Best Adjustable Dumbbells for Strength Training at Home – CNET

Adjustable dumbbells have seen a boom in popularity since gyms and fitness classes were shut down at the beginning of the pandemic. Many people turned to at-home workouts to exercise, and adjustable dumbbells were a foolproof way to go. Whether or not you’ve returned to the gym, adjustable dumbbells are still a great option. They can replace multiple sets of dumbbells without taking up a lot of space in your home. 

Given global supply chain issues, many people initially found it difficult to get their adjustable dumbbell shipments in a timely manner. It appears that things are improving on that end — I received these products relatively quickly and was able to test them out. 

Since there are various types of adjustable dumbbells on the market, we carefully reviewed different styles and brands to help guide your shopping. Take a look at our top picks for the best adjustable dumbbells of the year.

Giselle Castro-Sloboda/ CNET

These Bowflex dumbbells are a fan favorite that were hard to come by during the pandemic, and after finally getting my hands on a set, I understood why. They were packed well and easy to set up compared to the others that I had to unbox. Not only were the dumbbells properly secured to the rack with straps, but it was easy to slide them out onto the floor in my living room. Bowflex offers the option to purchase a dumbbell stand and a bench separately, but I decided against it because of lack of space in my home. 

The Bowflex dumbbells are a standard round shape and have a sleek black and red design. They’re made up of steel, nylon, ABS plastic (commonly used in 3D printing) and thermoplastic rubber. These dumbbells replace 15 sets of weights and range from 5 to 52.5 pounds. There are dials on opposite sides of the individual dumbbell, which you have to twist one at a time to change to your desired weight. Logically, I wouldn’t expect to have to turn the dial in two different places (or directions) on a single dumbbell, but the design makes it a seamless process without any of the weight getting snagged.

I liked that these dumbbells have a rubber grip on the steel handle, which made them comfortable to hold for long periods of time. One complaint I’ve heard about the Bowflex adjustable dumbbells is that they’re bulky, making it hard to do certain exercises such as deadlifts and overhead presses. I did find the dumbbells to be oversized, but I noticed that was the pattern with most adjustable dumbbell designs. I didn’t love how bulky it felt to have the weights overhead or for deadlifts, but I didn’t mind them when I did chest presses, bicep curls, lunges or squats. 

A year-long JRNY membership is also included with your purchase if you’d like to take on-demand strength classes to get the most out of your dumbbells. If you’re looking for a reliable, tried-and-true set of adjustable dumbbells, then you’ll like the Bowflex’s style. 

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The latest Nordictrack iSelect Adjustable Dumbbells are unique because they are the only Alexa-powered dumbbells on the market. By connecting to your Alexa device, the iSelect dumbbells allow you to use voice control to change the weight selection. They replace 20 sets of dumbbells and range from 5 to 50 pounds. These are electrically powered so you have to make sure that wherever they’re set up, they’re close to an electrical outlet and within close proximity of an Alexa device to get the best connection. The tray that holds the dumbbells also has a dial that lets you change the weight manually on a digital LCD screen if you don’t want to use the voice control option. 

I liked that these dumbbells are shaped differently than the standard round adjustable dumbbell. The square shape makes it easy to use during floor exercises. When I was using the voice control feature, I found that there was a 6-second lag when changing weights, which doesn’t sound like a long time, but when you’re moving through exercises quickly, it can feel like a lifetime.

Personally, I preferred the alternative option of changing the weight using the digital dial because it was way faster. If you’re into the latest high tech gadgets, then you’ll love all the features on the Nordictrack iSelect Dumbbells. 

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After the Bowflex, the Core adjustable dumbbells had my second favorite packaging. It made sense to me that, upon unboxing these dumbbells, the rack was at the very top. This made it easy to not have to lift the heavy weights first before locating the rack. I also liked that the weight plates are magnetic and can be easily separated before the dumbbell is placed on the rack. These were also the only ones that came with a loose handle that latched onto the base and then the weight plates. 

Core’s dumbbells range between 5 to 50 pounds, and you can change the weight in 5-pound increments. They’re easy to use since you can change the weight with just a twist of the handle, and they had the fastest weight transition for an adjustable dumbbell with a manual design.

Even though these dumbbells are round, I liked the sleek design and found them to be the least bulky of all the adjustable dumbbells I tried. I liked the contoured and soft grip handle which made the dumbbell comfortable to hold and molded perfectly into my hand. I also noticed they didn’t roll around when I placed them on the floor, which made them feel extra secure, and an extra plus since I live on the top floor and didn’t want to disturb my downstairs neighbors.

One thing I didn’t like about these dumbbells was that I would have to hold the rack down when I changed it to a heavier weight. This was because the weights felt stiff and would get stuck as you pulled them out of the rack. This could’ve easily been my own user error, but Core also offers an optional stand for purchase. Based on customer reviews, the stand is sturdy and eliminates the issues I experienced compared to just having the rack alone. Another solution I figured out was to place the rack on a rubber mat — it provided a better grip and made it easier to slide out the dumbbell. 

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The Ativafit 71.5 Adjustable Dumbbells were my runner-up for a couple of other categories, but ultimately I found them to be the most foolproof to use. The dumbbells range from 5 to 71.5 pounds and replace 12 sets of dumbbells. The plastic rack has grooves that latch onto the dumbbells, keeping them secure when not in use. By looking at these you can tell these are high quality dumbbells because of the sturdy iron plates that make up the weights. It also has a nonslip handle with a rubber grip, which helped with my grip when upping the weight. 

