The 3 Best Adjustable Dumbbells of 2023 | Reviews by Wirecutter

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After a new round of testing, we still recommend the quick-adjusting Core Home Fitness Adjustable Dumbbell Set. The rack and pinion MX Select MX55 Rapid Change Adjustable Dumbbells are our new runner-up. Sports Equipment

The 3 Best Adjustable Dumbbells of 2023 | Reviews by Wirecutter

Whether you’re looking to build some muscle or add a new twist to your workout routine, adjustable dumbbells are a more compact (and usually less expensive) alternative to a full rack of traditional weights.

After lifting thousands of pounds and completing hundreds of reps, we recommend Core Home Fitness’s Adjustable Dumbbell Set—which can go up to 50 pounds faster than you can sneeze—as the best set for at-home use.

Some adjustable dumbbells can be loaded in 5-pound increments, others can be dialed in at changes of 2.5 pounds.

Longer dumbbells can make certain exercises more difficult to perform.

Adjustable dumbbells and their cradles are made of various materials; metal generally lasts longer than plastic.

We looked for sets with at least a two-year warranty for parts, which is standard for free weights with moving parts.

These weights have a comfortable grip and adjust in seconds, making them easier to use than the competition.

Lifting weights is not always easy, but the Core Home Fitness Adjustable Dumbbell Set provides a lot of simplicity and can go from 5 to 50 pounds with just a twist of a handle. The weights are also a manageable length, and they get shorter—and therefore more ergonomic to handle—as you reduce the load.

Our complaints about these dumbbells are minor: The weight increments are 5 pounds (rather than the 2.5 pounds found on some others). And like most adjustable dumbbells we tested, the weights require careful alignment to rerack them. The racks sometimes stick when you pick up these weights fully loaded, but the Core Home Fitness model still offers the best, easiest-to-use experience in its price range, making it a great choice for most home gyms.

With a unique adjustment system, these dumbbells offer a solid experience, but they take slightly longer to lock in than our top pick.

The MX Select MX55 Rapid Change Adjustable Dumbbells come with two handles affixed with two permanent plates, starting you off at 10 pounds. Nine additional plates are stored on each side of a cradle, and weight is added to the handles through a distinct process. You press a release button on each side of the handle, which allows you to turn a separate knob on the top of the handle. Choose your desired weight, press down the knob, and lift up the dumbbell for use.

Although this is done fairly quickly, it’s not as fast as adjusting the Core Home Fitness set. But just like with the Core Home Fitness dumbbells, you have to carefully align the handles back into their cradles—the plates have a ridged design that connects like a puzzle piece into the next plate in line.

These sturdy dumbbells allow subtler load adjustments, but their length can make some exercises more difficult, and the weights don’t feel as sturdy as our top pick.

The Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells adjust smoothly from 5 to 52.5 pounds when you turn dials at either end of each weight. With 2.5-pound increments for the first 25 pounds (and 5 pounds thereafter until you get to 52.5 pounds), these Bowflex weights allow for more nuance in training progressions than our top pick. (A 5-pound increase can feel significant, particularly at lower loads, which could be challenging for novice lifters.) However, the 15.75-inch-long bars don’t get shorter as you change weights, making this set a bit harder to handle, especially for smaller-framed people. The long bars also make some exercises difficult.

These weights have a comfortable grip and adjust in seconds, making them easier to use than the competition.

With a unique adjustment system, these dumbbells offer a solid experience, but they take slightly longer to lock in than our top pick.

These sturdy dumbbells allow subtler load adjustments, but their length can make some exercises more difficult, and the weights don’t feel as sturdy as our top pick.

We interviewed experts about the benefits of using adjustable dumbbells in home workouts and involved several testers of various builds and training levels. Brad Schoenfeld, PhD, is a professor of exercise science at Lehman College and author of The M.A.X. Muscle Plan. Pete McCall is a San Diego–based certified strength and conditioning specialist and host of the All About Fitness podcast. (McCall is a consultant for Core Health & Fitness, a sister company of Core Home Fitness.) Nathaniel Jenkins, PhD, is an assistant professor and principal investigator at the University of Iowa’s Integrative Laboratory of Applied Physiology & Lifestyle Medicine.

Fitness staff writer Seth Berkman has covered sports for 18 years and utilized dumbbells in gym and home settings for over two decades. Supervising editor Ingrid Skjong is a National Academy of Sports Medicine–certified personal trainer who has programmed many strength-training plans using dumbbells. Both are longtime New York City residents and have a vested interest in space-saving, versatile exercise equipment.

