Adjustable, Spinlock, Spring Collar Dumbbells

Dumbbells: The Definitive Guide

A good set of dumbbells should be the foundation of any home gym.

Dumbbells are extremely versatile and can be used for a huge range of exercises that work both your upper and lower body.

In fact, if you also have an adjustable bench, you won’t need much more than a pair of dumbbells to build an impressive physique. Many compound lifts can be performed with just a bench and some dumbbells, for example: bench press, shoulder press, and rows.

However, not all dumbbells are the same and it can be difficult to find a set that meets your needs (without breaking the bank). Our guide to buying dumbbells sheds some light on the main types of dumbbell available.

 

Spinlock Dumbbells

Price: 4/5

Max Weight: 4.5/5

Time to Adjust Weight: 2/5

Overall: 3.5/5

Typically, casual lifters will buy a set of spinlock dumbbells for use at home. These are often reasonably priced and can be adjusted to increase or decrease in weight by adding or removing iron plates.

They also have significant appeal because they are extremely safe. The collars would have to unwind completely (perhaps several rotations) in order for the plates to fall off.

However, spinlock dumbbells also come with a lot of downsides.

It can be tiresome constantly changing the number of plates on each bar using the awkward spinlock system.

Secondly, the locking system never seems to work particularly well and you can often feel the plates start to come loose whilst exercising.

Despite being generally safe, it is possible for plates to slide off during a set. This usually happens when more than a couple of plates are loaded on to the bar and the collar is only partially on. 

Mechanism:

What does a standard set look like?

It is difficult to suggest that there is a “typical” set of spinlock dumbbells. However, a standard set will, at the very least, include:

  • 2 x spinlock bars, and
  • 4 x collars.

In addition, a basic / beginner set of spinlock dumbbells might include the following plates:

  • 2 x 5.5 lb (2.5 kg) plates,
  • 2 x 2.75 lb (1.25 kg) plates, and
  • 2 x 0.55 lb (0.25kg) plates.

This makes approx 44 lb (20kg) across the whole set (including the bars and collars). These sets cost around $45.

York dumbbells

A standard set of York dumbbells (44 lb)

Beginners might be happy with essentially two 22 lb (10 kg) dumbbells. But these aren’t suitable for anyone taking fitness seriously. Luckily, individual plates (discs) are sold by many brands separately. This gives you the option of increasing the weight of your dumbbells. However, an additional 4 x 11 lb (5 kg) plates will cost you around $45. and 4 x 22lb (10kg) plates could you set you back $80.

This is pretty cheap. Although if you want to lift heavy, it might make more sense (practically) to invest in a pair of adjustable dumbbells (see below).

When buying additional plates, remember to check the diameter of your dumbbell bars first. It would be tragic to end up with a set of plates that don’t fit on your bars properly!  Usually, a dumbbell bar will be approx 1 inch in diameter.

How heavy can they go?

Rogue Fitness Shop Now

If you like the idea of buying additional plates for your spinlock dumbbells, you might be wondering how much weight you can comfortably stack onto a dumbbell. This will obviously depend on the length of your bar.

A typical “basic” set will include a bar that is approximately 14 inches long. In my experience, these bars will only fit 2-3 plates on each side, depending on the weight (and hence size of those plates). The maximum weight for each dumbbell will be around 26.4 lb – 55 lb (12-25 kg) depending on the size of your plates.

Remember: It can be risky trying to place too many plates onto the bar without leaving ample room for the collar.

However, if you buy a dumbbell bar which is 18 inches long, online sellers suggest that you will be able to fit 8 x 11 lb (5 kg) plates on comfortably. If you include the 8.8 lb (4 kg) bar, this means each of your dumbbells will weigh approx 96.8 lb (44 kg), which is no joke!

You can find MiraFit 18″ Spinlock Dumbbell Weight Bars available on Amazon for only $20

How can I make the most out of them?

