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The best adjustable dumbbells are an easy sell: the exact right right weight, right when you want it, without a huge rack of iron taking up space.
If we’ve learned anything from 14 months of mostly at-home workouts, it’s about the importance of versatility. Many of us can thank the change of pace for our new exercise habits, like lunchtime yoga flows and bedroom kettlebell sweat fests. And while gyms are starting to open back up and more of us are shaking off the cobwebs, post-vaccination, that doesn’t mean the option to work out a home has gotten any less convenient. In fact, now that so much more gym equipment is back in stock, it’s a much better time to build out a home gym than this time last year.
Our favorite way to do that is with a set of the best adjustable dumbbells. They’re a huge space saver, appropriate for essentially all workouts (and all members of the household), while keeping a massive set of weights out of plain view. As Prince Brathwaite, owner of Trooper Fitness, puts it, “Their footprint in your house is only as large as the heaviest weight.”
Each brand adjusts to different weights. JaxJox Dumbbell Connect, one of the most popular options on the market, adjusts in 6-pound increments, starting at 8 pounds going all the way up to 50. While the Bowflex Selecttech—another popular model—adjust in 2.5-pound increments from 5 to 52.5 pounds.
Bowflex SelectTech adjustable dumbbells
Adjustable dumbbells can be a bit more ungainly than simple chunks of iron, but one of the smartest sets on the market mitigates that somewhat: the Core Home Fitness set shrinks and grows depending on how much weight you’re using.
Core Home Fitness adjustable dumbbells
If you’re ready to get moving with a pair of your own, Brathwaite came up with a simple adjustable dumbbell-friendly workout. He recommends you choose a weight that you can do the entire rep scheme with without failing. It should be challenging between reps 8 to 10, but not impossible. The best part of your new fitness tool? The next time around, you can add some weight and get giddy over your progress with time.
A 30 Minute Total Body Strength Workout
You’ll need a set of adjustable dumbbells and a bench. Rest one minute between each set.
Dumbbell bench press: Start laying flat on a bench, with two dumbbells straight up directly above your chest with your palms facing in towards your thighs. (You will notice that this is a common position in the world of giant chest-building.) Breathe in, and slowly lower the weights towards your shoulders. Exhale and push the weights back to start for one rep.
Dumbbell Romanian deadlift: Start with a slight bend in your knees, shoulder blades squeezed together, and chest tall, holding the dumbbells facing the body. Maintaining the same slight bend in the knee, slowly shift your hips backwards and hinge forward. Keep sending hips back until you feel the backs of the legs (hamstrings) tighten. Now return to standing by squeezing your bottom tight. Make sure you keep your back flat throughout the whole movement.
Arnold shoulder press: Stand with feet at shoulder-width distance, holding a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing your chin and elbows resting in the rib cage. Press the weights up and, in a controlled manner, rotate the dumbbells until the arms are straight and your palms are facing away from you. Follow that same line when you reverse the rotation back down to the starting position.
Hip thrusts: Place your shoulders on a bench or comfortable seat and your feet on the floor directly below your knees, with a single adjustable dumbbell resting in the pelvis area. Begin by driving through with your heels, extending your hips upward as far as possible. Lower back down to the starting position.
Triceps dips: No weight for this one. Stand facing away from a chair. Lower your body, grabbing the edge of the bench, hands shoulder-width apart, fingers facing body, and legs extended in front of you. Bend elbows, lowering butt toward floor. Straighten arms back to the starting position.
Dumbbell Step-Ups: Start with dumbbells in both hands hanging by your sides, just like you were holding a briefcase. Lift your right leg and plant your whole foot on the bench. Using your right leg, drive your heel into the bench and stand through the front leg. Only bring the left leg onto the bench once your right leg is at full extension. On the way back down, keep the right foot on the bench and control your left foot back down to the floor. Control the downward phase—don’t just drop down to the floor.
10 reps dumbbell bench press
10 reps dumbbell Romanian deadlift
10 reps Arnold shoulder press
10 reps of hip thrusts
30 reps of bench dips
10 reps of alternating step ups