The decision to shun your local gym and start working out at home isn't one that should be taken lightly, but the Men's Health Cast Iron Adjustable Dumbbell is a good place to start. Hence this review.
This set from Men's Health aim to reduce the need for copious floor space further by cleverly cramming a spear of 2.5kg to 25kg into a single dumbbell mechanism. Harnessing a clever spinning collar, the user can quickly and easily change the weight on the move. The same thing is also available in a 40kg version. The weights seem to be exclusive to Argos and are significantly cheaper than market leader Bowflex. At time of writing the prices of the 25kg and 40kg dumbbells were £110 and £150 respectively.
Not only does this allow you to perform multiple different exercises, which can work everything from the shoulders to the glutes, it also aids progression, encouraging a gradual increase of weight over time to build bigger and stronger muscles.
Men's Health Adjustable Dumbbell: what is it?
Essentially, it is a set of weight plates (five on each side of the dumbbell) that are cleverly 'picked up' by a locking mechanism that is controlled by a rotating dial on the collar.
The dumbbell itself comes with a plastic tray, which sits beneath the plates and keeps those not in use nice and organised and ready for use when the handle is replaced and a different weight is selected.
The handle itself weighs 2.5kg and can be used for those exercised that require fewer kilograms. Selecting all of the weight plates sees the mass rocket to an impressive 25kg.
Constructed from cats iron (and a little bit of plastic), the dumbbells feel solid and with an overall package weight of 27kg, you'll probably want some help if you're thinking of lugging them back from the shops alone.
But remember, the list price for these bad boys only includes one dumbbell, so you'll effectively have to double the budget if you want to perform a proper chest press or anything that requires a weight in each hand.
Men's Health Adjustable Dumbbell: what are they like to use?
There are other weights on the market that use a very similar mechanism (the high rated Bowflex Selecttech 1090i Dumbbells being one of them) but the Men's Health offering is definitely one of the most affordable.
That said, it doesn't feel cheap for it and it offers a solid base from which to perform a variety of workouts.
The handle is a little on the skinny side and will feel a bit measly in those hands used to expensive and chunky gym equipment. Plus, like other selectable units we've tried, the Men's Health 'bells don't feel as well-balanced as a traditional dumbbell.
Load the weight up to 25kg and it feels like a complete package, well-balanced and smooth to press. But when the weights are dropped and, as a result, plates left in their little plastic holder, things start to get a bit wayward.
The weight selection process can be a bit fiddly too, with the user required to line up the dumbbell with any plates left in the holder, which tend to wobble around a bit. There's a certain knack to it and it definitely gets easier the more you use them.
Due to the inclusion of a weight selection mechanism, these dumbbells really aren't supposed to be dropped, so are no good for those beefcakes that like to go for a one rep max, fail and then jettison their weights on the floor. They'd likely survive a few drops before something gave way.
It's only a minor quibble, but the dumbbells do clank a bit too, as the weight plates rattle around in their holding mechanism whenever a rep or movement is performed. It's nothing major, but clearly a traditional, solid dumbbell will be much more peaceful for sleeping flatmates et al.
Men's Health Adjustable Dumbbell review: verdict
Costing far less than the selectable dumbbell competition, these Men's Health units represent excellent value for money. The build quality might not be quite up there with those offered by Bowflex, but they remain an excellent addition to any burgeoning home gym.
Not only do they offer a really useable spread of weights for most, they take up minimal space and prove relatively easy to transport between workout locations (if you've got the guns to lug them).
Gym enthusiasts will likely have an issue with the general feel of the things, as they aren't the smoothest or most natural objects to press, curl and lift, but it's easy to work around these issues if needs must.
Although the list price only covers a single dumbbell, purchasing two is still a much cheaper and more space-sensitive option than buying ten sets of bulky dumbbells and the required rack to store them properly.
Men's Health Adjustable Dumbbell review: also consider
If you're in the UK, check out the MuscleSquad 32.5kg Adjustable Dumbbell: it's on par with the Men's Health Adjustable Dumbbell in terms of quality, size and price. the MuscleSquad dumbbell doesn't have the plastic coating on the plates but it's sturdy nevertheless and more importantly, it's also available to buy.
There is also the PowerBlock Sport 2.4 Adjustable Dumbbell which may look like a basic Bowflex rival but as a matter of fact, it's a surprisingly neat way to replace eight standard dumbbells. It's not without flaws but if you want to start a home weights room from scratch and are tight on space and cash, you can't go too far wrong with this peculiar-looking bit of kit.