How Do Adjustable Dumbbells Work? (& How To Adjust Them)

Adjustable dumbbells are one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can own. They’re a great way to get more use out of your workout space, as they let you perform a wider range of exercises than just running up and down the rack at the gym. 

But have you ever been left wondering, “how do adjustable dumbbells work?” Today we’re going to help answer that question for you and help you decide whether a set of adjustable dumbbells are worth considering for your home gym. 

An adjustable dumbbell, also called a "selectorized" dumbbell, is specially designed to allow a user to change the weight of the dumbbell by adding or removing plates. 

Adjustable dumbbells are a space-saving, time-saving, and cost-saving solution. With adjustable dumbbells, you can get the same workout as you would with a complete set of dumbbells with just a single set. 

Not only are they far more cost-effective than buying multiple dumbbells, but they also make it easier to quickly switch from one exercise to the next. 

Benefits of Investing In Adjustable Dumbbells 

Better For Home Use 

Adjustable dumbbells are great for at-home workouts because you can adjust the weight as your fitness improves and you get stronger. With traditional dumbbells, you have to buy an entirely new set. With adjustable dumbbells, you can keep using the same pair and just adjust the weight. 

Compact And Space-Saving 

Dumbbells are a garage gym essential, but they can take up a lot of space. The biggest advantage of adjustable dumbbells is that you just need a single set. This means they can easily be stored and take up far less space than the traditional alternative. 

Safer Exercises 

Dumbbells are safer than barbells because they allow you to work out without a spotter. If you lift barbells alone, there are times when you’ll need a spotter to help you with the heavier weights. If you work out alone at home, dumbbells are the way to go. 

Portable & Versatile 

Adjustable dumbbells are a versatile piece of equipment that can be used for a variety of exercises, and they’re a great addition to any home gym. They give you the ability to increase your strength and build your muscles without having to be restricted to the number of weights that you have. 

Because of their compact size, these dumbbells are so easy to stow in the trunk of your car. For avid travelers, or those who don't have a home gym, travel workouts are a great way to stay active—and these weights make it easy. They won't take up any room in your luggage and can be taken anywhere you go: hotel room, outdoors, or an empty field. 

How To Adjust An Adjustable Dumbbell: Step-By-Step 

Instructions will vary depending on which brand of adjustable dumbbell you buy, but the general guidelines below should give you a rough idea of how to adjust the weight on your dumbbells. 

  1. 1
    First, ensure your dumbbell is securely set in either the holding rack or on a stable surface. 
  2. 2
    Double-check the handle is secured in the right position, with no obstructions. 
  3. 3
    Decide on the weight you wish to adjust your dumbbell to. Remember you’re aiming for around 10-12 reps of each weight. 
  4. 4
    Using the dial (common on Bowflex models) or built-in selector (typically found in XMark Fitness dumbbells), adjust to your desired weight. 
  5. 5
    Lift the weight and begin your workout. 

How Do Adjustable Dumbbells Work? (Bowflex Models)

The Bowflex Adjustable Dumbbells are one of the most popular types of dumbbells on the market. Typically each dumbbell adjusts from 5 up to 52.5 lbs in increments of 2.5 lbs. 

To adjust a set of Bowflex dumbbells: 

  • Set the handle in the selector rack. 
  • Turn the dial to your desired weight. 
  • Lift the handle from the rack, ensuring the weights are secured. 
  • Begin your workout. 

If you can get stuck, you can always follow this simple tutorial. 

People Also Ask (FAQs)

How much do adjustable dumbbell handles weigh? 

Typically, adjustable dumbbell handles are light, weighing around 2.5 - 5 pounds each. This will vary depending on the make and model of your adjustable dumbbell. 

Are adjustable dumbbells safe? 

Adjustable dumbbells are safe as long as you use them correctly. However, if you use them incorrectly, you can injure yourself. Ensure that weight plates are attached securely to the dumbbell handle before exercising. 

How heavy should my dumbbells be? 

Use a weight that allows you to perform approximately ten to twelve repetitions of each exercise before having to rest. If you're able to complete more repetitions than that, then the weight is too light. If you find that you're unable to complete more than six repetitions, then the weight is too heavy. 

Can adjustable dumbbells be dropped? 

Dropping dumbbells, adjustable or not, on the floor is a great way to throw off the rhythm of your workout and make a lot of noise that can distract other people around you. It’s also a great way to break your dumbbells, which can be expensive. 

How much do adjustable dumbbells cost? 

Adjustable dumbbells are more expensive than traditional dumbbells as the design is a lot more complex. While traditional dumbbells cost between $5 to $30, adjustable dumbbells can cost you up to $500. If you opt for a well-known brand such as BowFlex or Xmark, expect to pay towards the higher end. 

Why are adjustable dumbbells so expensive? (Compared to hex/regular) 

The first thing people want to know is why adjustable dumbbells are so expensive. The answer is because they have a more complex design than the traditional dumbbell models. However, the space-saving convenience that they offer is well worth the extra investment. 


Adjustable dumbbells are a great way to get more use out of your exercise space — they’re incredibly versatile too. With adjustable dumbbells, you can perform every type of weightlifting exercise: curls, presses, raises, shrugs, rows, and even squats. 

We hope this article has helped you decide whether or not a set of adjustable dumbbells should be in your garage gym. 

Last Updated on February 22, 2023

Photo of author

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.