The best dumbbells to smash your home workout

Whether you want bigger biceps or quads, you can achieve it all with a pair of dumbbells.

best dumbbells

by Bryony Firth-Bernard |
Updated on

Some people think you need a gym and loads of fancy-looking equipment for a decent workout when really all you need is a pair of the best dumbbells for your home gym. There’s a reason why this piece of equipment dominates gyms and home set-ups, and it’s simple — because they’re arguably one of the best (if not the best) pieces of gym equipment.

Just like resistance bands and kettlebells, dumbbells are great for a full-body workout, gaining muscle and losing fat. Whether you want to build bigger quads, biceps, triceps, you name it — you can do it all with the humble dumbbell.

Unlike other pieces of fitness equipment, like a treadmill or home cross-trainer, dumbbells don’t have to be expensive and there are plenty of affordable options out there. Plus, they don’t take up a lot of room either, so it doesn’t matter if you haven't got around to turning your garage space into the next Gold’s Gym. So, if you’re ready to up your fitness levels and smash your home workout, read on for our pick of the best dumbbells.

The best dumbbells at a glance:

For beginners: York Fitness 20 kg Cast Iron Spinlock Dumbbell - View offer on Amazon UK

Best overall: BULLDOG GEAR Hex Dumbbells 2.0 - View offer on BULLDOG GEAR

Adjustable dumbbell: Bowflex SelectTech 552i Dumbbells - View offer on Amazon UK

Best value: BULLDOG GEAR Hex Dumbbells 1.0 - View offer on BULLDOG GEAR

How to choose the best dumbbells:

Space

This is important to consider as there'll be nothing worse than buying a beautiful rack of dumbbells with nowhere to put them. “If you don’t have an infinite budget to build an entire home gym, look for a good quality, robust pair of adjustable dumbbells, so you can adjust to weights that you know will challenge you,” says Mark Bohannon, a personal trainer at Ultimate Performance. However, if space isn’t an issue then you may look to purchase a few pairs of fixed dumbbells or even a whole rack.

Shape

Traditional dumbbells have circular plates, but you can also get them with flat edges — with a hexagon or triangle-shaped head. “Some people prefer to avoid dumbbells with circular plates, so they don’t roll around the floor,” says Mark. “One is not necessarily better than the other, it just comes down to personal preference.” If you’re someone who likes to include renegade rows or push-ups during your workout, hex or triangular shapes will be best.

Material

Dumbbells can be made from many different materials or coatings, including metal, neoprene and rubber. If you want minimal damage to your floor then opt for rubber. However, if you want something a little more traditional looking then cast iron is a good bet (just beware they will be more prone to rusting). If you’re starting out with dumbbells for the first time then neoprene is a good choice as the coating is softer on your hands, whereas you may find the knurling on chrome handles too rough.

Our pick of the best dumbbells

Best dumbbells for beginners

York Fitness 20 kg Cast Iron Spinlock Dumbbell
Price: $50.22

A pair of adjustable dumbbells will save you space and allow you to easily tailor the weight to your strength ability. These spinlock dumbbells from York Fitness are a great bang for your buck and go up to a decent 20kg. Not heavy enough? You can purchase additional plates to add on.

Pros

  • Adjustable to allow for progressive overload and working different muscle groups without the need for multiple dumbells
  • They won’t take up too much room
  • Knurling in the bar centre for a comfortable grip

Cons

  • The circular shape means they may roll once put down
  • Will rust if kept outside

Best overall dumbbell

BULLDOG GEAR HEX DUMBBELLS 2
Price: £45 starting price for two

bulldoggear.com

You can’t go wrong with BULLDOG GEAR and their hex dumbbells are no exception. The heads have been coated in shock-absorbent virgin rubber to protect your floor, while the knurled rubber handles allow your grip to remain tight, even when your palms begin to sweat. The hex shape means you can perform dumbbell exercises, such as renegade rows and push-ups, without the risk of them rolling away mid-exercise. They’re available to purchase in a huge weight variety too — from 2.5kg up to 50kg.