If you are going to go add some spinlock dumbbells to your gym, make sure you buy a few dumbbell bars and extra plates so that you can make up several different weight combinations. This will take the hassle out of constantly having to add and remove plates. It will also make it easier to perform pyramid or drop sets.

If you want to lift heavy, buy 16.5 lb (7.5kg) or 22 lb (10kg) plates. However, bear in mind that larger plates may be awkward to lift due to their size. This may, for example, restrict your range of movement during press exercises.

TIP: Once the spinlock collars are tightened, roll the plates clockwise. This creates a tight lock and makes it less likely that the collars will come loose.

Recommended purchase

Spinlock dumbbells

Spinlock dumbbells (manufacturer unknown)

This is a generic set of cheap dumbbells I found online. Although the listing  doesn’t provide any information about the manufacturer, the set has good reviews and appears to be incredibly good value for money.

  • $75.09
  • Can be setup in increment of 5 lbs (adjustable from 5 lbs to 52.5 lbs each dumbbell)
  • 52.5lbs each, total 105lbs

Spring Clip Collar Dumbbells (aka Olympic Dumbbells)

Price: 2.5/5

Max Weight: 2/5

Time to Adjust Weight: 4/5

Overall:  2/5

Spring clip collar dumbbells are very similar to spinlock dumbbells but the mechanism for locking the plates is slightly different. I personally find it easier and quicker to add or remove plates, as it is just a case of squeezing the clip and sliding it on or off of the bar.

However, spring clip dumbbells share many of the same downsides as spinlock ones. It can be pain to constantly have to take off or add plates between sets.

Mechanism:

Spring clip dumbbells are generally less secure than spinlock ones. I would not recommend performing exercises where the dumbbell is held in such a way that the bar is perpendicular to the floor. During such exercises the plates will be exerting force downwards on the clips. For example, avoid hammer curls and tricep extensions.

hammer curl with dumbbells

Hammer curls

To ease concerns about safety, it is worth mentioning that spring clip collar barbells are often used in commercial gyms. However, this makes sense as barbells are used for exercises where force should not be directly applied to the clips, such as bench press, dead lifts and squats. Spring clips are less suitable for dumbbells.

Spring clips usually do not move or come loose like the collar on spinlock dumbbells. However, it is very difficult to get a “tight” fit and so there is usually a small gap between the clips and the plates. This means that the plates can rattle from side to side during set, which can be distracting.

clips for dumbbells

Spring clips

Having said that, there are benefits to using Olympic dumbbells. For example, the bearing equipped rotating ends of an Olympic dumbbell bar are designed to make it easier to lift dumbbells to your shoulders or overhead.

To put it simply,  as you perform most exercises with fixed dumbbells, you will expend energy in rotating the weight. This is not the case when lifting Olympic dumbbells as a bar with ball bearings allows the weight to move and the bar to remain still.

barbell needle bearingsolympic dumbbell bar ball bearing

Therefore, theoretically Olympic dumbbell bars should allow you to handle more weight than fixed dumbbells for certain (compound) movements.

Please note that not all Olympic dumbbell bars are equipped with ball  bearings. Typically, the higher quality dumbbells from reputable brands will have them.

What does a standard set look like?

Whilst you can buy spring clips, Olympic dumbbell bars and plates separately, it is relatively uncommon to find complete sets for sale.

However, as an example, a typical set may comprise the following:

  • 2 x Olympic Dumbbell handles,
  • 4 x Olympic Spring Collars,
  • 8 x 5 kg plates,
  • 4 x 2.5 kg plate, and
  • 4 x 1.25 kg plates.

Generally, the clips are very cheap and a set of 4 can be bought for under $5 online. However, Olympic bars tend to be more a little more expensive than threaded spinlock bars.  Prices can vary significantly but expect to pay less than you would for a set of adjustable dumbbells, such as Ironmasters or Powerblocks.

It is important to bear in mind that Olympic bars are 2 inches in diameter. This means that they can only be used with Olympic plates. Therefore, you can’t mix and match Olympic bars with spinlock plates and vice versa. Thankfully Olympic plates are similar in price to spinlock plates.

