In February 2020 we tested six pairs of adjustable dumbbells. Among those we tested were pairs from JLL, York Fitness and Everlast but, as you've probably noticed if you're currently trying to buy dumbbells, there are a lot of stocking issues at the moment so our hands were slightly tied in what we could test - as we bought all the dumbbells we reviewed.
And there are more stocking issues at the time of writing up our testing results. The JLL and York sets we tested are out of stock and while the other dumbbells are available you'll notice prices occasionally inflated from the original list price.
We rated each pair of dumbbells we tested on ease of use and on various aspects of build quality, such as comfort, grip, quality of finish, noise and even on the stated weight versus true weight.
The best dumbbells
Only members can view the dumbbell test results below. If you're not yet a member, you'll see an alphabetically ordered list of the dumbbells we tested. to get instant access to our findings and recommendations.
Domyos Weight Training Dumbbell Kit
Material: Steel bar and iron plates
Claimed weight: 10kg (for one dumbbell) Number of plates included: 4 x 1kg, 2 x 2kg
Bar length: 35.3cm Extendable: No
Additional features: Five-year warranty, 7kg weight limit on each side of the dumbbell
This was the only dumbbell we tested to be sold as a single, rather than a pair. But we noted that even as a pair it would still be the cheapest set of dumbbells in our line-up.
DTX Fitness Adjustable Weight Lifting Dumbbell Barbell Bar and Weights Set
Claimed weight: 30kg Number of plates included: 4 x 1kg, 4 x 1.5kg, 4 x 2kg, 4 x 2.5kg
Bar length: 50.2cm Extendable: Yes
This dumbbell set contains the most plates (the weights you screw onto the bar) of any we tested. It comes with a connector to join the two dumbbell bars into a barbell. This range of functionality should makes these dumbbells ideal for budding bodybuilders but did it match that expectation?
Everlast Dumbbell Set
Material: Cast iron plates and plastic bars
Claimed weight: 20kg Number of plates included: 4 x 2.5kg, 8 x 1.25kg
Bar length: 35.5cm Extendable: No
Well-known sports equipment brand Everlast has specialised in boxing and mixed martial arts training equipment since 1910. These dumbbells scored well in some key areas of our testing but we found one issue that would irk any level of user.
JLL Cast Iron Dumbbell/Barbell Set
Material: Chrome-plated bars and cast iron plates
Claimed weight: 20kg Number of plates included: 4 x 0.5kg, 4 x 1.25kg, 4 x 2.5kg
Bar length: 35.5cm Extendable: Yes
These JLL dumbbells are one of two adjustable dumbbell sets we've reviewed which extend into a barbell. This is a useful function for those who want to boost their workout. But one of these two dumbbell/barbell sets felt unstable and uncomfortable to place across the neck and shoulders.
Phoenix Fitness Dumbbell Weight Set
Claimed weight: 15kg Number of plates included: 4 x 2.5kg, 4 x 1.25kg
Bar length: 40.3cm Extendable: No
Additional features: 7.5kg weight limit on each bar
Phoenix Fitness is a relative newbie in the exercise equipment industry but, despite this, this dumbbell set still managed to beat popular brand, York, in some key areas. Our testing also revealed some interesting differences between metal and vinyl construction dumbbells.
York Fitness Cast Iron Spinlock Dumbbell
£131 per pair Currently out of stock
Material: Chrome bar and cast iron plates
Claimed weight: 20kg Number of plates included: 4 x 0.5 kg, 4 x 1.25 kg, 4 x 2.5 kg
Bar length: 35.8cm Extendable: No
This dumbbell set was the only product in our line-up to come with a handy exercise programme and health and safety information. We felt these extras were a nice touch but did this extend to our experience using them?
How we tested these dumbbells
To find the best dumbbells we carried out a number of different exercises with them, noting down our findings on each of the aspects listed below.
Comfort and grip
After carrying out a range of exercises with the dumbbells we rated them on how comfortable they were to hold.
