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No matter who you are or what your workout of choice is, everyone can use a good pair of hand weights in their arsenal. "Dumbbells are accessible and versatile, making them the ideal piece of equipment," says fitness trainer Emi Gutgold. "You can get a kick-ass full-body workout with a single dumbbell."
Certified personal trainer Dianna Falzarano agrees. "There are so many benefits when using free weights," she tells Byrdie. "You can do the workout anywhere, and for most moves, you just need about the space of a mat." Plus, Falzarano says that compared to resistance machines, dumbbells allow you to recruit more muscle groups while getting a larger range of motion.
Meet the Expert
- Emi Gutgold is a certified fitness trainer and pilates instructor. She offers virtual classes and private training in New York City.
- Morgan Coleman is a certified personal trainer and the founder of Ready Set Sweat Fitness. She specializes in toning and fat-loss workouts.
- Dianna Falzarano is a certified personal trainer and the owner/founder of Dynamic Fitness LLC. She offers virtual classes and one-on-one training sessions.
When shopping around, consider how heavy you want your weights to be and whether you're interested in just one pair, a set with multiple pairs, or an adjustable design.
Scroll down to check out the best dumbbells currently on the market.
Best Overall: RBX Neoprene Hand Weight Dumbbell Set
Easy-to-hold triangular shape
Doesn't have heavy weight options
"I prefer any dumbbell brand with a neoprene coating on the weights, as it's more comfortable to hold," says certified personal trainer Morgan Coleman. With this in mind, we're loving RBX Dumbbells. Thanks to the rubbery exterior, they boast a soft, yet comfortable non-slip grip that absorbs both sweat and shock.
These hand weights come in a range of chic, trendy hues, from hot pink and neon green to dusty purple and sleek black. Available in sets of two, you can choose from 2, 3, 5, or 8 pounds, or order a few pairs so you have more options.
Weight: Up to 8 lb. | Dimensions: Varies | Colors: Pink, teal, black, blue, purple, neon
Best Budget: All in Motion Dumbell
Sold in singles
Each size only comes in one shade
Dumbbells are among the most affordable pieces of exercise equipment, and these neoprene-coated beauties by All in Motion are a case in point. They're available in eight different weights, ranging from 2 to 15 pounds, and have no-roll heads for convenience and safety. Just keep in mind that these hand weights are sold individually, so you'll want to order two.
Weight: Up to 15 lb. | Dimensions: Varies | Colors: Purple, pink, blue, green, black, gray
Best Splurge: Bowflex SelectTech 1090 Dumbbells with Adjustable Weight
Good for small spaces
Storage tray included
No colorful shades
Gutgold is a fan of Bowflex SelectTech, a splurge-worthy, space-saving set designed for serious athletes. "They adjust from 5 to 52.5 pounds, or you can opt for the heavier pair, which goes up to 90 pounds," she tells Byrdie. "They were an absolute lifesaver for me during quarantine."
Weight: Up to 90 lb. | Dimensions: 17.5 x 9.5 x 10 in. | Colors: Black
Best Neoprene-Coated: Portzon Set of 2 Neoprene Dumbbell Hand Weights
Weight of the dumbbells can be off
This neoprene-coated pair of weights from Portzon fits Coleman’s ideal material specs and offers a range of peppy colors to make workouts more fun (or at least aesthetically pleasing). In addition to providing excellent grip and sweat resistance, the rubbery coating fares well against dents and punctures.
We also appreciate that these dumbbells have roll-resistant heads, and range from 1 to 15 pounds each.
Weight: Up to 15 lb. | Dimensions: Varies | Colors: Red, orange, green, blue, purple, black, gray
Best Set: Fitness Republic Dumbbell Set
Can't decide which size to get? Consider investing in a complete set, like this 10-piece collection from Fitness Republic. You'll get five pairs of dumbbells, weighing 3, 5, 8, 10, and 12 pounds each. Not only that, but it comes with a durable steel rack to keep your weights organized.