Olympic dumbbells

Olympic dumbbells with spring clip collars

The main complaint about spring clip dumbbells is that the Olympic bars are too long. The standard length is approximately 20 inches. This is a lot longer than the standard length for spinlock bars, which is 6 inches shorter. Longer bars will take some getting used to and may even limit your range of movement for some exercises.

How heavy can they go?

Like spinlock dumbbells, you can buy different weight plates for your springclip dumbbells. However, I would be reluctant to go too heavy with spring clip dumbbells and wouldn’t feel comfortable loading up more than 44 lb (20 kg) per dumbbell. If you do decide to lift heavy, be sure to replace the clips regularly. They will lose their tension after regular use and especially if you leave them on the bar between workouts.

How can I make the most out of them?

I would recommend Olympic dumbbells if you have an Olympic barbell and plates already. Then you can just buy a couple of Olympic dumbbell bars and use the clips and plates you already own. However, if you want to use dumbbells for exercises like dumbbell skull crushers, then you would be better of buying more secure collars.

Recommended Purchase

Rogue DB-15 Loadable Dumbbell

Rogue DB-15 Loadable Dumbbells

Rogue Olympic Dumbbells are US made, high quality and come with a lifetime warranty. What more could you want?

The D-15 Dumbbells are modeled on Rogue’s Ohio Bar and this is evident in their design. For example, the handles have a black zinc coating, which I think gives the dumbbells a really modern and masculine aesthetic.

Read our review of these Olympic dumbbells here.

Price: $135.00 each (excluding collars)

Specs:

  • Each dumbbell weighs 15lb with collars
  • 20.5″ long
  • 6.75″ sleeve length
  • Fully knurled handles with black zinc coating
  • 28.5mm diameter handles
  • 190K PSI tensile strength steel shaft

Learn More

Compression Ring Collar Dumbbells

Price: 3/5

Max Weight: 3/5

Time to Adjust Weight: 4/5

Overall:  3/5

Compression ring collar dumbbells are very similar to spring clip ones. The only real difference is that compression ring collars are used, instead of spring clips.

Although this guide just looks at spring clips and compression rings, there are a whole range of collars that you can use with your Olympic dumbbells. To find which is right for you, see our Olympic Collar Guide.

The compression ring collar is more robust than a spring clip. If you buy a good quality set, you will be able to lift heavy with your dumbbells without worrying about the plates falling off.

Compression ring collars provide a tighter fit than spring clips, meaning that the plates will rattle less during lifts. They are also easier to put on and take off.

Overall they are a far better alternative to spring clips.

Mechanism:

There are a huge range of compression collars on offer but they all essentially function the same. You slide the rings on and then turn the handles to tighten.

What does a standard set look like?

It is unusual to find a complete set which includes dumbbell bars, plates and collars.

However, you can easily by Olympic bars, Olympic plates and compression rings separately.

Compression collars vary massively in price. You buy buy a cheap pair for under $10 or you can spend a bit more and buy a good quality Ivanko set for $98.

How heavy can they go?

With a good quality compression ring, you could get away with putting on much more weight than with a spring clip.  But I still would recommend exercising caution, just to be safe.

How can I make the most out of them?

Buy good quality compression rings that you can use with both an Olympic barbell as well as your dumbbells. However, if you just plan on using Olympic dumbbells for light curls, then a cheap compression ring may suffice.

Recommended Purchase

ivanko cot 1.25 olympic collar

Ivanko COT-1.25  Compression Ring Olympic Training Collar

The COT 1.25 is Ivanko’s entry level compression ring collar. So whilst it might not be approved for competition use, it is the most affordable and still makes use of the same compression ring technology as Ivanko’s other collars.

As the smallest compression ring offered by Ivanko, the COT 1.25 is actually more suitable than other models for use with smaller bars and Olympic dumbbells. Not only does it take up less space on your bar, but at 2.5lb per pair, you won’t have to worry about the extra weight affecting your lifts by much.

