The Best Dumbbells Money Can Buy - Full Buying Guide
When you are planning to build a home gym, you are going to be thinking about a lot of the things that you want to include in it.
You may want some cardio equipment. You may want a big, bulky machine which only targets a specific muscle group.
Very few people think about including dumbbells, though. Well, at least right off the bat. They probably know that they will need them eventually, but they tend not to be at the front of their mind.
This is a great shame, because dumbbells are fantastic for exercising.
Remember; it takes a lot more energy to use your muscles than it does to go out for a run. When you are exercising with dumbbells, you are able to target various muscles in your body.
And you know what else? Besides gaining more muscle, lifting weights will also help you burn more fat in the long term. That is because when you do weight training, your body actually continues to burn fat after your workout. That is not the case with cardio.
Another common misconception is that most people think that they will only be exercising their arms when they are using dumbbells, but they aren’t.
Dependent on the exercise that you will be doing, you will be able to target specific muscles in your body. If you can think of a major muscle group, then chances are that you will be able to use some dumbbells to give it a workout.
Honestly, if you are planning to set up a home gym, you need nothing more than a pair of adjustable dumbbells and a simple weight bench.
That is it. It is so affordable, and you will be able to get (roughly) the same type of workout that you would get if you were in a gym. It goes to show that you really don’t need to take up a lot of space either.
Unless you live in a single room, I am positive that you will be able to find a bit of space for both these pieces of equipment.
Different Types Of Dumbbells
In my mind, there are two types of dumbbell you can purchase; adjustable or fixed. Each of them can be broke down into slightly different categories, but for the most part, you go for either adjustable or fixed.
My opinion is to go down the route of adjustable, and this is something I am going to reiterate several times on this page.
#1 Adjustable Dumbbells
So, what are adjustable dumbbells? Well, they do exactly what they say on the tin. They are supplied as a single unit.
There will then be a button or lever of some description on the dumbbells. You can then press this button or lever and it will change the weight.
Basically, you can think of it as a ton of different weights rolled into one handy to use bit of gear. Some of the best adjustable dumbbells on the market can function as 15 separate dumbbells.
It is quite crazy!
Pros Of Adjustable Dumbbells
I think the biggest pro of going down the route of adjustable dumbbells is the fact that they really do not take up a whole lot of space.
Sure, they are going to take up more space than a normal pair of dumbbells, but remember; you will probably need more than a single pair of dumbbells.
These will take up the space of maybe two pairs at the most. This makes them perfect for the smaller home gym.
If you spend a lot of time working out, then you are going to find that adjustable dumbbells are an absolute godsend.
You can quickly change the weight that you are lifting, without needing to walk over to the rack to pick up a new set or, god forbid, having tons and tons of weights scattered about everywhere which is just going to end up damaging your floor.
If you purchase the best dumbbells on the market, then changing the weight is going to take seconds. This means less downtime throughout your workout.
Adjustable dumbbells tend to work out a little bit cheaper than standard dumbbells too.
As I said; these adjustable dumbbells can replace over 15 standard dumbbells (dependent on the size that you buy).
Sure, purchasing a single set is going to be cheap. When you need heavy weights, the cost really starts to add up, though. In the long run, the adjustable dumbbells are going to save you a lot more money.
Cons Of Adjustable Dumbbells
There are a couple of cons, unfortunately.
I think the biggest issue is that you are going to be losing a bit of portability with your weights.
Whenever you leave to do a bit of exercise outside, for instance, you are probably going to need to lug around the whole box of weights, which can be quite cumbersome.
I suppose you can only take the weights that you need, but you are going to find that it is difficult to adjust the weights you have without the entire set in town.
The cost is going to be higher upfront too. If you need to buy a whole set of dumbbells, then adjustable is the route to go down. If you only need a couple, then they are probably going to be a bit out of reach when it comes to price point.
You must also remember that they have a few moving parts, so if they do break (which they probably won’t do if you buy a good pair), you will have a lot of downtime while you try and track down some spare parts for them.
Who Are Adjustable Dumbbells For?
Honestly, they are for anybody who wants to get a bit more fit.
I suppose that those with a lower amount of space in their home may lean towards these more than others but, for the most part, anybody who needs a set of dumbbells will probably be able to benefit from them to some degree.
#1 Spinlock Adjustable Dumbbells
These are the most basic of the basic adjustable dumbbells. They do take a bit of effort to use, though. This is because you need to physically put the effort into adjusting the weight, which does mean that they take up a bit more storage.
This means physically unscrewing the end of the bar and putting new weight on.
However, if you are looking for some dumbbells which are cheap, and yet take up little in the way of storage, then spinlock adjustable dumbbells may be the best route to go down.
#2 Bowflex Adjustable Dumbbells
Whenever I recommend adjustable dumbbells, I always go with Bowflex. This is because this is a company who has proven themselves time and time again when it comes to quality home gym equipment.
