Exercising at home has certainly become the new normal. Whether you’re a beginner to exercise or a seasoned athlete, you probably need a few training essentials – and one of the most versatile pieces you can buy is a pair of dumbbells.
With the ability to improve almost any workout, a (relatively) low price tag, and an easy-to-use design, dumbbells are a must-have for any home gym because they can help take your workout to the next level. “Dumbbells require increased muscle activation, so your body has to work harder to achieve the goals you want it to achieve,” says Dilan Gomih, fitness instructor and senior director of digital strategy and talent at Barry’s.
Don’t know how to add them to your workout? Dumbbells are primarily used to build strength and endurance, says Sareena Rama, a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor in Orange County, California.
There are endless ways to make hand weights work for you; Depending on your body position and how you hold your dumbbells, they can target almost any muscle in your body, says Rama. During a squat, for example, holding weights at your sides targets your entire lower body; holding weights on your chest shifts focus to your quads (the muscles at the front of your thighs).
Another advantage of dumbbells is that they can be used on their own. Unlike the dumbbells you might see at the gym, dumbbells don’t require spotters, Gomih says. Plus, if you pay close attention, you’ll be able to detect muscle imbalances on either side of your body, which will help level your workout.
How to choose the best dumbbells for your workout
✔️ Choose the right weight for your goals. “For strength training, you’ll want to use heavier weights because you’ll be doing fewer reps,” says Rama. “For endurance (anything that has higher reps), go for weights below five pounds.”
You can also use adjustable dumbbells, which allow you to add or remove weight like a barbell. This is a great option if you plan on stepping up your workout but don’t have space for an entire rack of weights.
✔️ Pay attention to the material. Dumbbells are available in a few materials: rubber, metal, vinyl, and neoprene. “In general, I’d say rubber weights add an extra layer of protection, both for the weight itself and for your floor,” Gomih says. Plus, they’ll be a bit quieter if you drop them. If you have sweaty hands, Rama recommends mixed material weights with textured handles.
✔️ Consider the shape. Hexagonal dumbbells are both the most common and the most convenient because they do not roll over during workouts. “If you are on a hardwood floor or outdoors on concrete, this would be the best option for you,” says Rama. Their flat edges also provide a stable surface for floor exercises like push-ups, Gomih notes, making them the best option for home workouts and classes.
Circular dumbbells may be cheaper than hex dumbbells, but Rama recommends using them only if you are working out on a mat, where they will not roll over. Other dumbbells are bar-shaped, making them easy to use for activities like yoga or brisk walking.
Now that you know exactly what to look for in a set of dumbbells, it’s time to shop. Check out the top rated options below to improve your home workouts.
Best dumbbells for beginners
SPRI vinyl dumbbells
These vinyl coated dumbbells are ideal for anyone looking for an affordable pair weight. Whether you’re trying Pilates or just starting out with spin classes, these hex dumbbells are easy to hold and strong enough for intense exercise. Plus, they are available in a variety of sizes and colors.
Best advanced dumbbells
CAP Barbell Coated Hex Dumbbells
Gomih and Rama recommend rubber and metal dumbbells for their powerful grip and floor-friendly design. This pair is one of the top rated options at Walmart, where buyers particularly like their balance between performance and affordability. “This is by far the best deal I have found,” says one buyer. “They are everything you would expect and look exactly like the photos.”
Best dumbbell set for beginners
Sporzon Neoprene Dumbbell Set
This neoprene option ensures you stay on the move throughout your fitness journey. Available in two weight options (2, 3 and 5 pounds or 3, 5 and 8 pounds), the set is welcoming and comes with its own stand. “I’ve never owned dumbbells before and didn’t really know what to look for,” writes an Amazon reviewer. “I love these dumbbells and I stand tall!”
Best Advanced Dumbbell Set
CAP Barbell 150 Pound Dumbbell Set
With five sets of weight ranging from 5 to 25 pounds each, this set of dumbbells (and its space-saving stand) is worth the investment. Rama uses a set of CAP dumbbells exactly like this one, and she estimates her set to be at least 30 years old and still functioning without a problem. She likes that the heavier weights at the bottom act as a motivator if they are too heavy for you when you start to work out.
Best adjustable dumbbells
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells
These sturdy dumbbells allow you select the weight you want with a turn of the dial. You can choose between 5 and 52.5 pounds – in other words, this set can replace 15 sets of dumbbells! No wonder they have rave reviews: “These dumbbells are the perfect addition to my home gym,” says one buyer. “They are easy to use, versatile and well designed.”
Ideal for high intensity workouts
Barry Rubber Dumbbell Set
Gomih is a fan of these weights, which were designed for use during HIIT classes at Barry. You’ll love to use them at home. White numbers make it easy to find the weights you’re looking for without having to browse through your entire collection. And the handles provide a non-slip grip.
Ideal for low intensity workouts
Designed specifically for walkers, yogis and Pilates practitioners, these bars (from the cult ankle weight brand Bala) boast easy handling and even weight distribution throughout, which means they are easier to control during long sets of movements.
Best metal dumbbells
Papababe Cast Iron Dumbbells
Finally, for those who value durability above all else, these cast iron dumbbells will survive years of hard training. “They’re not ‘pretty’, but they’re well done,” says an Amazon reviewer. “I would have liked to order them sooner.”
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