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Over the course of nearly five months, we lifted thousands of pounds of weight for hundreds of reps in addition to researching the topic, interviewing experts, and comparison-shopping to find the best set of adjustable dumbbells for at-home use. The Core Home Fitness weights, with their speedy adjustments and ergonomic design, are easier to use and more comfortable to hold than the competition.
Each dumbbell in the Core Home Fitness Adjustable Dumbbell Set can go from 5 to 50 pounds per dumbbell in a matter of seconds with just a twist of the handles. And like most adjustable dumbbells we tested, these weights require careful alignment for you to re-rack them, and the racks get hung up when you pick up the weights fully loaded. If our pick is unavailable, or if the ability to adjust the total weight per dumbbell in smaller increments matters to you, these dumbbells are a solid choice for lifting at home.
To learn about the benefits of using adjustable dumbbells in home workouts, we interviewed Brad Schoenfeld , PhD, an assistant professor of exercise science at Lehman College and author of The M. McCall is a consultant for Core Health and Fitness not to be confused with Core Home Fitness, an affiliated company that sells our top pick , the parent company of StairMaster, which currently sells an identical adjustable dumbbell set under that brand name, though only to specialty retailers.
The company plans to cease production under the StairMaster name by the end of the year. I train clients outside of my writing hours and am a personal fan of the at-home workout.
Like many readers of this guide, I have limited space in my apartment in Queens, New York, and so I was particularly curious about this category of space-saving exercise equipment.
For additional testing perspectives, I enlisted NASM-certified personal trainer Phil Schiefer , co-owner of Cosmic Fit Club in Queens, who generously offered his fitness expertise plus gym-floor and home-garage space. Resistance training confers a host of health benefits, from boosting metabolism to improving bone density. One way to achieve that muscle overload is to use free weights such as standard dumbbells or kettlebells.
Resistance bands can also do the trick. Rather than buying a full set of traditional dumbbells, which, depending on what you choose, can be prohibitively expensive and require the same amount of storage space as a small bookcase, getting a set of adjustable dumbbells—two handles that each allow you to load them incrementally with weights totalling up to 50 pounds or more—may make more sense.
To some people, up to 50 pounds per dumbbell may seem like a lot of weight. When selecting which sets of adjustable dumbbells to test, we looked for per-handle loads ranging from 5 or 10 pounds to around 50 pounds, a span that presents enough versatility for most exercisers.
You can find a variety of mechanisms for setting loads on adjustable dumbbells, and we were mechanism-agnostic when deciding which models to test. 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 tray and you turn a dial at one or both ends, engaging or disengaging the plates you need. Handle-twist: You rotate the handle to collect or disengage the weight plates from the center outward, with the unneeded plates remaining in the tray when you pick the weights up.
Slide-pin: You pull up and slide a pin at each end of the dumbbell to add or reduce weight, from the handle out. Any leftover plates remain in the tray. Other: Some sets have proprietary adjustment mechanisms that differ from the above. Read more in The competition. When updating this guide in , we checked on the availability of previous picks and looked for new or updated models that had come out since our last round of testing in We chose to test five sets in total, including a mix of newly released models and former picks.
When evaluating these adjustable dumbbells, we prioritized the following:. To test each set, Phil Schiefer, another personal trainer, and I worked out with them both in a gym where we had enough space to try multiple sets and at home.
We determined the ease and speed of adjusting the weight load, both initially and while transitioning exercises in a circuit format that is, from one exercise to another with little rest between. Longer transition times mean longer periods of rest, which certified strength and conditioning specialist Pete McCall pointed out can affect the quality of a workout—especially if your goal is to improve conditioning, which requires keeping your heart rate up. In the gym, Schiefer and I timed ourselves adjusting the weights while completing the same circuits of exercises with each pair.
This way we could compare adjustment times across sets and see approximately how much that adjustment time affected a workout for two different people. Some adjustable dumbbells get shorter when you reduce the weight. All the models shown here in the same order as the last photo are adjusted to 15 pounds. Photo: Gabrielle Drake. We also considered the ergonomics of using each set, particularly in maneuverability during exercises. We took into account the length of each dumbbell at given loads, which for me, as a 5-foot-5, narrow-framed woman, quickly became an important parameter.
Longer bars meant that for certain exercises I had to modify my range of motion or my body positioning, or both. These modifications, while 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 all but screw-collar models produce to some degree. Speedy, uncomplicated loading and unloading set the Core Home Fitness Adjustable Dumbbell Set apart from the competition.
You can adjust each dumbbell to the desired weight—between 5 and 50 pounds—in just one or two seconds, even simultaneously, with a simple twist of the handles. For the other models we tested, adjustments took anywhere from six to 25 seconds per dumbbell.
The ease of this adjustment mechanism lets you focus completely on your workout rather than having to fuss with your tools. In contrast, most other models, including our runner-up pick, maintain the same bar length no matter how much weight you load them with.
The Core Home Fitness set retails for significantly less than the old StairMaster pair—and along with their superior ease of use, they are now our top pick, over our former recommendation and current runner-up , the Bowflex SelectTech Dumbbells. The company backs its weights with a two-year, parts-only warranty, common for this category. The only real complaint we have concerning the Core Home Fitness dumbbells is that the weight increment is a fixed 5 pounds. For some people or certain exercises , a 5-pound jump can be a lot.
To manage it, the general rule of thumb is that you increase the weight and reduce the number of reps you can complete with good form. The other small issues are ones that we encountered with most of the adjustable dumbbell sets we tested: When the dumbbells are fully loaded, the rack frames tend to stick to the outside of the weights as you pick them up.
