They may not be the flashiest piece of equipment in the gym, but dumbbells are an important part of strength training. They are the ultimate tool for versatility and allow you to train unilateral movements extremely effectively.
Dumbbells allow you to iron out imbalances, target specific muscles and muscle groups, and keep the body working together as a unit. They can help you maximize the benefits of exercises like squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, rows, and more.
Working out at home may have always been your dream… or maybe it’s new territory. Regardless of which camp you belong to, working out effectively at home can present some challenges. One of them may be the lack of equipment. The key to this will be purchasing a few integral pieces, like a dumbbell set, that will allow you to take your home workouts from drab to fabulous.
If you’re looking for a new set of dumbbells or even buying a pair of dumbbells for the first time, this blog post is for you. To help you determine the best dumbbells for your home gym, we’ve collected and analyzed reviews from specialist journals and online fitness portals.
Why your home gym should have dumbbells
Dumbbells are considered free weights, meaning they’re not attached to any other fitness equipment and can be picked up and moved around. They are a great workout tool for almost anyone – whether you’re a beginner or an experienced weightlifter – because you can easily determine the weight that’s most comfortable for you.
Dumbbells are very versatile strength training equipment. With a range of weights, dumbbells allow you to perform the big lifts (like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses) as well as classic movements like biceps curls. Dumbbells are also great for unilateral (single-side) exercises like split squats, single-leg Romanian deadlifts, single-arm overhead presses and back exercises.
How to choose the best dumbbells for your home gym
Dumbbells are something you should definitely have in your workout kit. Invest in a top-notch selection of weights and you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve with some help from a few online workout plans and a dollop of dedication.
As with many things in life, the humble dumbbell comes in a confusing array of shapes, sizes, weights and mechanisms, so choosing the right one for you is important. Here are a few things to think about when choosing a set of dumbbells for your home gym.
How much are you willing to spend? Budget is a huge factor in every home gym buying decision. In fact, it’s usually the starting point for most people. Looking at your budget, determine if a single set of adjustable dumbbells will best suit your needs, or if you can spend money on a full set of iron or rubber hex dumbbells in different weight increments.
Ease of use
Does the dumbbell feel natural in your hand? Can you get a good range of motion with it? Make sure you feel comfortable lifting with the dumbbell you choose no matter what movement you’re doing.
Will you be using the dumbbells for muscular endurance training or intense cardiovascular workouts? When choosing dumbbells, consider what you want from your exercise program and what your current fitness level is. For those who want to increase muscular endurance, a lighter set of dumbbells may work. Consider investing in a dumbbell pair or set that you can continue to use, even as your experience level increases.
Fixed versus adjustable
Both fixed and adjustable dumbbells can provide some variety to your weight training, as they can be used for virtually any exercise with weights, ranging from bicep curls and overhead presses to lunges and squats. They can also encourage more range of motion within the exercises and help challenge your joint stabilizers – muscles like the gluteus medius and triceps that help stabilize your body while performing different exercises.
If you plan on dropping your dumbbells regularly during training, you should opt for fixed dumbbells because of their durability. Adjustable dumbbells will have a higher price tag for a pair, but they can ultimately be a more affordable option than investing in a whole set of weights.
Changing the weights on adjustable dumbbells hasn’t historically been the easiest, quickest, or most reliable process. Fortunately, interest in gyms and fitness equipment has increased significantly in recent years, leading to some optimization of dumbbells.
No matter which dumbbells you decide to buy, you’ll need to keep them somewhere. If you want a few sets of weights to have more options, but don’t have lots of storage space, choose an adjustable dumbbell or a set that comes with a space-saving stand. If you travel often and want to take your workout with you, a collapsible, portable set of dumbbells is ideal.
In addition to the dumbbell head, the dumbbell grip is also an important factor to consider. Some people are surprised to learn that many dumbbells don’t have a knurled handle (the crossed lines pattern on the handle). This can be a problem if you’re using very heavy dumbbells or if you’re working out in a hot, humid environment. Without knurling, you’ll probably need to chalk up at some point.
Dumbbells can be made using several different types of material, including rubber, neoprene, urethane, and metal. You’ll typically see dumbbells with cast iron or stainless-steel heads that are rubberized or coated in neoprene, but some are made entirely of cast iron or other types of metal. The material makes no difference in exercise – this just comes down to personal preference.
The softer options are less destructive when dropped on fragile surfaces such as tile and hardwood, though they’re still going to give any unfortunately placed toes a rough time. Another benefit to dumbbells with a softer finish is the fact that they’ll make less noise when plonked down – something to consider if you live with or above others.
Cheaper than steel, this will commonly be used in lower cost dumbbells, many hex models being prime examples. It’s great so long as it remains covered by the rubber, urethane, or chrome plating. Once exposed it’s easily oxidized and will rust, which isn’t the end of the world in the short run, but long term can result in structural weakness.
