Best Dumbbells - for the home gym

Updated: Oct 26

A review of 5 great dumbbells for the home gym

The dumbbell is synonymous with strength, muscular endurance and razor-sharp tonality (check the pic above if you don't believe me). When we think of fitness training equipment the humble dumbbell will probably feature somewhere in that mental image.


It’s by no means an exaggeration to say that the dumbbell embodies fitness much the same way the cross embodies religion or the golden arches embodies inferior quality, nutritionally deficient ‘food’ – (quotation marks to denote condescension).


This probably accounts for why of all the gym and fitness company logos the dumbbell features more often than any other piece of exercise equipment. If you want people to know that here is a place of worship you nail a big cross over the door. Right? If you want people to know that this is a place where you can buy cheap ‘food’ that increase your chances of developing many diseases you stick a golden M out front. You dig me? And if you want people to know this is a place to get fit, to get in shape, well you feature a pair of dumbbells in your logo – jobs a gooden!


Perhaps the reason why the dumbbell has become the symbol of our faith – that is fitness – is due in part to its long standing history. Dumbbells have featured in the exercise enthusiast’s diet for hundreds of years. In fact, they may well stretch back to the original gymnasiums of Greece – over 2500 years ago! (Though then of course they were constructed from rock not forged iron.)


If the dumbbell’s popularity isn’t a consequence of their anachronism it’s certainly got something to do with their staggering fitness functionality. Seriously, there is so much you can do with a pair of dumbbells. Think I’m exaggerating? Check out the list below:


1. Bicep curls
2. Reverse bicep curls
3. Hammer curls
4. Triceps extensions
5. Single arm snatch
6. Single arm clean into press
7. Shoulder press
8. Shoulder flys
9. Chest press
10. Chest flys
11. Reverse flys (for the back)
12. Single arm row
13. Bent-over rows
14. Squats
15. Plyometric squat jump
16. (There are many more but I’ve got things to do . . .)


It’s their functionality and versatility that accounts for why dumbbells are a favourite amongst both fitness enthusiasts and professional trainers alike (I nearly always incorporate dumbbells into my personal training sessions). But also why they are the exercise equipment of choice amongst people building a home gym.


As exercise kit goes dumbbells are relatively inexpensive. And, what’s more, they are virtually indestructible. Meaning that when you buy a pair they will literally last a lifetime. I’ve got a set of dumbbells that my dad gave me 15 years ago (he had them over 10 year before that) and though they’re beaten, battered, rusty and give off a strange smell, they still weigh 20kg and they’re still in one piece. There’s only one other piece of kit that matches the dumbbell in durability - that's right: Kettlebells!


Quick FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions about dumbbells


Can dumbbells help me lose weight?

In all honesty, the answer is no – dumbbells will not help you lose weight. A pedantic person could challenge that statement and say ‘Well what if I performed a thousand snatches a day followed by a thousand vertical lifts? That’d keep the tubb at bay?’ Yes it probably would but few people have the time or inclination to use dumbbells in this way. To promote the same aerobic (fat burning) response as, say, rowing, or running, you’d have to train for twice as long and at a much higher intensity; basically you’d’ have to pump those dbs like a pair of pistons.



Typically dumbbell exercises are grouped into sets and then assigned a specific rep range. Applied in this fashion the dumbbell is a great tool for developing lean, defined musculature. However, the sculpting power of dumbbells is amplified when incorporated into circuits or supplemented with cardiovascular exercises.


What dumbbell weight should I select?

This is a tricky question to answer. The problem we have with deciding the best weight is directly analogous to the problem Goldilocks had when trying to choose the best bowl of porridge to scoff and the best bed to sleep in afterwards. And by that I mean getting it just right. For if the weight you select is too light it will not stimulate your physicality. If too heavy you’ll not only be limited to the immense range of exercises (see list above) but you could also increase injury risk.



So, with all that in mind, we need to select a weight that sits somewhere in the middle of too light and too heavy. How can you work that out? Simple. Next time you go to the gym test the weight range. Work your way up the rack until you find that weight which is just right. But don’t dally. You don’t want the three bears returning home to find you playing with their dumbbells.


How to use dumbbells? Watch the video!



A couple of things to think about before buying a pair of dumbbells


Cast Iron

Do not – please! for the love of god – do not buy plastic sand-filled dumbbells. Because they suffer a lot of use and abuse during exercise sessions – at least mine do – dumbbells need to be constructed from quality materials and, preferably, forged into one piece. Plastic dumbbells, unless you quickly tire of them and demote them to doorstops, will split and leak their viscera within a week. This will not only result in weight imbalances but will eventually result in near weightless dumbbells. So, with that in mind, make sure they are cast iron.


