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Best Dumbbell Sets for Weight Training in 2019

Whether you want to lose fat or you want to really build muscle, weight training is for everyone. A set of dumbbells is one thing that is so versatile that can be used for part of the body, and for that reason it is one of the more common household exercise tools. Here are the best ones that you can get online to meet your fitness goals this year.

Dumbbells represent the peak of tried and true methods from decades of fitness technology. Dumbbells are effective for weight training, aerobic exercise, and even flexibility training. 

When considering equipment for your home gym, whether you want a fully equipped space or a small exercise corner, dumbbells should be the first thing on your list. That's why we've cut through the swath of brands and models to give you the best list of dumbbells for every budget.

How much should I expect to spend on a dumbbell set?

Dumbbells come with a wide range of features, and this is reflected in the wide range of prices. You can pick up a basic pair for between $10 and $50 dollars depending on the materials, their specific features, and the brand. 

Higher end dumbbells may come in at around $100 to $200 for better materials, adjustability, and better overall design. On the highest end, you may pay $300 to $400 or more for top quality dumbbells from some of the most recognizable brands.

An important thing to note is that the price scales with weight. Heavier pairs of dumbbells cost considerably more than the lighter pairs.

If you want to develop your fitness, you have to know what you want to do. You can develop your overall strength with higher weighted strength training, with the fewest overall reps per set.

What features should I consider in a budget dumbbell set?

Grip: The grip of a dumbbell is the friction created by patterns and specific materials on the handle that keeps it from twisting around and causing blisters or worse, flying out of your hand while in use. When considering grip, there are three important components to consider. First is the surface area of the handle, which determines how much of your hand can apply force and thus increase friction. Second is the pattern, which further increases surface area and created angles and groves that catch the applied force. The third is the material, which may be the metal handle itself, a synthetic polymer, rubber or something else, of which each has its own properties that affect grip.

Material: Most dumbbells are made of cast iron because it's cheap and heavy. Some select brands use rubber shells filled with sand, and some much older models might even have solid lead weights. Higher end brands use steel alloys for longevity and heavier weight, and some of the top brands use stainless steel for those same purposes.

Plates/ weight adjustment:  There are three main 'types' of dumbbells related to the weight adjustment capabilities. The first is the fixed weight which, as the name implies, have a fixed weight associated with each pair and are generally cheaper. Then there are adjustable-weight dumbbells, which through similar but sometimes distinct mechanisms across brands can have weighted plates removed from the handle and have heavier or lighter plates attached and fixed in place. Finally, there are 'selectorized' dumbbells, which have a seat containing multiple weighted plates and the handle. By turning a nob, you can select the weight amount you want and pull the handle out with only the weights attached that will meet that selected weight, in a mechanism not unlike changing the pin to a higher or lower weight on a weight machine.

Storage or space-saving features: Depending on the type and the number of dumbbells you buy, it may be useful to invest in a dumbbell rack, which can range from $30 to $130 depending on how many and what type of dumbbells you need it for, in addition to the quality of construction. In general, adjustable dumbbells are easier to store than fixed weight dumbbells because you can have a pair with weights sitting in the corner and store the rest of the weight plates away. The selectorized dumbbells are the best option for tight spaces. Overall they take up more room per pair than adjustable, but the plates are seated with the handle, meaning that all their necessary equipment can sit neatly in the corner when not in use, without being stacked or strewn about.

Frequently asked questions

How much weight should you use while working out?
This is a highly subjective and personal question, but there is a host of information online to help you determine what is right for you. To get a general idea, you should define your exercise goal. If you just want to maintain a level of exercise and you know about how much you can comfortably lift with good form, a single pair of fixed-weight dumbbells at that weight will be sufficient. 

If you want to develop your fitness, you have to know what you want to do. You can develop your overall strength with higher weighted strength training, with the fewest overall reps per set. You can build muscle mass, which is not the same as strength training, with mid-weight equipment at double or triple the reps per set as strength training. 

Finally, you can build muscle endurance by using light weights for lots of reps per set. It all depends on your level of fitness and your goal. You should never use more weight than you can lift while maintaining good form, which means you need to know what good form looks like. Otherwise, you will end up hurting yourself and potentially causing permanent damage.

