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January 19, 2023
No home gym is complete without a quality set of dumbbells. Advances in dumbbell technology over the last couple of decades have made them more affordable, more user-friendly, and more versatile. As a result, your dumbbell choices are greater than ever before.
That can make it quite a head-scratcher when buying a pair of dumbbells. Should you buy fixed, adjustable, or loadable dumbbells? Which brands and models are best, and what weight should you buy?
This article has been prepared to provide the answers you need to help guide your dumbbell-buying decisions. In it, you'll find a review of the nine best dumbbell sets, separated by category, an analysis of the different types of dumbbells, and a buying guide.
Read on to learn what you need to know to make a confident dumbbell-buying decision.
**There may be affiliate links in this post where we might receive a small commission on purchases you make. We only recommend products we think you will find valuable.**
The REP Fitness Rubber Hex Dumbbells offer the best value and functionality on the fixed dumbbell market. They have a straight handle, giving them the same hand feel as a barbell.
The heads of these dumbbells are securely attached to the head through a friction welding process. That makes these dumbbells very durable and more forgiving when you drop them. The rubber used here is also designed to resist cracking or chipping.
These dumbbells have been specially formulated to reduce their odor, which can be an issue with rubber-coated dumbbells. The handles are fully knurled and have diameters between 28 and 34 mm. Dumbbells that weigh under 25 pounds have a 28 mm diameter, while those over that weight are increased to 34 mm.
These dumbbells have a tolerance of 3%, which is good in the industry. That means the actual weight is likely within 3% of the stated weight.
REP Fitness offers one of the best warranties: lifetime on home use and one year on commercial use.
These dumbbells are priced at around a dollar per pound, representing excellent value for money.
Titan Fitness Loadable Dumbbells feature powder-coated cast iron weight plates. This adjustable set provides you with two 19.5-inch Adjustable Thread Dumbbell Handles. Each side of the handle has a lock collar that features a 25 mm diameter center with a knurled competition texture.
These dumbbells provide you with a comfortable, firm grip. The weight plates come in 2.5 lb, 5 lb, and 10 lb increments. Each plate is imprinted with the weight in pounds and the Titan logo. The sleeve length of each dumbbell is 7 inches, while the grip length is 4.75 inches. The grip diameter is 25 mm.
The set includes two handles, four collars, and twenty-four weight plates. The dumbbells are easy to assemble, and the weights are securely locked to prevent plate movement.
This dumbbell set provides excellent value for the money.
The Bowflex Selecttech 1090 is Bowflex's heavy-duty adjustable dumbbell option. As the name suggests, this set has resistance options ranging from 10 to 90 pounds. With weight increments of 5 pounds, you get the equivalent of 17 separate dumbbells.
This adjustable dumbbell set features the popular Bowflex Selettech dial weight system. You dial up the weight you want on the end of each dumbbell, lift the handle, and you're ready to go. This is the fastest and most reliable weight change mechanism on the market.
When you use other adjustable dumbbells, there is a measure of plate movement, which can be problematic. That is not the case with the Bowflex Selecttech 1090. The weights are securely compacted together, which is a significant reason we think these are the best adjustable dumbbells.
Your purchase of the Bowflex Selecttech 1090 comes with a durable plastic molded storage tray. You also get a 12-month free trial of the JRNY training app, which provides on-demand full-body strength training workouts you can follow.
The small, 5-pound weight increments are a very handy feature of this adjustable dumbbell set. Unlike competitors' adjustable weights, which jump by 10 pounds each time, these smaller increments are more in step with a person's natural strength curve progression.
The one negative we identified with the Bowflex Selectetch is the 17.5-inch fixed length of the handles, which can make it a hassle when doing exercises like dumbbell curls, as the handle is likely to hit your leg.
These REP Fitness Round Dumbbells are shaped like traditional dumbbells and coated in urethane for a smoother, more durable finish than rubber. Urethane dumbbells also do not come with the strong odor you get with new rubber dumbbells. In addition, urethane-covered dumbbells will retain their new look for longer.
These dumbbells are sold in the following sets:
You can also purchase sets that come with two or three-tier racks included. The dumbbell handles are knurled for a more secure grip. They also have straight handles for a solid, secure hold.
