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Upgrade your home gym with these compact, versatile training tools and get ready to set the course for stronger exercise ahead. Aerobics With Stepper
There are plenty of ways to build out your home gym for hard-nosed strength training. You can add a barbell and weight plates for benches and deadlifts. You can house a power rack for squatting and more secure reps. Yet, it's difficult to imagine a well-rounded at-home training center without a handful of dumbbells racked neatly in a corner.
Dumbbells can be an excellent addition to any training regimen thanks to their wide range of available weights, compact construction in comparison to barbells and overall versatility. These popular training tools aren't just ironclad masses used in a plethora of movements, however. There's plenty of variety out there, and understanding their differences can mean more enjoyable sessions under tension, and better results in your performance.
Dumbbells have come a long way from the cast weights of yesteryear. There are plenty of styles and silhouettes to choose from these days, and which profile you select can have a huge impact on your training and setup.
This is your iconic setup and what most individuals think of when picturing a dumbbell. These tools feature a set weight at a given poundage and are connected at the middle via a handle that's either smooth or knurled. Knurled handles are widely used for added grip security, but there are still some dumbbell sets that opt for a smooth texture.
Adjustable dumbbells are a great option for those tight on space that can't sacrifice a wall or corner for a rack of varying weights. These compact structures can pack over 15 weight ranges in one structure, which eliminates the need for multiple purchases or an expansive rack.
Like adjustable dumbbells, loadable dumbbells can also offer a variety of weight ranges in a smaller frame, but in a different nature. Resembling a shrunken barbell, these pieces feature plate sleeves that can house various change plates for a wide variety of totals. If you already have a set of plates to match these structures, fantastic, but if not, expect to add some 10s, 5s, and 2.5s to your cart as well.
Fatbells are a bit of a cross between a standard dumbbell and a kettlebell. Resembling a sphere with a handle at the center, these weights create a more balanced feel that can be easier on your wrists while also creating a new lifting sensation, since the weight surrounds your grip rather than resting at the ends. Because of this, you may find your fatbell PR is not the same as your dumbbell PR. Still, owning a few fatbells can be great for mixing up training, especially those prone to wrist issues.
Not every dumbbell is cast from the same mold, and as such, there are a few popular materials to be mindful of.
Cast iron dumbbells are your traditional metal structures that can give your training that clang and bang vibe Dwayne Johnson's always going on about. These are a durable option that can be cheaper than other materials, but you need to be mindful of where you drop these structures. Because of the metal construction, ditching these weights after a heavy bench press can spell trouble for your floors.
If you want to save your space from errant drops, I suggest going with either rubber or urethane dumbbells. These dumbbells are incredibly durable and can withstand plenty of punishment without wreaking havoc on your floors when dropped. Rubber dumbbells can sometimes come with a strong odor, however, so if this is an issue, look at the odorless (and more expensive) urethane options.
Lastly, if you're not looking to strength train but still want to add a little resistance to, say, a run or cardio session, plastic dumbbells can be a lightweight pick that's perfect for these less intense needs. Plastic dumbbells shouldn't be dropped or thrown around, however, as the material is less durable than the aforementioned picks.
When you grab hold of a dumbbell you want to ensure you're capable of stabilizing the weight and controlling it throughout your lift. To help with this process, many of the dumbbells featured in this roundup boast a knurled handle. This crosshatched pattern across the bar is designed to increase tackiness and dig into your skin, and some knurlings can be more aggressive than others, especially with heavier dumbbells. If you're looking to avoid any skin abrasions, or just want to enhance your grip comfort, look to pair your dumbbell workouts with a pair of weightlifting gloves.
Like any piece of strength equipment, dumbbells are not the cheapest item to purchase for your home gym setup. Dumbbells are often sold individually, in pairs or in complete sets totaling over $1,000, and your training goals heavily influence just how many dumbbells you'll need for a well-rounded regimen. If you're just starting out, I'd suggest opting for three dumbbell pairs at weights you're comfortable lifting, and then build your setup from there as you grow stronger. If you want a wider range out of the gate, opt for a full set or an adjustable dumbbell pair. Adjustable dumbbells can also be great for those wanting a wider weight range without the required space, but might not be as durable as other standard sets.
Over the years, I've grabbed hold of plenty of dumbbells in various gyms, basements and training rooms, and have even added a few of these picks to my current home setup. I've taken note of how each structure felt mid-lift, highlighting features such as balance, knurling and overall aesthetics.
Additionally, I've looked at the available weights listed in their respective profile, because a uniform silhouette is key for three reasons when building out a dumbbell rack. For one, it maintains a learned balance that requires fewer adjustments when increasing or decreasing weight. Two, dumbbells of matching dimensions are more easily stackable across a companion rack or in a corner. Finally, it just looks better to have a singular dumbbell silhouette than a mixed bag.
Editor's Note: The following prices are for dumbbell pairs weighing 35 pounds each, unless otherwise noted.
There’s a lot to like about these impressive, cost-effective dumbbells from Living.Fit. Across multiple workouts and ditches, I’ve really enjoyed the ergonomic handle and rubber-encased profile of these weights. The rubber was great for saving my floors along with the dumbbell’s integrity, and I also appreciated the low-bounce nature that didn’t send them flying across my basement post-set.
Living.Fit offers an expansive dumbbell weight range from 5–100 pounds, so anyone can find the right weight(s) for their specific training needs. While I prefer a full knurling across the handle as opposed to the split style featured in these dumbbells, I never felt my grip was compromised through a plethora of presses and pulls and will definitely be looking to build a complete set with these premium weights in the near future.