We rated how good the grip was when dry and, to mimic sweaty hands, we rated their grip when wet. To make it as realistic as possible we used water from a spray bottle sprayed onto hands and then carried out the same exercises.
To see whether the stated weight was correct, we weighed all the separate parts of the dumbbells on heavy-duty parcel scales. We penalised the individual weight of the plates if they weighed more than 5% outside of their stated weight.
Assembly and disassembly
Before each exercise session, we assembled each set and noted any issues we found. We did the same after the session when we disassembled the dumbbells. We penalised dumbbells for issues such as clunky or damaged spinlocks and exceedingly long bar length.
A noisy dumbbell can become a nuisance during a workout. We penalised dumbbells that made noise during use.
Quality of finish
We rated the dumbbells on how consistent their finish was. Those with flecked paint or an uneven finish were marked down.
Additional 'how to' help
When the dumbbells arrived we looked at whether they had any sort of additional information included. This could be a health and safety guide, a guide to use and/or an exercise programme. Those that had any of this information were then marked on how useful it was.
Initially, we felt it would be difficult to mimic long term use in tests so we decided against devising durability tests. However, after noticing a few Amazon reviews claiming the vinyl adjustable dumbbells had leaked water, we decided to conduct a drop test.
We dropped each of the vinyl sets we tested from waist height onto a concrete surface 10 times. Though they sustained some scuffs and dents, neither of them sprung leaks.
How we selected these dumbbells
We researched the most searched for types of dumbbell, which turned out to be adjustable dumbbells.
From here we focused on popular weights brands that stocked adjustable dumbbell sets.
Our choices were restricted due to shocking stock availability. Due to home workouts soaring in popularity since the beginning of the pandemic, exercise equipment has become increasingly hard to come by and we bought all those dumbbells we tested.
When will dumbbells be back in stock?
We got in touch with the dumbbell brands we’ve tested that are currently out of stock to ask for information on when they’ll be restocking.
JLL couldn't provide a date for the restocking of the 20kg cast iron set but confirmed that there are weight plates available to buy on the site if you already have a bar.
York Fitness has said the cast iron set will be out of stock until June or July but you can buy variations of the set. There’s a 15kg set available on the Fitness Superstore site and the 20kg set available with an additional case.
Five things we learned testing adjustable dumbbells
- Not all dumbbells are sold in pairs. This caught us out when buying the dumbbells for our test. Always check on the site or with the retailer before you buy.
- Just because you’re buying a 15kg set of dumbbells, doesn’t mean you can fit that weight onto one dumbbell at a time. The Phoenix Fitness dumbbell set, for example, states it’s unsafe to put more than 7.5kg on one dumbbell at a time. The sheer amount of plates in other sets make it impossible to fit them all onto one bar.
- Vinyl dumbbells are less noisy than cast iron during use, assembly and when storing away. If you want to workout at unsociable hours we’d advise you to go for vinyl over iron.
- Knurled surfaces can be uncomfortable. The knurled surface pinched hands at times during working out. Because of this, we preferred an un-knurled surface.
- A collar can be more efficient than a spinlock at attaching the weight plates to the bar. If it’s speed you’re after, a collar is perfect. It clamps as opposed to spinning so allows for the swift changing of weights during a workout.
Understand dumbbells jargon
- Spinlock Large nuts you attach onto your barbell or dumbbell in a spinning motion to secure plates during use.
- Knurling Textured plastic or metal coating used for grip.
- Collar An alternative to a spinlock. It clamps to the bar to secure weight plates.
- Barbell A long bar with weights, fixed or adjustable, at each end. They generally have a higher maximum weight than dumbbells and are held by both hands.
- Dumbbell A short bar with weights, fixed or adjustable, at each end. They generally have a lower maximum weight than barbells and are held by one hand.
- Kettlebell A large, typically cast-iron, ball-shaped weight with a single handle.
Prices correct as of 14 April 2021.