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How do adjustable dumbbells work?

The weights you need  – for the space you have

A commercial gym has rows and rows of fixed dumbbells of different weights. Great, right? A wide selection of fixed dumbbells means you have all the weights you need for your training session at your fingertips; different exercises demand different weights, and as you get stronger, you go for heavier dumbbells.

But if you want to exercise at home, there may be better solutions than a complete set of fixed dumbbells. That is unless you have a huge home gym, where space is not an issue. And if that’s the case, we’ll work out at your house!

For most people exercising at home, the ideal situation is to have training equipment that can provide the same range of weights as a complete dumbbell set at the gym but in a more compact form factor. And if that sounds like a pipe dream, you need to hear about adjustable dumbbells.

Adjustable dumbbell
nuobell shoulder workout
What are adjustable dumbbells?

With their familiar grab bar and end weights, adjustable dumbbells look similar to regular fixed dumbbells. But compared to fixed dumbbells, where you need a full set of different weights to complete your workout, sometimes up to sixteen pairs of dumbbells, you only need two when using adjustable dumbbells. Now that’s space-saving!

The adjustable dumbbell is a highly flexible piece of equipment that you can adjust from low to heavy in the same dumbbell. Does that sound too good to be true? Well, think again because this fairytale has a heavy ending, folks. See what we did there?

Compared to a fixed dumbbell, where the weight is part and parcel of the dumbbell itself, an adjustable dumbbell provides several weights in the same dumbbell. Typically, an adjustable dumbbell provides a weight span that goes from 2–40 kg with increments of 1,5–2 kg, depending on the model. And in the advanced versions, the weight switch is done in just the blink of an eye. So there’s no need to imagine a world where a single adjustable dumbbell can replace roughly 16 fixed dumbbells - you can work out that way today. Cool, right?

How do adjustable dumbbells work

There are different variants of how the adjustment mechanism itself works. Some dumbbells need to be changed on both sides of the dumbbell, some can be change with a one hand grip, fast and easy.

Different types of adjustable dumbbells
1. Knob

The simplest one is where you have a knob on both sides of the handle and add /remove weight plates. Then you secure with by fastening the knob. For each time you want to adjust the weight on the dumbbell, unscrew the knobs and put on the desired numbers of weight plates.

2. Dial

There’s also variants where you turn a knob/wheel on both sides of the dumbbell to adjust the weight. The downside of these models is that they remain the same size, no matter the weight you choose. Meaning that they are more bulky that necessary with when putting on the lower weights.

3. Pin

Another variant has the functionality of a weightlifting machine at the gym, where you manually move a pin to change the weight. The same issue with is applicable for these models as well.

different types of adjustable dumbbells
4. Twist and lift – done!

The more high-end adjustable dumbbells come with a rack that holds the dumbbell and all the weight plates. To shift weights, it only takes a smooth twist on the handle, in a one-hand grip.

The chosen weight is clearly visible on the dumbbell and it’s a no-brainer to know which direction to turn for more or less weight.

No more screwing knobs on and off, adding and removing weight plates… Just turn the handle to add or remove weights. For each “turn” on the handle, the mechanism hooks into (or releases) one more weight plate on both sides.

With adjustable dumbbells, there's no time-sucking stop-start to switch weights. With high-end options, you just turn the handle to add or remove weights. For each "turn" of the handle, the mechanism hooks into (or releases) one more weight plate on both sides. Easy, fast and safe.

In this video below you'll see how easy it can be to change the weight of an adjustable dumbbell (NÜOBELL 232 in this case).

This is how easy it is to adjust high-end dumbbells

What are the benefits of adjustable dumbbells?

Save space

As previously mentioned, two adjustable dumbbells require far less space than a fixed dumbbell set. In the world of fixed dumbbells, to have the same weight options as an adjustable model could require as many as 32 psc (16 pairs). Yikes.

Save time

Time is a luxury for most people, meaning that even if you want to work out at the gym, there's not enough time. So you skip the training thinking that next week will be better. It's stressful. But if you can exercise at home, chances are, you'll be far more likely to find the time to train since you don't need to spend precious hours going back and forth to the gym. Voila! Time problem solved.

