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“Dumbbells” may sound like the name of a parody handbell band, but they’re actually one of the best investments you can make to reach your fitness goals.
Below we dive into all the benefits of investing in a set of dumbbells, our fave dumbbell picks, and tips for choosing the right weights for you.
- Best for beginners: Amazon Basics Neoprene Workout Dumbbell
- Best lightweight: CanDo Vinyl Coated Iron Dumbbells
- Best for CrossFit: Rogue Rubber Hex Dumbbells and BalanceFrom Rubber Encased Hex Dumbbells
- Best heavy: Rogue Urethane Dumbbells
- Best adjustable: ProForm Adjustable Weights and Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells
- Most versatile: Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells
- Best circus dumbbells: Titan Fitness 12″ Circus Dumbbells
Already know you want a pair? Beeline to the “9 best dumbbells” section below.
Otherwise, spend some time eyeballing the benefits of using dumbbells.
They’re versatile AF
You can do almost anything with these bad boys.
Philadelphia-based trainer Mike Watkins — founder of Festive Fitness, which offers inclusive personal training for queer and trans People of Color and all LGBTQIA+ folks — says, “You can do upper-body workouts, lower-body workouts, core workouts, and more with dumbbells.”
In other words, you can use dumbbells to work every muscle in your body, from tuchus to traps. 💪🏽
You can use them (almost) every damn day
Further, because there are so many types of exercises you can do with dumbbells, you can use them every single day without overtraining a certain muscle group. The same cannot be said for fitness equipment like a pull-up bar or jump rope.
Of course, you may not need (or want) to use dumbbells 7 days a week. Build some active recovery into your routine. After all, overtraining is a bitch (think: messed up sleep, overuse injury, nonstop muscle soreness, irritability…).
They’ll help you build a dynamite core
Even if you’re not doing weighted crunches or dumbbell side bends (aka a “core workout”), dumbbells will build your core.
Certified strength and conditioning coach Mia Nikolajev, who also competes in powerlifting, explains, “With dumbbells, you’re moving each side independently, so your core has to engage to keep you stable.”
Made up of far more than just your six-pack muscles, “your core includes all the muscles between your shoulder girdle and pelvic girdle,” she says. “Your core protects your spine and lower back, as well as helps you doing any pushing, pulling, twisting, hinging, or rotating movement.”
They can help you build a more symmetrical bod
Yeah, you might have a “photo-friendly” side and “less photo-friendly” side. But did you know most people also have a stronger side and a weaker side? Yeppp.
“With barbell exercises, the strong side can compensate for the weaker side, picking up the slack,” says Nikolajev. With dumbbells, each side is moving independently. The result? The weaker side is forced to #werk.
In the long term, she says, “this helps create symmetry and more well-rounded strength throughout the body, which supports longevity and muscle health across the board.” In short, dumbbell work = injury prevention.
They’re usually *not* prohibitively expensive
As fitness equipment goes, dumbbells tend to fall on the more reasonable side of things. A pair will typically cost you $10 to $50, while a barbell will put you out close to $300 … and that doesn’t include weight plates.
Don’t worry, Moneybags — we’ve included a few steeper-priced options for you too (*cue A$AP Rocky’s “Big Spender”*).
Folks of all fitness levels can use them
Attention, fitness newbs, pros, and everyone in between: You can all use and enjoy dumbbells. Yes, really! Just be sure to pick the right weight for you (more on this below).
We considered a few things when picking our top dumbbells:
- Weight range. Our list includes weights as light as 1 pound (lb.) and as heavy as 150 lbs. — so there’s something for everyone.
- Construction. There are diff types of dumbbells (hex, round, circus) out there, made from different materials (rubber, urethane, vinyl, and neoprene). We included a wide variety to make it easier to find the right pair for you.
- Adjustability. Because not everyone has the room for a full-on dumbbell set, we made sure to include some adjustable options too.
- Price. Some peeps have already budgeted to spend a pretty penny on a new set, but others aren’t tryin’ to drain their savings. We included dumbbells at a range of price points.
- $ = under $20
- $$ = $20-$100
- $$$ = over $100
With all that housekeeping outta the way, let’s get to why you came here.
Here are some of the best dumbbells to invest in, listed by price, from low to high.
Best dumbbells for beginners
- Price: $–$$
- Sold as: pairs or sets
These babes are A+ for beginners.
Why? Because in addition to being available in a range of weights, they’re coated in colorful-AF neoprene.
“The neoprene is a welcome relief on the hands for folks who don’t yet have any built-up calluses — as well as those who, for whatever reason, are looking to avoid calluses altogether,” says Watkins.
Also great: You can start with the 6-piece set of 2-, 3-, and 5-lb. weights and add on heavier weights as you make gainzzzz.
Your hands: “Thank you.”
Your muscles: “Thank you.”
Best lightweight dumbbells
- Price: $$
- Sold as: set
Because who doesn’t want a pair of dumbbells that hearkens back to the Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda days??
This set comes with 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-lb. weights. These lightweight beauties are great for beginners just getting into the dumbbell game or people looking for weights to use during barre or Pilates workouts.
Best part: They’re coated in easy-to-clean vinyl. Byeeee, germs.
