- It’s truly amazing what you can do for your body with a good pair of dumbbells from building your strength to improving cardiovascular health.
- The space-saving, intuitively-designed Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells are our top pick because the weights can be adjusted to weigh as little as 5 pounds or as much as 52.5 pounds per dumbbell.
- If you’re looking to continue your fitness journey or further outfit your home gym, check out more health and fitness reviews here.
Dumbbells offer a superlative strength training workout because they engage so many muscles at once during use. A weight machine stabilizes the load for you, concentrating only on a few specific muscle groups at a time. Even a barbell limits the muscles used by distributing the effort across both arms (and/or shoulders, quads, pecs, and so forth).
When you have a dumbbell in your hand, you make use of myriad muscles both large and small as you work to safely and steadily complete those reps. The result is everything from enhanced grip strength to conditioning, as well as building up the targeted muscles, of course.
Fitness machines are all fine and good, but a good old dumbbell workout will always be a favorite. I’ll never turn my back on this classic approach to strength training. But it’s important for anyone working out to have good equipment that will keep you safe while you get strong.
Here are the best dumbbells you can buy:
- Best dumbbells overall: Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells
- Best basic dumbbells: CAP Barbell Cast Iron Hex Dumbbells
- Best adjustable dumbbells: Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells
- Best low-weight dumbbells: AmazonBasics Neoprene Dumbbell Set
- Best dumbbells for the pool: Trademark Innovations Aquatic Exercise Dumbbells
Updated on 12/17/2019 by Jen Gushue: Updated prices, links, and formatting. We are currently testing new products, so we’ll update this guide soon.
The best dumbbells overall
The Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells allow you to adjust the weight of each dumbbell anywhere from 5 to 52.5 pounds.
The first time I saw a pair of Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells, I have to admit that I was skeptical at best. The weights just looked odd, what with a dial controlling how much weight was loaded onto each bar and the dumbbells looking almost dainty when not loaded up to their full 52.5-pound capacity. And what a waste of time fiddling around with dials when you could just have a larger set of multiple solid weights to grab as needed.
Then I did a few reps of chest exercises and curls. Guess what? The skepticism was gone. These dumbbells feel sturdy whether laden with just a few pounds for a lateral raise or with more than 50 pounds for bench presses or lunges. They adjust so quickly – you just set the dumbbell into its base among the weight discs, turn the dial to the desired load, and pick the bar up again. And given the fact that this one pair of dumbbells can replace 15 separate sets, there is simply no comparison when it comes to price.
Yes, the price tag is high, but if you were buying several pairs of dumbbells at each different weight you need for your workout, you’d be paying well over the cost of the adjustable set. Plus, with the Bowflex Adjustable Dumbbells, you can continue to adjust to heavier weights as you get stronger, eliminating the need to buy further pairs.
Also, while many people might not need every single weight configuration offered by the Adjustable Dumbbells, their broad range of adjustments makes them suitable for multiple users. There is only one drawback here, and it’s the fact that 52.5 pounds is not heavy enough for some exercises for some people.
Wirecutter calls these dumbbells “user-friendly” and felt they represented a great value. Fit Rated says the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells had a “sturdy feel and solid rubber grip” and were ideal for home gyms.
Insider Picks reporter Mara Leighton tested the adjustable dumbbells and found them invaluable because they are “easy to use, intuitive, and you can tweak your home workout to be as difficult as you want.”
Pros: Space-saving, quick and easy weight changes, comfortable grips
Cons: Maximum weight of 52.2 pounds too light for some users
The best basic dumbbells
The CAP Barbell Cast Iron Hex Dumbbells are made from solid iron and are perfectly sized and balanced for countless workouts.
Sometimes simple really is better and the CAP Barbell Cast Iron Hex Dumbbells have mastered the design of a great classic dumbbell.
With a solid iron dumbbell in each hand, you can work out for hours every week, drop the weights a thousand times (assuming you have pads on the floors), and never run the risk of damaging your gear. Frankly, I’m not really sure how you could even damage these weights without a furnace that could reach the 2,800-degree melting point of iron.
The dumbbells come in a pair with individual unit weight spanning from 5 to well over 100 pounds (they’re also sold individually). Each weight has a textured grip that helps you maintain a safe, proper grasp even when your hands are damp with sweat. The hexagonal shape of the weights prevents them from rolling around on the ground, both protecting you from injury and keeping your walls and other gym equipment dent-free. The shape also keeps them nice and stable on the rack.