Pros

  • Dumbbell heads are made from shock-absorbent rubber to protect the floor
  • Hex shape prevents dumbbells from rolling away mid-exercise and makes it easier to stack
  • Knurled rubber handles for grip and resistance against sweat

Cons

  • Some may not find the grip as good as chrome

Best value dumbbells

BULLDOG GEAR - HEX DUMBBELLS 1.0 FRICTION WELDED HANDLES
Price: £25 starting price for two

bulldoggear.com

Another pair of hex dumbbells from BULLDOG GEAR, however, these ones have a chrome grip, as opposed to a rubber grip. As you can see the chrome has been knurled, so there’s no way these will be slipping out of your hands mid-curl. The hex-shaped heads have also been coated in the same shock-absorbent rubber, so your floor (and dumbbells) won’t get damaged. Available from 2.5kg to 50kg.

Pros

  • Great weight range
  • Durable and good quality that will last
  • The hex shape prevents the dumbbell from rolling
  • Knurled chrome handle for good grip

Cons

  • Will take up a bit of room, but a hex shape can easily be stacked

Best adjustable dumbbells

These dumbbells are pretty cool as you have 15 different weight options to choose from — from two to 24kg — which you can pick by simply turning the dial on the side. This is also great if you lack space or like to include lots of drop-sets in your workout, as there’s no faffing around looking for the next dumbbell — just turn the dial and go!

Pros

  • Very easy to use with the side dial
  • Ideal for smaller spaces 
  • Saves you from buying 15 separate dumbbells
  • Goes up to a decent weight of 24kg

Cons

  • Dumbbells sold separately

Best dumbbell set

We know not everyone will be able to fit this in their home set-up, but if you can it's well worth the purchase. It includes 20 dumbbells from 2.5kg all the way up to 25kg and even comes with a rack so that you can neatly store them away afterwards — pretty professional-looking we'd say.

Pros

  • Large variety of dumbbells, complete with a rack to neatly store
  • Knurled steel bars for good grip

Cons

  • Rack is quite large, so check the dimensions beforehand

Best smart dumbbells

JAXJOX DumbbellConnect
Price: £199 (was £300)

www.decathlon.co.uk

If you love getting your hands on the latest bit of tech, then you should consider these smart dumbbells. You can choose your weight between 3.6kg and 22.7kg at just the touch of a button. You're also able to sync them to the JAXJOX App, where you can track your reps, volume, sets, average power and workout duration — ideal if you’re someone who forgets things easily.

Pros

  • Compact and won’t take up a lot of room
  • Syncs to an app to track progress including reps, volume and more
  • Good for changing weight quickly between sets

Cons

  • Need to make sure dumbbells are charged

Best chrome dumbbells

Everlast chrome dumbbells
Price: £18 starting price for two

www.sportsdirect.com

If you prefer chrome to rubber, or mixed dumbbells, then these from Everlast will add a little luxe to your home set-up. Their metal construction is long-lasting and durable, while the knurling ensures a firm grip throughout your workout. These dumbbells are available to purchase in 4kg, 6kg, 8kg or 10kg. You do have to buy them separately, but there are great deals when you buy a pair, as opposed to one.

Pros

  • Sleek design
  • Knurling on the handle for a good grip
  • True to weight

Cons

  • Limited weight range

Best neoprene dumbbells

MiraFIT neoprene dumbbells
Price: £6.95 starting price for two

mirafit.co.uk

MIRAFIT stocks great equipment to stock your home gym with. These dumbbells are made from strong cast iron and are covered in soft neoprene, so they're more gentle on your hands. Neoprene dumbbells don’t tend to have a huge weight variety, but they’re great for incorporating into your HIIT and cardio training. These start at £6.95 for a pair of 0.5kg dumbbells and go up to £54.95 for a pair of 10kg ones, which we think is a bargain. All the weights come in black too, so if you buy more than one pair they’ll all match.

Pros

  • Hex shape stops weight rolling when not in use
  • Soft to the touch, more gentle on hands

Cons

  • Not a big weight variety

FAQs

Which dumbbells are better, fixed or adjustable?

Your budget, space and fitness levels need to be taken into account when deciding which type of dumbbells is best for you.