Best dumbbells for CrossFit
- Price: $$–$$$ (about $20–$455)
- Sold as: pairs
*CrossFitters everywhere salivate in unison.*
Yes, CrossFit devotees, these are the dumbbells you’re used to using at the box. Yes, you can get your very own set to turn your garage/basement into your very own makeshift box.
Of course, even if you haven’t jumped on the CrossFit train, you can still get a lot of mileage out of this budget-friendly option. They’re available in weights ranging from 2.5 to 125 lbs.
With hex-shaped heads, this pair is especially great for movements like:
- Price: $$–$$$ (about $20–$170)
- Sold as: pairs
Another rubber-coated, hex-designed option comes from the lesser-known brand BalanceFrom. These are available in weights ranging from 10 to 50 lbs.
With slightly larger heads than the Rogue set, these may be slightly harder to store in an apartment. But with 4.7 out of 5 stars, these likely won’t disappoint if you have the space for them.
Best heavy dumbbells
- Price: $$–$$$ (about $45–$1,015)
- Sold as: pairs or sets
Has someone ever complimented your hand girth (“My oh my, what big hands you have …”)? Then this thick-handled option from Rogue is for you.
“If you can palm a basketball, then thicker-grip dumbbells may allow you to more comfortably hold the weight,” notes Watkins.
They also come in v. heavy pairs — up to 150 lbs.
FYI: The prices reflect a pair. Don’t double up by accident.
Best adjustable dumbbells
- Price: $$$
- Sold as: pair
Trainers and exercisers fall into two camps: those who L-O-V-E adjustable dumbbells and those who think they’re overrated.
If you’re interested in having a whole set of dumbbells but don’t have the space for ’em, a set of adjustable dumbbells might be what ya need.
The easy-to-adjust system lets you increase or decrease the weight in 10-lb. increments from 10 to 50 lbs.
Add an iFit membership into the mix and you’ll have access to live and on-demand trainer-led strength classes designed for these specific dumbbells. Pretty sweet, no?
- Price: $$$
- Sold as: pair
If you’re living in a tiny home, you’re looking to gradually increase strength, or you *know* you’ll use the range of weights, adjustable dumbbells are where it’s at.
They’re a bit pricier than our ProForm pick, though. And make sure you’re opting to buy the pair when you’re checking out, because one dumbbell isn’t all that helpful.
Most versatile dumbbells
- Price: $$$
- Sold as: pair
Big lifter, small space? Check out the Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells, which can be adjusted up to 200 lbs. Wowza.
They work a lot like barbells, with mini weight plates you slide on and off to adjust the weight.
The 200-lb. set comes with 2.5-, 5-, and 10-lb. baby weight plates that can be added to and removed from either end of the ’bells. You can adjust them to almost any 2.5-lb. increment from 5 lbs. up.
You can also buy a connector bar that turns your dumbbells into a barbell. We LOVE versatility.
Best circus dumbbell
- Price: $$$
- Sold as: single
Introducing the circus dumbbell — or CDB for short.
This comically large piece of equipment was first used by traveling circus shows. Nowadays, CDBs make regular appearances in Strong(wo)man training and competitions.
They may not be for average Joes and Janes, but for experienced lifters (Jacks, if you will) looking for new ways to train their shoulder press, deadlift, and chest press, they’re a fun addition.
This option weighs in at 67 lbs.
For starters: It should be one you can lift! On both (!) sides.
“Let’s say you can move a 30-lb. dumbbell with your strong side but can’t move it at all with your weak side,” says Nikolajev. Don’t get it! A weight you can’t move can’t make you stronger.
“Get the 25-lb. dumbbells instead,” she says. “This will help you build up endurance on your weaker side.” But don’t worry: Your strong side won’t get less strong.
Now, whether you need a weight this (relatively) heavy depends on your fitness goals.
As a general rule, if you’re looking to build strength and size, you’ll want to move more weight for fewer reps. But if you’re hoping to build cardiovascular capacity and muscular endurance, the magic formula is less weight but more reps.
If you don’t have a ton of space, an adjustable dumbbell set might be a great option for you.
They save on space and cost less than buying a million pairs of dumbbells. But they’re still kinda pricey, a little clunky, and not the easiest thing in the world to use. Weigh the pros and cons to decide whether they’re right for you.
We gave love to dumbbells at varying price points for a reason: It really shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg to build capital-A Arms and capital-L Legs.
If you have the budget for a totally tricked-out home gym with a full set of Rogue dumbbells, that’s amazing. But what if you don’t?
- Buy a lighter (aka cheaper) pair of dumbbells and increase your reps to get similar results.
- Buy one pair at a time and invest in heavier options every 1 to 2 months as you progress.
- Buy them used.
There are a ton of benefits of investing in some dumbbells for your home gym.
Just remember: You don’t need dumbbells to get a great workout.
“You can still create adequate stimulus doing bodyweight exercises for muscle growth,” says Nikolajev. “Your rep count will just have to be higher.”
Another option: “You can also get creative with a textbook, bag of mulch, bucket of driveway salt, or your kid.”
In other words, dumbbells are great. But don’t let your fitness goals convince you to put your wallet where it can’t afford to go. K?