Pepin Dumbbells have become some of the most popular adjustable dumbbells for home gym owners.
This relatively young Canadian company has built a high-quality dumbbell handle system that can be loaded heavy for strength training.
With more aggressive knurling, a thicker handle, and a few other features that I’ll discuss in this review, the Pepin Dumbbells are a great option for your home gym.
However, as with all adjustable dumbbells, there are some tradeoffs, including loading spin, plate size, etc…
Are these the best dumbbells out there?
Because Pepin has iterated this system numerous times based on consumer feedback, I think it makes a strong argument for some people.
If nothing else, it’s certainly picking up traction in the home gym community. With their release of the Fast Series Adjustable Dumbbells, it also seems like Pepin is committed to the space.
This review will break down everything you need to know about the Pepin Dumbbells. I’ll detail the things I like, the things I don’t like, and I’ll compare them to other popular models.
By the end, you should be able to tell if they’re right for you.
Let’s dig in.
The Pepin Adjustable Dumbbells are built around a handle system, not unlike some other adjustable dumbells, including the popular Ironmaster Quick-Lock series.
With a thicker handle, a more substantial knurling pattern, and a scalable weight capacity of up to 145lbs, this system will appeal to serious lifters looking to pack on muscle.
The Pepin Dumbbells have a cored handle that accepts threaded caps to keep the plates securely positioned. Depending on your weight requirements, there are several screw sizes to choose from (more on this below).
Price-wise, these dumbbells are competitive with other high-end adjustable dumbbells. That said, they’re still an investment that I wouldn’t consider a budget option.
Because they use standard 1″ plates, however, there may be opportunities to save money by just purchasing the handle and screws.
Pepin also offers two different adjustable dumbbells based on your budget and preferences: the Pro Series and the HD Series. I’m reviewing the HD Series, which is the more premium offering.
Let’s have a look at the specs of the Pepin Dumbbells, and then we’ll jump into the review:
Handle Diameter: 37mm or 49mm (HD); 34.5mm or 50.8mm (Pro)
Handle Finish: Nickel or E-Coat
Knurling Style: Volcano/Semi-Aggressive
Max Capacity: 145lbs (HD); 120lbs (Pro)
Plate Size: 1″ Standard Diameter
Plate Finish: Powder Coat
Warranty: Lifetime on functional and structural components + 1-year on coating/paint
Made in: Canada
Handles & Knurling
In my opinion, the handles are one of the best features of the Pepin Dumbbells. Unlike most other adjustable dumbbells, the Pepins have a thick 37mm diameter. They feel excellent in the hand, and they’re very comfortable for pressing movements, where thicker diameters are preferred by many.
This thicker handle is also great for building a stronger grip and bigger forearms, biceps, and triceps. Thick grip training is often made possible through accessories like Fat Gripz, but with the Pepin Dumbbells, you get that benefit without the need for add-ons.
If you want to take your grip training even further, you can add Fat Gripz to these with a perfect fit since the handles are 5″ long. You can also purchase separate handles from Pepin with a 49mm diameter. These are not for the faint of heart, and I would recommend them for advanced lifters with specific goals.
As much as I love the thicker handles, they won’t appeal to everyone. Female lifters or anyone with smaller hands may find them to be a little too thick. The Pro Series Pepin Dumbbells have a smaller diameter of 34.5mm. If that’s still too thick, you may opt for something like the Ironmaster Dumbbells with a 31.75mm diameter.
The knurling on these handles is outstanding. I would go so far as to say it’s the best knurling I’ve felt on adjustable dumbells – possibly on any dumbbell. The knurling has a noticeable volcano pattern, and it creates a slightly aggressive feel that I wouldn’t consider passive at all. The consistency is excellent throughout, with no areas of double-tracking or feathering.
Pepin also provides customers with finish options, including nickel or e-coat. Both will offer good corrosion protection and a solid overall texture in the hand.
📝 Product Suggestion
I would love to see Pepin offer a 32mm or less handle option for lifters who prefer a thinner diameter. I would also recommend a stainless option for superior oxidation protection and texture.
Plates & Weight Capacity
Pepin Dumbbells use two threaded screws to secure plates onto the handle. These screws are threaded directly into the hollowed handle, with rubber gaskets on the inner edges (also on the handle) to protect your plates’ finish. Currently, Pepin offers three screw lengths based on your desired weight:
- Short – Up to 50lbs per handle
- Medium – Up to 90lbs per handle
- Long – Up to 145lbs per handle
Changing plates is a fairly straightforward process, but it’s also the biggest downside to Pepin Dumbbells. Simply put, it’s more time-consuming, which also goes for any other similar-style adjustable dumbbell. If you’re looking for quick-changing dumbbells for supersets, training multiple athletes, etc… I would not recommend the Pepins for most people.