Keeping a toe on the frame, or picking the dumbbells up one at a time so you can hold the rack 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 re-rack them—the plates have a V-shaped mold to guide them into place.
In our tests, the plates rattled a bit on the bars, but they felt more secure than those on most other sets we tried. The Bowflex SelectTech set is also larger than our pick. Regardless of how much weight you load, the bars that hold it remain nearly 16 inches long, unlike the more-compact Core Home Fitness dumbbells, which get even shorter as you release weight plates.
The length of the Bowflex weights was a nonissue for the 6-foot-2, broad-shouldered Phil Schiefer, but for me 5-foot-5 and narrow-shouldered , the weights could feel unwieldy and even affected my body positioning and ranges of motion in some exercises.
For example, in a two-handed biceps curl , I had to externally rotate my shoulders to avoid hitting the weights together. The dial adjustments on this set generally operate smoothly, but with two per weight, if you miss an end which can happen with fatigue-addled workout brain , you risk an awkward, uneven load. Bowflex itself warns owners not to drop these dumbbells on any surface. Like our pick, these weights come with a two-year, parts-only warranty. The company also offers extended, parts-only policies.
A Wirecutter staff member who used the Bowflex dumbbells for two years on average two to three times per week praised the weights for their ease of use and durability. His only complaints were those we found in our testing—that the bars were too long for some exercises he has a slim build , and that the weights could stick in the trays sometimes. The hefty Merax Deluxe But this set comes with a couple of quirks. First, the weight plates are in kilograms, not pounds, which requires some mental gymnastics 2.
The Yes4All Adjustable Cast Iron Dumbbells are traditional adjustable dumbbells that use a bar, weight plates, and threaded collars to hold everything together. They take forever to adjust, as you must remove the collars, load or remove plates, and rescrew the collars, all while doing weight-plate math.
Another weird quirk is that these bars and the corresponding holes on the weight plates measure 1. Still, with this model being just more than a third of the cost of our top picks, if more traditional strength training which requires longer rest periods is appealing to you and the total weight load is adequate for your needs, this set may be worth a look as a budget option. One of the dumbbells in the set we received had broken at one end, a potentially dangerous situation in which heavy plates could flop around during use.
A company representative was quick to issue a replacement and requested a return of the broken one, which was a result of a manufacturing problem she assured us had been remedied. These dumbbells were also very plasticky and felt bulky in the hand, especially at their inch fully loaded length. As with our top pick, the weights get shorter as you reduce the weight and longer as you add it.
A representative for the company confirmed that it ceased selling these dumbbells under the StairMaster name. Writer Mark Bixby, who did the first version of this guide in , praised the Ironmaster Pound Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbells for their all-metal construction, limited lifetime warranty, and ability to expand up to pounds per dumbbell.
PowerBlock weights, which have been around since and are easily the most established line in this category, have a unique square design that allows for a massive range of 5 to pounds per dumbbell. The MTN Gearsmith Adjustable Dumbbells , with their traditional collar-and-weight-plate design, are highly similar to the Yes4All weights we tested but cost more. We chose not to retest them. The Bowflex SelectTech Dumbbells , like our runner-up pick , use a dial adjustment mechanism, though these have a built-in accelerometer that tracks reps and total weight lifted and beams the data via Bluetooth to a smartphone app.
The Amazon reviews are middling, with many suggesting that you should buy the SelectTech set our runner-up pick instead. If you want more weight per dumbbell, the Merax weights are probably more manageable and more affordable. We again chose not to test these models, for the same reasons.
Pete McCall, certified strength and conditioning specialist and host of the All About Fitness podcast , phone interview, April 26, Muscle Plan , phone interview, May 3, Our pick. Core Home Fitness Adjustable Dumbbell Set The best adjustable dumbbells The Core Home Fitness weights, with their speedy adjustments and ergonomic design, are easier to use and more comfortable to hold than the competition.
Everything we recommend Our pick. The writer stands mid-row with our pick. The five sets we tested total about pounds of weight. Most rest in racks, which are essential for holding the unneeded plates when the dumbbells are not fully loaded.
Photo: Gabrielle Drake When selecting which sets of adjustable dumbbells to test, we looked for per-handle loads ranging from 5 or 10 pounds to around 50 pounds, a span that presents enough versatility for most exercisers. When evaluating these adjustable dumbbells, we prioritized the following: Speed and ease of adjustment: Being able to load or unload weight quickly and smoothly is important for workout timing and flow, and also for safety.
Overly complicated or annoying adjustments can prompt mistakes in changing the weights say, forgetting or improperly adjusting one end , or can lead you to decide not to adjust as often, leaving too little or too much weight on the bars for your exercises. Overall construction: More metal and fewer plastic components may make for a safer, longer-lasting set. Photo: Gabrielle Drake To test each set, Phil Schiefer, another personal trainer, and I worked out with them both in a gym where we had enough space to try multiple sets and at home.
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells
Over the course of nearly five months, we lifted thousands of pounds of weight for hundreds of reps in addition to researching the topic, interviewing experts, and comparison-shopping to find the best set of adjustable dumbbells for at-home use. The Core Home Fitness weights, with their speedy adjustments and ergonomic design, are easier to use and more comfortable to hold than the competition. Each dumbbell in the Core Home Fitness Adjustable Dumbbell Set can go from 5 to 50 pounds per dumbbell in a matter of seconds with just a twist of the handles. And like most adjustable dumbbells we tested, these weights require careful alignment for you to re-rack them, and the racks get hung up when you pick up the weights fully loaded. If our pick is unavailable, or if the ability to adjust the total weight per dumbbell in smaller increments matters to you, these dumbbells are a solid choice for lifting at home.