Dumbbells may be relatively small tools, but their benefits are mighty. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), working out with dumbbells not only builds muscle, 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.
What To Consider When Buying Dumbbells
Before you go buying these powerful strength tools, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
If you have hardwood floors at home that you absolutely don’t want damaged, you may 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, or ones with an outer neoprene or vinyl layer. If you’re using them on an exercise mat or non-marking floor, material doesn’t matter as much.
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.
Of course you should buy dumbbells that match the current weight you’re currently lifting. But also consider all exercises that you perform, as well as any gains you might make. 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 may also want to consider what weight you’ll be bumping up to next.
How We Chose
As a health and fitness editor, runner, and National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer, I’ve had my fair share of opportunity 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. All have been great options to safely and effectively perform workouts and strength exercises. And I’ve included other dumbbell options below that come highly rated or have been recommended by trusted fitness authorities.
If you’re ready to snag a pair (or two, or three) for yourself, we’ve rounded up the best dumbbells on the market that you can purchase today.
If you tend to have sweaty palms, these light-duty dumbbells that come in weights from 1-10 pounds would be a great option. Their neoprene coating makes them easy to grip, and the hexagonal shape is ideal for a push-up grip. I’ve used them in HIIT workouts, with no fear of them flying out of my hands or even just slipping, which is especially important as you go up in weight. They’re durable and easy to wipe clean, and the neoprene won’t dent wood floors.
Use multiple weights in every workout or have different family members who need dumbbells of different sizes? Your best bet is to go with this rack of 5-, 10-, 15-, 20-, and 25-pound pairs. Having multiple weight options also gives you the possibility to increase over time or scale back if you’re injured or are just looking for a lighter weight, higher rep kind of day. The rack keeps the hexagonal weights all together in one place, and its tall, narrow profile doesn’t take up much room in a home gym or smaller spaces like apartments.
We’re big fans of these dumbbells, having tested multiple pairs in a variety of weights from five to 30 pounds. The chrome grips have knurled centers for a bit of traction, so they’re easy to hold, but they also won’t cut into your palms or leave intense blisters (though we can’t promise this if you’re going really heavy or wearing rings). The ends of the bells are coated in rubber, which protects your floor, especially if you ever have to drop them. Plus, they’re easy to grip by the head, too, for exercises like goblet squats.
Not only will the varied hues of these steel dumbbells brighten your space, but it’s easy to recognize the weight based on color. Amazon offers them in two- to 20-pound options, making for a colorful collection. We mostly recommend these for lighter loads, since the vinyl coating may become a bit slippery in the hands at heavier weights. It does however make for an easy wipe down post-workout.
Keep these dumbbells at one weight or remove the locks and slide on more plates to increase the load. With options up to 200 pounds, these will fit literally any lifter’s needs. The locks hold the plates tight in place, so there’s little to no movement when you’re lifting. They’re a good option if you’re tight on space, like in a small city apartment, because you can get multiple sets of weights with just a single pair of bars. The cast-iron plates and steel handles are extremely durable and will last years, so don’t worry about knocking them around a bit.
Enjoy the feel of a barbell in your hands? Then you’ll enjoy the familiar heft of these cast-iron dumbbells, recognizable from almost any commercial gym. They’re made out of iron and steel, with an enamel coating, so they won’t dent or mar easily over the years of use you’ll get out of them. I love the hexagonal shape of the heads, which allows us to balance on them for exercises like burpees or push ups without the fear that they’ll roll like dumbbells with round heads.
Take your pick from a set of five to 150 pounds with these non-marking, urethane-plated dumbbells. The large, round heads are easy to grip for exercises like goblet squats, single-dumbbell front raises, and bus drivers. You can also stand them on end to perform things like deficit push ups, too, when you’re not using them for traditional exercises like curls, lat raises, or overhead presses.
These won’t just get your muscles working and blood flowing; their polished chrome finish also looks nice in any home or apartment. We found the dumbbells easy to grip, thanks to contoured handles with a knurled center, and enjoyed the low-profile feel of them as well. They’re less bulky than other dumbbells on the market. Choose from three to 50 pounds, depending on what you’re looking to do with them. Keep in mind that these are sold as single dumbbells, so you’ll need to buy two for a complete set.