 lbs.
This gives you a total max weight of 48 lbs. if you combine both hands.