In many respects, the best dumbbells are also the best home weights, especially if you want big arms. Compact they might be, the best dumbbells are not only good for advanced gun sculpting but they can also provide a full body workout, get you fit, boost metabolism and build muscle, all at once. The best dumbbell brands, such as Bowflex, Powerblock, NordicTrack and JaxJox, struggle to keep up with the sky-high demand for their dumbbells, hence why it's so hard to get hold of decent cheap home weights, even in 2021.
A good set of home weights is at the centre of any muscle-building, fat-shredding, sweat-inducing workout and can be used for numerous different exercises to achieve any number of fitness goals, from basic weight loss to fat-shredding High Intensity Interval Training – or HIIT for short – and they can also get you big arms (obviously).
If you find a good dumbbell deal today, we recommend not waiting around for too long and buying them quickly as the best Bowflex deals and dumbbells in general are still in short supply. According to a research conducted by sweatband.com, a fitness equipment retailer, "dumbbell sales were up +3,464% in 2021, compared to last year."
Can you build muscle with dumbbells only?
Most people will probably associate dumbbells with bicep curls, but they can train so much more than just the front of your upper arm. Biceps are overrated, hear us out!
Triceps are the new biceps and you can use dumbbells to strengthen these muscles doing overhead extensions, triceps kickbacks or lying triceps extensions. Tone your shoulders doing shoulder presses, lateral raises or upright rows. You can even train your legs with dumbbells: squats can be performed with dumbbells as well as lunges and deadlifts.
Get a weight bench for your home gym and you can further extend your repertoire: bigger your chest muscles (or 'pecs') with the dumbbell bench press, dumbbell flyes or straight-arm dumbbell pullovers. Not to mention the back exercises like one arm rows or reverse flyers. The possibilities are truly endless.
Modular dumbbells are perfect for home gyms due to their compact size and versatility. If you choose to buy one, the Bowlfex Selecttech range is one of the best options out there: simply dial in the required weight and the dumbbell cleverly grasps the correct plate/s.
Have you ever wondered which one is best for home workouts: dumbbell vs kettlebell? Or maybe dumbbell vs barbell? We compared them already. If you want to stand firmly on the ground when working out, you need a pair of the best workout shoes too.
How to buy the best dumbbells
Invest in a top array of weights and you'll be surprised at what you can achieve with some help from a few online workout plans and a dollop of dedication.
As with many things in life, the humble dumbbell comes in a confusing array of shapes, sizes, weights and mechanisms, so choosing the right one for you is important.
Typically, a dumbbell will either be rounded or hexagonal, the latter being the smart choice as it doesn't roll away when you put it down. It's also perfect if you fancy using a dumbbell for press-up variations.
Secondly, the weight is particularly important, especially if you opt for a fixed dumbbell system, which can't be adjusted or added to.
This singular weight will make progression tricky, as it could be too heavy for certain exercises, or too light to effectively build muscle or add enough resistance to raise the heart rate.
Finally, the choice of material should also be a consideration. Matte black metal weight discs might look masculine and cool but they can also wreak havoc with wooden floors and make a racket.
Rubber coated weights tend to make less noise and, generally, less mess. Although as with a tyre on a road, if you drag a weight across a hard floor, you can end up with skid marks. Nobody wants skid marks.
We've got options that are good for everyone from beginners to slightly more challenging sets for when the guns begin to show.
Where to buy dumbbells right now?
Your best bet is to check big retailers and sign up for stock alerts so you will be alerted when dumbbells are back in stock. Be patient, even if you find a pair of decent dumbbells, delivery can take up to a few weeks.
- Shop dumbbells at Mirafit
- Shop dumbbells at Sweatband
- Shop dumbbells at Wolverson Fitness
- Shop dumbbells at Amazon
- Shop dumbbells at Best Buy
- Shop dumbbells at Dick's Sporting Goods
- Shop dumbbells at Walmart
- Shop dumbbells at Amazon
Best dumbbells, in order of preference
Halting a workout to unscrew unwieldy metal spin collars and replacing weight plates can break flow, while those who are really looking to bulk up will need plenty of weight options to choose from, which means a surplus of storage space.
These beasts from Bowflex pack 2-24 or 4-41kg in each dumbbell, depending on the model you go for, with weight selection as easy as spinning a dial. When paired with a simple weights bench, they offer an effective alternative to a gym floor, yet don't require an entire rack to house.