This is generally the most common covering for dumbbells. It’s a decently durable material and will survive an average trainees’ workouts as long as they aren’t chucking the dumbbells on the floor every time, they finish a set. Relatively soft, rubber will help cushion a dumbbell’s fall and can prevent some damage to the floor if you drop them regularly. Some, however, come with a strong rubber smell.
Alongside iron, steel is a very common base material. It’s more expensive than iron, but will not oxidize quite so easily, or almost at all depending on the type of steel used. It can, however, be more brittle due to the added carbon.
Urethane is a type of rubber that’s odorless and a premium option for covering dumbbells. Hard wearing and great for customization, it’s very resistant to damage. Urethane protects your dumbbells perfectly, but it’s significantly more expensive than their rubber counterparts. However, if you’re on the hunt for a good-looking premium dumbbell, then urethane is probably what you’re looking for.
Dumbbells are available in several shapes – including hex, round, square/block, and triangular – as well as different grips, like textured and rubber or neoprene-coated.
Hexagonal shaped dumbbell heads have gained popularity compared to round dumbbells as they are easier to store and generally more affordable. They may also be safer since they’re less likely to roll away or over your toes if you drop them.
When deciding which dumbbells to purchase, consider how much weight you want to lift If you’re new to fitness and just want to add a little resistance to your typical bodyweight workout, stick to smaller weights. If you’re a more experienced exerciser who’s looking to go heavier on moves like deadlifts and squats, you should choose a double-digit load.
Which dumbbells are best for beginners?
Beginner lifters are in a tricky situation, as they need lighter weights at the beginning but will progress quickly once they start working out. Getting a pair of hex or cast iron dumbbells will only help you progress so far. So if you plan on working out for more than just a few months, it’s recommended that you purchase an inexpensive adjustable dumbbell instead. Spinlock dumbbells are easy to use, can be stored easily and allow for some weight adjustment – a good combination for beginner lifters.
Selection of the best dumbbells
Best budget dumbbell: CAP Cast Iron Hex Dumbbells
|Prone to rusting
|Made of solid cast iron
|No protective rubber coating
|Weight range from one to 120 pounds
|Less durable compared to other dumbbells
|Medium knurling on entire handle
|Some users have complained of uncomfortable cast splatter
|Hex heads help to prevent rolling
At the end of the day, these aren’t going to compete with higher-quality brands, but if you just need to move some weight and don’t want to pay much, these are a solid option.
Best dumbbell for beginners: PowerBlock Sport 24
|Replaces 8 dumbbells
|Looks nothing like a dumbbell
|Adjusting stacks can be fiddly
|Heaviest weight is only 24lb
|Affordable for a set of two
Although not as enjoyable to use or as versatile as traditional dumbbells, a set of them is undeniably very useful for most folk looking to get fitter, build muscle or burn fat from home. However, people with large hands may find the handle on the small side.
Best hex dumbbell: REP Fitness Hex Dumbbells
|Straight knurled handles provide a barbell-like feel
|Uncontoured handle isn’t for everyone
|Many options ranging from 2.5lb to 125lb
|Dumbbell handle could be more compact
|Several sets available, including 5lb to 100lb
|They can arrive with an oily surface
|Hex design prevents rolling
These affordable dumbbells are great for home gym owners who want durable, long-lasting rubber hex dumbbells that are comfortable to hold and use.
Best adjustable dumbbell: Bowflex SelectTech 552i Dumbbells
|Smooth, intuitive plate-changing mechanism
|Plates feel secure and don’t rattle
|Larger than typical dumbbells
|15 weight options are more than rivals
|Not as durable as other options
|Work with SelectTech training app
|Round dumbbell heads mean the dumbbells may roll when they aren’t racked
|Storage tray included
Bowflex’s SelectTech is perhaps the most well-known sectorized dumbbell and for good reason. The heaviest weight setting will be enough to challenge most lifters, while the 15 weight settings are ideal for increasing the weight gradually over time.
Most versatile dumbbell: Kabuki Strength The Kyübell
|Variable load design allows for a variety of workouts
|Only available in 10lb – 50lb with 10lb increments
|All-steel construction is very durable
|Available as singles, pairs, and sets
|May not be intuitive for beginner users (Kabuki does offer training videos)
|More versatile than traditional dumbbells
The multifunctional Kabuki Kyübell is a unique dumbbell-like tool that can be positioned in the hand to change the force curve and give lifters more control over their movement goals.
Selecting the best dumbbells for your home workouts will depend on your preferences, workout needs, and budget. While some people need a wider range of dumbbell weights for a varied free weight routine, you can also get a great workout with a few sets of lighter, less expensive dumbbells. Also, consider whether you prefer dumbbells that are adjustable or regular, hex-shaped, or round, etc. This will help you determine what size and style work best for you.
You can do so much with dumbbells, no matter if you choose rubber, iron, hex, round, or adjustable ones. Adding a set to your personal gym will undoubtedly result in strength and conditioning gains. Purchasing a set of dumbbells for your home workouts can help you reach your goals without a gym.
What qualities make a good dumbbell for you? Which model do you prefer? Feel free to express your views and opinions in the comments below.