I personally own dumbbell pairs weighing 50, 40, 25, and 15 pounds and have been using these weights for more than seven years so far. Yes, adjustable dumbbells are convenient, but solid iron is forever.
USA Home Gym calls the CAP Barbell Cast Iron Hex Dumbbells well-made and appreciated how the hexagonal shape stops “the dumbbell from rolling” and can “provide easier storage.”
Pros: Last for a lifetime, hexagonal shape prevents rolling, easy to read weight numbers
Cons: Price adds up with multiple pairs
The best adjustable dumbbells
The Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells save you space by offering multiple weight configurations on each bar and save you cash by using a basic spin-lock collar and weight discs that slide on and off the grips.
I used these exact types of dumbbells for many years, switching to solid weights only after somehow losing a few of the plates over time, thus making it difficult to create a properly balanced weight. And while not ideal for the serious power-lifter, for most strength-training enthusiasts, these weights are a great option because they’re easy to use and affordable.
To adjust the weight you have on each bar, you just twist off the holding ring, slip on the desired plates (making sure to evenly balance the weight) and then twist the collar back on. The inch-thick grips are a perfect size for most hands and the fact that you can adjust each dumbbell from as light as a pound or so when the handle is unladen to many dozens of pounds makes them quite versatile. Just remember that when a set says 60 pounds, that means total, i.e. a maximum of 30 pounds per hand, for example.
There is one major drawback to using a Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbell: During the course of a set of reps, the star-shaped locking collars that keep the weight plates on the handle almost always loosen, letting the weights jostle and spin and potentially impacting your form or even your safety. Here’s the thing: You can counter this loosening either with a rubber O-ring or simply with a rubber band twisted around the threaded posts.
Dumbbells Reviews calls the Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells yours for “a very friendly price” and appreciates their ease of adjustment. Fitness Rocks calls these weights “versatile” and “high quality,” noting their solid cast-iron construction.
Pros: Affordable option, easy to adjust weight, space saving design
Cons: Weight discs sometimes come loose, circular weights can roll on the floor
The best low-weight dumbbells
Adding lower weight dumbbells can make your workout much more productive, and the AmazonBasics Neoprene Dumbbells are perfect for that.
If you think you can’t get a meaningful workout using a pair of low-weight dumbbells, try holding them in an arm outstretched and parallel to the floor for a few minutes – you’ll feel the burn. The AmazonBasics Neoprene Dumbbell set comes in pairs from 1 to 20 pounds, but the set we’re recommending – a 20-pound set, which contains two 2-, 3-, and 5-pound weights, and a stand – are ideal for use during a walk or jog or during calisthenic exercises like knee bends, arm extensions, and so forth.
Low-weight dumbbells are great for people doing physical therapy, for older exercisers, or for people who are looking more for toning and leaner muscle than larger, more cut musculature. And a low-cost set like this is always welcome regardless of your fitness goals.
The dumbbells are color-coded for quick and easy identification and are entirely coated with a thick layer of neoprene. This covering enhances grip security and comfort and also protects flooring and furniture from a dropped weight. You probably can’t achieve a Schwarzenegger-like physique with these weights, but you can tone and tighten and also do wonders for your cardiovascular health.
Pros: Low price, comes with a stand, color-coded weights
Cons: Too light for some people
The best aquatic dumbbells
- Trademark Innovations
For a safe, productive workout, use the natural property of buoyancy to your advantage with the Trademark Innovations Aquatic Exercise Dumbbells.
Usually, a dumbbell helps you build muscle by requiring resistance against the downward pull of gravity. When you bring the Trademark Innovations Aquatic Exercise Dumbbells into the pool, you will instead be challenged the keep these highly buoyant EVA foam dumbbells down under the surface of the water.
Floating weights are a great way to challenge your body without putting undue strain on your muscles or joints and while minimizing the risk of injury. Not only is it harder to hyper-extend yourself while using aquatic dumbbells, but should you let go of one, it will bob to the surface instead of smashing down on your foot.
Using aquatic barbells can provide a targeted workout for the muscles in your arms, shoulders, and even across much of your back, depending on how you hold the “weights” while in the water. Keeping them partially above the surface provides only a bit of added resistance and is great for the early stages of physical rehab. Holding the dumbbells all the way under the water can present more of a challenge than you might expect, actually helping tone and strengthen muscles.
The one major drawback (if you can call it that) is that you will need a pool in which to use them.
Pros: Great for low impact workout, low price point, durable closed-cell foam that won’t absorb water
Cons: Not enough resistance for many users, pool not included