Price: $60.50

Specs:

  • 2.5lb per pair
  • Thickness: 1-3/8″
  • Chrome-plated

Learn More

Adjustable Dumbbells

Price: 3/5

Max Weight: 4/5

Time to Adjust Weight: 5/5

Overall:  4.5/5

Adjustable dumbbells are by far the most suitable for a home gym set up. They don’t take up much room and can even be kept in a bedroom gym.

In addition, they allow for the weights to be changed incredibly easily, with just the flick of a switch (or twisting of a dial). This is a big plus. Keeping up a workout regime can be tough at times and so anything that reduces the hassle of training makes a big difference to motivation.

Different brands have different adjustment mechanisms – the Bowflex dumbbell mechanism is shown in the video below.

Mechanism:

 

One of only real issues with adjustable dumbbells is that the adjustment mechanism on some models is made of plastic and so can get damaged if the weights are treated poorly. This problem only affects some brands and shouldn’t be an issue unless you drop the weights from a height.

In addition, it is worth mentioning that many retailers typically offer a lifetime warranty for house use.

 What does a standard set look like?

It is difficult to talk about a “standard” set of adjustable dumbbells as weight, design and functionality will vary by brand. Example sets offered by two of the market leaders are shown below:

Bowflex SelectTech Dumbbells

  • $279.99 on Amazon
  • 5-52.5lbs
  • dial mechanism
Bowflex dumbbells

Bowflex dumbbells

Power Tech U90 Stage 1

  • $299 on Amazon
  • 5-50lbs
  • pin mechanism
Powerblock dumbbells

PowerBlock dumbbells

 

In general, adjustable dumbbells are priced in the region of $200 – $500. However, you should remember that a pair of “basic” adjustable dumbbells is essentially like having 10 sets of dumbbells. This helps to explain the price tag.

Adjustable dumbbells seem a little expensive at first glance. However, when compared to an equivalent range of 10 sets of commercial dumbbells, which can cost upwards of $1,200, it is clear that they are more than reasonably priced.

How heavy can they go?

Generally, a standard set of adjustable dumbbells will allow for adjusting the weight in increments of 5 lb up to 55 lb per dumbbell. However, you can buy heavier models. For example, the U90 Stage 4 PowerBlock set has a weight range of 5-125 lb (approx 2-56 kg) per hand.

Also PowerBlock sells extension sets that allow its various dumbbell sets to be increased in weight as you progress. This means that only the most serious lifters will ever outgrow them!

One of the biggest advantages of adjustable dumbbells is that they feel solid at a heavy weight. You won’t have to worry about any loosening of parts.

In addition, they appear to be very safe. I would only be concerned about the risk of an accident if they become damaged.

How can I make the most out of them?

I would recommend buying a heavy set of adjustable dumbbells so that you don’t have to worry about outgrowing them. This will work out cheaper in the long run.

Recommended Purchase

Quick-Lock Dumbbell Set 75 lbs (34 kg)

Ironmaster adjustable dumbbells

Ironmaster Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbell Set 75 lbs (34 kg)

Ironmaster quick lock dumbbells are extremely durable and have the same look and feel as traditional dumbbells. They are adjustable in increments of 5lb and can go up to 165lb each (with add-on kits).

The handles are heavy duty and made of professional grade machine steel, which is fully welded. They are chrome plated with knurling. The plates are stackable which means no rattling whilst lifting!

For a comprehensive and detailed analysis, please see our review of these dumbbells.

Price: $499.00

Specs (75lb set):

  • 10 lbs to 75 lb
  • Dumbbell handle – 5lb
  • Locking screw:  2 x 2.5lb
  • Weight plates: 4 x 2.5 lb, 24 x 5lbs
  • Dumbbell stand.

Learn More

Fixed Dumbbells (Hex Dumbbells)

Price: 2/5

Max Weight: 4/5

Time to Adjust Weight: n/a (5/5)

Overall: 4/5

If you have space for them, a full set of hex dumbbells is a a fantastic addition to any home gym.

