Adjustable Or Fixed Dumbbells -  Which Should You Buy?

Adjustable Or Fixed Dumbbells - Which Should You Buy?

Before I start my (rather long) answer to that question…

What if I told you that Ironmaster UK’s all time bestselling product is lifetime-warrantied – which means nobody ever buys them twice?

Would that make sense to you?

Now what if I told you this bestselling product is a set of dumbbells – the most basic tools in the kit.

What’s more – not even a rack of dumbbells, but just one pair of adjustable dumbbells…

(well actually, they do come with a standalone stand. Even better, already bundled!)

And that this pair of dumbbells sells for over £600…

It sounds ridiculous, right?

It also happens to be true.

  • “James!” you might think…
  • “Adjustable dumbbells? Nan got me a plastic set for my twelfth birthday. They were gash.”
  • “I believed you were an honourable guy James, but now I see you’re little more than a chancer with the morals of an alley-cat”

Whoa horsey.

Steady on there chief.

It’s not like that – just wait a minute and I’ll explain.

Now in fairness, dumbbells are one of the simplest bits of kit in any gym, so it’s not surprising many people think there’s not much to them.

They’re wrong – but

You’ve probably read some articles about dumbbells already, and been given the same old crappy info more than twice.

So I promise this one will be different – at least more interesting than 30 minutes on a crosstrainer, and definitely less stale than those weird gym rats who always wear the same vest (and only wash it whenever they hit a new bench press PB).

Yo big Kev! Lookin fresh my G…

And likewise, there are hundreds if not thousands of dumbbell options out on the market – many just white label clones or cheapened copies of existing products, with no distinguishing features except a brand and price.

(realistically, nobody has the time or patience to exhaustively catalogue and compare all of them)

Anyway, there are no silver bullets in this life – only pros, cons and best options for each choice we make. No matter what type of gym, there’s quite a few things to consider when choosing dumbbells, and different products that perform best for different buyers’ needs.

That said, the most popular options you’ll see in your local gym/sports equipment store are always going to be spin-lock adjustable dumbbells, or at the higher end, a full rack of fixed dumbbells.

So before I talk about what I believe know is the best option – Ironmaster Quick-Lock Dumbbells (obvs)… here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons for both:

Fixed Dumbbells

RRP £3,300 ++

If you’re operating a commercial gym or sports club – or any other setup where there will always be 2 or more people training together – you’ll most likely need fixed dumbbells. Here’s why:

Pros of Fixed Dumbbells:
  • (Possibly) Fastest Weight Changes – put one down, pick one up. This is awesome if you like to do a lot of drop sets.
    • If your gym and racks are neat and tidy, no adjustable dumbbell will ever be faster than this
    • That said, if the place is an untidy hellhole filled with roaming feral dogs and cats (like many commercial gyms) then you might spend 10 minutes looking for a matching pair…
  • Harder To Steal – sad reality of life as a gym owner is – there are some sticky-fingered bastards roaming around. Fixed dumbbells are big, bulky and more quickly noticed if someone tries to sneak them into a gym bag or inside a jacket
  • Good For Groups – It’s easy for mixed ability groups to work around each other when there is a large selection of kit available that can all be used at the same time
  • Hex Dumbbells Are Versatile – you can use them for doing interesting pushup and row variations that aren’t possible with round dumbbells (but can be done with even more stability using Ironmaster Quick-lock Dumbbells)
  • Quite Durable – fixed dumbbells are very simple construction and the quality brand stuff tends to last a long time but – surprisingly few of them come with a long-term warranty. More on that in the cons section…
Cons of Fixed Dumbbells:
  • Bloody Expensive – a quality set from a premium brand manufacturer will cost 3 grand, or more when bought new. And when you get strong enough to want something heavier – you need to buy another rack to upgrade
  • Bulky & Not Space Efficient – you’ll need a bigger room to keep these in and workout as well. And if you move house these are a real hassle to transport
  • Plastic/Rubber Coatings Don’t Last – exposure to sweat and antibacterial sprays (which you must use to keep your home gym safe and hygienic), plus abrasion from metal racks mean the rubber/plastics tend to wear out after 3-5 years, and can’t be fixed
    • That’s why you won’t find these with lifetime warranties.
    • Commercial gyms factor the cost of equipment replacement into their membership fees – but for a home gym you’ll want to buy for a lifetime
  • Hard To See Construction Quality – plastic/rubber coatings on dumbbells also hide the construction materials and make it hard to see things like low quality steel, cheap non-durable welds, rivets and other budget fastening methods.
    • You won’t know it’s shit until it fails during a workout – possibly causing injuries
  • Annoying To Tidy Up – if you use several pairs of weights during a workout, these tend to all end up on the floor by the end of a session – creating a trip hazard, and giving you an annoying extra job to do when you’ve finished up and want to shower…

Spin-lock Adjustable Dumbbells

If you’re training at home for any length of time, then most likely you’ve had a pair of this type already.

