Exercise — we all need it, and some of us prefer to skip the crowds and design a home gym built to suit our specific needs. Of course, if you’re going to have a home gym, you’re going to need dumbbells, staple gym equipment. But there’s a potential issue when it comes to dumbbells and home gyms: space. Maybe you have enough extra space for long dumbbell racks filled with weights in increments of five pounds, but maybe you don’t. Whether you prefer full dumbbell racks or adjustable, and space-saving, dumbbells, you’re going to need to do your research. And that’s why we searched the web to find the best dumbbells for home gyms, according to fitness experts.
Researchers in a study from Edith Cowan University say that “you may be able to cut your weightlifting routine in half and still see the same muscle-building results.” How, you ask? “Scientists have demonstrated that one variety of muscle contraction appears most effective at increasing muscle strength and size.” That type of contraction? Eccentric contractions, sometimes called “negatives,” are where you focus on lowering the weight in a slow and controlled manner. You resist weight as you lower it, and this has been shown to provide better muscle-building results than concentric (lifting) or isometric (static) contractions. But there’s even more good news about eccentric contractions for those with injuries.
Injuries are a pain (no pun intended) for many reasons. But for athletes injuries can often be devastating both mentally and physically. Hard-earned muscle will wither away when a body part cannot be used, but there is training that can prevent some muscle loss. A study conducted in collaboration with National Taiwan Normal University finds that “gaining muscle strength in one limb through resistance training does actually transfer some benefits to the same muscle on the opposite side of the body.” Yes, you can train one side of your body and still benefit the injured side. And what type of training makes this “cross-education effect” take place? You guessed it, focusing on eccentric contractions worked best. But it not only worked: “muscle strength actually increased by four percent among the eccentric group — showing a stronger cross-education effect.”
Having dumbbells in your arsenal for your home gym can help you gain the muscles and strength you need. Below is StudyFinds’ list of the top five best dumbbells for home gyms, according to the pros. Our list is based on the top recommendations across eight expert sources. Of course, we want to know which dumbbells top your list, so comment below to let us know!
The List: Best Dumbbells for Home Gyms, According to Fitness Experts
The landslide victory goes to Bowflex for these space-saving dumbbells. Purchased as a pair, you can choose between increments of 5 – 52.5 lbs. or 10 – 90 lbs., which replace 15 and 17 pairs of weights, respectively. If you’re tight on space, these may be the perfect solution for you. “When paired with a simple weights bench, they offer an effective alternative to a gym floor yet don’t require an entire rack to the house,” writes T3 Magazine. They also note that adjusting weight is a breeze because “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.”
Men’s Health raves about these dumbbells: “They’re not the cheapest or the most expensive—these adjustable dumbbells from Bowflex are just right in almost every way.” They share that these dumbbells are “incredibly compact,” and that “the plastic-coated steel construction is extremely durable, built to last for years, if not decades with proper maintenance.” They also “like that these dumbbells coordinate with the complete range of Bowflex home gym products, including kettlebells, barbells, and more.” And for this reason, they say “it’s no wonder they’ve been a best-selling dumbbell set for almost a decade. It’s also why they’re our pick for the best dumbbells overall in 2023.”
“If you’re looking for a versatile, all-in-one set of weights, look no further than the BowFlex SelectTech 1090,” writes Sports Illustrated. They share that the 1090 version “moves in five-pound increments, from 10 pounds all the way to 90 pounds. Many dumbbells stop around 50 pounds, so we like that this weight set goes heavier. You may not need to use the 90 pounds now, but with consistent training, most users find they require heavier and heavier weights over time.” But if you don’t need weight that heavy you can choose the 552 version that range from 5-52.5 lbs. It’ll also save you a few bucks too!
These are typical dumbbells that you’d find in a gym, meaning space is required. And depending on your needs, you may end up housing multiple dumbbell racks if you choose this option. Many gym goers do prefer the feel of this style dumbbell to adjustable ones, but it comes down to preference. Men’s Journal writes that “anyone who’s spent time in a gym has likely seen a CAP dumbbell. It’s a solid piece of workout equipment with knurled steel handles and a chrome finish for a non-slip grip. The hexagonal shape means they won’t roll away on you, and the polypropylene material won’t damage your floor when you set them down, making them an excellent option for home gyms.” And you may be surprised how big of a deal the hexagonal shape is. With round dumbbells, you’ll quickly find out how level your floors are.
For beginners, Garage Gym Reviews likes the CAP 150-pound dumbbell set sold on Amazon. They write that “the dumbbells start at five pounds and only go up to 25 pounds, so I wouldn’t recommend this set for anyone who can throw down the big weights.” They go on to share that this set in particular “aren’t next-level dumbbells, but they’ll do the trick. The hex heads are made of solid cast iron and coated with a durable rubber outer layer.” But one thing to keep in mind is that “the handles are cold-rolled solid steel, although not stainless steel, so they are prone to corrosion.”
Healthline writes that CAP dumbbells are “another solid choice for rubber-coated, hex-shaped dumbbells,” and that they “come in a wide range of weights from 3–120 pounds (1.4–54.4 kg).” And if you’re worried about grip: “The textured ergonomic handle is designed to help improve grip, which is especially important when you’re lifting heavier weights.” Though one thing to keep in mind is that “each dumbbell is sold individually, so if you need a variety of resistance levels, you’ll need to purchase several dumbbells, keeping in mind, if you want pairs, you’ll have to buy two of each resistance.”