Save money

Think an adjustable dumbbell is expensive? Compared to what it will cost to buy the same amount of weight options with fixed dumbbells, the fixed option will most likely dig a deeper hole in your wallet.

Complete workout with minimal amount of equipment

With just two adjustable dumbbells, you can get a full-body workout and quickly scale up as you improve and strengthen. And since the increments on the high-end adjustable dumbbells are around 2 kg, they perfectly adapt to your fitness journey. And your progressions will run faster due to having more challenging weights at your fingertips. Don't forget that to build muscles and get stronger, progressive overload is a necessity. And one way to achieve that is to gradually increase the resistance.

How heavy do adjustable dumbbells get?

There are adjustable dumbbells with a maximum weight of up to 40 kg. There are also dumbbells that offer the possibility to add extra weight plates to your existing adjustable dumbbells.

What kind of training can you do with adjustable dumbbells?

With a pair of adjustable dumbbells, you can perform complete workouts, targeted muscle strengthening and interval training.

  • whole body
  • strength training
  • HIIT
  • drop sets to challenge your muscles even more
workout adjustable dumbbell

Who can use adjustable dumbbells?

Adjustable dumbbells are just as great for beginners as experts, men and women. All you have to do is select the weight span that will suit your needs. The possibility to adjust the load in small steps will allow you to fine-tune your weight training.

Let someone else do the planning

If you are at the beginning of your training career (no matter why you work out - to stay healthy, cut fat, get toned or more muscular), a pro tip is to follow a program. There are endless options to choose from online (for free). To have someone who tells you what to do, how often to do it, how many set and reps, when to increase the weight etc., will most certainly keep your motivation up. Leave the planning for someone else, and "all" you have to do is the workout. And that's the fun part!

Benefits of using adjustable dumbbells in your training routine

Adjustable dumbbells offer several advantages for individuals looking to incorporate weight training into their fitness routine:


Adjustable dumbbells save space in your home or gym compared to traditional dumbbells. With adjustable dumbbells, you can easily adjust the weight and use a single set of dumbbells for a wide range of exercises.


With adjustable dumbbells, you can adjust the weight according to your fitness level and the exercise you are performing. This versatility allows you to target various muscle groups and perform a wide range of exercises with a single set of dumbbells.


Buying a set of adjustable dumbbells is more cost-effective than buying a full set of traditional dumbbells. Instead of purchasing multiple sets of dumbbells of different weights, you can buy a single set of adjustable dumbbells and adjust the weight according to your needs.

Progressive Overload

With adjustable dumbbells, you can quickly increase the weight as you progress in your training. This progressive overload helps you to challenge your muscles and stimulate muscle growth continually.


Adjustable dumbbells offer convenience, as you don't need to switch between different sets of dumbbells during your workout. This saves time and makes your workout more efficient.

More variation

Challenge yourself with routines like super sets-, drop sets- and giant sets. Your muscles will thank you!

Overall, adjustable dumbbells are an excellent investment for anyone looking to incorporate weight training into their fitness routine. They offer a range of benefits, including space-saving, versatility, cost-effectiveness, progressive overload, and convenience.

...and some additional benefits:


  • Improved balance and coordination
  • Increased flexibility
  • More natural movements
  • Greater variety
  • Cost-effective
  • Challenge your stability
  • Can be used by both beginners and experienced
Nuobell adjustable dumbbell rack
Do adjustable dumbbells break? Are they durable?

One thing that separates adjustable dumbbells from fixed ones is that you can't drop or throw them on the floor, as that will break the adjustment mechanism in the dumbbell. However, the handle and the plates in high-end adjustable dumbbells are made from durable steel, so don't make the mistake of thinking they're fragile - they are far from it.

Handle the dumbbells properly, and they will last a long, long time.
With their innovative materials and more advanced production methods, the adjustable dumbbells we see today will definitely last a long time.

What material are they made of?

Most of today's modern dumbbells are made of solid iron or treated steel, sometimes with a rubber or neoprene coating. The coating is there to protect the inner material and to make the dumbbell more comfortable to hold.