My favorite part about these dumbbells is how easy it was to change the weights with just a press of the red button on top of the dumbbell and twist of the dial. This is also the heaviest adjustable dumbbell on the list, making it a good option for heavy lifters and those who have never owned an adjustable dumbbell before. 

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The MX55 Rapid Change Adjustable Dumbbells reminded me of the Core adjustable dumbbells because of the magnetic weight plates that can be easily separated when setting them up. The difference is that MX55 has you assembling the rack itself first. It didn’t take me long to put them together, but it seemed like an unnecessary step in the unboxing process. The hexagon shape of the plates took me a moment to figure out how to set up in the rack as well, because they each have indented slots that they slide into to keep them aligned.

These dumbbells replace 10 sets of dumbbells, ranging from 10 to 55 pounds. They have a small dial on top of each side of the handle as well as a button beneath them. In order to change the weight, you have to press the button underneath first, which prompts the dial to pop up. From there you can turn the dial, select the weight and press the dial back down to lock the weight into place.

These adjustable dumbbells are ideal for doing offset exercises since each of the weight plates weigh only 2.5 pounds. The weight legend on the rack gives a guide on the proper offset settings based on how much weight you want to lift. For example, if you are doing an offset squat that’s 17.5 pounds, all you have to do is adjust one side of the dials to 15 pounds (setting 2) and the other to 20 pounds (setting 3). Keep in mind the purpose of offset exercises is to intentionally load one side more than the other, which will make the dumbbells feel imbalanced. 

I liked that even while holding a dumbbell that was uneven in weight, it was still comfortable to grip and didn’t dig into my palm. If you’re into experimenting with offset exercises or want to focus on strengthening up your muscle imbalances, the MX55 adjustable dumbbells are the right match for you. 

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The Flybird 55 LB adjustable dumbbells are made up of cast-iron weight plates and a black plastic coated handle. They adjust from 11 to 55 pounds and go up or down in 11-pound increments. Personally, I prefer my weights to have 5-pound increments and found that doubling the weight each time was a bit much. 

The dial on these dumbbells was easy to use and just required a single twist to lock in the weight. However, unlike the other adjustable dumbbells I tested, you don’t have the option to choose a weight that’s in-between. I also found 11 pounds as the lightest weight option to be on the heavy side, specifically for newer lifters. 

I’d recommend these if you’re an experienced lifter and know you can handle doubling the weight each time. The round design is similar to other adjustable dumbbells and passed the roll test when I placed it on the ground. In other words, it stayed put and didn’t seem at risk of rolling around. The dumbbells were the right challenge for me when I was doing heavier lifts such as squats and deadlifts. The handle design was my least favorite, however, because I found the plastic to be tough on the hands and think it would have benefited more from a protective rubber covering. 

Other adjustable dumbbells we tested

  • Smrtft Nuobell 80: In a previous adjustable dumbbell roundup, CNET writer Lindsey Boyers named the Smrtft Nuobell 80 the adjustable dumbbell with the best design. I couldn’t get my hands on these dumbbells, but based on the review, they could’ve potentially tied with the Core Adjustable Dumbbells given their sleek look and favorable design. 
  • Powerblock Pro 32: Even though I didn’t get to try these Powerblock sets, I’m familiar with Powerblock and consider them a classic. In CNET’s previous best list, the Pro 32 was named the best adjustable dumbbell for beginners and I would’ve probably chosen it as well, if I’d gotten to formally test it. These are easy to hold thanks to the rubberized ergonomic grip handle and the pin-lock system may be easier for newbies to manage compared to dials on other adjustable dumbbells. 

How we picked

  • Ease of use: We looked at how easy it was to unbox and set up the adjustable dumbbells, as well as how easy it was to put them to use for a workout session. This includes factors like design, grip and mode of adjustment (dial, button, etc.).
  • Materials: We looked at the quality of the materials and if they made the adjustable dumbbells worth the price tag. We also looked at the design and style of the dumbbells. 
  • Comfort: We observed how comfortable it was to hold the dumbbells and how well the handles were designed, especially during a sweaty workout. This makes a difference in the user’s experience and how comfortable it would be to lift heavier weight.
  • Weight range: One of the main reasons to buy adjustable dumbbells is because they replace multiple sets of dumbbells. We looked at whether or not the adjustable dumbbells offered enough of a weight range to make up for these sets of dumbbells.

Adjustable dumbbell FAQS

How much do adjustable dumbbells cost?

Adjustable dumbbells can range anywhere from about $200 to $500 or more depending on the weight range and brand.

What do adjustable dumbbells usually weigh?

Weights on an adjustable dumbbell can range from 5 to 50 pounds (sometimes more). Some might go by kilograms and require you to do a little extra math (multiply by 2.2 to convert to pounds).

How do you use adjustable dumbbells?

Adjustable dumbbells have a manual dial that turns and latches on to the selected weight. Some companies experimenting with more advanced technology may use digital dials or voice control, such as Nordictrack.

What to look for when buying adjustable dumbbells?

The right set of adjustable dumbbells for you will be ones that fall in the range of weights you prefer. Also consider handle comfort, design and cost.

Can you drop adjustable dumbbells?

As with any dumbbells, we don’t recommend dropping adjustable dumbbells. They may pose an injury risk and it may affect their functionality. 

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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