Adjustable Dumbbells Vs Fixed: Compared for Garage Gyms

Resistance training has many health benefits, and dumbbells play a significant role. You can use them for a wide range of exercises to improve your muscles. For some exercises, they're essential.  In this article, we'll be covering adjustable dumbbells vs fixed dumbbells.

There are many different types of dumbbells but these are two popular options, and we'll be exploring the similarities and differences below. That way, you can choose the best type for your needs.

Adjustable dumbbells are a newer type of dumbbell that’s been developed. They’re like traditional fixed dumbbells in that you lift them, and they help boost muscle. But unlike fixed dumbbells, you can change the weight of adjustable dumbbells on the fly. There are plate-loaded and selectorized models available.

People buy adjustable dumbbells if they’re short on space and need to adjust the weights they’re lifting without amassing a hefty dumbbell collection. They can simply add plates or use selectorized dumbbells to pick the weights they need. Because they’re more advanced, they’re generally not used by amateurs.

With a plate-loaded adjustable dumbbell, you’ll lock plates in place and then unlock them for adjustments. You can have spin-lock or quick-lock. Spin locking has several disadvantages, like loose plates, so it’s best to go for quick-locking ones if possible.

With the way selectorized adjustable dumbbells work, you’ll use a specific mechanism like a knob, dial, or pin to select the weight you want to lift. They have a reputation for being faster to adjust than plate-loaded adjustable dumbbells but can also be quite cumbersome. Overall, adjustable dumbbells are a good choice if you know how to use them.  

What We Like 

  • They’re easy to store 
  • You only need one pair  
  • They have decent weight capacities 
  • Weight changes can be faster 

Things We Don’t 

  • They have a learning curve  
  • They have delicate components 
  • They don’t look like typical dumbbells 

Fixed Dumbbells (Overview + Pros & Cons) 

Fixed dumbbells are a classic choice for strength training. You’ll see them in most gyms, and if you’ve ever lifted weights, you’ve probably used them. They come in pairs, and each pair has a specific weight. That means when you’re doing reps for an exercise, you’ll have a fixed weight that can’t be adjusted. Instead, you’ll have to put the dumbbells back on the rack and pick out a new set.

People generally use fixed dumbbells because they’re widely available. They’ve been around for decades and are reliable. But they’re also convenient if you need to switch between weights frequently.

You can get several types of fixed dumbbells. Options include rubber, urethane, hex, and chrome. Each type has different advantages and disadvantages, so it’s worth looking into these if you intend to use fixed dumbbells or already use them.  

Rubber ones are best if you need durability and intend to use them a lot. Urethane dumbbells are slightly better with performance, while hex ones are literally hexagonal and don’t roll around. Finally, chrome dumbbells are a good budget option that you’ll often find in schools. Any type will be suitable for a garage gym.  

What We Like 

  • They’re easy to use
  • A broader choice of exercises 
  • They come in many versions 
  • They’re easy to buy 

Things We Don’t 

  • You need lots of them 
  • They take up space 
  • They’re becoming outdated 

Adjustable Dumbbells Vs Fixed: Which Is Best For Your Home Workouts? 

Weight Range  

When comparing fixed vs adjustable dumbbells' weight, you probably won't be surprised to find that fixed dumbbells have a higher weight capacity. After all, each pair only has its set weight. But adjustable dumbbells can still pack on quite a lot of weight.

Fixed dumbbells have a set weight for each pair, and you often buy groups of them together. For example, a beginner might get a set covering 2 - 40 lbs. 

To illustrate, that might mean 2 lbs, 4 lbs, 6 lbs, 8 lbs, 10 lbs, 15 lbs, 20 lbs, 25 lbs, 30 lbs, 35 lbs, and 40 lbs. That’s a lot of dumbbells, but it gives you flexibility when changing the weight. Fixed dumbbells can be found up to 220lbs.  

Adjustable dumbbells will vary in terms of weight capacity depending on the brand and model that you buy. The most weight we’ve seen on an adjustable dumbbell is 165lbs.  

fixed dumbbells on a rack

Price/Value For Money  

When it comes to adjustable vs fixed dumbbells price, you can expect to pay more for adjustable dumbbells than for fixed dumbbells.

The main reason for this is that fixed dumbbells have existed for a long time, and there are plenty of them. Lots of gyms have them, and most people with a home or garage gym use them. That means there’s a high supply relative to demand.

Fixed dumbbells will vary in price depending on which type you get. Chrome ones are the cheapest, while hex, urethane, and custom-made ones are the most expensive. Beyond that, the price will vary depending on the brand and where you’re buying them.

However, adjustable dumbbells are more expensive because of their newer technology and more advanced components. It costs more to manufacture these dumbbells, and they’re not as common, so their supply is relatively low.  


When considering fixed dumbbells vs adjustable dumbbells in terms of performance, you'll find that traditional fixed dumbbells are usually better. However, there are some specific cases where you should get adjustable dumbbells, and we’ll cover those in this section. 