How often should you increase the weight (and what is the weight range that you should invest in, assuming that you improve)?
Start with a light weight that you can do 15 perfect reps with. Then, try increasing it by five pounds each workout until you can find the upper limit that you can still do 15 perfect reps with. A good rule of thumb beyond that is to increase your weight by about 5 to 10 pounds a week, or every couple of workouts, depending on what you're doing. Many more advanced users have a 12-week cycle, wherein the first four weeks they lift 12 perfect reps for three sets. Then they go heavier for three sets of 10 reps for five to eight weeks, and then the remaining weeks they go even heavier for 8 reps. Then they start the cycle over begin the first four weeks with a heavier weight. With this in mind, you should think about where your fitness is and where you want it to be when considering the weight range you can invest in. If you're new to fitness and you plan on building up to a high level, you may want weights from 5-lbs to 60-lbs or higher. If you want to maintain your fitness level, you may only need a single pair or a few pairs in order to perform cycles. If you have a developed level of fitness and you want to go even higher, you may only need 35 to 45-lbs up to 60-lbs or more. 

How do you clean dumbbells?
Performing maintenance and general regular care for your dumbbells will ensure longevity and healthy, safe regular use. Use dish soap and water to clean cast iron and solid steel dumbbells, and don't forget to dry them to prevent rusting. If the weights are plated with chrome, applying something like WD-40 and wiping them down with a clean cloth before drying with another soft, clean cloth will ensure maximum shine and longevity. Rubber can be wiped down with dish soap and water and left to dry. Rubber dumbbells are best left out of the sun to improve longevity. If your dumbbells are coated in urethane, a synthetic compound stronger than rubber, you should only occasionally wipe them down with a clean damp cloth.

1) Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable

Key features
  • Selectorized dumbbells
  • 5-52.5 pound range
  • 15.75in L by 8in W by 9in H each
  • Bowflex SelectTech training companion app

Bowflex is one of the most well-known fitness brands in the world, as one of the original home and commercial fitness equipment manufacturers to come out of the United States. 

The SelectTech 552's are actually Bowflex's cheapest dumbbell options, and yet still represent the cutting edge of dumbbell technology. These are far and away the most expensive on this list, at the far end price-range for a dumbbell set.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other dumbbells sets?

As selectorized dumbbells, the SelectTech 552's are capable of what multiple pairs of fixed weights are and are far more compact than regular adjustable dumbbells. The 552's have a wide weight range, from 5 pounds to 52.5 pounds, meaning that they are useful for anyone who wants to get into, maintain, or develop their fitness. 

They save the space of 15 pairs of dumbbells and sit in a space that is, if they were laid end to end, a little over 30 inches long and 8 inches wide. Their stainless steel plates are coated in a polymer to prevent loud clattering, and they have a strong ovular rubber grip for an increased surface area.

They have an adjustable nob for setting their weight, which increases in increments of 2.5 pounds from 5 to 25 pounds, and from then on they increase by 5 pounds. The 552's are also designed with aesthetics in mind, for those interested in having sleek equipment.

What's not so good about it?

The main issue most will have with this set is the price. even if it represents 15 sets of dumbbells, some will find it just a little too steep to justify. Many customers have had an issue with older models, where the plastic plate-locking mechanisms broke after a short time. This has been fixed in newer models, so keep a keen eye on what model you're getting if you choose to purchase the SelectTech 552.

Several customers have complained about the clunkiness and general difficulty of use, with specific problems being the unwieldy nature of the dumbbells as well as problems with the weights sticking in the seating and not wanting to be pulled free. Many have also had problems with Bowflex customer service in relation to the above issues.

Pros:
  • Capable of the same use as 15 sets of fixed weights
  • Great space saving features
  • Easy and simple to change weight
Cons:
  • Price
  • Somewhat clunky and unwieldy 
  • Customer service issues

2) CAP Barbell Workouts Coated Hex available for $11 on Amazon

Key features
  • Fixed weight
  • 5-50 pound range
  • Chrome-plated handles
  • Cast iron coated in rubber

Next on our list is the CAP Barbell Coated Hex Dumbbell. CAP Barbell is a longtime manufacturer of fitness equipment with over 1,000 products in 30 plus categories. 

