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How Do Adjustable Dumbbells Work | Ultimate Guide

Adjustable dumbbells let you easily alter weight through modern techniques like pin, lock, or dial mechanisms. This makes it convenient to swap the weight plates as per any exercise routine.

How Do Adjustable Dumbbells Work

If you don’t have time to hit the gym and exercise regularly, then choose the right set of free weights to work out at home. And adding to the convenience of home gyms are adjustable dumbbells, perfect for beginners and seasoned bodybuilders. 

But most people are skeptical about moving away from traditional dumbbells and choosing modern models because they fear it affects performance. My guide will break that myth, explaining how adjustable dumbbells work.

What Is An Adjustable Dumbbell?

Anyone who has ever been to the gym knows what traditional dumbbells are and how they help in weight training. But the issue with this gym equipment is that you can’t work out with the desired weight. 

This is where adjustable dumbbells come into the picture, allowing you to remove the weight plates and determine how much weight you want to lift. It’s a new type of gym equipment, often comprising a lever, pin, and dial mechanism to help you gain the necessary pound (mass).

Using an adjustable dumbbell set is also convenient for new gym goers since their strength training needs differ from the pros.

How Do Adjustable Dumbbells Work?

How Do Adjustable Dumbbells Work

1. Twist Lock Dumbbells

One of the best adjustable dumbbells are those with a twist-lock mechanism, preferred by many celebrities worldwide. That’s because, apart from changing the weight plates, these dumbbells are ideal home gym equipment and help save space. 

Compared to fixed dumbbells, this set of adjustable dumbbells is placed on a dock, which makes it convenient to change the weight with just a twist of the handle. Once you are done, lift them from the dock and start weight training. 

The only issue is the low weight range and higher price of these adjustable dumbbells. 

2. Adjustable Plate Loaded Dumbbells

Adjustable plate-loaded dumbbells are most similar in their design to traditional dumbbells and the ones based on which other models were made. There are two empty bars to hold the weight plates, and you can secure them with a dial, pin, or knob, depending on the design.

Best of all is that these units are more suited for a home gym, unlike most adjustable dumbbells, while also costing less money. Instead of using separate weight increments for the dumbbells, use the weights you already have for the squat (exercise) bar or chest press bar. 

But loading and reloading the weight increments for resistance training can prove challenging.

3. Pull-Slide Selector Dumbbells

This is another type of gym gear where the adjustable dumbbell is placed on a dock. You can pull and slide the short bar to replace multiple sets of weights, but the mechanism is slightly more complicated than it appears. 

That’s why most people steer away from selector dumbbells, although there is a learning curve. If you are willing to be patient, they deliver similar results as most adjustable dumbbells. 

4. Weight Selection Dial Dumbbells

Weight-selection dial dumbbells are among the most popular of all adjustable dumbbells because of their ease of use. I have found that you can just turn the dial to change the weights without any hassle. 

Despite being one of the newer home gym equipment, most brands now manufacture these dumbbells, so they are reasonably priced. However, the cost increases when you must use additional weights because of their limited weight range.

5. Smart Adjustable Dumbbells

I have saved the best for last as smart adjustable dumbbells take a strength training routine to the next level, thanks to state-of-the-art technology. With a Bluetooth connection and a compatible app, the dumbbell adjusts its weight according to your workout session.

You can even control some models with Alexa and change weights through the voice command. Hence, these adjustable dumbbells are perfect for people who prefer full-body workouts and don’t like to be interrupted. 

But sometimes, the unit may not respond to the voice command on the first try, and you will have to change the weights before the bicep curls manually.

Additional Ways On How Adjustable Dumbbells Work

1. Pin

When people ask me about the best adjustable dumbbell to use for weight loss and targeting the various muscle groups, I remember the advice of my personal trainer. “Look for a set of adjustable knobs that have a pin,” she would say. 

But how does an adjustable dumbbell with a pin differ from a traditional dumbbell? For one, they have weights racks, and moving the pin will allow you to change the total weight. 

The best part is they are easy to use and guarantees more space-saving while delivering a great workout.

2. Knob

Adjustable dumbbell sets available on a budget have a knob at the end of the handle. This handle features an extensive threaded section for securing the adjustable weights with the knob. 