The urethane coating that covers these dumbbells is the CPU form of urethane. This is the most durable form of urethane. That means that they won't crack or chip when you drop them. They will also be easier on your flooring than a rubber or steel dumbbell.
Your purchase of the REP Fitness Round Dumbbell set comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
American Barbell Series 4 Dumbbells look awesome and feel great to work with. They are made from solid steel and have a black textured urethane head and a medium-strength hard chrome plated handle.
These dumbbells have a larger radius on the inside and outside edges than you are likely to find on competing brands. That makes them comfortable to work with on a wide range of exercises where the weight touches your body.
The black textured urethane on these dumbbells provides a super strong finish that is far more durable than any rubber-coated dumbbell. As a result, you will never have to worry about dry rot, and these weights do not have that unpleasant rubbery smell. In addition, they are far less likely to scuff and scratch than a rubber-coated dumbbell, so they'll look great even years after purchase.
The American Barbell eagle logo is imprinted on the end of the dumbbells, along with the dumbbell weight in white. This contrasts sharply with the black urethane, providing a striking visual.
CAP Barbell Cast Iron Dumbbells have a hexagonal design with straight handles. The heads are comprised of ASTM A48 Class 20 grey iron and connected by a 1018 cold-rolled solid steel handle. Each dumbbell is finished with a durable industrial enamel coating.
The handles feature medium-depth knurling to provide a secure hold without being uncomfortable. These handles are also antislip, so you won't have to worry about sweat slippage.
CAP Barbell Cast Iron Dumbbells are sold in weights ranging from 5 to 120 lbs. Weights go up in 5 lb increments.
Amazon Basics Rubber Hex Dumbbells are among the most affordable fixed dumbbells on the market. These hexagonal dumbbells have a solid cast iron core encased in recycled rubber. The handle is ergonomically contoured for a better grip. There is also a medium level of knurling on the handle, providing a nonslip hold.
These dumbbells are available in weights from 10-50 lbs. They are manufactured for Amazon in China, along with a range of other fitness equipment. As with much of that other equipment, this line of fixed dumbbells represents a good mix of cost-effectiveness and functionality.
The WF Athletic Supply 150lb Dumbbell Rack comprises an entire fixed-weight rubber hexagonal dumbbell set complete with a two-tier steel rack. Here's what you get:
Each dumbbell has a hexagonal anti-roll design to stop the weight from rolling around on the floor between sets. Hex dumbbells are also ideal for exercises like renegade rows and dumbbell push-ups. The range from 5 to 25 lbs covers the needs of the majority of general fitness enthusiasts. Heavier weights that match the set can be purchased if needed.
These dumbbells feature straight handles to provide a secure grip that emulates what you experience when grabbing a barbell. The handles are chrome plated.
The recycled rubber used to coat WF Athletic dumbbells has a reduced odor and is non-toxic.
The rack with these dumbbells has two tiers to allow for compact storage. It is easy to assemble and sturdy. The rack dimensions are 28.75" X 16.15" X 22.85". It weighs 25 pounds.
The Amazon Basics Neoprene Dumbbell set has been designed for beginner exercisers. The set consists of 3 sets of dumbbells along with a stylish rack. Here is what you get:
The stand is made from a hardy plastic material. It is easy to assemble and looks very attractive. The dumbbells themselves are constructed from cast iron with a neoprene coating. They have a very comfortable, soft feel that provides a nonslip grip.
Each dumbbell has its weight in pounds stamped on each end and color-coded for quick identification. They are hexagonal, so they won't roll around on the floor.
Some reviewers have mentioned that the hand grips are not designed for small hands, though the handle size is not stated on the website.
Amazon Basics neoprene dumbbells can also be purchased individually, weighing up to 32 lbs.
When it comes to a lot of exercises, you can use a straight barbell or a pair of dumbbells. But, in virtually every case, opting for dumbbells is the better option. Here are four reasons why your workouts will be more productive with dumbbells:
Dumbbells are a very versatile training tool. They allow you to do every exercise you can do with a barbell, from squats to bench presses. But you can also do exercises with dumbbells that are not possible with a barbell. Some examples are alternating curls, side bends, and side lateral raises.