Lifting weights isn’t some trending social media fitness fad or a hobby reserved for bodybuilders in muscle shirts gulping creatine. Resistance training confers a host of health benefits including protecting joints from injury. The US Department of Health and Human Services’s Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends (PDF) that American adults complete a minimum of two muscle-strengthening sessions per week. Such regular training can pay huge (no pun intended) dividends. “Engaging in one hour of resistance training every week has the ability to lower your risk for metabolic syndrome or even cardiovascular morbidity,” said exercise physiology and nutrition expert Nathaniel Jenkins.

One way to reach those goals is to use free weights such as standard dumbbells or kettlebells. (Resistance bands can also do the trick.) But as you get stronger, you’ll find that you need to add more weight (or resistance) to achieve the maximum benefits. “The only reason the body adapts is because it’s challenged beyond its present capacity,” exercise scientist Brad Schoenfeld told us. “If the weights are too light, you can’t do that.”

If you’re committed to weight training at home, investing in a set of adjustable dumbbells—two handles that each allow you to load them incrementally with weights usually totaling up to 50 pounds or more—can save you money and space. A full set of traditional dumbbells can be prohibitively expensive and require the same amount of storage space as a small bookcase.

Up to 50 pounds per dumbbell may seem like a lot of weight. But even a novice exerciser is usually capable of deadlifting a load equal to their body weight for at least one rep after proper training, so 50 pounds per weight ends up making sense for most people. If you’re an experienced lifter and you would like more than 50 pounds per dumbbell, we have recommendations for you, too.

In evaluating adjustable dumbbells, we prioritized the following:

You can find a variety of mechanisms for setting loads on adjustable dumbbells, and we were mechanism-agnostic when deciding which models to test. The most common types are:

Traditional: You manually slide weight plates, held in place by a threaded screw collar, on or off a bar.

Dial: The dumbbells sit in a cradle, and you turn a dial at one or both ends, engaging or disengaging the plates you need. The ones you don’t want remain in the cradle when you pick the dumbbells up.

Handle-twist: You rotate the handle to collect or disengage the weight plates from the center outward, with the unneeded plates remaining in the cradle when you pick the weights up.

We’ve tested 17 sets of adjustable dumbbells over the years. To test each set, staff writer Seth Berkman and supervising editor Ingrid Skjong worked out with them several times a week, doing a variety of exercises including curls, flies, rows, presses, raises, and deadlifts. We found that 2.5-pound increments were best for working out with lighter total per-dumbbell loads, while 5-pound increments could, depending on the exercise performed, require reducing the number of reps when increasing the per-dumbbell load.

We considered the ergonomics of using each set, particularly in maneuverability during exercises. We took into account the length of each dumbbell at given loads. Longer bars mean that for certain exercises people with smaller frames may need to modify their range of motion, their body positioning, or both. These modifications, though not necessarily harmful, can affect which muscles are engaged and, potentially, the quality of the workout.

Finally, we looked for any safety or durability concerns. We noted the ratio of plastic to metal components and how secure the weights felt in terms of any rattle or movement of the plates, which many models produce to some degree. Most plated adjustable dumbbells run the risk of unselected plates sticking during load selection and potentially falling.

We also considered long-term testing feedback from people who’ve owned sets of adjustable dumbbells, including our picks, for years.

These weights have a comfortable grip and adjust in seconds, making them easier to use than the competition.

The Core Home Fitness Adjustable Dumbbell Set, our pick for four years running, continues to stand out from the competition with a fast and almost seamless workout experience.

They’re easy to adjust. Each dumbbell can be set to the desired weight—between 5 and 50 pounds—in seconds, even simultaneously, with a simple twist of the handles. For the other models we tested, adjustments took anywhere from four to 25 seconds per dumbbell.

They have a shorter length. Fully loaded, these dumbbells are a manageable 14.5 inches long, shorter than nearly all others we tested. When the weight is reduced, so is the dumbbell’s overall length (some models maintain the same bar length no matter how much weight you load them with). Shorter dumbbells mean that people with smaller frames don’t have to modify their range of motion or movement angles in order to avoid colliding the weights together in, say, an overhead military press (video).

They have a comfortable rubber grip. Of all the sets we’ve tried, this one most closely resembles a rack at the gym. A lot of individual dumbbells have metal knurled grips (think thousands of tiny bumps), which provide a more stable grip but can also cause calluses without the use of gloves and sometimes give off a metallic smell. The Core Home Fitness dumbbells have a composite rubber grip, which feels smooth and comfortable.

The weight plates are made of steel and are covered in a composite rubber. The cradle is aluminum and sturdy enough. Using the set three times a week, Seth (who is 5-foot-7) found these dumbbells were the easiest to use, and they contorted well for a variety of exercises that target different muscle groups, whether he was standing, sitting, or lying on a bench.

The company backs its weights with a two-year, parts-only warranty, standard for this category, and the price includes free shipping.

