Best small weights: weights for women, smaller men and adding resistance to workouts

Amp up your next workout with some small weights that could make a big difference to your fitness

The best smaller weights can be used for big workouts, particularly when combined with cardio exercises. Whether you're looking for the best weights for women at home – although these are all suitable for men as well – or just want to up the ante on your run, or work harder in pilates, we’ve rounded up the best smaller-sized weights for your collection, as well as some cool weighted equipment – even a hula hoop. 

The best weights for women

Best small weights: Reebok Kettle Bell

1. Reebok Kettle Bell

4kg weight for overhead and beginner exercises

Reasons to buy
+Floor-friendly vinyl coating+Versatile
Reasons to avoid
-Know-how required

• Buy from John Lewis for £25

Kettlebells offer solid muscle building resistance with the added delight of an intense cardio workout, and if used correctly, can condense a lengthy gym routine into one short, sweaty swinging session. To get started, it’s best to choose a fairly small weight, to avoid any accidents and Reebok’s 4kg offering is perfect for those who are complete novices or anyone who wants to fling them around a bit. Reebook’s kettle bells have a glossy vinyl coating in a stylish, vibrant colour, which is perfect for anyone worried about damaging their wooden floor. The handle is smooth and shaped to comfortably sit in your hand and at £25, the kettle bell is a small investment for something that could turn into a new hobby. With practice, kettle bell exercises activate your core muscles, including your abdominals, hip, gluteals and back, while. The theory goes that developing a strong and active core will help to prevent injuries, ensure the long-term health of your spine and teach your body to move more efficiently.

• Further reading: Best kettlebells

2. New Image cast iron and EVA dumbbell set

Perfect for aerobics

Reasons to buy
+Perfect for amping up cardio classes+Versatile
Reasons to avoid
-A bit too light for some

• Buy from Argos for £13

Step aerobics may not be the most fashionable of cardio exercises but if you enjoy any sort of cardio that involves jumping around to music, like Zumba, a pair of 1 or 2kg dumbbells can add resistance to make your workout more productive. New Image’s dumbbell set is a cheap and cheerful addition. The £13 weights are made cast iron and EVA and have straps to stop them flying out of your hands, should lose yourself in an intense Zumba move and forget to hold on. Regular use of weights during cardio can help shape and tone your body and increase the number of calories burned, but you may want to increase the weight of your dumbbells as you get fitter and fitter.

Best little weights: Reebok adjustable 1kg ankle weights

3. Reebok adjustable 1kg ankle weights

For more intense running training

Reasons to buy
+Covered in foam for comfort+One size fits all
Reasons to avoid
-Look a bit ugly

• Buy from John Lewis for £23

Using ankle weights while you run probably won’t make you faster in the short term, but they will help strengthen the lower body, leading to greater strength and endurance.  Reebok’s adjustable 1kg ankle weights are covered in foam for comfort and add just a little extra to your workout, weighing 1kg each. They fit comfortably around your ankle thanks to an adjustable hook and look closure, but obviously look a bit bulky. To get the most out of your £23 they are also great if you do leg raises and other lower body exercises using a resistance band.

• Further reading: Best running shoes

Best small weights: Reebok Training wrist weights

4. Reebok Training wrist weights

For extra resistance, hands free

Reasons to buy
+Adds hands free resistance+Comfortable
Reasons to avoid
-Can’t be used for all exercises

• Buy from John Lewis for £16 

Wrist weights are said to increase heart rate by 10bpm and boost oxygen and calorie consumption too. They’re great for adding into to your workout if you don’t want to change up what works for you too much, providing that’s not sprinting, of course. Wrist weights are great for adding to walking and aerobics, but they could cause injury if used incorrectly for more vigorous exercise like running. Reebok’s training wrist weights weigh half a kilo each and are foam covered with neoprene with an adjustable hook and loop closure for comfort, with a unique thumb sleeve for security to stop bounce. Best of all, they only cost £16, making them ideal to add to your gym kit.