Compared to Powerblock, the rival modular weight system (see below), the Bowflex weights look and feel far more like classic dumbbells, although a lack of colour coding does mean you have to pay a little more attention when piling on the kilograms and it's best to avoid launching them across the room.
That said, the spinning dial is easy to navigate and the included plastic stand makes it simpler to guide the weights back into place when you're finished, although with certain configurations, you do have to be quite careful.
Overall, a great solution for those who like to push on with intensive 'drop set' workouts or for those who are tight on space. In fact, our only real reservation is the price, which will make you sweat before you even try to lift them.
• Read our full Bowflex Selecttech review here
Domyos is Decathlon's own brand but unlike other non-branded products, Domyos dumbbells are high quality and priced affordably. PLus, given the unique triangular shape, they are great for push ups, renegade rows and other bodyweight exercise such as L-sits too.
The only issue with Domyos Hex dumbbells is that everybody knows they are good so they are on short supply since the early days of 2020, when the original lockdown was imposed on people. You can sign up for stock alerts but if you get an email, we recommend moving fast and maybe you will be able to beat the bots at the checkout.
The Mirafit rubber dumbbells are sexy and they know it. The solid cast weight are connected with 32mm knurled solid steel grip and the rubber coating protects flooring and reduces noise. The weights are clearly marked on the ends for easier identification.
There really isn't much to say about these dumbbells: you get what you pay for, in a good way. The only possible downside is that they might roll around a bit on hard floors but that's it, really. Get these if they are in stock, they will serve you well.
Tired of having to do more than just pressing a button to choose the right weights for your workout? Have a look at the JaxJox DumbbellConnect, the 'first ever smart dumbbell set'. At the push of a button, you can increase or drop weight in 6-pound increments from 8 to 50 pounds. Neat, huh?
The DumbbellConnect can be linked to the full Jaxjox InteractiveStudio, an all-in-one smart home gym featuring "AI-performance tracking" and live training sessions. Better still, for the price, you get not one but two dumbbells, so you can start sculpting both arms straight away, simultaneously.
For those who appreciate a bit of gamification in their workout, the Jaxjox DumbbellConnect uses a machine-learning algorithm to calculate a 'FitnessIQ score' and the system can also keep track of your overall progress.
One might argue that plain cast iron dumbbells are plenty good enough to build muscle but you shouldn't listen to haters: a 21 century workout requires modern tools and the Jaxjox DumbellConnect is as modern as it gets.
These must surely be the most-used weights in the UK, and are a staple of Argos and Amazon's websites. And little wonder.
You just can't beat a good old pair of cast iron weights, and a testament to this is the fact they can be found under the beds of dads and granddads up and down the country. Just don't go looking for them, there's probably stuff under there you really don't want to see.
Get your own and they will last a lifetime and for all of their noisy, palm-chafing downsides (get weight-lifting gloves or pay the price), there is a kind of nostalgic loveliness to the spin collar set-up. Even though at least one weight will nearly always comes loose mid-workout, it's never so much so that you feel endangered. The overtly rough grip and stupidly masculine cast iron finish have a lot of charm and even more longevity.
For less than £40 you get a not-particularly-heavy 10kg per arm maximum that is built to outlast civilisation as we know it. Honestly, a cast iron weight set is a modern day fossil… but a fossil that can keep you fit.
Thankfully, the fitness buffs over at Men's Health have noticed the benefits of a modular weights system, and have fashioned their own that nicely undercuts he competition on price but retains the benefits.
You might think £120 for a single dumbbell is expensive, but this Men's Health beauty packs 2.5kg-25kg weights in handy 2.5kg increments, making it one of the most compact and versatile systems money can buy. It's a lot more affordable than the Bowflex system, most importantly.
The overall build quality is great, with thick plastic used for all of the grippy bits, while the spinning weight selection collar is easy to use and neatly clicks into place for added safety and peace of mind.
Alas, there are some downsides to these systems, including the inability to drop them on the floor if gunning for a one-rep max (you'll break the weight selection mechanism if you do that too often), as well as the slightly unbalanced feeling thanks to the wide weight plate area.
But these are factors that are easy to adapt to and seem a small price to pay for such a versatile workout package, which will help gun-shapers and fat-shredders easily progress to the next level thanks to the easy incremental weight system.