The versatility of dumbbells means that they can be used in situations where a barbell might not be applicable. For example, if you have lower back pain, having a barbell sitting on your shoulders and compressing your spine is the last thing you want. With dumbbells, you can swap out things like the barbell squat or lunge with lower-back-friendly dumbbell versions of those exercises.
The greatest advantage of dumbbells over barbells is that they allow for unilateral training. This is when you are moving each limb individually. Having independent movement allows you to train the muscle on each side of the body separately. As a result, you are able to ensure even strength development on both sides of a muscle.
When it comes to a barbell, you are not able to do this. That's why most people end up with one side of the body stronger than the other. You will see this when you watch people doing the barbell bench press. Often you will see the bar being pressed up on an angle as the stronger side takes over to compensate for the weaker side.
The strength imbalance that results from barbell training can make a person more likely to suffer a muscular imbalance injury. It can also lead to uneven muscle development. Swap out your barbell for a pair of dumbbells, however, and you remove the problem.
When you are doing an exercise with a pair of dumbbells in your hands, you are forcing your body's stabilizer muscles to work to maintain the position of the weights in mid-air. This is not the case when you are holding a fixed barbell in your hands. As a consequence, you will achieve greater activation of your stabilizer muscles when you train with dumbbells, making for a more effective workout.¹
Training with dumbbells increases the range of motion for a number of exercises. Take the bench press as an example. When you are bench pressing with a barbell, you are only able to bring the bar down until it touches your chest. Yet, that does not represent the full range of motion for the exercise.
When you switch to a pair of dumbbells on the bench press, you are able to come down lower than the level of your chest. This provides you with an extra inch or two of range of motion. That may not sound like a big deal, but it can make a huge difference in terms of muscle engagement and range of motion.
Another problem with the barbell bench press is that your hands are in a fixed position. This means that you are not able to bring your hands together as you press the bar up. However, the function of the pectoral muscles is to press the arms both up and in together. You can only do that with a pair of dumbbells.
All the benefits from the aforementioned example ring true for multiple other exercises as well.² ³
Dumbbell technology has come a long way in recent years. You can still buy standard fixed-weight dumbbells, but there are now other options, including selectorized adjustable dumbbells that provide the equivalent of an entire rack in a single pair. Here's an overview of the three main dumbbell types.
Fixed dumbbells are those where the weight cannot be changed. There are several versions:
Painted dumbbell heads are often made of cast iron that has been painted to prevent rust. If these weights are dropped without any protection from a gym mat, the paint may come off easily. Although painted dumbbells are common in industrial-style gyms, most gyms will not use them due to the easy-to-peel paint, noise, and floor damage they create.
Chrome Dumbbells: Chrome dumbbells typically weigh between 1 and 10 kg (approximately 2 lbs to 22 lbs). Usually, a light chrome electroplate is used, which is more durable than a painted surface. However, there may unavoidably be some scratches on the surface after prolonged use. The use of gym floor mats is advised. These dumbbells are often seen in boutique gyms.
The steel dumbbell head and handle are attached together by screwing the handle into the dumbbell head. After prolonged or incorrect use, the handle and the dumbbell head may separate or become loose.
Rubber dumbbells can offer additional protection and a more comfortable grip than painted dumbbells. The handle of a rubber dumbbell is typically steel, while the head is cast iron.
Welding is challenging since the two materials are different from one another. So the durability of the handle depends on how solid the welding process is. In general, the handle will be welded with certain raised points when the dumbbell weight is greater than 10 kg, and it will then be pressed into the dumbbell head using a hydraulic press.
Rubber dumbbells are available in various shapes, such as round, hexagonal, and 12-sided. The round dumbbell was the traditional shape, but it has lost popularity to the hex shape. This is mainly because hexagonal dumbbells don't roll on the floor. This makes them far better for floor-based exercises such as dumbbell push-ups and renegade rows.
Adjustable dumbbells represent a huge step forward in dumbbell technology. With the use of a selector mechanism, you can choose the weight you want from a dumbbell block. This, in effect, provides you with a whole rack's worth of dumbbells in a single pair.