Coating

A trainer with a puritanical disposition would no doubt scoff at the thought of dumbbells with a rubberised/neoprene coating – especially if that coating is brightly coloured. I myself have a set of cast iron rubber coated ALEX dumbbells. When a training buddy of mine clapped eyes on them – and he’s a throwback from the Dorian Yates era of body building – he (my friend) dismissed them as effeminate and unbecoming of he who aspires to be taken as a serious trainer.


However, in spite of my friend’s overtly masculine sentiment, coated dumbbells are useful for multiple reasons. For starters, they don’t trash your floor like unsheathed dumbbells do. Something to think about if you’re buying a pair for your home gym. Also, when you get sweaty, coated dumbbells do not get slippery. Eminently a good thing when you include them within a circuit. And finally, they’re easy to clean; which makes them more hygienic.


Shape

The great aviation pioneer and polymath Charles Lindbergh apparently lamented the circular shape of flashlights. Why? Whenever he had recourse to fix his automobile he found that the flashlight would roll away the moment he put it on the floor. Which, if sod has anything to do with it, would no doubt happen during that critical mechanical moment.


I can see old Lindbergh straining to hold the driver’s side suspension arm in place, wrench at the ready, but can’t see where to apply it. So what does he do? He reaches for the flashlight that put down a second ago only to find that it’s pissed off down the driveway!


Lindbergh opined that this design flaw could be easily rectified if the head of the flashlight was hexagonal. Of course he was absolutely cock on.


I’m sure there are many trainers in the audience who have experienced the same frustrating problem with circular dumbbells. You pop them down between sets and, whilst scrolling through your Insta updates, off they go, one heading towards the vending machine the other deciding to sequester itself away behind the squat rack.


This problem is easily solvable. Buy hexagonal dumbbells!


Limitations

The primary limitation with fixed-weight dumbbells is exactly that: the weight is fixed which means that, if you want a variation of resistances, or you grow out of them (physically), you’ll have to purchase multiple pairs, which can be costly, or splash-out on a whole set, more costly still.


Alternatively, you could consider investing in adjustable dumbbells. But if you’re only after a couple of pairs or your credit card’s got a long expiration date, read on . . .


5 Best Dumbbells For the Home Gym



1: PROIRON Neoprene Dumbbell Home Exercise: 1kg 1.5kg 2kg 3kg 4kg 5kg 8kg 10kg Pair

Product Overview

  • Materials are strictly selected, free of phthalate and lead making them safer in your daily exercise.

  • Premium solid integrally cast iron inside with soft touch neoprene coated.

  • Textured surface makes improves comfort and reduces slippage when sweaty.

  • Flat edges prevents rolling.

  • The soft neoprene surface is superfine processing, easy to clean. Never fade or crack.

Click on image for more information



These neoprene coated one-piece cast iron dumbbells from PROIRON are extremely well rated. But then that should come as no surprise considering that they tick all the right boxes. For not only are they borderline bombproof and coated in colourful neoprene, they have been designed in such a way that enables you to stack them!


This comes with a double positive: 1) being able to stack them will save space – which is one of the limitations of fixed-weight dumbbells; if you’ve got a whole set they literally litter your gym – it can sometimes feel like they’re multiplying. And the second positive: they won’t roll away!

Over 3000 reviews and still holding on to 4.5 stars

Prices vary depending on weight

What customers are saying

Favourable

  • Comfortable and good looking

  • Pleased with my purchase

  • Very well made

Unfavourable

  • Deceptive advertising [this is a point of note: though the picture of the dumbbells show the set, they are sold individually]



2: Mirafit Soft Touch Mini Hex Dumbbells

Product Overview

  • Mirafit Hex Dumbbell Weights - range of weight sizes available - all in black finish.

  • Soft touch finish - comfy to hold & protects floors - Mirafit logo and weight size printed on each end.

  • Durable finish will not crack or fade

  • Hex shape prevents weights rolling when not in use

  • Strong solid cast design and built to last!


Click on image for more information


Mirafit has entered the market with a comparable product to PROIRON. However, there’s a couple of slight differences that I want to bring to your attention. I’ll be quick. Whereas PROIRON offer multiple colour options Mirafit offers just one – black (which isn’t a colour I know). This is merely a matter of aesthetics and I doubt it’ll bother most people.


