What are the best adjustable dumbbells

The hefty Merax Deluxe 71.5 Pounds Adjustable Dial Dumbbells are a good value for a significant bump in total load: about 20 pounds more weight per dumbbell than either of our picks offer, for a similar price. The single adjustment dial releases with a press of a trigger button for speedy weight selection that’s faster than on the Bowflex set but slower than on the Core Home Fitness pair. But this set comes with a couple of quirks. First, the weight plates are in kilograms, not pounds, which requires some mental gymnastics (2.2 pounds per kilo) if you’re used to US/imperial measurements. Also, turning the dial counterclockwise selects kilogram loads of 5, 10, 15, and so on, while clockwise gets you 7½, 12½, 17½, and so on, yet the dials can spin all the way around in either direction, so you need to pay extra attention while adjusting the loads. Like our runner-up pick, the Merax dumbbells remain a static length (in this case, 16¼ inches—a half inch longer than our runner-up). Still, if you want more weight and don’t mind the learning curve, we found that these dumbbells felt nearly as sturdy in the hand as our picks.

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. (Each dumbbell of the 105-pound set we tested had a 4-pound bar, eight 5-pound plates, two 2½-pound plates, and two 1¼-pound plates.) All told, the fastest we managed a weight change for one dumbbell was about 25 seconds, which means you’re looking at about a minute of rest between exercises, plus resisting 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 weird 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. 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.

We hit a snag while testing the NordicTrack Speed Weights (aka Select-A-Weight). 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. The replacement set indeed seemed sturdier, but the adjustment mechanism—a sliding pin—wasn’t as smooth as the dial and twist types we tried, or as user-friendly, with the weight increments printed somewhat distant from where the pin sat. These dumbbells were also very plasticky and felt bulky in the hand, especially at their 17-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 pick in the previous iteration of this guide, the StairMaster TwistLock Adjustable Dumbbells set is identical to our current top pick from Core Home Fitness (an affiliate of StairMaster’s parent company, Core Health and Fitness). A representative for the company confirmed that it ceased selling these dumbbells under the StairMaster name. If you find this set on a clearance sale, though, it’s worth considering—it’s identical to our top pick save for the logo, and panel testers for a previous version of this guide enjoyed using this pair.

Writer Mark Bixby, who did the first version of this guide in 2016, praised the Ironmaster 45-Pound Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbells for their all-metal construction, limited lifetime warranty, and ability to expand up to 120 pounds per dumbbell. “If you primarily want dumbbells for bodybuilding and/or stand-alone exercises, these are the better buy because they’re more durable and can be bought in heavier configurations,” he wrote. He conceded, though, that they’re much slower to adjust “and will take you about 15 to 20 seconds to fiddle with the screw-in pin lock.” And although the heavier load offering is notable, this set plus an expansion pack represents a significant investment. We weren’t able to try the Ironmaster set in 2018, as it was on backorder for the duration of our testing period.

PowerBlock weights, which have been around since 1993 and are easily the most established line in this category, have a unique square design that allows for a massive range of 5 to 130 pounds per dumbbell. Mark Bixby and panelists previously tested the PowerBlock U-90 (Stage 1 set). Although he praised the expandability, compactness (only 12½ inches long fully loaded to 50 pounds), and lifetime warranty, he ultimately dismissed them because “the weights’ boxiness was just a bit too weird for most of our testers’ tastes.” He continued, “[The] fact that it feels like you’re reaching into a cage to lift the weights made their use a bit clunky.”

Bixby and panelists also tested the Bayou Fitness 50-Pound Adjustable Dumbbells, which give you a metal sliding pin, similar to the NordicTrack set’s plastic-and-metal setup, to make weight adjustments in 10-pound increments. He “struggled with the process, especially when fatigued,” he wrote. “Not only does the pin require some tugging, but once you’ve got it lifted and ready to slide, it’s really hard to control the slide to get the pin in the weight option you want.”

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 560 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 552 set (our runner-up pick) instead. As the SelectTech 560 set costs over $100 more at this writing, we decided not to test this model.

We also didn’t test the Bowflex SelectTech 1090 Dumbbells, which operate similarly to the Merax weights but range from 10 to 90 pounds each, in 5-pound increments. At a whopping 17½ inches long—nearly 2 inches longer than the Bowflex 552 dumbbells—they’d likely affect almost anyone’s range of motion. If you want more weight per dumbbell, the Merax weights are probably more manageable and more affordable.

Bixby previously dismissed the Gold’s Gym Switch Plate 100 set, the XMark 50-pound Adjustable Dumbbells, and the Stamina Versa-Bell II 50-Pound Adjustable Dumbbells because of poor owner reviews and difficult-to-reach customer service. We again chose not to test these models, for the same reasons.