Best small weights: Opti weighted hula hoop

5. Opti weighted hula hoop

Not just for kids!

Reasons to buy
+Adds fun to your routine+Great for your waist
Reasons to avoid
-Bulky to store

• Get it from Argos for £19.99

You might think that hula hoops belong in the playground, but when they are weighted, like this one by Opti, they can give you a fun and energetic workout (although you may want to close the curtains to avoid looking silly. The Opti hula hoop weighs 1.8kg and is covered by a soft foam material for comfort. It’s said that the movement of swinging your hips round can improve the tone in your stomach and lower back and there are lots of YouTube tutorials to follow once you’ve got the knack. The hoop has a waved design and is easy to assemble, meaning it can be stashed away slightly more easily, although it is still a bit bulky. Despite this, at £19.99 it’s a great way of keeping your routine fresh and fun.

• Further reading: Best fitness trackers

Best small weights: New Image weighted vest

6. New Image weighted vest

To make running more rewarding

Reasons to buy
+Burns calories and tones muscle with use+Neat and good value
Reasons to avoid
-Can get a bit hot

• Buy from Argos for £40

Whether you’re a runner or a home gym bunny, wearing a weighted vest is a great way of working harder while doing what you love.  New Image’s weighted vest weights 5kg and wearing it will help to burn more calories and improve muscle tone. It's perfect for running, walking, planking or pretty much doing any exercise and because it’s so close to your body, it’s unlikely to cause injury. New Image’s best has a neoprene outer padding for comfort and is made from quality, abrasion-resistant materials. It’s great value at £39.99 but one size fits all and you might get a bit hot. Still, it offers a lot of bang for its buck.

Further reading: Best compression socks for running

Best small weights: Men’s Health weighted skipping rope

7. Men’s Health weighted skipping rope

Not just child’s play

Reasons to buy
+Weights boost benefits+Great for HITT training
Reasons to avoid
-You’ll need to practice

• Buy in Argos for £11

Make like Rocky Balboa and go skipping for an intensive HIIT workout. When you have perfected the technique, the Men’s Health weighted skipping rope can help you increase the burn thanks to its weighted handles. Using a weighted rope promises to boot intensity and ramp up the benefits you get from skipping, including coordination and agility. The rope is 303cm long, catering for tall men and can be customized easily by cutting it to length. Each comfortable rubber handle contains a removable 160g weight, meaning you can take them out or a more leisurely burst of exercise too. For just £10.99 it’s one of the hardest working and compact piece of kit going.

Further reading: Best running shorts

Best small weights: Soft weights

8. Soft weights

Perfect for Pilates

Reasons to buy
+Very versatile+Gentler when dropped
Reasons to avoid
-Requires knowledge

• Buy at from Amazon for £10

Soft weights are designed for strengthening and mobilisation exercises, making them a great way to get back into exercise if you’ve had a break from it, or an injury. But they are also brilliant for floor exercises and Pilates. Fans of soft weights believe they offer a more fluid range of motion than standard dumbbells and are safer when dropped. The shape also helps to promote the development of functional grip strength. The Mad Fitness weights have a rubbery outer shell and sand filling. They come in different weights, but 1kg is a great place to start for change for £10.

Best small weights: Reebok dumbbell set

9. Reebok dumbbell set

An attractive set of basics

Reasons to buy
+A versatile set of weights+Good value for money
Reasons to avoid
-No big weights included

• Buy from John Lewis for £39.99

There’s a good chance you have a set of dumbbells kicking around in your bedroom or garage, but have you got all the basics covered? Reebok’s set contains including two weights each of 1kg, 2kg and 3kg, making it perfect for beginners and those wanting to target really specific muscles. The dumbbells are designed to can take on a whole range of upper body exercises that add a challenging extra dimension to your exercise routine. The squared ends mean they can be used for curls as well as plank to upright rows and they won’t roll when placed on the floor, while the compact storage case allows this £39.99 set to be stowed away easily.