The other night, around 4:30 am, I woke up to a single loud beep sounding somewhere inside the one-room house I'm currently occupying. Still partly submerged in that middle-of-the-night stupor, I closed my eyes. A few seconds later, there it was again. The gadgets I keep here are limited; it couldn't be my watch (the battery has been dead for weeks), and it wasn't my phone. There is no microwave here, the oven has no alarm feature, and the fire alarm sleeps more soundly than I do. It blared a third time, and I recognized its provenance: a new set of $450, Bluetooth-enabled, weight-shifting dumbbells made by the connected fitness company Jaxjox.
The DumbbellConnect's promise is twofold. Jaxjox packed 16 dumbbells into a single pair, each incrementally adjusting from 8 pounds to 50, all at the tap of a button. It's an entire rack's worth of weights in a form that'll fit even the most modest home gym. Then there's the connected element — with the Jaxjox app, you can participate in trainer-led sweat sessions and track reps, sets, time, power and total volume. But does all this technology add up to a better workout? Here's everything I've learned while testing.
What We Like
Go from eight to 50, fast.
With the DumbbellConnect, you can take the phrase "at the push of a button" literally. Each dumbbell's base has a + and a - button, and they do exactly what you think they do. Adjusting from one increment to another, 20 to 26 pounds, for example, takes roughly four seconds by my count. Moving from the lightest weight to heaviest — that's eight to 50 — takes approximately six. (By tapping the button quickly, you can move from any weight setting to another without having to wait for the bar to adjust through each increment.)
You can also adjust the weights from your phone if you choose to download the Jaxjox app, which you can also use to change both dumbbells at once (though you have to make sure both are on and paired, which you can do by lifting them and replacing them in the base with the app on).
They're solid and secure.
Something to be said about good old-fashioned analog weights is that if you don't set them up correctly, it's on you, not the weight. If you're like me, then you assume any e-gear will be finicky at some point. My deep dark fear with a connected dumbbell set was that something would give out in the middle of a swing and I'd send one of the three-pound plates through the woodstove. Thankfully, Jaxjox designed its dumbbells to be solid and nearly rattle-free.
So is the base.
The bases are made of plastic and feel light compared to the 50 pounds they hold, but they're surprisingly sturdy. Each one has outer "wings" and ridges to help you guide the dumbbell into place, and there are eight rubberized feet that prevent them from sliding around on the floor.
The app's workout library is stocked.
If you do pony up for the premium edition of the Jaxjox app — it's $12.99 per month — there's a healthy number of classes to keep you occupied. You can filter through them based on the piece of gear you have or sort by what muscle group you want to hit, class duration, the instructor or your experience level. There are also handy "skills" lessons, so if you don't know how to do a DB halo, for instance, you can learn.
They leave room to upgrade.
All of Jaxjox's equipment (there's also an adjustable kettlebell, a foam roller and a push-up trainer) integrates into a complete system that the app encompasses. The company recently revealed its all-in-one InteractiveStudio ($2,199), which features a big screen for immersive workouts. It comes with a set of the dumbbells along with everything else the company makes, but if you already have a pair, you can upgrade for a lower price to get the pieces you're missing.
Watch Out For
Digital products have digital issues.
I didn't have the plug-and-pump experience that Jaxjox promises the DumbbellConnect provides, and neither did another tester. I couldn't get the dumbbells to activate in their bases, and none of the troubleshooting methods the manual mentions aided me. I finally got them to beep when I put them in the bases while they were plugged in and haven't had that issue since. Our other tester couldn't initially get the dumbbells to pair at the same time, though he has also had no issues since.
Eventually, you have to plug them in.
The supplied charging cord is a USB-C to USB-A style cord, and it doesn't come with a standard plug end, so you do have to have access to a USB port near where you plan to store the weights, or you have to move the bases anytime you want to charge them. Or, you could buy a USB-equipped power strip for your home gym.
Don't slam your weights.
As mentioned before, the dumbbell base is sturdy but made of plastic. In a gym, slamming your weights on the ground is bad etiquette, but here it could bust your setup. That said, the base encourages finesse because you have to line up the handles with the plates that are still there (unless you're curling 50), to properly re-settle them in the cradle — which from what I can tell is also part of how the app tracks your workout.
The same is true of lifting the weights off the base — I occasionally noticed that one end would stick to the leftover plates if I didn't lift it vertically. You get the hang of it, but it's something to be aware of nonetheless.
The app could use a bug zapper.
The app's user experience is good, but it isn't without some notable bugs. Tapping into some workouts, I wound up on an error screen. With no back button in sight, the only way to return to the class hub was to swipe the app closed and restart it. Additionally, while scrolling and filtering through classes, the app would occasionally boot me back to my phone's home screen and force me to start my search all over again. There are also no live streaming workouts with virtual classmates, for those who draw motivation from those kinds of things.
They might wake you up in the middle of the night.
As of this writing, my DumbbellConnect only turned nocturnal once.
Jaxjox's digitally-jacked DumbbellConnect makes for a stealthy-sleek set of adjustable dumbbells that are easy to adjust and won't take up much space in your home. The Bluetooth-enabled features aren't perfect, but the weights function well without your phone, meaning if you are veteran lifter with your own plan, you can get a killer workout without ever looking at a screen. The associated app provides a comprehensive extra layer to your routine of curls and presses, but it costs extra and isn't free of bugs either. Hopefully, Jaxjox can iron out these software issues in due time.