• Read our Men's Health Adjustable Dumbbell review
Composed of a cast interior with a solid black rubber dumbbell body, these ultra-tough bad boys are the sort of thing you'll find in a commercial gym but are just about affordable enough to squeeze into a fancy home set-up.
The weight spread maxes out at 10kg, which might be too low for serious body builders, but these dumbbells are a lot more versatile than they look. A solid rubber outer coating is resistant to cracking and chipping, while the nifty hex shape and shock absorbing outer makes them great for push-ups and more explosive dumbbell workouts.
You'll probably want to invest int he storage rack, though, which means you'll also need a decent amount of floor space at home to use them properly.
Escape is a name that regular gym-goers will likely recognise from their local sweatbox, where the brand can be found supplying all manner of weight-related fitness gear.
This ridiculously expensive Urethane upright rack and weight kit perfectly highlights the true cost of investing in a spread of individual dumbbells, which are absolutely brilliant for maintaining perfect form but may require you to take up unlicensed boxing to fund their purchase.
The dumbbells are extremely well put together and will happily survive a lifetime of being dropped from a height and generally punished, but the weight spread is very limited and will only suit those with precision sculpting and cardio work in mind.
Although pricier than simpler dumbbell systems, these Nomad Fitness numbers combine great design with a solid range of weights, and are cheaper than the comparable Bowflex - because you get a pair, rather than just one.
These are heavy units too, offering an impressive spread of 5kg to 32.5kg, the only downfall being that they start at 5kg, making some of the more focussed and trickier exercises slightly tougher on the smaller muscle groups.
Here, you rapidly swap weights simply by twisting a dial (just like the Men's Fitness and Bowflex offerings), but it takes a bit of practice to get the swaps just right, as the remaining weights tend to move in their plastic container slightly.
The bobbled grip and clever design mean these things can be used for a range of exercise movements, from chest pressing to squatting, while the compact proportions equate to the size of two shoeboxes.
Granted, the cost may prove a stumbling block for some, but there's very little else out there that offers so much in such a compact package.
Everything about this set harks back to the glory days of bodybuilding, when Arnie was Pumping Iron and Gold's Gym was the place to hang out.
Finished in a robust Hammertone coating, these beefy metal plates resist wear and won't crack when dropped (although they may crack your tiled floor), while the rubber grips provide excellent traction even when hands are sweaty.
The 20kg per hand weight spread via a variety of 1.25-5kg weight plates is heavy enough to give both arms and legs a good workout, no matter your fitness level.
However, changing weights requires unscrewing the metal spin collar, which can be more time consuming and fiddly than you really want, mid-workout.
Where the bulky units from Bowflex and PowerBlock promise ultra-rapid weight changes, they don't take too kindly to being thrown across the home gym when you've just repped out a super set, and it can be a little fiddly to go from low to high weight settings.
The Quick-Lock system from IronMaster, on the other hand, is basically indestructible, but offers a similar kind of compact weight spread that's perfect for those lacking space.
A unique locking nut system allows the thin and tapered plates to be loaded on and secured with a couple of twists, rather than awkwardly spinning a collar for ages, only for it to then come loose. The entire system stacks in a storage unit that measures just 53cm wide, 38cm deep and 61cm tall, while the dumbbells measure just 36.5cm when fully loaded.
IronMaster's kits can be a bit pricey but the price does includes a stand and with the full set, not only are able to pump each dumbbell up to a substantial 34kg, you can then add a 74kg add-on kit, if you're a monster. That actually represents great value when you consider the cost of a similar rack set-up.
The hexagonal shape and rubber coating mean it is possible to use these dumbbells for more than simply pumping iron.
They can be placed on a flat surface and used for tricky dumbbell press-ups, renegade rows and more, without risk of damaging your floor or, hopefully, face.
Available in a variety of weights, this 12.5kg model seems to be the go-to number for your average fitness fanatic. Since the weight is not adjustable, costs soon mount up if you want more. A four-weight (12.5-20kg) will set you back well over 200 quid, but is arguably worth it, if you have a lot of space.
This affordable weight set might not boast the same neat finish as the more premium products here but the innovative grip handle shape means the weight plates can be used for a number of exercises on or off the provided bar.
You can either load up the 18-inch, non-slip metal bar for typical dumbbell curls, overhead pressing and weighted squats, or remove the weight plate to assist with ab crunches or weighted squat twists.
They also boast a floor-friendly plastic covering, which has also been designed to last.
As well as the 30kg set, there are various other maximum weight options from TNP in the same range.