Fixed dumbbells are easier to move around, making them suitable for a broader range of exercises. Plus, if you get hex-shaped rubber dumbbells, you gain multiple benefits, like stability and durability. You might pay a little more for these extra benefits, but you’ll reap the rewards with performance on exercises like goblet squats and crush grip push-outs.  

Adjustable dumbbells can take the lead when it comes to swapping weight amounts, depending on how quickly you need to change the weight and what exercises you’re doing. But in this case, a selectorized set will be superior because plates can be fiddly. Some of the best brands include Bowflex adjustable dumbbells and Powerblock selectorized dumbbells.


When it comes to durability, there is a clear winner, and that’s traditional fixed dumbbells. Even the best adjustable dumbbells will be beaten in this category by fixed dumbbells, and there are several specific reasons for this.

Fixed dumbbells are molded into a solid block of material, making them difficult to damage or break. This is true of the cheapest chrome models and the most expensive hex or urethane models. When they do have multiple parts, they’re locked together with solid bolts.

On the other hand, adjustable dumbbells are designed to have detachable components. If you drop them, some of these can break off or sustain damage. So even if you buy high-quality adjustable dumbbells, you'll still have to deal with removable components because that’s how they work. Both fixed and adjustable dumbbells should last a long time, but you have to be more careful with adjustable ones.


When using any exercise equipment in a garage gym or alternative setting, there are safety concerns to consider. These are usually less important with dumbbells as they’re pretty simple to use and aren’t large pieces of equipment. Nevertheless, there are some important points to consider.  

Fixed dumbbells are generally secure as long as you don’t lift weights that are too heavy. You can increment gradually during sets to find your limits, but it’s important not to exceed them too much. The same applies to adjustable dumbbells, but there can be a problem with these.  

Adjustable dumbbells are quite bulky, so you can’t stand them vertically on your thighs. That means specific exercises, like the bench press or seated shoulder press, become almost impossible to do safely. It’s possible if you have spin-lock dumbbells, but if any part of the handle is exposed, they’ll dig into your thighs. 

Available Space/Footprint  

When exercising in an enclosed space like a garage gym, it’s essential to know how much space all your equipment will take up. Although fixed dumbbells or adjustable dumbbells are both small, fixed dumbbells can take up much more space and leave a bigger footprint.  

The reason why is because with fixed dumbbells, you need a separate pair for each weight you want to lift. For example, you’ll need a pair of 30lb dumbbells to lift 30lbs, and so on. That means you can find yourself with dozens of dumbbells taking up lots of space. 

In contrast, adjustable dumbbells are made so that you can change the weight of a single pair of dumbbells. As we discussed, you can use weight plates or a selectorized mechanism. Regardless of the method, they’ll take up less space because you simply don’t need all the extra pairs of dumbbells.  


When lifting weights, it’s vital that you have the correct grip. Otherwise, you won’t benefit much from lifting them. With dumbbells, you usually have a wide range of grips. When looking at fixed vs adjustable dumbbells grip, the two most common are the overhand and underhand grip. 

Fixed dumbbells have fewer components on either end of the bar because they’re fixed. That means you usually have more space to position your hands, allowing you greater flexibility when it comes to grips. Regardless of the type of fixed dumbbell you get, you’ll have space to try out numerous grips. 

Adjustable dumbbells don’t offer the same level of flexibility.

They are bulkier and harder to maneuver because of the extra components on either side. Of course, it will differ by brand and model, but you’ll most likely be confined to just a few inches of grip space.  

adjustable dumbbells

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Are adjustable dumbbells worth it?

If you’ve been thinking, ‘are adjustable dumbbells any good,’ then you’ll be pleased to know that they are, but it depends on your needs. Any exercises where you need to place the dumbbells on your thighs won’t work, and some grips might be more difficult. But they will take up less space in your gym.  

How do you adjust adjustable dumbbells?  

It depends on the type of adjustable dumbbells you have. You’ll either have plate-loaded or selectorized ones. If they’re plate-loaded, you’ll slide the weights on and off before locking them in place. If they’re selectorized, you’ll use a knob, dial, or pin to select the amount of weight.

Which dumbbell is best for beginners?  

If you’re new to the gym or haven’t worked out much before, then you should start with fixed dumbbells. Most people will know how to use these, and there is more information available about them. Plus, when starting with exercise, it's good to experiment, and fixed dumbbells make this easier. 

Can you build muscles with only dumbbells?  

Yes, you can, but you’d build them unevenly. For example, you could get powerful and well-defined biceps and triceps but have a weak core, back, and legs. So it’s always best to use multiple pieces of equipment to work out your whole body, rather than focusing on just one piece, like dumbbells. We recommend incorporating barbells and even resistance bands into your workouts.


You now know the main details about fixed dumbbells and adjustable dumbbells and should be able to decide which type is right for you and the benefits you’ll get from using them. Our best advice is to experiment with both to see what gets you the best results.  

Last Updated on February 23, 2023

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Andrew White

Andrew White is the co-founder of Garage Gym Pro. As an expert fitness professional (gym building nerd) with over 10 years of industry experience, he enjoys writing about everything there is to do with modern fitness & the newest market innovations for garage gyms. When he isn’t testing out products for his readers, he’s usually out surfing or playing basketball.