To speed up the loading process, I recommend the following steps:
- Place a screw face-down on a flat surface
- Load the desired number of plates onto the screw
- Place the handle onto the screw and spin until secure
- Place the plates for the other side on top of the handle
- Screw in the remaining end cap
On the end of the screws, there are two oversized end caps that I like for two reasons: The first is that they feel much better on the legs when setting up for certain movements (e.g. presses). The wider surface area is more comfortable and stable. The second is that the end cap includes six cutouts to help in initially securing the screws onto the handle.
In terms of the plates, Pepin Dumbbells use standard 1″ plates. If you own 1″ plates already, you can use those without issue. If you don’t, you can purchase some from Pepin separately or as a part of the whole system. A potential downside compared to something like loadable dumbbell handles is that Olympic sized plates will not fit. The Pepin plates are calibrated for accuracy and finished in a very nice-looking powder coat.
Something to consider with these plates is that the overall weight capacity referenced above is based on Pepin’s plate specs. If you’re using your own 1″ plates, capacity could be different depending on the thickness of the plates.
With Pepin’s plates, you can make jumps in increments as small as 5lbs and up to 20lbs, but keep in mind that you won’t have standard increments of 5lbs, 10lbs, etc… in total weight. That’s because the base weight is odd and different based on thread selection. For example, the base weight using the medium threads is 7.8lbs, and with the short threads, it’s 6.3lbs. In the case of the medium threads, your weight jumps would look like this: 7.8lbs, 12.8lbs, 17.8lbs, 22.8lbs, etc…
Can You Drop Pepin Dumbbells?
Yes, you can drop Pepin Dumbbells, but I don’t recommend it.
A common concern with adjustable dumbbells is whether or not you can drop them. This is a concern of a broader subject of adjustable dumbbell security and durability.
My recommendation for not dropping Pepins is twofold:
Firstly, durability. I think it’s perfectly ok to occasionally drop the dumbbells responsibly. This means dropping them after a heavy bench set from a couple of feet off the floor. I do not recommend, under any circumstances, dropping these from overhead. I also don’t recommend getting into the habit of dropping them, regardless of height. Even if it takes thousands of drops, repetitive dropping can eventually lead to breakage or failure.
Considering Pepin Dumbbells use threaded screws, there are some inherent fail points even though they’re heavy-duty.
Secondly, security. Again, because these dumbbells use threaded screws, they are prone to loosening. I’ll share tips below to reduce this, but no matter what steps are taken, dropping these will lead to the screws possibly loosening.
Thankfully, there are several threads to get through before the screws are totally free, so it’s not much of a safety concern in the sense of plates falling off. It may, however, create some slop in the plates, which is more of an annoyance than anything. Re-tightening after every set is a good practice to avoid these issues – especially if you drop them (responsibly!)
As far as making sure the Pepin Dumbbells are as tight as they can be, I recommend following these tips:
- Create initial tightness with the end caps ONLY
- Once the end caps are touching the plates, you need to create additional tightness. Do this by laying the dumbbell on a flat surface and gripping the plates. Now, push your right hand forward as if you’re trying to roll the dumbbell away from you while simultaneously pulling your left hand toward you as if you’re trying to bring the dumbbell into you. This will ensure a very snug fit that will result in no plate slop
I tip my cap to Pepin in the aesthetics department. These are some sleek-looking dumbbells.
Starting with the handle, both the nickel and the e-coat look great. The all-black look with the e-coat is especially beautiful, but it may be more prone to cosmetic issues down the road. If that’s a concern for you, I’d opt for the nickel.
I’m a big fan of the gear design on the end caps. It looks refined, and it also serves a functional purpose by helping to create that initial tightness. I also love the laser-etching and reflective surface. It’s a very clean look, and it’s a huge improvement over the stickers that Pepin used in earlier versions.
Lastly, I think Pepin did a nice job with the plates. The powder coating is well-applied, and the etching makes it easy to identify weight. If there’s any negative here, it’s that powder coating will show imperfections over time.
Pepin currently doesn’t have user reviews on their website. Hopefully, this feature will be available soon. If it is, I will update this section with feedback.
Pepin Dumbbells vs. Ironmaster Quick-Lock Dumbbells
This is the comparison that most people are probably interested in, considering these dumbbells take a similar approach.
Both the Pepins and the Ironmasters use a handle system with a threaded spin mechanism to secure the plates. The main difference between this screw system is Ironmaster has an actual locking mechanism, which eliminates the possibility of loosening. Because of that, Ironmasters are better suited for dropping, and they have a long history of success with that.