Plastic is sometimes used, but only for dumbbells of lower weight. Since plastic is significantly lighter per cm3, heavier dumbbells are not made from plastic, they would be far too bulky. One benefit of plastic dumbbells, as opposed to those made of other materials, is that they are cheaper, but on the downside, they tend to break more easily.

A dumbbell made of iron or steel is thus far more durable than the same made from plastic. So even though a plastic version isn't necessarily bad, you will be more confident that a steel or iron version will withstand drops (intentional or unintentional) or other accidents better.

High-end adjustable dumbbells are made of high-quality steel, aluminum and some parts of hard plastic. The hard plastic parts consist of the locking mechanisms that allow addition and subtractions of weight and a few parts of the tray that the adjustable dumbbells come with.


Pros and cons of adjustable dumbbells


  • Usable for many different exercises and muscles.
  • Easy to store and saves space, one set is more or less only the size of a shoebox. Put them under your bed, the sofa or in a closet.
  • Low cost compared to buy a full set of fixed dumbbells.
  • More portable than fixed weights.
  • You can make small weight increments without buying another set of dumbbells.
  • More variation and fun exercise possibilities


  • You can’t drop or throw them on the floor. Put them back in the rack.
  • Some adjustable dumbbells are larger and longer than fixed dumbbells, meaning you might not be able to perform all exercises you can with fixed dumbbells. Make sure to buy a slim version, where the size of the dumbbell changes depending on how much weight you put on; smaller/shorter with less weight.



Why do you need adjustable dumbbells?

If home training is the thing for you, adjustable dumbbells are one of the most versatile pieces of gym equipment you can have at home.

  • They offer a lot of flexibility to your training; the adjustable dumbbells can be used for different exercises, and as you get stronger and improve, you still use the same dumbbell; you just change the weight.
  • You can do everything you can do with fixed dumbbells (except throwing them on the floor), and you can perform many exercises with just one (or two) pieces of equipment.
  • It offers a wide variety of weights in only one pair of adjustable dumbbells.
  • Adjustable dumbbells are space-saving and will keep your workout space neat and tidy.
  • They allow you to change weights lightning-fast.

The price range of adjustable dumbbells varies quite a lot. The cheapest ones cost roughly 200 EUR while the high-end and most heavy versions cost around 1000 EUR for a pair. However, like the smartphone in your pocket, you get what you pay for. When paying less, you must consider that the weight adjustment won't be as smooth and will take longer. Also, the dumbbells might be on the larger side and a bit cumbersome.

If you are prepared to invest in your training, the high-end dumbbells will deliver fast and easy one-hand adjustments, and the shape is suitable for anything you can do with a fixed dumbbell. But, ultimately, what price do you put on staying in the moment?

Nuobell adjustable dumbbell rack

How to choose the right dumbbell

1. Determine range of weight

The first thing to consider is the range of weights you need. Don’t be too modest; the idea is to improve and get stronger, so you might need heavier dumbbells than you think. Also keep in mind that the dumbbells can be used for a complete body workout, so the dumbbells should be heavy enough to cover your strongest group of muscles.

2. Time spend to change weights

The second thing to consider is the time you are prepared to spend each time you change the weight; are you happy with a low-cost dumbbell that is somewhat time-consuming each time you change the weights? Or is changing the weight on the fly valuable for you? If true, you should go for a high-end adjustable dumbbell.

3. Size and model

Consider how important it is to have smooth workout sessions; buying a bulky model could obstruct some movements or exercises, no matter the weight you put on the dumbbell. Therefore, choosing a pair of dumbbells with the smallest possible form factor is key if you want to be able to perform all kinds of dumbbell exercises.

4. Budget or premium

Low-cost adjustable dumbbells may also break sooner than more expensive ones. So, buying a cheaper model could end up being the more expensive choice.

If you have any questions regarding how to choose the perfect adjustable dumbbell for you, don’t hesitate to reach out to us; we’ll be happy to assist. You can either contact us through our customer support, DM on Facebook or Instagram.

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