Weight: Up to 12 lb. | Dimensions: 14 x 26.5 in. | Colors: Black, blue, red, yellow, green
Best Adjustable: NiceC Adjustable Dumbbell Pair
Good for small spaces
Easy to adjust
Doesn't have heavy weight options
If you're short on space or aren't sure what size you need, an adjustable pair of weights will be your best bet. Nice C Dumbbells come with weighted bars, which you can add or remove to customize your desired weight.
Measuring just 12 x 3.5 inches each, they're conveniently compact and suitable for on-the-go use. We also like that they're coated in neoprene and feature a curved design, so you get a solid grip.
Weight: Up to 5.5 lb. | Dimensions: 12 x 3.5 in. | Colors: Blue, pink, black, gray
Best Square: PopSugar Neoprene Dumbbell
Sold in singles
Each size only comes in one shade
PopSugar's take on free weights is this modish dumbbell. In addition to a cool aesthetic, the square shape prevents it from rolling on the floor or off of a storage shelf. If you have wrist pain, the unique design also makes a great grip for push-ups.
These neoprene-coated, cast iron hand weights are sold individually, so be sure to order a pair. You can choose from seven weights, ranging from 3 to 20 pounds each.
Weight: Up to 20 lb. | Dimensions: Varies | Colors: Pink, blue, teal, orange
Most Trendy: Bala Weighted Bala Bars Set of 2
Soft silicone coating
Rolls on smooth floors
Only one weight available
Are aesthetics a priority when purchasing fitness gear? We can relate. That's why we're all about Bala Bars, which are pill-shaped dumbbells coated in baby-soft silicone.
While they only come in one weight (3 pounds each), they're ideal for light resistance training and a range of toning exercises.⁵ What's more, these compact, travel-friendly dumbbells are only 7 x 2.2 inches each and come with their carrying case.
Weight: 3 lb. | Dimensions: 7 x 2.2 in. | Colors: Black, pink, blue, green, gray, sand
Best for Beginners: ProForm 6-Piece Dumbbell Kit
Storage tray included
Outdated DVD tutorial
If you're an exercise novice or just new to free weights, the ProForm Dumbbell Kit is a great place to start. This six-piece set comes with three pairs of dumbbells (3, 5, and 8 pounds each).
They're made of cast iron, wrapped in grippy silicone, and feature an ergonomic shape for maximum comfort. The set comes with an exercise chart, a beginner-friendly workout DVD, and a storage tray.
Weight: Up to 8 lb. | Dimensions: 22 x 11 x 5 in. | Colors: Black
Best for Sculpting: Ziva Studio Tribell Dumbbells
Looking to achieve a toned, sculpted physique? You can't go wrong with Ziva Studio Tribells. They come in nine different weights ranging from 4 to 20 pounds and feature ribbed ergonomic grips.
These thoughtfully designed hand weights are made of steel and coated with a durable rubber finish. The slightly rounded, triangular heads also prevent them from rolling around.
Weight: Up to 20 lb. | Dimensions: Varies | Colors: Black, turquoise
Best for HIIT: Rogue Rubber Hex Dumbbells
"My favorite dumbbells are the Rogue Rubber Hex Dumbbells," says Falzarano. "If I'm ordering equipment, I first check their website."
These durable hand weights have chrome-plated steel handles and rubberized non-roll heads. Available in several sizes ranging from 2.5 to 125 pounds, they're an excellent choice for HIIT (high-intensity interval training).
Weight: Up to 125 lb. | Dimensions: Varies | Colors: Black
Best Heavyweight: CAP Barbell Adjustable Dumbbells
Hard-shell carrying case
If you're looking to build strength and muscle, heavier weights might be the way to go.⁶ This set from CAP Barbell comes with two dumbbells, ranging from 20 to 100 pounds each.