If you want to really liven up your training with premium dumbbells, take a gander at these rounded beauties from Rep Fitness. The CPU urethane coating is odorless and plenty durable for any training discipline, and I like the fully-knurled handle that’s mildly aggressive but not off-putting. Plus, these urethane dumbbells can fit nicely atop Rep’s companion dumbbell storage rack for added convenience.
Just don’t expect to have a weight range that totals over your bodyweight. With dumbbells available from 5–50 pounds, this might not be the best set for more musclebound fitness enthusiasts. For most, however, there’s plenty of room in that range to get in a luxe training session night after night.
Just need a few dumbbells to complete your training space? These Cast Hex Dumbbells from Fitness Gear are extremely approachable and can bring plenty of versatility and performance to any workout. I never have to question which weight I’m working with, as the stamped numerals are easy to read across the hex base. Additionally, I’ve always had a soft spot for that iconic “clang” at the top of a dumbbell bench press; something that you can’t achieve with more expensive, albeit more durable, rubber weights.
It should be noted, though, that these dumbbells are only sold individually. If you want a complete pair or even a full set, be sure to add multiples to your shopping cart before checking out with these wallet-friendly weights.
A staple of any garage gym, CAP Barbell’s Black Cast Iron Hex Dumbbells are some of the best old-school options out there. The hexagonal geometry makes these exceptional for dumbbell push-ups, and the enamel coating can help prevent rust. Living in the damp environment of Pittsburgh, I’ve had plenty of experience lifting in home gyms with these stalwarts of at-home strength training.
The Black Cast Iron Hex Dumbbell is also quite affordable and offers a wide weight range, but I would like to see paired purchases across the board. At this time, you can only buy paired dumbbells up to 20 pounds, meaning multiple purchases will be needed if you desire a heavier structure.
The Eleiko brand is based on quality, so it’s no surprise that their exquisite lineup of fitness equipment also includes damn fine dumbbells, too. Utilizing an innovative rotating handle that mimics a barbell’s rotation and spin, the Evo Dumbbell is one of my favorites for dynamic lifts like bicep curls and dumbbell snatches. You don’t experience the wrist strain as the weights revolve around the handle during movement, making for an uber-comfortable lifting experience.
The only downfall of these impressive dumbbells? The price. At over $300 for a 35-pound weight, these are some of the most expensive dumbbells out there. Plus, they’re sold individually, so that means you could be shelling out a good chunk of change to build an entire set of these fitness tools. If you can stomach the price tag, though, these are some of the most innovative and well-built dumbbells you’ll find.
As stated before, urethane dumbbells can offer premium durability in an odorless profile, and in my years of training, I’ve found no better example in the field than the Urethane Dumbbells from Rogue Fitness. The knurled handle showcases a medium aggressiveness that’s ideal for most athletes, and the wide weight range means nearly anyone is able to find a weight they’re comfortable with — unless your name is Larry Wheels.
Rogue’s Urethane Dumbbells also feature a rounded head design for that classic dumbbell aesthetic but just be mindful of where you ditch these post-lift. Unlike a hexagonal head, these puppies can roll away, which means you could be searching for your dumbbells before your next set, or worse, nursing a bruised toe.
Dumbbells aren’t solely for intense strength training modalities. You can easily add some lightweight accessories to your outdoor or treadmill running to give another layer to your fitness routine. These dumbbells from Amazon Basics are prime for these needs, offering three light-yet-effective weights at less than $50.
I particularly like the neoprene coat showcased across each dumbbell silhouette that creates a tackier surface for optimal grip. While you would be hard pressed to build out a respectable dumbbell set with just these tools, if you want a few lightweight options to give your running a boost, these are a perfect pick.
If you’re tight on space yet still want to have an expansive dumbbell set, consider these behemoths from Smrtft. The Nüobells boast the widest weight range when it comes to adjustable dumbbells from 5–80 pounds, and despite this versatility, each weight feels balanced when training. I really like how simplified the adjustments are thanks to the turn-style handle, and Smrtft even offers a convenient stand to bring your aesthetically-pleasing fitness gear up off the floor.
The one big factor that does deviate from other dumbbells on this list is that the Nüobells cannot be dropped or ditched like other standard pieces. There are simply too many moving parts, along with plastic components, that wouldn’t withstand the impact. Still, for the space-saving features, versatility and overall looks, you cannot go wrong with these impressive weights.
If you already have a boatload of weight plates lying around, these are the dumbbells for you. With 3.5-inch sleeves that can house a handful of change plates, the Olympic Dumbbell Handles from Titan Fitness make great companion pieces for your garage gym setup. I really like the knurling featured across the handle, as it provides just the right amount of grip while still remaining comfortable during heavier sets.
It should be noted, however, that these loadable dumbbells have their limits. When performing bent-over rows at heavier weights, I have struggled at times to load the number of plates I desire due to the shorter sleeve. Titan Fitness does make a larger option that’s more accommodating, but for this model specifically, it can be viewed as a negative.
These fatbells were designed by legendary powerlifter Donnie Thompson, and I can’t thank him enough for reimagining this helpful fitness tool. I’ve trained with Rogue Fitness’s Thompson Fatbells before and always enjoyed the more balanced feel created through the central handle positioning. Plus, the equidistant positioning of the weight gives every exercise a newfound take, which is great when you’re looking to train against muscle memory.
Multi Weight Dumbbells If you want to add some variety to your dumbbell training, these are perfect accessories to add to your setup. However, make sure you have the room to store them. Because of the spherical silhouette, you’ll be giving up more storage space than you would a traditional dumbbell. Additionally, these weights are sold individually, meaning you’ll have to make multiple purchases to acquire a pair.