Ingrid purchased a pair of the dumbbells directly from Core Home Fitness in late 2020 and has used them at least twice a week since then with few issues, save for their aforementioned tendency to stick to the cradle. She uses them for goblet squats, single-leg deadlifts, overhead presses, rows, and farmer carries. Ingrid notes that nearly three years later, the adjustment mechanism continues to work without a glitch, and the handle grips still hold up.

Another tester who’s had the Core Home Fitness dumbbells for four years says her set is in fantastic shape with no issues. Cleaning is as simple as an occasional wipe down and vacuuming the cradle every so often. She also notes, though, a 2.5 pound add-on would make the gap between weights a little easier. “For smaller muscle groups (for example triceps) a 5-pound jump can be too much,” she says.

The weight increments are fixed at 5 pounds. For some people (or certain exercises), a 5-pound jump can be a lot. If you prefer dumbbells that you can adjust in 2.5-pound increments, consider our runner-up or also-great pick.

The other small issues are ones that we encountered with most of the sets we tested: When the dumbbells are fully loaded, the cradles tend to stick to the outside of the weights as you pick them up. (Keeping a toe on the cradle or picking the dumbbells up one at a time so you can hold the cradle with your other hand solves that problem.)

The Core Home Fitness dumbbells, like most other models we tested, also have to be aligned carefully for you to rerack them. As is the case for all the adjustable dumbbells we tested, you can’t drop these as you might do with regular free weights: You must put these down with a bit of care.

With a unique adjustment system, these dumbbells offer a solid experience, but they take slightly longer to lock in than our top pick.

The MX Select MX55 Rapid Change Adjustable Dumbbells offer variety and may be particularly appealing to more-serious lifters. Each handle comes preloaded at 10 pounds. You can technically lift in 2.5 pound increments, but not in an ideal method for beginners. For example, you can set a dial on one end of the handle to 25 pounds, while the other dial is at 20 pounds. You are then technically lifting 22.5 pounds, but with one end heavier than the other, which can be a bit unwieldy. However, experienced lifters might enjoy stacking one end with 5 to 10 pounds more weight to specifically train certain muscles using uneven loads.

The plates are made of steel and coated with polyamide nylon, which an MX Select representative said lowers noise and prevents rusting. The cradle, made of powder-coated formed steel, is sturdier than any other set we tested. (The company also sells a dumbbell stand for about $170.) The contoured handle provides a good grip.

Using these dumbbells at least three times a week, Seth noticed the bar felt sturdy and the weight adjustment system was easy to handle, even though it took a few more seconds than the Core Home Fitness Adjustable Dumbbell Set. One minor flaw he noticed was that sometimes when switching between weights on the dial, it got stuck between two numbers (for example, 15 and 20) but it’s easy to readjust, and that only adds a second or two on the process.

You want to make sure the weights stacked in the cradle don’t have any gaps—they should be touching each other to create the maximum snugness when pulling the handle in and out (think of the compactness like placing books on a bookshelf). Like all adjustable dumbbell sets, you don’t want to slam these back into the cradle. And the MX55 dumbbells take more precision than others to set down.

When you order from the company website, free shipping is included to the contiguous states.

These dumbbells come with a two-year limited warranty.

These sturdy dumbbells allow subtler load adjustments, but their length can make some exercises more difficult, and the weights don’t feel as sturdy as our top pick.

The Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells accept adjustments in increments of 2.5 pounds for the first 25 pounds, and 5 pounds after that until you reach 52.5 pounds. You select loads by turning a dial at each end of the dumbbell—we liked that it made a sound, not unlike a bicycle bell, to indicate each new weight level. Doing so takes only six or seven seconds, but that’s more than twice as much time as on our top pick from Core Home Fitness.

Regardless of how much weight you load, the bars remain nearly 16 inches long—longer than our other picks. For testers who are under 5-foot-5 and narrow-shouldered, the length of the Bowflex weights sometimes felt unwieldy and affected body positioning and ranges of motion in some exercises.

As with most adjustable dumbbell sets, the racking cradle can stick when you’re lifting a full load, and you need to have the weights aligned carefully to rerack them. Unlike other models, non-consecutive plates are left in the cradle with certain weight levels (for example, the second, third, and sixth plate), making precision in reinsertion even more important).

Like our top pick, these weights come with a two-year, parts-only warranty. The company also offers extended, parts-only policies and free shipping.

If you’d prefer dumbbells with steel plates and a minimalist style: You might like the Smrtft Nüobell 50-pound set, which has the feel of traditional dumbbells—steel plates (with plastic components), knurled metal handles—and a sleek look. Each dumbbell adjusts in 5-pound increments with a twist of the handle. But these dumbbells typically cost about $200 more than our picks from Core Home Fitness and MX Select.

