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Which adjustable dumbbells come out on top?

Bowflex and Core Home Fitness are worthy options, but we found one clear winner.

The Bowflex adjustable dumbbells and the Core Home Fitness dumbbells side by side. Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

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Adjustable dumbbells may seem similar at first glance. After all, they’re hand weights that let you add and subtract plates to adjust the heaviness—how different can they really be? But after testing seven popular pairs, I found a few key differences that can make or break a workout with adjustable dumbbells.

The Bowflex SelectTech 552 dumbbells emerged as our favorite pair of adjustable dumbbells, with the Core Home Fitness adjustable dumbbells coming in a close second. Here's how they stack up against each other.

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What are adjustable dumbbells?

Core Home Fitness adjustable dumbbells.
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Adjustable dumbbells are huge space savers.

Adjustable dumbbells give you 10 to 15 pairs of weights in one set, with each dumbbell ranging from about 5 pounds on up—we tested sets that maxed at 50 pounds. They typically have four or more weight plates on the ends of their handles, which you can load or unload from an accompanying tray either by changing a pin, rotating a dial, or twisting the handle (or some combo thereof).

Adjustable dumbbells are great for saving space and money. Instead of finding room for a full weight rack, you only need 2 or 3 square feet of space for one pair. They’re an investment—both Bowflex's and Core Home Fitness's retail around $400—but they cost far less than buying 10 or 15 pairs of weights.

The Bowflex dumbbells range from 5 to 52.5 pounds each. They have a lightweight handle with a grippy rubber coating, and a rounded weight plate design that’s slightly longer than some other pairs we’ve tested. The Core Home Fitness dumbbells range from 5 to 50 pounds and have more basic-looking plates. These two pairs seem similar, but there are a few key differences in their designs. Let’s get into it.

Which pair is more versatile?

Bowflex adjustable dumbbells.
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Smaller weight increments are better when it comes to adjustable dumbbells.

When it comes to adjusting weight, smaller increments are generally the better. This allows you to fine-tune your loads for each exercise and increase them more gradually as you get stronger. The Core Home Fitness dumbbells range from 5 to 50 pounds, and increase in increments of 5 pounds—this is typical for adjustable dumbbells, and you can perform a variety of exercises comfortably with this pair.

On the other hand, the Bowflex dumbbells range from 5 to 52.5 pounds and increase in increments of 2.5 pounds up until they hit 25 pounds and increase by 5 pounds from there. Having these smaller weight changes allows more nuance, making increases more comfortable than, say, jumping from 15 to 20 pounds. It potentially helps you avoid any injuries from straining yourself, and is particularly helpful for those newer to lifting weights who may feel like a 2.5-pound increase is plenty challenging.

Our pick: Bowflex
Get the Bowflex SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbells for $399

Which pair is more comfortable to handle?

Core Home Fitness adjustable dumbbells.
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Comfort is key during workouts.

The Bowflex dumbbells felt nice to pick up and use. The handle is lightweight and comfortable to hold, and these dumbbells held up well throughout my workout, with no stickiness or slipperiness of the rubber grips. The Bowflex dumbbells are longer than other adjustable dumbbells because the rod that holds the plates is a fixed length and there’s a slight gap between each plate. Using them may feel awkward or uncomfortable for smaller-framed people in certain movements. I got used to handling their size quickly and didn’t mind the extra length, but it’s something to note.

The Core Home Fitness dumbbells have a metal pole that extends from within to latch onto the weight plates, which makes them shorter at their full length than the Bowflexes, and even shorter if you use them at lighter weights when the end plates are left in the tray. They feel sturdy and I never feared I might drop a weight plate on myself (a secret concern of mine during the testing process). The compact size and shape of these dumbbells made them one of the most comfortable pairs I tested. That said, the rubbery coating on the handle felt tacky by the end of my workout.

Our pick: Bowflex
Get the Bowflex SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbells for $399

Which pair is easier to adjust?

Core Home Fitness dumbbells.
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Adjustability is a key component we evaluated during testing.

It should be straightforward to change the weights on adjustable dumbbells and easy to replace them in their tray. It was simple to change the weight on the Core Home Fitness dumbbells—twisting the handle one way increases the weight, and twisting it the other decreases it. But it isn’t a flawless system. I found the dumbbell's rod had a tendency to get stuck while trying to change weights and needed some finagling to get it to lock into place. Additionally, the plates aren’t held very securely in their tray, and they often fell over or knocked against each other while I replaced the dumbbells.

The Bowflex dumbbells, on the other hand, never needed any coaxing into their trays, thanks to the small amount of space between each plate and the near-perfect fit of the slots for the weights in the tray. In my experience, it was always a smooth transition from one load to the next. However, it takes slightly longer to change the weights with this pair, as you must turn a knob on either end of the dumbbell so you get a balance of plates on the rod. (Most adjustable dumbbells with a dial system have just one knob per weight.)

If everything goes as planned, it takes less time to change the loaded weight on the Core Home Fitness dumbbells. But if the plates get stuck, it wastes any time you gained over the more involved but more fluid Bowflex adjustment. I also didn’t mind changing both knobs on the Bowflex dumbbells and much preferred the ease of replacing them in the trays. But a Reviewed coworker commented on the odd, time-consuming method and said it would annoy them. When it comes to ease of use, part of it is just personal preference.

Our pick: It’s a tie
Get the Bowflex SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbells for $399
Get the Core Home Fitness adjustable dumbbells from Amazon for $394.99

And the winner is…

Bowflex SelectTech adjustable dumbbells.
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Bowflex SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbells are our favorite.

Each pair has their positives and negatives, but for us, the Bowflex SelectTech 552 dumbbells are the clear winner. These dumbbells have more weight variety than the Core Home Fitness pair and are more comfortable to use throughout workouts. If you’re looking for a pair of adjustable dumbbells that you’ll look forward to using, you'll be happy with either, but you can’t beat Bowflex.

Get the Bowflex SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbells for $399

Get the Core Home Fitness adjustable dumbbells for $394.99

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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