They’re a good basic level starter product and have some definite positives:

Pros of Spinlock Dumbbells
  • Low Cost – if price is a genuine barrier for you, spinlock dumbbells are the lowest cost option, and can get you training quicker than anything else – but if you stick at it, you’ll soon outgrow them and want to buy something better…
  • Widely available – you can pretty much buy these at any sports equipment store
  • Simple and durable – spinlocks tend to rust a bit, and the ones with cheap shiny coatings tend to scratch off – but if you don’t mind these aesthetic issues, your spinlock dumbbells have a very simple construction and will last a long time

That said, if you keep using spinlock dumbbells for a while you’ll notice a few distinct downsides that become annoying:

Cons of Spinlock Dumbbells
  • The Plates Rattle – The spin-locks come loose during use, especially if the rubber gaskets they’re supplied with fall off – which they always do.
    • Once you lose a completely tight lock, the plates will shift, rattle and feel annoyingly unstable
  • Limited Weight Capacity – (Unless You Use Large-Diameter Plates):
    • Standard spin-lock dumbbell handles have about 3.5 inches per side for weight plates and can handle up to around 40kg using 5kg plates
    • Yes, you could fill up this space with up to 3x 10kg or even 20kg standard weight plates per side, which would give you a massive 60-120kg per dumbbell, BUT that would be ridiculous and impractical to the point of being useless, because those plates are so tall that you couldn’t do any exercise
    • It starts to get pricey when you buy several of those heavier standard plates. You’re not saving money at that point, but you are getting a suboptimal(or even crappy) solution

Tough man, but a less than ideal setup…

  • NOT Compact – spinlock dumbbells are always as long as the length of the threaded handle (typically 14 inches – already too long for many exercises) This is really annoying for exercises like hammer curls, lateral raises and skullcrushers. And if you buy extra-long spinlock handles for larger weight capacity they’re even more awkward.
  • Circular Plates – this isn’t really a big deal, but it’s still a negative. When it comes to dumbbells, there’s really no functional advantage to having round plates like there is with a barbell.
    • The dumbbells roll away from the position you set them if the floor is even slightly uneven
    • They’re no use for floor row/pushup variations like renegade rows.
  • Can’t Balance Ends of Dumbbells on Thighs
    • For bench work like dumbbell chest press, flys or shoulder press, the inability to stand the dumbbells up vertically on your thighs is a major negative*
    • If you want to safely and efficiently perform these exercises with heavier amounts of weight, then you need to be able to start the exercise by having the dumbbell ends on your thighs. This way, you’re able to “kick” the weights back and up toward your shoulder to get them into place for the pressing motion*
    • Unless the spin-lock dumbbells are filled all the way to the end of the handle, then you will have the 1-inch diameter handle jamming into your thigh – painful and dangerous*

    *please disregard this if you’re the proud owner of an Ironmaster Spotting Stand

And if you are not, check it out now!

‘Other’ Adjustable Dumbbells

There are some other variations on the adjustable dumbbell concept out there – most of which are variations on spinlock dumbbells, and all of which include compromised designs that have most of the negatives of both fixed or spinlock dumbbells – but don’t have the simplicity, easy operation, versatility, balance and durability of Ironmaster Quick-lock Dumbbells.

And of course there are a couple of kooky creations that break the mold ‘just because’.

So here, briefly, are some of the other adjustable dumbbells on the market.

But before I start – you can see in the video further down this page how much abuse the Ironmaster Quick-Lock Dumbbells can take without a problem – including dropping them down a lift shaft…

Well I challenge you to drop any of these contraptions from a first floor window and be left with a working dumbbell.

And forget about shooting any of these with a rifle – even a paintball gun might do serious damage.

(NB: no liability accepted for your smashed-up subpar gear ????)

Good but limited range of weight
Round shape not the best
Constant twisting to change weights can aggravate RSI injury to wrists
Non-durable plastic coatings

Hex Shape Good
Uneven weight distribution annoying
Fiddly mechanism
Non-durable plastic coatings

Seriously, WTF even is this?

I’ll stop now – this is getting far too silly!