These are adjustable dumbbells that, according to the PowerBlock website, are used by some 17 different professional sports teams. The design makes it easy to change weights, but the blocks can be a bit bulky at heavier increments. “These dumbbells have durable urethane-coated steel plates, and the attachments allow them to go up to 90 pounds per dumbbell. You can adjust the weight by inserting a pin into the plate of your choice, according to the brand. These dumbbells also include an auto-lock lever on the handle that can help make micro-adjustments in 2.5-pound increments, PowerBlock says,” writes NBC.
Healthline shares that “PowerBlock dumbbells are a popular expandable and adjustable option. The base model adjusts from 2.5 to 50 pounds (1.1 to 22.7 kg) in 2.5-pound (1.1-kg) increments. You can add one expansion pack for resistance up to 70 pounds (31.8 kg) and a second for resistance up to 90 pounds (40.8 kg) per dumbbell.” They go on to say that “relative to the weight it offers, this dumbbell set provides quite a bit of value considering how many separate dumbbells it replaces. Plus, the expansion packs allow you to get even more bang for your buck.”
“Although not as enjoyable to use or as versatile as traditional dumbbells, there’s no escaping just how useful a set of adjustable dumbbells is for most folk looking to get fitter, build muscle or burn fat from home. With its unique stacking system, the units feel well-balanced even when fully loaded. The recessed grips allow plenty of range of motion for various exercises,” writes T3 Magazine. But they do like “the fact that these dumbbells take up very little room, making them really easy to store, and offer a very affordable way of achieving a decent weight spread without needing an entire rack or tower full of individual dumbbells.”
REP fitness has built quite a name for itself in the fitness industry now offering just about every piece of strength training equipment one could need. And we’re talking high-quality equipment. Expect to pay for that quality. When it comes to dumbbells, they offer something most companies don’t: “While many other brands coat the ends of their dumbbells in rubber, REP is one of the few brands that coats the entire dumbbells, handles included,” writes Sports Illustrated. Of course, if the coated handles don’t appeal to you, they have many other options as well. But they share that “by coating the handle in a comfortable rubber grip, REP is aiming to avoid rusting and chipping that often occurs with repeated use. If the traditional metal knurling on dumbbells tends to give you calluses or irritate your hands, the rubber coating can provide a smoother grip.”
And for their pairs without rubber-coated handles, NBC writes that “the dumbbells — which have rubber-encased ends that the brand says can minimize noise and limit wear and tear to both the dumbbells and the floor — come in pairs, with weights ranging from 2.5 pounds up to 125 pounds. And the importance of grip cannot be understated, especially with some exercises placing the dumbbells over your head or face. They go on to share that “the handles are also fully knurled, meaning they contain ridges that can provide a more comfortable and sturdier grip when working out, according to the brand.”
If you want REP’s quality but don’t have space for full sets of dumbbells, don’t worry, because they also offer plate-loaded dumbbell handles. Active writes, “we’re constantly repping REP Fitness because they make solid strength equipment that would be a welcome addition to any home gym setup. These dumbbells have cast-iron plates that you can switch on and off to change the weight. A knurled connector piece is included to attach the dumbbells, which makes for an overall more versatile piece of equipment.” And as far as what kind of weight you can load on them: “You can choose from two sets that add up to 20 and 52.5 pounds or a 40-pound add-on. If, for example, you go for the 52.5-pound set, you will get two handles, four collars, sixteen 5-pound plates, four 2.5-pound plates, and four 1.25-pound plates. These loadable, cast-iron dumbbells are compact and convenient to store. They will also save money and space by replacing several standard dumbbells.”
Of course you can purchase your dumbbells from Amazon, and that’s why these made most of the pros’ lists. The ease of ordering and the fact that they’re easy on the wallet helped them edge out other brands. “A budget-friendly basic, this rubber-coated dumbbell is sold individually, so you’ll probably need to purchase two,” writes Healthline. They note that “the rubber coating helps protect floors and other surfaces, and the contoured handle is easy to grip. Plus, their hex shape helps keep them from rolling and makes it easier to stack them on top of each other for storage if needed.” And if you need some convincing: “With more than 40,000 reviews and a 4.7 out of 5-star rating on Amazon, it’s clear that these get the job done.”
Sports Illustrated says that “For those looking to save a few bucks, or perhaps purchase only one dumbbell at a time, the Amazon Basics are sold individually at a price that won’t break the bank, and free shipping for Prime members.” And free shipping on weights is a big deal “as shipping weights can become quite pricey when ordering from a smaller retailer. Some companies charge hundreds per order in shipping fees, especially for larger sets.” Keep in mind that “the dumbbells are sold individually, so the prices you see reflect the cost of one dumbbell, not a complete weight set. You’re getting a well-designed dumbbell with a contoured handle and rubber hex ends that won’t roll away from you.”
“Amazon Basics offers single hexagonal dumbbells that range from 10 pounds to 50 pounds — they have rubber-encased ends and equip a solid cast iron core with a non-slip textured surface for a more secure grip, according to Amazon,” writes NBC. Unfortunately, even if you want to buy them in pairs, you cannot: “Amazon Basics does not offer these dumbbells in pairs, which means you’ll have to buy two if you’re hoping for a set.”
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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This post may contain affiliate links.