In the last few years, we’ve seen the fitness scene change almost entirely. With gyms off-limits for most people, everyone has shifted hard to home workouts. But most people just don’t have the space (or budget) for a full-sized weight rack.
But there is a solution. Adjustable weights were already a popular thing in certain circles, but in the past 12 months, sales have just keep going up and up.
What held most people back? Adjustable weights like this have traditionally been expensive, but brands are seeing the gap in the market, and meeting it with smart, surprisingly budget products.
Enter the Musclesquad 12 in 1 Adjustable Dumbbell
Unlike a lot of adjustable weights, it’s obvious what these are, even to absolute fitness newbies. Sat on their base plates, it’s clear that what you’re buying is a pair of big, weighty dumbbells.
Sitting at the mid-point of Musclesquad’s adjustable dumbbell range, these 12 in 1, 32kg weight dumbbells have a whole lot going for them, including:
Dependable build quality
First impressions count, and at that all-important first glance, the Musclesquad dumbbells certainly seem like an impressive piece of kit.
Each dumbbell (we’re reviewing the paired set) looks almost the same as a traditional spinlock dumbbell, with a large central handle, and circular weight plates at either end. The first big difference is the locking mechanism, which is a big, circular dial on one end, sitting in the middle of the plates and resembling an old-style safe. This, in our opinion, is a great design choice.
It’s self-contained and easy to understand, which is massive. You could show these to someone and they’d innately know how to adjust the weights without it having to be explained, and it means there’s no real way to get it wrong. The dial is well built, clicking from setting to setting with a minimal wobble, and we’re not going to lie, feels like you’re a safecracker in a 1920s gangster flick. Every single time.
The handle is solidly built, with no flex even when it’s loaded. Importantly, it’s also really grippy and comfortable, with a lot of rubber padding. The weights themselves are chromed steel, tough and resilient, though you still shouldn’t leave this outside and exposed to the elements, as the locking mechanism isn’t weatherproof.
Finally, the whole thing sits on its own, self-contained base, keeping everything in line and safe between workouts.
Ease of use
So you’ve got these out of the box, they’re sitting on the base looking pretty. How do you use them?
Musclesquad’s adjustable dumbbell is incredibly simple to use. On top of each handle is a small red button. Pressing this unlocks the large weight adjustment dial set onto one end of the handle. While holding the lock button, you twist the dial to your required weight, and you’re ready to go.
That’s literally it. It’s honestly refreshing how simple these are to use. There’s no weight pins, no messing around with half weights as some brands use. Just push a button and spin the dial, and you’re good to go in seconds. This by itself will shave minutes off of your workouts, if you’re still using old spinlock style weights.
Another big draw is how little space these things take up. Each dumbbell takes up less than a square foot of floor space. They’re roughly sized and shaped like a shoebox, standing on its side. Taken as a pair, that means you can easily tuck these away when you’re not using them, and they’ll happily fit anywhere, whether that’s your home gym, on the rack in the garage, or in the corner of a cramped student apartment.
It is worth pointing out that these dumbbells, like most adjustable dumbbells, are designed for smooth, even ranges of motion. They’re not recommended for exercises like snatches and cleans, which could, over time, cause damage to the locking mechanism. If that’s something you’re looking for, you’re better off buying a set of solid, non-adjustable dumbbells.
A big range of weight
One of the biggest draws of an adjustable dumbbell is how simple it is to change the weight. This means it’s incredibly important to have a good range of weights to shift between.
The Musclesquad 32 kg dumbbell delivers here, with 12 different weight variations, moving from 5kg on the bare grip up to a very decent 32kg. Weight increments jump in 2.5kg steps, which gives you a massive amount of variance.
It’s also nice to see that Musclesquad have more than one option for adjustable dumbbells. Their full range has 4 different options, from the baby 12.5kg (27lbs, still more than enough for a lot of home workouts) up to a beefy 40kg (88lbs.)
As much as we’d all like to have our dream home gym, no one has an infinite budget, and the price is always a factor.
This is why it’s nice to see a product like this coming in a little cheaper than you might expect. A pair of these currently cost around the same as a single adjustable dumbbell from some brands, which is a frankly ridiculous saving.
The smaller dumbbells in the range are even cheaper, and Musclesquad also offers the option to buy single dumbbells, if that’s what you’re looking for.
Downsides to the Musclesquad adjustable dumbbell
Sound and security
While the Musclesquad dumbbell feels solidly built and should last a long time if you don’t throw the weights around or hit the adjusting lock, there are a couple of small niggles, especially compared to other adjustable weights.
First off, if there aren’t many weights on the grip, it can be surprisingly difficult to rerack the weights. Our guess is that this is because the weights are circular, so don’t sit completely flat on the base, and need a little bit of wiggling to seat the bar correctly.
While this isn’t a major thing, it can be irritating, especially if you’re getting to the end of a workout and your arms are starting to shake.
Second, there’s a surprising amount of play in the weights when they’re locked in place. The plates move as you swing the weights around, and you can actually hear them clink as they shift slightly.
Again, everything about the Musclesquad adjustable dumbbell feels solid and secure, so we wouldn’t be concerned about lock failure and a plate falling on your head, but it’s a little bit disconcerting when you’re moving a lot of weight.
No room for expansion
Our second small issue with the Musclesquad dumbbell system is that once you’ve paid your money and got it out of the box, that’s the set.
A lot of the competition, like the Powerblock, sell expansion kits that can take your existing dumbbell up a few kg. These don’t have that option, so make sure you’re buying a weight that’s sufficiently heavy for you both now, and that matches future strength gains.
If you haven’t noticed, we’ve fallen in love with the Musclesquad adjustable dumbbells. They’re smartly made, great to use, and really damn cheap when you measure them up against the competition.
Sure, there’s a little bit of movement in the weights and they’re not recommended for powerlifting style workouts, but for 95% of home exercise plans, these are one of the best ways to equip your home gym with a huge amount of dumbbell weight, without having to clear space for an entire rack.