We’ve eliminated the competition, and our dumbbells stand alone, Olympian in bearing, perched atop the twisted and broken forms of their defeated enemies…

Now it’s time to drill down on the finer details of:

The Most Indestructible, Best Value,
*And Bestselling*
Home Gym Dumbbells You Can Buy – Bar None

Like I said at the top of the page – for most of us, our first ever set of dumbbells are some cheap adjustables.

But these ain’t your nan’s Argos specials matey. What we have here is something proper…

In fact, our Ironmaster Quick-Lock Dumbbells are a top quality, yet amazingly good value product, that’ll probably outlast you – and end up in your grandkids’ gym long after you’re dead…

So good, in fact, that we lifetime warranty every pair – for life (excuse me for labouring this point).

That’s your life by the way – not the life of the dumbbells…

They’ll probably be here longer than you – so our legal department aren’t prepared to indemnify your heirs and descendants.

Crazy thing is – after more than a decade in business selling hundreds of pairs every year – I can’t remember more than 2 warranty claims ever.

So we knew these bad boys were:

  • Burly
  • Bomb-proof
  • Dependable
  • Durable
  • Enduring

And that’s not all:

  • Firm
  • Hardy
  • Heavy-duty
  • Impenetrable
  • Imperishable

Oh yes, there’s more:

  • Indefatigable
  • Indestructible
  • Long-lasting
  • Persistent
  • Resilient

I promise I’ll stop labouring this point soon:

  • Secure
  • Sound
  • Stable
  • Stout
  • Strong

Ok, just a couple more:

  • Sturdy
  • Substantial

…and just plain old Tough.

But – just in case that list of 23 synonyms hasn’t made it perfectly clear – how tough is tough?

I decided to find out.

With a couple of mates, I set out to destroy a set of Ironmaster Quick-Lock Dumbbells and document it on video:

Verdict: if you’re one of the shadowy figures behind the collapse of WTC Tower 7 – you might get the better of these dumbbells…


For the rest of us though – you’ll be set for life with just one pair.

Now that we’ve established their durability and value for money, let’s talk about why for home gyms, Ironmaster Quick-Lock Dumbbells are functionally superior to anything else on the market.

No more jokes, it’s time to get serious:

What Makes Ironmaster Quick-lock Dumbbells So Much Better Than Other Dumbbells?

I’ll say this as clearly as I can: If you are fitting out a home gym where you want to maximise efficient use of space, versatility of equipment, and value-for-money – then Ironmaster Quick-lock Dumbbells are 99.9% going to be the best solution for you – this year, next year and in 20 years time.

That said, they’re not for everyone.

Ironmaster is a direct-to-consumer brand. Our customers are the people who actually use this equipment, not retailers or gym owners.

The Ironmaster brand is a bit of a secret passed around among people ‘in the know’ – 1 in 3 of our new customers come to us direct from a customer who’s already a true believer in the ‘cult of Ironmaster’

And Here’s Why Ironmaster Quick-lock Dumbbells Are Just Plain Freaking Awesome

Ironmasters are the benchmark example for a high quality plate-loaded adjustable dumbbell set – so I’ll cover each of their stand-out features, and discuss how and why they are so easy to adjust and train with, especially in comparison to spin-lock dumbbells discussed previously:

  • Quiet and Secure – Ironmaster adjustable dumbbells do not rattle at all:
    • The quick-lock pin locks tightly, and stays that way throughout the lift
    • The plates interlock onto each other, which gives an additional amount of security in terms of preventing plate-on-plate movement
    • I tried ’em out at my local library. Result: zero shushes