The other difference is the hexagonal shape, which is much sharper. This means that these dumbbells are unlikely to roll away even if you decide to exercise on the slopes of Snowdonia.


The only limitation I’ve been able to identify with Mirafit’s dumbbells is the sparsity of weight options. Most companies offer a broad range of weights – typically from 1kg up to 10kg – yet Mirafit supplies a mere three: 1kg, 1.5kg and 8kg. Which is beyond arbitrary.


4.5 stars with over 300 reviews

Again, prices vary depending on weight selected


What customers are saying

Favourable

  • Great set of weights

  • Comfortable to use

  • Quality product

Unfavourable

  • Confusing weight selection method




3: JLL® Hex Dumbbell 4-32 KG Single or Pair, Heavy Duty Rubber Commercial Dumbbell, Weight Sets for Weight Training, Knurled Chrome Handle

Product Overview

  • Heavy duty solid hex rubber dumbbells.

  • Solid metal chrome finish handles.

  • Suitable for commercial gym or home gym use.

  • Perfect for body building, CrossFit, strength and fitness training.



Click on image for more information



Never fear, JLL is here! The hex dumbbell from JLL is a premium quality product. These are the type of dumbbells that you’d find in a public gym. And I don’t mean that figuratively or as an attempt to exaggerate the merit and worth of these dumbbells. The gym that I use has an army of them.


So why are they so good? For starters they are mega durable – rock and solid would be my go-to adjectives. In addition, the handles are sculpted in such a way that makes them a pleasure to hold; even after a long super set of hammer curls. Furthermore, the finely cut hexagonal shape prevents them from going walkabout and enables them to be stacked nice and neat in the corner of your gym.


Of all the dumbbells featured these are the most expensive but they’re also the best quality.


4.5 stars with over 50 reviews


What customers are saying

Favourable

  • Best value dumbbells

  • Superior quality

  • Just as good as gym weights

Unfavourable

  • ?



4: BodyRip ERGO NEOPRENE HAND DUMBBELL WEIGHT SET

Product Overview

  • BodyRip Dumbbells have a neoprene PVC soft, non-slip grip.

  • Ideal for dumbbell covering for home workout use.

  • Suitable for all ages and fitness levels, for toning and shaping, cardio or workouts.

  • The following set includes: 2 x 1kg, 2 x 2kg, 2 x 3kg. Internal Filler:

  • Perfect for power walking, aerobics, Yoga & Pilates as well as muscle toning & development.

Click on image for more information


This is a tidy little product from BodyRip. For your eighty five English pounds you’ll receive three weight variations – 1, 2 and 3kgs – and a portable storage rack. Of course the obvious questions is: what if I want a heavier weight range? And the obvious answer: go speak with the good people at JLL.


But if you’re just looking for a light set of weights that you can pop next to couch for when the adverts come on, BodyRip’s dumbbells will provide you with that extra resistance without causing you to break into a sweat.


They’re good for other things besides breaking the boredom of commercial advertisement. Lighter dumbbells are great to run with as they marginally increase the intensity whilst giving your shoulders a workout.


BodyRip’s dumbbells also satisfy, what I believe to be, the list of mandatory musts: Cast iron. Hexagonal. Coated. (And colourful!)


4.5 stars with over 130 reviews


What customers are saying

Favourable

  • Great weights set

  • Good little starter weights set

  • Great quality at a reasonable price

Unfavourable

  • Couldn’t figure out how to put the stand together



5: Amazon Basics Neoprene Dumbbell Pair

Product Overview

  • Set of 2 dumbbells for resistance training; each dumbbell weighs 3 Kg

  • Easy-grip neoprene coating for a secure hold

  • Printed weight number on each end cap and colour-coded for quick identification

  • Hexagonal shape prevents dumbbells from

Click on image for more information



Amazon’s neoprene dumbbells are almost identical to Mirafit and PROIRON's. The only distinguishing feature is the price. With Amazon you're getting the same quality but for half the price.


4.5 stars with over 1200 reviews

Price depends on the weight of the dumbbells.


What customers are saying

  • The vast majority of reviews are very complimentary.

Conclusion

To reiterate, the humble dumbbell is an excellent piece of exercise equipment and no gym – whether public or private – is complete without them. They are highly durable and bewilderingly versatile. Also, dumbbells are comparatively inexpensive and once you purchase a pair (one piece cast iron) you’ll never need to replace them.

(As we are very interested in user feedback at Hungry4Fitness, I would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)

Blog Author

Adam Priest is a former Royal Marines Commando, professional personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.