These are fixed weights. As the name implies, they are just one solid piece of metal (and rubber) and are the favourite of commercial gyms.

They are very durable and due to their hexagon shape won’t roll when you put them down. With a set of pairs ranging from 5-66 lb per hand, you will be able to rival some commercial gyms.

The downsides are that hex sets take up a lot of room, so may only be suitable for a decent sized garage gym. They are also very expensive when compared to the other dumbbells listed in this guide.

Mechanism:

With hex dumbbells you don’t need to worry about changing plates or any kind of adjustment mechanism. Just pick the weights you want and starting lifting. This means that dropping or increasing weight between sets is a seamless and painless process.

 What does a standard set look like?

Many online sellers offer you the option of purchasing individual pairs separately. You can also buy a full set (2x2kg – 2x4kg…2x30kg), which works out cheaper.

Hexa Hex Dumbbells

Hex Dumbbells

You can buy a full set on Amazon for $1115. This set includes the following pairs: 2 x 2kg, 2 x 4kg, 2 x 6kg, 2 x 8kg, 2 x 10kg, 2 x 12kg, 2 x 14kg, 2 x 16kg, 2 x 18kg, 2 x 20kg, 2 x 22kg, 2 x 25kg, 2 x 30kg.

How heavy can they go?

You can buy individual pairs of up to at least 50kg. However, these are not cheap. For example, it can cost around $315 for just one pair of 50kg dumbbells.

How can I make the most out of them?

As hex sets are so expensive, you should consider buying just the pairs that you will actually use. It might make sense to buy a few sets in the 50 – 70 lb range and buying spinlocks for the lighter weight ranges. Alternatively, you could buy the cheaper low weight ranges and supplement with heavier spinlocks.

Recommended Purchase

Body Revolution Hex Dumbbells

  • $1115
  • Hex Dumbbell Set (2 – 30 kg / 5 – 66 lb)

Thick Bar Dumbbells

Advanced lifters might consider supplementing their dumbbell collection by buying thick bar dumbbells. These are essentially exactly the same as Olympic dumbbells but the grip (handle) is 2 – 3 inches in diameter instead of 1 inch.

Thick bar dumbbells are used to improve  grip strength and develop the forearms, as they stimulate greater muscle activation in the hands and forearms than standard dumbbells (see our article on the science behind using thick bars).

thick dumbbells

Example of a thick dumbbell bar

If you don’t want to splash out on a set of thick dumbbells, which can be pricey, you can buy thick bar grips instead.

These grips wrap around dumbbell/barbell bars to create a thick bar.

thick bar grip

Thick bar grip around a dumbbell

Verdict

Overall, I would recommend a pair of adjustable dumbbells for your home gym However, this comes with a number of caveats.

First, the pros:

  • Adjustable dumbbells are ideal if you don’t have much room.
  • Changing weight is quick and simple.
  • Weight ranges are set out clearly so no math is needed.
  • A basic set should fulfil the needs of most lifters. If not, extension or heavy sets are available for experienced lifters.
  • Lifetime manufacturer warranties are often provided.

However, not all adjustable dumbbells are the same.

Some models are poorly constructed, limited in weight range and may not be worth the hefty price tag.

I have set out my personal recommendation above – the Ironmaster quick-lock set. However, please see our comprehensive guide for a comparison of the main adjustable dumbbells on the market.

If money is no object, and you have the space, I would (alternatively) recommend investing in a full set of fixed weight dumbbells. These should last a lifetime, and the lack of any complications will make your workout as enjoyable as it can be. However, don’t forget that a suitable rack will be an additional cost to factor in.

Final thoughts: When buying a set of dumbbells (or multiple sets) keep in mind that they are meant to last you a lifetime. Therefore, buy a set that meets your needs and that you will actually enjoy and want to use. Even $1,000 is a small price to pay for better health, a better physique and increased confidence.

 

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