The first company to come out with an adjustable dumbbell set was Powerblock in the late 1990s. Since then, the market has evolved, with a wide range of brands available, each one using a slightly different technology. However, the basic idea remains the same:
Loadable dumbbells have removable collars to allow you to add weight plates on either side. Quick-release collars allow you to change the weights between sets to allow for progressive resistance. The quality of these dumbbells relies on the collars providing a constantly firm lock. If they lose their hold, the plates will become loose and may even fall off completely.
Loadable dumbbells require that you have extra-weight plates to load onto the bar. They also need to be small enough that they won't interfere with your range of motion. These dumbbells usually have longer bar extensions than other forms of dumbbells to allow you to load the plates on.
The material used to construct a dumbbell will have a huge bearing on its performance and durability. Here's an overview of the main dumbbell construction materials.
Rubber is strong and resistant to abrasion, but it will deteriorate over time, especially if exposed to sunlight.
The applied rubber used in dumbbell construction is composed of three different types:
Calcium powder (calcium carbonate) is added when making the rubber mixture. The proportion of rubber and calcium powder components will impact the rubber's elasticity and fluidity.
Urethane is considered to be in the family of rubber, and urethane-covered dumbbells look very much like rubber ones. However, they have a number of advantages, including being more resistant to impact abrasion and sunlight and retaining their new look for longer.
Another advantage of urethane is that it does not have the distinct rubbery smell that is common when you buy recycled rubber dumbbells. The surface of urethane dumbbells is also smoother than other rubber dumbbells.
On the flip side, urethane dumbbells are much more expensive than their basic rubber counterparts.
Urethane-coated dumbbells are either one of two subtypes:
CPU stands for cast polyurethane, while TPU stands for thermoplastic polyurethane. While the CPU is melted in a mold, TPU is added using an injection technique at a high temperature. CPU may be multicolored, while TPU is typically monochrome. The cost of CPU is the highest since any extra CPU materials used in the manufacturing process must be thrown away, as they cannot be recycled. As a result, TPU is more environmentally friendly.
CPU is more durable and has higher strength and greater resilience than TPU. However, the surface of a CPU-coated urethane dumbbell may have a water flow mark. You will not see a water flow mark on a TPU-coated dumbbell.
CPU-covered dumbbells will usually have a steel head core, compared to a cast iron core for TPU. This and other factors make a CPU urethane-coated dumbbell more expensive than a CPU one.
Steel dumbbells do not have any rubber or paint coverings. However, they tend to be more durable and resistant to rust and corrosion. The steel head and handle are separate pieces that must be welded together. These types of dumbbells tend to be pretty expensive as they are built for longevity.
If you drop a steel dumbbell on the floor, there will be no protective padding, so you can expect a major dent in your flooring.
Cast iron dumbbells are the most traditional form of weights. They are made by pouring cast iron into a mold. These dumbbells are made to last a lifetime but are more likely to suffer from corrosion and rust than steel weights.
Cast iron weights are usually more expensive than rubber weights, though not as costly as steel. As with steel, they can cause serious damage to floor surfaces when dropped.
Plastic-coated dumbbells may be filled with concrete or sand. They are typically thicker and bulkier than other forms of dumbbells. The plastic coating also tends to slide in your hand, especially if you are sweating. These dumbbells usually top out at around 20 or 30 pounds.
Though they are the cheapest type of dumbbell on the market, plastic weights are also the most likely to sustain damage with consistent use.
Neoprene is a synthetic polymer. To make a neoprene dumbbell, a cast iron core is dipped in a solution of neoprene to give it an outer coating. Neoprene dumbbells are distinguishable for their variety of colors. They are often used in gym classes.
Neoprene is smooth to the touch, providing a more comfortable feel on the skin than steel or cast iron. They are generally not available in weights heavier than 30 pounds.
To end up with dumbbells that will allow for a consistently great workout, you need to have a game plan when you enter the market. Here are six important areas to consider.