To ensure you don’t slip and drop adjustable dumbbells while working out, place them on the ground and unscrew the knob. Then decrease or add more weight as convenient before screwing the knobs tightly.

Most gym trainers I have interacted with recommend these dumbbells for lower-body exercises. 

3. Dial

One of the most advanced adjustable dumbbells is those with a dial mechanism and an individual weight rack. You need to use the dial to punch in the desired weight before lifting it by the steel handle to work out. 

All the weight plates having less weight will remain in the rack, and only those that add up to the required weight will secure to the handle. But you should know they cost a bit more money than other adjustable dumbbells. 

Features To Consider When Choosing Adjustable Dumbbells

Features To Consider When Choosing Adjustable Dumbbells

Any experienced lifter will agree that choosing an adjustable dumbbell is not rocket science, but it’s no walk in the park either. To find a suitable pair, you must consider multiple factors, like purpose, budget, construction, etc. 

So, check out the pointers in this section, highlighting what makes an adjustable dumbbell better than others. 

1. Safety

Make sure that each weight plate is held in place by a retaining mechanism before opting for a set of adjustable dumbbells. The weights should not fall off during weight training, which can be dangerous and lead to injuries. So, check the quality of the pin, dial, or lock online and read the consumer reviews.

2. Build Quality

Most people make the mistake of using cheap equipment for home gyms, but you should do exactly the opposite. Always opt for one pair of quality adjustable dumbbells that will last a long time, even after daily use. 

When checking the build quality, note the construction of the switching mechanism, what paint has been used, and the metal. In some cases, low-quality dumbbells carry uneven weight, leading to irregular muscle growth.

3. Weight Options

Beginners coming to grips with the ropes of physical fitness should use an adjustable dumbbell with a knob because you won’t need many weight plates initially. But when shifting to slightly advanced workouts, pin-and-dial dumbbells are better since they have a higher weight capacity due to their weight plate rack.

Most adjustable dumbbells hold a maximum weight of 50 lbs on each side, so you must look for other options to build leg muscles.

4. Grips

For better grip, make sure the adjustable dumbbell handle is made of non-slippery and ergonomic material for long workouts. The best models, like the Bowflex dumbbells, feature a textured grip or neoprene padded handles to manage higher muscle mass. 

5. Weight Distribution

The best adjustable dumbbell makes it easy to reduce or add more weight when needed. In most cases, the weight distribution varies between 1 and 5 lbs for greater flexibility. 

What Exercises Can You Perform With Adjustable Dumbbells?

Given its dynamic performance, certain exercises are better with an adjustable dumbbell, and I have even used it for cardio training. With the right dumbbell, you can build skeletal muscle and engage the biceps more frequently in every session.

But for weight training, I suggest shifting to a barbell as they allow you to lift more weight. They also promote greater weight loss and play an important role in strength and conditioning routines. 

Most importantly, you must eat healthy to see results quickly and ensure the daily workouts pay off. 

How To Keep Adjustable Dumbbells Clean?

Cleaning adjustable dumbbells is easy, but you must focus on maintenance regularly. After repeated use, the handles accumulate sweat, dirt, and other impurities, so keeping the surface clean is essential to prevent the metal or iron from deteriorating. 

I have seen that compared to adjustable dumbbells, traditional ones don’t get dirty quickly and retain their sleek look far longer. But even with adjustable units, you only need a paper towel to wipe the handle and weights to remove gunk, moisture, and dirt from the surface.

This process isn’t very time-consuming, so there’s no excuse for neglecting the dumbbells. 

How Do Adjustable Dumbbells Work Conclusion

How Do Adjustable Dumbbells Work Conclusion

You already know most of the important things about adjustable dumbbells, so let me clear your doubts. Some people worry they might break the dumbbells while working out, and while it is a legitimate concern, the chances of this happening are rare.

Remember to use a model where you need to change the weights manually rather than opting for a fancy unit with many technical components. Also, most dumbbells with adjustable weights can hold around 100-200 lbs., while commercial-grade models have a higher capacity of 225 lbs. 

So, take your pick and feel the burn in each session! 


Focus on progressive overload and consistent workout routines to get big and build muscles with adjustable dumbbells. Regular exercise and constant improvement are more important than the type of dumbbell you use.

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