Thanks to the round cast-iron plates, you can adjust them as needed. Though the heads aren't roll-proof, we like that these hand weights come with a hard-shell carrying case for easy storage and transport.
Weight: Up to 100 lb. | Dimensions: 20 x 9 x 8 in. | Colors: Black
The best dumbbells overall are RBX Neoprene Hand Weight Dumbbell Set. They come in sets of two, each coated in neoprene for a soft, yet comfy moisture-resistant grip. For folks on a budget, we recommend All in Motion Dumbbell, an affordable neoprene-coated free weight with a non-roll head.
What to Look for When Buying Dumbbells
When buying dumbbells, the first thing you'll want to consider is the weight. Research has shown that lighter weights can be just as good as heavier loads for strength training. Ideally, they should be heavy enough to fatigue your muscles after several reps but not so heavy that you struggle to lift them.
Also keep in mind that while dumbbells often come in pairs, some are sold individually. So when you look at the product description, make sure to check whether the weight accounts for each dumbbell or the entire set.
Fixed vs. Adjustable
Today's dumbbells come in two main categories: fixed and adjustable. Fixed hand weights are solid with a set (fixed) weight, so if you need something lighter or heavier, you'll have to get another pair.
Adjustable dumbbells, on the other hand, feature bar-and-weight configurations that allow you to add or subtract pounds to achieve the desired weight. Though most models are designed with safety in mind, you'll want to be mindful of the plates sliding around or falling off.
Storage and Portability
You also want to think about how you'll store your dumbbells, and if you're planning to use them in different locations, whether they're travel-friendly. Adjustable models tend to take up the least amount of space, and they often come with carrying cases. If you want to lighten your load when packing for a trip, look for a lighter set with a compact design.
Why are dumbbells so expensive?
For one thing, they’re heavy. This means three things: They’re made to be durable, they’re engineered to be easy to use, and they’re expensive to ship. While dumbbells look simple sitting on the floor, it costs a pretty penny to get all that weight from the factory to your at-home gym.
How much does a good dumbbell set cost?
According to our list, a great set of dumbbells can run anywhere from $90 to well over $1,000. Some are basic, while some have all the bells and whistles you could want from a set of dumbbells, but what they all have in common is the ability to help you achieve results. It all comes down to how much you’re willing to spend.
Are adjustable dumbbells worth the price?
While adjustable dumbbells tend to be more expensive than the fixed variety, consider that you get more versatility with the adjustable. Plus, by being able to increase or decrease weights according to your changing needs without having to invest in a new set of dumbbells, the cost may even balance out over time.
What are the benefits of using dumbbells?
"Unlike machines with fixed attachments that can typically only be used for a handful of exercises," Gutgold says, "free weights give more variety to your workouts and will force your stabilizing muscles to work harder."
As Coleman explains, "Incorporating free weights in your workout has several health benefits, including building lean muscle, increasing your body's metabolism, and helping to burn fat." Falzarano says you can also expect to increase your balance and coordination over time.
How do you use dumbbells?
There are virtually endless ways to use dumbbells. As Falzarano explains, you can do a range of functional movement patterns while holding them, including pushing, pulling, hinging, and rotating. "Some of my favorites are goblet squats, split squats, single-leg deadlifts, bent-over rows, single-arm rows, typewriters, push presses, weighted deadbugs, and chest presses."
Coleman says she loves using dumbbells for dynamic exercises with multiple muscle groups. "For example, standing on one leg in tree pose and doing hammer curls is a great way to work your shoulders and biceps while also engaging your abs."
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie contributor Theresa Holland is a commerce writer specializing in lifestyle and wellness. She interviewed two certified personal trainers and one fitness instructor for this article, then compiled their product recommendations and usage insight. Before landing on her final selections, she looked at dozens of dumbbells from various retailers, combed through product specs, and referenced several peer-reviewed studies. Theresa covers fitness gear, skincare, makeup, and haircare at Byrdie. You can find more of her bylines on The Spruce and Verywell Health.