Unlike some of the other product manufacturers, they tend not to have a complicated range either. There are just one or two products, which makes it easier to make your purchase.
You either choose something for your basic ‘at home’ use, or you go for something for those harder workouts.
At the moment, Bowflex are some of the ‘fastest’ adjustable dumbbells on the market too. It takes a couple of seconds to change your weight, which means less ‘downtime’.
I find that they are solidly built, and I have never really had a problem with them (outside of issues of my own creation).
#3 PowerBlock Adjustable Dumbbells
One of the differences between PowerBlock and some of the other companies out there is the fact that PowerBlock purely focuses on adjustable dumbbells. They do not do anything else.This means that their range of products is a bit larger. It is a bit tougher to navigate through their range.
However, if you are after something incredibly specific, then PowerBlock is absolutely the route to go down. You have tons of different weight options available.
They look incredibly stylish too.
#4 Ironmaster Adjustable Dumbbells
If you need something which is incredibly well-constructed and doesn’t take up a ton of space, then Ironmaster is fantastic.
Their range isn’t that large, but I fully recommend them as you will often find that Ironmaster equipment creeps into commercial gyms around the world.
They do a good range of accessories too, which really expands what you can do with the dumbbells.
#2 Fixed Dumbbells
If space isn’t an issue, or you do not want to have too many different weights available, then fixed dumbbells may be the best route to go down.
You have a couple of different options available to you here.
#1 Round Dumbbells
Take this Lifeline Pro Round Rubber Dumbbell, for instance. This is what people tend to think of when they think of dumbbells.
It looks good, and it feels amazing in the hands. They come in a variety of different weights too, which is always a plus. Most people tend to find that the weight on these things is incredibly evenly balanced, which means that your workouts are going to be a lot more comfortable.
The only real downside is that they tend to roll away easily, which can cause a lot of stress.
#2 Hex Dumbbells
Hex dumbbells, like these ones, are going to be a bit easier for you to store. You don’t need to worry about them rolling away, for instance.
A good solid set, like the ones from XMarks means that you always have the weights that you need a fingertip away.Sure, it is more expensive, but it comes with the rack, and you probably won’t need to buy any dumbbells again.
#3 Rubber Dumbbells
If you are not going for gym flooring at home, then rubber dumbbells like this may be the best route for you to go down.
They do not scratch up your floor quite as much. Some people find that they don’t feel as good in the hands, but you get used to them after a while.
They come in a variety of different weights, but if you are lifting the heavier stuff, then you may not find the weight available when it comes to rubber dumbbells.
#4 Urethane Dumbbells
Urethane dumbbells, much like these ones, look and feel like rubber, but they have a few more distinct advantages.
Perhaps the biggest is that the grip is going to feel a little bit better, which makes them easier to hold. You will also find that they are less prone to tearing, which means that the dumbbells are going to last a lot longer if you are using them daily.
The weights available tend to be a bit higher than your traditional rubber dumbbell too.
#5 Neoprene Dumbbells
If you are just trying to include dumbbells in your workout, rather than having the weights be the focal point of your workout, then Neoprene may be the route to go down.They function much the same as rubber, but a lot of people find them easier to manipulate when they are doing their exercises. The maximum weight tends to be a lot lower too.
Probably not something for the serious fitness ‘freak’, but most normal people should be fine with these. They look stylish too. If you want to inject a touch of colour into your fitness routine, at least.
Things To Consider When Choosing Dumbbells
Obviously, you shouldn’t blindly jump into buying a set of dumbbells. That would be pretty dumb of you. Instead, there are a few things that you are going to need to think about.
Let’s be honest, unless you are incredibly rich or you don’t have kids, the size of your house is going to be pretty modest.
This means that you are probably not going to have a lot of space to put equipment everywhere. This is why many people gravitate towards picking up adjustable dumbbells.
As I said before; adjustable dumbbells can replace around 15+ different ‘normal’ dumbbells, while only taking up a small amount of space.
So, they are probably one of the best types of dumbbell to pick up if you live in a small space, or perhaps you just want something that is going to be a lot more portable.
Ease Of Adjustment
Obviously, if you are going to go down the route of adjustable dumbbells, then you need to think of the overall quality of the dumbbell.
I have seen some pretty cheap and crumby adjustable dumbbells which are incredibly difficult to change the weight on. It is a workout in itself.
Each of the products I mentioned previously are easy to adjust. It takes seconds to do. Sure, you are going to be paying a little bit more for them in the short term, but in the long term, you are going to be saving a whole lot more cash.
I tend to steer clear of any dumbbells made from metal with no ‘protective’ exterior.
This is because they are going to damage your floor. I don’t care how ‘safe’ you are with them, they are going to scratch up your floor eventually.
Sure, you can pick up some floor mats to minimize the destruction to some extent, but even then, a floor mat is not going to provide full protection from the wrath of the metal.
The best dumbbells are those which have a protective coating around the metal. Rubberized is probably the best route to go down.