“A good quality pair of adjustable dumbbells will allow you to change the weight from 5kg up to 30kg, so you can progressively overload and continue to challenge your muscles to grow,” says Mark. “Adjustables are also easier to store, meaning they will take up less space in your home than a full rack of dumbbells.”

However, if you have unlimited space and aren’t fussed when it comes to budget, then fixed dumbbells are your better option.  “They’re also better if you’re performing drop sets or doing circuit training, because you won’t have to constantly adjust the weight for each different exercise, which can be time-consuming.”

One of the biggest mistakes Mark says he sees when people buy fixed weights is buying ones that are too light. “People buy three different pairs of dumbbells with very low weight – for example, 3kg, 5kg and 7kg. At those weights, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to create the resistance needed to force your muscles to grow. They’re not challenging enough and you won’t be able to progressively overload.”

What are the benefits?

As we previously mentioned, dumbbells are one of the best (if not the best) pieces of gym equipment due to the vast variety of workouts you can do with them. Mark agrees: “There really is no end to the amount of upper, lower, and whole-body workouts you can perform with dumbbells alone,” he says. “The beauty of that is that you can constantly vary not only the muscle groups you are hitting but also the workouts themselves, keeping your sessions fun and interesting.”

As well as working on your compound lifts, it’s important to include isolation exercises that work specific muscle groups and dumbbells are ideal for this. They also offer a greater range of motion, which can help with joint mobility. “This is because the range of motion is unrestricted,” says Mark. “For example, if you’re performing a dumbbell chest press, you aren’t only pushing the weight upwards, you’re also stopping it from falling sideways. As a result, dumbbell exercises distribute resistance across more muscle groups than machines.”

If you find you have a few imbalances in your strength — for example, your left arm is weaker than your right — performing alternating exercises with dumbbells will improve this.

What are the best dumbbell exercises for building muscle?

Here are Mark’s top exercises to work your entire body using a pair of dumbbells:

Bench press: Sitting on a bench, take a dumbbell in each hand and bring them to your knees. Lie backwards and press the dumbbells above your face. Next, inhale, tighten your core, and slowly lower the dumbbells towards your chest with your elbows at a 45-degree angle. Once just above your chest, drive your feet into the ground and push the dumbbells back up to starting position, exhaling as you do so.

Skull crushers: Set yourself up the same as the bench press above. With the dumbbells extended above your head, slowly flex your elbows and lower them towards the top of your head. Then, extend the movement so that the dumbbells are back in the starting position. Avoid locking out the elbows at the top of the movement to maintain tension in your triceps.

Bicep curl supinated: Pick up the dumbbells with an underhand grip, so that your palms are facing forwards, and bring them to your sides. Bend your elbows bringing the dumbbells up towards your shoulders while squeezing your biceps as you reach the top. Slowly lower them back to starting position and repeat.

Man doing dumbbell bench press

Squat: Hold the dumbbells at your sides, so your palms are facing towards your body and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your toes slightly turned out — this is your starting position. Next, squat down — like you’re trying to sit on an imaginary seat behind you — to where it feels comfortable. Stand back up, squeezing your glutes at the top. Repeat for your rep range.

Standing calf raises: Set yourself up the same as the squat above. Next, place the balls of your feet on a weight plate with your heels touching the floor. Push into the balls of your feet to stand on your tip toes, slowly lifting your heels off of the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Romanian deadlift: Pick up the dumbbells with an overhand grip and hold them in front of your thighs. Make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart and that you have a soft bend in the knees. Next, hinge your hips as if you’re trying to get your bum to touch an imaginary wall behind you, while rolling the dumbbells down the front of your legs. Only do this until you feel a stretch in the back of your hamstrings and keep your spine neutral throughout. Then drive through the heels to return to your standing position and squeeze your glutes at the top. Repeat for your rep range.

Bryony Firth-Bernard is a Health and Fitness Product Writer for What's The Best. She specialises in strength training.

Subscribe to the What’s The Best Newsletter to keep up to date with more of the latest reviews and recommendations from Natalie and the rest of the What’s The Best team.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us