When choosing adjustable dumbbells or fixed dumbbells, consider how much space you have and the type of workouts you do…

There are plenty of things to consider in the best adjustable dumbbells verses fixed dumbbells debate, but it mostly comes down to personal choice. After all, they both work your body in the same way. It’s more about how each type facilitates your chosen workouts.

So before deciding whether you want to go fixed or adjustable, consider your training routine, and what that might look like in the future. Primarily, what exercises do you want to use your dumbbells for, how do you see your training programme developing and, crucially, how often are you likely to change weights between exercises?

Of course it also comes down to money and space. Can you justify the additional expense of adjustable dumbbells? The likes of the Nuobell 2kg – 32kg dumbbells come in at $745 / £699, and there are more expensive models out there. Or do you have the floorspace or room for a stacking system for multiple sets of fixed dumbbells?

Benefits of fixed dumbbells

Fixed dumbbells are the simpler option. It’s easier to find and use the weight you need and, at first at least, it will be a cheaper outlay, because you can just buy a few pairs of specific weights. Even adding three or four sets to your collections will most likely cost less than a good pair of adjustable dumbbells. The likes of the Corength 7.5kg Hexagonal Dumbbell are such good value they deserve a place in our best cheap home gym equipment guide.

Of course you’ll need more floorspace, or a good racking system to keep them out of the way. Hexagonal dumbbells are easier to stack and store, and unlikely to roll. They’ll tend to have a protective coating too, unlike cheaper circular dumbbells.

Fixed dumbbells are more robust than most adjustable dumbbells, particularly those with dials to alter weight. They are also smaller, less cumbersome and easier to travel with.

That said, if you need to use a wide weight range, like the weights themselves the costs are going to stack up.

A man adjusts the weight of a Universal PowerPak adjustable dumbbell

The Universal PowerPak uses a common dial-based adjustment system

Benefits of adjustable dumbbells

Once you know how to use them, adjustable dumbbells offer a more flexible, finely tuned workout but are also the most expensive. You’ll need less space to store a set, which can offer a weight range of some 5lb to 50lb in a compact package.

They are helpful when performing drop sets, allowing you to quickly dial down the resistance as you go for increased reps and muscular fatigue. They are also useful for increasing weight gradually when performing the same exercises over time – essential for progressive overload.

With adjustable dumbbells you don’t need to worry about stacking or storing, and the systems tend to be solid enough not to roll.

Personal trainer and physiotherapist Jonathan Cooke, who runs JCFitness, says, “Adjustable dumbbells have a distinct advantage of replacing multiple fixed dumbbells and are great for saving space as well as being more cost effective.

“However, they can take some time to get the feel of as the movable plates can change the weight distribution compared to fixed dumbbells.”

“And although adjustable dumbbells are convenient and save space, they take time to adjust the weight to the desired load, which can slow down workouts that have successive exercises, such as circuits and supersets.”

Another option: plate dumbbells

There is a third choice, although it’s something of a compromise. If you think you will need multiple weights, but can’t justify the expense of adjustable dumbbells or multiple fixed ones, you might want to consider plate dumbbells. These are adjustable, as they feature a locking mechanism which allows you to add or remove plates.

Although they offer greater flexibility in the same footprint as fixed dumbbells, adding and removing plates can be a bit of a faff. They’re also not suited to any of the best dumbbell exercises which require you to position the dumbbells on their ends (for example, getting into position, with the weights rested on your quads, for a chest press) as the metal bar extends beyond the plates on each side.

Whichever dumbbells you opt for, put them to proper use with a full-body dumbbell workout, or target a specific muscle group with a dumbbell shoulder workout, dumbbell leg workout, or dumbbell chest and core workout.