It doesn’t add that much weight to the dumbbell, but it looks and feels great. It is going to be good to your floors too.
How Much Weight Do You Need To Lift?
What are your overall fitness goals? Are you going to be using some lighter weights to aid you with exercises like ‘the squats’, or are you going to be using the dumbbells for heavier, hardcore weightlifting?
Don’t just think of your immediate needs, think about how you are going to progress in the future. This is especially true if you are picking up adjustable weights as you don’t want to buy two sets.
You want to purchase something which can ‘grow’ with you. Likewise, you are probably not going to want to purchase something too heavy if you are never planning to use it. It is not only going to cost you a lot more, but it is going to be tricky to lug about everywhere.
How Does The Dumbbell Feel?
Since it is likely that you are going to be picking up these dumbbells quite a bit, you need to know that they are going to feel fantastic in your hands. Rubberized grips are probably the best route to go down here.
Remember; you probably are going to be saving a little bit of money, and I know hate is a strong word, but your hands are probably going to hate you.
Shape Of The Dumbbells
The type of exercises that you are doing will determine the shape of the dumbbells that you are using. For most exercises, you are going to be pretty fine with whatever you pickup.
However, if you are doing thigh exercises and the like with your dumbbells, then you are probably not going to want to pick up the block shaped dumbbells.
You want to pick up some dumbbells which have an arch in the middle of the handle. It will ensure that you are not getting constantly knocked by the dumbbell which is a little uncomfortable to say the least.
Don’t forget that hex dumbbells are going to be better if you don’t want them rolling around the room like there is no tomorrow.
This is going to cause damage to your floors, although it does mean you are going to be burning a few extra calories chasing them down!
Suggested Additional Gear
While you will probably be fine with a set of dumbbells, you may want to pick up some extra gear if you really want to take your workout sessions to the next level. I am going to give you a quick overview of some of the bits and pieces that you may want to consider.
I have written more about some of these elsewhere on this website, so if you want to find out more, then hop on over to the relevant section.
Let’s start with mentioning a weight bench, because if you want to carry out certain exercises, then it is going to be pretty much a necessity. Thankfully, weight benches are not as costly as you may think.
Many of them are going to be easy to store too, which means that you do not need to worry about taking up a ton of space (many of the ones I have reviewed elsewhere on this website can actually be folded up!)Obviously, you will want to purchase a quality weight bench. It needs to provide you with the right amount of support for your workouts. You also want it to be comfortable.
After all, you are probably going to be tiring yourself out quickly after your long workout session, so you do want to have a bit of relax.
If you are building a home gym, then you are going to want to pick yourself up a set of floor mats. This way you are not going to be damaging your floor when you drop the weights.
Oh, and believe me, you are going to be dropping the weights quite a bit.
It is surprising how easy it is to mess up your floor, even when you are trying not to actually mess it up.
There are several different types of floor mat available, and I have put together a guide to the various types here, so I am not going to dwell on this part for too long.
However, suffice to say, the more money you spend, the better the floor mat will be, and the better protected your floor will be too.
Racks serve two purposes. First and foremost; they are for storage. Whether you are buying a multitude of different dumbbells or a single adjustable dumbbell, the rack is going to be a great place to put them.
It keeps them out of the way, while at the same time keeping them on display, just to encourage you to work out or to give you a bit easier access to them.
The second benefit is that it is easier to pick them up and put them down.
Remember; since they are in the rack, they are not going to be touching your floor, which is going to impact the health of your floors.
There is no bending down to pick up the weights either (well, not too much of it), which helps to protect the health of your back…which is also an awesome benefit!
If you want to protect the health of your hands (I am positive this is something that you want to do!) then picking up a set of lifting gloves is going to be a great place to start.
Even if you opt for a rubberized grip on your dumbbells, like I suggested, you are still going to find that there is a bit of hand pain from the gripping. The lifting gloves will help to alleviate this to some degree.
The lifting gloves will also make it a bit easier to grip the weight, which means that you are not spending energy trying to grip the weights a bit tighter.
If you want quality dumbbells, then I see little to no downside with going down the adjustable dumbbell route.
Sure, your standard dumbbells have their place, but when you are putting them in a home gym, I never really see the sense in it. They take up way too much space, and they add too much aggravation into your workout.
When you need a lot of weights, they work out a whole lot cheaper too.
I guess the big question is now which route should you go down with the adjustable dumbbells? Well, all of the brands that I mentioned on this page are top-notch, but I feel that there is very little that can come close to the Bowflex adjustable dumbbells.
Their range is not confusing (only two products available), and everything is solidly built. Not to mention that they are incredibly easy to adjust. You may want to check out my review on them to find out more.
I’m a personal trainer based in Denver (Matrix Gym) and a true fitness nerd. If I’m not training clients or working out at my home gym, I’m probably skiing, cycling or hiking with my dog Rufus.