We didn’t test the Bowflex SelectTech 1090 Dumbbells, which range from 10 to 90 pounds each in 5-pound increments and go for about $800. At a whopping 17.5 inches long—nearly 2 inches longer than the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells—they’d likely affect almost anyone’s range of motion.

You can adjust the Merax Deluxe 55 Pounds Adjustable Dumbbells similarly to our top pick: by twisting their handles. But the set goes from 15 pounds to 55 pounds in significant 10-pound increments (our top pick progresses by 5-pound jumps), so we decided not to test it.

The Mtn Gearsmith Adjustable Dumbbells, with their traditional collar-and-weight-plate design, are very similar to the Yes4All Adjustable Cast Iron Dumbbells we tested but typically cost more (see below). We chose not to retest them.

The NordicTrack iSelect Voice-Controlled Dumbbells are unique in that they can be changed using, yes, voice commands. We previously tested the dumbbells by connecting them to a third-generation Amazon Echo Dot provided by NordicTrack. Though it was responsive to our commands (“Alexa, change the weight to 35 pounds”), we found that the dumbbells were more quickly and easily adjustable by hand (using their manual dials).

PowerBlock adjustable dumbbells are a solid choice, but some people may be deterred by their boxy shape, which past testers described as like “reaching into a toaster.” We’ve tested three different sets of PowerBlock weights over the years, including, most recently, the PowerBlock Elite USA 5-50 Stage 1 Set, which goes from 5 to 50 pounds in increments of 5 pounds, with the ability to increase by 2.5 pounds with a pair of supplemental cylindrical adder weights. You can adjust this set with a two-pronged selector pin attached to an elastic cord. Loads are color coded; the corresponding weights are printed on the top of each dumbbell. The process isn’t difficult, but it can be finicky and is a touch more labor-intensive and time-consuming than a handle-twist or dial mechanism. These dumbbells are more compact than other models, and PowerBlocks are known for their durability. The Elite USA 5-50 Stage 1 Set has a five-year limited warranty—three years longer than those of Core Home Fitness and MX Select. (The company makes it clear that its warranty covers only PowerBlock sets purchased from PowerBlock or an authorized retailer.)

Tempo Core combines traditional adjustable dumbbells with connected workouts. Sets start at about $245 and include 50 pounds of adjustable weights (a variety of stainless steel plates and collars can be purchased separately). The dumbbells can be used for any activity but are intended for use with Tempo’s interactive exercises, which can be accessed for a monthly subscription of about $39. We did not test the Tempo dumbbells.

If you don’t mind taking a longer rest between exercises, consider the Yes4All Adjustable Cast Iron Dumbbells: traditional adjustable dumbbells that use a bar, weight plates, and threaded collars to hold everything together. They do, however, take forever to adjust, since you must remove the collars, load or remove plates, and rescrew the collars, all while doing weight-plate math. The fastest we managed a weight change for one dumbbell was about 25 seconds; this means you’re looking at about a minute of rest between exercises, and you have to resist the very strong temptation to just do your next move using the same amount of weight, which could mean either not enough challenge or a serious struggle. Another quirk is that these bars and the corresponding holes on the weight plates measure 1.15 inches in diameter, making them incompatible with a more-standard 1-inch bar and plates, so you can’t increase the load by using plates from another set.

Amy Roberts contributed to reporting in 2018. This article was edited by Tracy Vence and Kalee Thompson.

Nathaniel Jenkins, PhD, assistant professor and principal investigator at the University of Iowa’s Integrative Laboratory of Applied Physiology & Lifestyle Medicine, phone interview, April 4, 2023

Pete McCall, certified strength and conditioning specialist and host of the All About Fitness podcast, phone interview, April 26, 2018

Brad Schoenfeld, PhD, assistant professor of exercise science at Lehman College and author of The M.A.X. Muscle Plan, phone interview, May 3, 2018

Seth Berkman is a staff writer at Wirecutter, covering fitness. He previously covered sports and health for several years as a freelancer for The New York Times. He is passionate about making fitness reporting accessible to people of all levels, whether they’re serious marathoners or first-time gym-goers. He is the author of A Team of Their Own: How an International Sisterhood Made Olympic History.

Ingrid Skjong is a supervising editor on the appliance team, focusing on the likes of ranges, refrigerators, dryers, and dishwashers. She previously covered fitness for Wirecutter and has been an editor and writer at various lifestyle magazines. She is an avid runner and lives in New York City.

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The 3 Best Adjustable Dumbbells of 2023 | Reviews by Wirecutter

Dumbbell Weight Set Price Wirecutter is the product recommendation service from The New York Times. Our journalists combine independent research with (occasionally) over-the-top testing so you can make quick and confident buying decisions. Whether it’s finding great products or discovering helpful advice, we’ll help you get it right (the first time).