The handles on these dumbbells are different in size and feel. I find the Pepin handles to be superior in terms of texture and diameter. I love that Pepin provides three handle diameter options between the Pro and HD versions. Compare this to Ironmaster, which only provides one. That said, smaller-handed lifters may prefer the ironmaster diameter, which is thinner than all three that Pepin provides.
A noticeable difference between these two systems is that Pepin uses round 1″ plates and Ironmaster uses square plates. If you already own standard 1″ plates, you can save money with the Pepin setup. Aside from that, Pepins have a more traditional look than Ironmaster, but Ironmaster prevents your dumbbells from ever rolling around the gym. For example, this may be beneficial if you have a sloped garage floor.
On weight capacity, both options are great for heavy lifters. Ironmasters can be loaded up to 165lbs with various add-on kits, while the HD series from Pepin can go up to 145lbs with no add-ons. The Pepin Pro series can accommodate up to 120lbs.
In terms of price, Ironmaster sits in between the Pepin Pro Dumbbells and HD Dumbbells. As of this review, you can purchase the 120lb Pro series for less than the 75lb Ironmasters. The 75lb HD series, however, is slightly more expensive than the Ironmaster. It’s also important to consider that Ironmasters come with a stand, but Pepins do not. There is a very nice Pepin stand available, or you can purchase something less expensive like this one from Titan.
Ultimately, Ironmasters and Pepins are excellent adjustable dumbbell options. Both can be loaded heavy, and they both offer a more traditional dumbbell feel compared to other adjustable dumbbells. Ironmaster has a longer track record, can be loaded heavier, includes a stand, offers a more secure locking mechanism, and is less expensive overall. Pepin has better handles, better knurling, and a cleaner aesthetic.
Pepin Dumbbells vs. Powerblock Dumbbells
Powerblocks are another very popular adjustable dumbbell, but with a very different system compared to Pepin.
Powerblocks are very unique dumbbells. Their boxy shape creates a much different look and feel compared to more traditional dumbbells like Pepins. Where Powrblocks shine is in how quickly they can be adjusted. Using a pin selector, Powerblocks can be changed in seconds – much quicker than Pepins.
Powerblocks are available in several styles, including the Pro, Sport, and Elite series. Each of these are available up to 90lbs, which is quite a bit less than the 145lb max weight of the Pepins. That said, Powerblock has a Commercial Pro Series, which is expandable up to a whopping 175lbs.
The handles on the Powerblocks are also very unique. Not only do they sit recessed into the dumbbell, but they’re also contoured and rubber-coated. The Commercial Pro Series does include steel handles, or you can buy third-party steel handle upgrades for their other consumer models. Either way, Pepin is again much more traditional in the handle department.
While I don’t recommend dropping Pepin Dumbbells much, I don’t recommend dropping Powerblocks at all. They’re durable dumbbells, but they aren’t made for dropping.
Powerblocks can range from around $500 to $800 for their consumer line and up to $2,400 for their commercial offering. This puts the Pepins above Powerblocks on overall pricing.
If you’re trying to select between these two systems, I would first ask yourself how important speed is to you. If speed is a top factor, I would recommend the Powerblocks over Pepins. Otherwise, and if your budget supports it, I would recommend Pepins for most lifters looking to build strength.
- Excellent handle construction with multiple diameters
- Knurling is outstanding for dumbbells
- Scalable up to 145lbs
- Nickel and e-coat finish options
- If you own 1″ plates, you can save serious money
- Beautiful aesthetic
- Slower loading speed than some other adjustable dumbbells
- Can be more expensive than some competitors
- Plates may loosen if not properly tightened
Overall, Pepin Dumbbells are great adjustable dumbbells for your home gym. If you’re a heavy lifter, you’ll appreciate a max capacity of 145lbs and a semi-aggressive knurl. The thicker grip diameter is also great if you want to grow bigger arms.
I do wish the Pepins offered a complete locking mechanism like the Ironmasters, but they’re very secure dumbbells when tightened properly.
Adjustable dumbbells are all about tradeoffs. In the Pepins, you get some great qualities (max load, knurling, etc…) at the expense of at least one other (speed).
I do recommend the Pepin Dumbbells, especially if you have the budget and are looking for a truly traditional look-and-feel adjustable dumbbell option.
If you have any questions about these dumbbells or adjustable dumbbells in general, please leave a comment below. Likewise, if you own the Pepin Dumbbells and you want to chime in with your own thoughts, please do so!
The bar is loaded,