Your starting point in choosing a set of dumbbells is to decide whether you need a fixed or an adjustable pair. Realistically, the cost will weigh in on this decision, as adjustable dumbbells have a much higher upfront cost. If you decide to go with adjustable loadable dumbbells, realize that it can be a hassle to constantly be changing the weights.
On the other hand, you should also understand that a fixed pair of dumbbells will only benefit you up until the time that you are too strong for them. At that point, you will have to buy a heavier pair in order to make progressive gains.
The style of your workouts should also factor into your decision-making here. If you do a lot of supersets, drop sets, and other styles that require fast weight changes, you will be far better off with an adjustable dumbbell set. On the other hand, if you are more likely to perform a lot of powerlifting moves and standard set training with the same weight, you may be better off with a fixed-weight dumbbell.
Consider the various pros and cons of each type of dumbbell material. We covered these in our last section, but here's a quick reminder:
The handles on a dumbbell may be either straight, like a barbell, or contoured for a more ergonomic grip. The difference comes down to a matter of personal preference.
Dumbbell handles may also feature knurling to enhance your grip. Knurlings come in different grades. If possible, you should hold the dumbbell before buying to make sure that the knurling is not so aggressive that it is uncomfortable in your hand. If buying online, check user reviews on this feature.
Some dumbbells have a rubber sleeve on the handle to provide extra comfort.
The diameter of a dumbbell handle can vary depending on the type and weight. Adjustable versions range from 30 to 38 mm. Fixed-weight dumbbells have thicker diameters as the weight increases, up to a maximum of 34 mm. Loadable dumbbells tend to have a standard diameter of around 28.5 mm.
Loadable dumbbells may have different collar types. The most convenient, because it is the fastest to operate, is the spin lock collar which has spin grooves on the outer parts of the dumbbell bar.
The build quality of a dumbbell can be seen from its smooth finish and joints. There should be no imperfections in the coating, whether it is rubber, urethane, neoprene, or plastic. The weld between the handle and the weight should be clean without any bumps that could cause calluses.
The dumbbell should also be comfortable for people of all sizes to use. One thing that could detract from this is if the bar extensions are too long. This may be the case on some adjustable dumbbells, so you may find that the inside edge of the bar hits your thigh when doing exercises like standing alternate dumbbell curls.
Loadable dumbbells are the least expensive. Next is fixed dumbbells. Even though adjustable dumbbells have a higher upfront cost, keep in mind that you are, in effect, buying multiple dumbbells, not just a single pair.
By checking online reviews from verified purchasers, you will be able to gain insight into the user-friendliness of the dumbbells. You'll also be able to see whether they have any flaws, such as an overly strong odor or if the weight is not true to what it was sold as. Reviews can also help you decide how durable a dumbbell brand is and what sort of customer service you are likely to receive.
The best dumbbells for a home gym setup depend on your training style. If you are moving at a fast pace and need to be able to change the resistance quickly, adjustable dumbbells are the best option. For straight-set training with heavy weights, however, fixed dumbbells are the best option.
Yes, you can build muscle with just dumbbells. Dumbbells allow you to do everything that is possible with barbells and then some. As a result, you can effectively train every muscle group in your body with dumbbells.
Be sure to check out our articles in our training section on how to target different body parts using dumbbells.
You can buy a light set of dumbbells for under $100. For a full rack of rubber dumbbells, ranging from 10 to 100 pounds, you will pay as much as $2000. However, you can buy an adjustable dumbbell set with the same weight range for a quarter of that cost.
No, dumbbells cannot reduce belly fat. The only way to lose the gut is to burn more calories than you are consuming daily. To do that, you should reduce your caloric intake by 250-500 calories per day and burn another 500 calories through cardio exercise.
The best type of dumbbell is a subjective matter. All types have individual strong points and weak points. Figuring out which type fits your needs and your budget will determine what the right choice is for you.
A quality set of dumbbells is something that you'll be able to use as the foundation of your home workouts for the rest of your life. In this article, we have identified the nine best dumbbells across all categories. The best overall dumbbell set on the market right now is the REP Fitness Rubber Hex Dumbbells, with its knurled handle, low-odor rubber, and secure press-fit and welded handles.
Looking for a place to store your dumbbells? Check out the Best Dumbbell Racks on the market.
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