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The Best Dumbbells for Your Home Gym, Recommended by a Personal Trainer

Boost your fitness and total body strength with these dumbbell sets.

best dumbbells
Runners World; Courtesy Amazon

Dumbbells might be relatively small tools, but their benefits are mighty. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), working out with dumbbells builds muscle, and it can lead to greater levels of muscle activation, increased force production, and enhanced resiliency and elasticity of your muscle tissues. And you can use them for hundreds of exercises, from full-body to functional workouts, even HIIT sessions. Plus, by using them to add resistance to your sessions, you’ll burn more fat than by cardio alone.

Not only are they a great strength-training tool, but they can also benefit your running by improving your running economy, increasing the time it takes for you to reach exhaustion, and helping neuromuscular coordination.

Best Dumbbells

The Expert: As a health and fitness journalist for over 12 years now, I’ve been testing gear and trying out new fitness gadgets, machines, and other technology for a long time. I absolutely live for comparing new pieces of clothing, shoes, or other fitness tools to previous models or other gear available on the market. Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of opportunities to try numerous sets of dumbbells in different gym settings. I have extensive personal experience with a number of brands like Cap, Portzon, SPRI, and Amazon Basics that have allowed me to perform workouts and strength exercises safely and effectively. During the pandemic, dumbbells became a hot commodity, and people frequently asked me which brands were the best and why. I also became a National Academy of Sports Medicine–certified personal trainer at this time, and my knowledge of equipment, along with how to safely execute exercises with different tools like dumbbells, as well as how to seek out quality options, grew.

What To Consider When Buying Dumbbells

Before you go buying these powerful strength tools, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Material: If you have hardwood floors at home that you absolutely don’t want damaged, you might want to stay away from chrome or cast-iron dumbbells that lack an outer padded layer. Instead, good options are dumbbells that are coated in rubber, neoprene, or vinyl. If you’re using them on an exercise mat or non-marking floor, material doesn’t matter as much.

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Design: Yes, you’re probably looking to mostly use dumbbells as the main weight component for exercises like curls, rows, presses, deadlifts, and more. But consider other things you may want to do with them. If you want your dumbbells to double as grips for wrist-friendly push-ups or dips, getting a pair with a hexagonal shape might be your best bet as they don’t roll around once planted on the ground. If you want to stand them tall to balance on for exercises like deficit push-ups or to roll out with them as an ab tool, consider ones with round ends.

Weight: When shopping for dumbbells, the first thing you want to consider is their weight. You want to be sure you’re purchasing a pair or pairs that are heavy enough to challenge you and allow for you to progress as you build muscle, but you might also want a pair or two of lighter weights for higher rep workouts or even some recovery and rehab exercises. Chances are good there are some exercises, like tricep kickbacks, where you’re scaling down in weight compared to what you’re using for your chest press. And if you’re consistently working on things like your deadlifts for posterior growth, you might also want to consider what weight you’ll be bumping up to next. For the greatest flexibility, look for an adjustable dumbbell that lets you set the weight as you progress or change moves.

How We Evaluated

Because dumbbell weights aren’t one size fits all, the recommendations of the best dumbbells below offer a lot of variety in weight and size. I also considered the shape of the dumbbell and looked for options, with spherical shaped heads, that could double for ab rollouts as well as pairs with hexagonal heads and flat ends that work well for renegade rows. My selections also range in material, from neoprene exteriors to chrome grips and even vinyl-coated options. All are durable and safe to use for all types of exercises and workouts and offer a range of different price points.

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Best Gym-Worthy Set
Papababe 150-Pound Dumbbell Set with A-Frame Dumbbell Rack
Papababe
Now 31% off
Most Comfortable
SPRI Ignite Chrome Dumbbells
Best Grip
Portzon Neoprene Dumbbells
Most Versatile
Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells
Best for Lighter Loads
Amazon Basics Vinyl-Coated Dumbbells
Amazon Basics
Sturdiest
Cap Barbell Hex Dumbbell
Best for Heavier Loads
Rogue Urethane Dumbbells
Best Looking
Cap Barbell Chrome Dumbbell
Cap Barbell
Best for Traditional Strength Training
Rep Fitness Hex Dumbbells
Rep Fitness
Best Adjustable Dumbbell Set
SMRTFT Nuobell 80-Pound Classic
The Dumbbell Weights Everyone Should Own, According to Personal Trainer Amy Schlinger
dumbbells
Photo by Lakota Gambill

RW: Which dumbbell weights do you consider essential for most people?

A.S.: If you’re looking to purchase a single set of dumbbells, the best way to select weight is to choose a weight that will allow you to perform eight to twelve repetitions of most moves. Typically, that means 10 to 20 pounds for women and 20 to 45 pounds for men. If you’re able to select a few more pairs, add a slightly heavier option that would allow you to max out at one to six reps (20 to 40 for women and 25 to 55 for men) as well as a lighter option (8 to 15 for women and 15 to 30 for men) for higher rep, endurance training days.

RW: What is your favorite dumbbell exercise or routine?

A.S.: I love using dumbbells for unilateral work, where you isolate one side of the body at a time (training the right arm, then the left, versus both at the same time). Dumbbells are also my go-to when I want to make exercises like walking lunges (one of my favorites) or a glute bridge more challenging by adding weight to them.

RW: Dumbbells aren’t the easiest thing to store because they’re bulky and heavy. What tips can you share for people tight on space?

A.S.: If you’re tight on space (like me in my NYC apartment), you’ll want to take this into account before buying excessive pairs of dumbbells and having nowhere to store them. Consider a set that comes with a rack (whether the design is vertical or horizontal to fit into your space) or an adjustable pair might be a smart way to go.

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