The local library’s only this sexy in my imagination…

  • Quick, Easy Adjustment – Ironmasters are so easy to adjust because of:
    • Our patented “quick-lock” system, which includes partially-threaded pins
    • They simply need to be inserted and turned 1/4 -1/2 rotation to lock them in place
    • To take them out, you just do the opposite
    • The plates also interlock together, and onto the end of the dumbbell handle so they stay tight every time you use them
    • This makes the plates “stackable,” which makes them easier to handle so you can add or remove multiple plates faster
  • Compact and Scalable in Size – Ironmasters are 6.7”/17cm square for all weights:
    • Only the length of the dumbbells increases as the weight gets higher, so even as you add more plates and the length increases, they are still compact for their weight
    • Ironmaster Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbells length ranges from:
      • ~7 inches in length at 5lbs/2.25kg (just the handle, no weights, no pins)
      • 14.5″ at 75 lbs/34kg
      • 18.5″ at 120 lbs/54.4kg
      • 23.5″ at 165 lbs/74.8kg
    • Compare this to spinlock dumbbells, which are the same length (14-18 inches) at their minimum weight as they are at their maximum weight – Ironmaster dumbbells are functionally closer to fixed dumbbells because their size only increases when the weight goes up
  • Square Plates (Won’t Roll Away) – circular plates roll away on uneven surfaces, and are not suitable for floor exercises that rely on the dumbbell staying in place:
    • Hex dumbbells fix that problem – and so do the square plates that are unique to Ironmaster. In fact, they’re even better
    • Square plates are much more stable than hex plates, and never roll away when doing exercises that involve grabbing the handles while the dumbbells are on the floor, like:
      • Dumbbell Push Ups
      • Renegade Rows
      • Dumbbell Planche Variations
      • Dumbbell V-Sits
      • Dumbbell Plank Rotation
  • Massive Weight Capacity – with the Ironmasters, you are able to stack on more weight than the vast majority of lifters would ever need on a dumbbell – right up to pro bodybuilder, powerlifter or strongman levels:
    • We do this with the use of “add-on” kits that include more weight plates and a longer pin:
    • We also have a 75 lbs/34kg “Quick-Lock Dumbbell Upgrade kit.”
      • Buy this one if you have the 45lbs/20kg Quick-Lock dumbbell set (without the stand) and want to increase it to a max capacity of 75lbs/34kg
      • You don’t need any extra pins because the pins used on the 45lb/20kg set will also work all the way up to 75lb/34kg weight
    • No matter how heavy you go, the only dimension that increases is the dumbbell’s length. The plates stay at the original 6.7″/17cm square size

Easy to keep in the corner, and out of the way

  • Space – the amount of free space you have available in your home gym area is one of the biggest considerations for which type of dumbbell will suit your needs best.
    • The included Ironmaster dumbbell rack/stand can hold:
      • A pair of dumbbells loaded up to 75kg
      • Plus a couple of adjustable kettlebell handles
      • All in 15” x 21”/38cm x 53cm of floorspace.
    • You want to maximise free space so you can work out on the floor and move between exercises with the minimum of hazards and hassles
    • Ideally your equipment should all be close at hand but take up as little floor space as possible
    • Every bit of space counts – and an Ironmaster Quick-lock Adjustable Dumbbell Set takes up less than a quarter of a typical fixed dumbbell rack
    • You can use the saved space to install or store different pieces of equipment that let you do more and different types of movements
    • This is very useful if your gym doubles as a laundry, store room, or secret lodge for your Tuesday night religious cult meetings
  • All-metal Construction With No Hidden Nasties – all our core components are iron & steel – and every part of our dumbbells can be visibly inspected for quality and strength
    • We’ve tested the hell out of these dumbbells and are 100% confident they can withstand almost anything you do with them – once you see them for yourself you will be too
The Neat, Tidy & Compact Wrap-Up

Before I sign off this article – the main thing to remember about Ironmaster Quick-Lock Dumbbells is how they’re designed to be upgraded and expanded over time as part of a system.

Your kit can grow with your ability – start at a reasonable weight and build your way to super-heavy…

For example:

  • you can start with a 5-45lbs/2-20kgs set
  • Then once you have more cash in the future, you can add the upgrade kit taking the weight to 75lbs/34kg, and so on…

Or let’s say you ideally want the Ironmaster Quick-Lock Dumbbells that go up to 120 lbs, but it’s a little out of your budget – you can just get the 75lbs/34kg set first.

Then after you’ve saved some more money, you can buy the 120lbs/54.4kg add-on kit.

With the upgrade potential and multipurpose design built into Ironmaster products, the real value soon becomes clear.

Ironmaster purchase prices might look a little more expensive up-front – but the durability, versatility, scalability and multipurpose features of our products make the lifetime cost of an Ironmaster home gym lower than anything else out there.

Buying like this, your setup grows with your ability, and there’s never a need to get rid of equipment that is still perfectly good just to replace it with the ‘latest and greatest’.

If you’re the kind of person who has ‘shiny object syndrome’ and feels the need to be buying new gear all the time, perhaps that doesn’t sound too exciting.

But if you believe like us, that putting in the hours and effort to be fit and healthy is a lifetime investment – every piece of Ironmaster gear can be bought knowing it will be a high quality and great value item that will serve you well forever.

And if you still have unanswered questions after all of the above, feel free to drop me a line and I will make sure to answer personally and promptly.


James' Signature

James– Founder

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