The Coated Hex Dumbbells they manufacture represent the latest in a long legacy of free weights made by CAP. The Hex can be bought for less than 20 dollars for a pair of 5-lbs dumbbells, and are available up to 50 pounds for just over 150 dollars.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other dumbbells sets?

These are a family standard type of dumbbell, one you might recognize from commercial gyms and the like. They have a contoured handle with a multi-pattern grip for maximizing surface area and catch. The heads are hexagonal, to prevent rolling while on the ground as well. The two important features to take into account, especially for cleaning, are the two main materials used in this set.

The handle is chrome-plated, meaning that it needs to be hit with a product like WD-40 and wiped down in order to remain reflective and prevent cloudiness and wear. The rubber heads cover the cast iron, so all that is needed is to wipe them down with soapy water and let them dry. 

As far as price goes, you won't be able to get the same range as something like the Bowflex 552 without paying a lot more, but with fixed weight dumbbells, you don't have to come up with all the money at once. You can pace out your purchases so you can get the lower weights for a little bit of money and train with those while you wait to buy the heavier sets. 

Another nice thing about fixed weight over something like selectorized dumbbells is that, if you're only looking for a pair to maintain a little bit of activity or a few mid-weight pairs for weekly cycling, they end up being a better deal.

What's not so good about it?

To start with, this model isn't very advanced. The rubber coated hexagonal heads are a nice feature, but the overall structure and materials aren't anything special for those who want something extra. Also, customers are urged to be diligent, as some websites will sell you only one dumbbell if you forget to select a pair.

Customer complaints centered around two main issues. One was rusting on the chrome plated handle, which can happen quickly with regular use even if cleaned regularly. The other was the smell, which all rubber dumbbells have. In this case, however, CAP advertised that the Hex did not have a smell.

Pros:
  • Good general use product
  • Solid fundamental design
  • Easy to clean
Cons:
  • Expensive at higher weights
  • Rusts quickly
  • Chemical smell

3) Gymenist Round Chrome

Key features
  • Fixed weight
  • 3-25 pound range
  • Chrome plated exterior
  • Round weight heads

Next, let's look at the Gymenist Round Chrome Dumbbells. Gymenist specializes in dumbbells, kettlebells, and ankle/wrist weights. 

Their Round Chrome dumbbells are a sleek, simply designed home fitness dumbbell that is best for those trying to maintain some level of daily activity. They are one of the more inexpensive models on this list.

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How does this item compare to other dumbbells sets?

This model is an interesting one because unlike some of the other models on this list, it doesn't go for anything extra. These weights are simple, and they reflect that in appearance and price. They are entirely chrome plated, which means that they are most likely cast iron-cored. WD-40 and a clean wipe every so often will help prevent rust on this model.

The weight range starts a bit lower than others, as these weights are marketed for a home gym and personal trainer use and so are likely meant to provide a good platform for those who want to get into fitness.

As they are simple and inexpensive, they also work for those who need a pair or a few pairs to maintain their fitness. Compared to the Hex above, the rounded heads will have a tendency to roll away if you aren't careful, but will not smell.

What's not so good about it?

The max weight for this model is only 25 pounds, so while it is a good starter model for beginners, it will not carry you past the fitness plateau at 25 pounds. Some may find the rounded heads a bother without a rack, too. Finally, the full chrome body will eventually present a problem as far as rust goes, unless you meticulously clean it regularly, and even then there's no guarantee.

Pros:
  • Great for beginners
  • Inexpensive
  • Chrome helps prevent premature rusting 
Cons:
  • Because all chrome, will have to deal with rust
  • Not a wide weight range
  • Rounded heads may become a bother

4) Tone Fitness 20 lb. Hourglass

Key features
  • Fixed weight 
  • 3-5 pound range
  • Neoprene
  • Hourglass design

Now, we'll look at the Tone Fitness Hourglass. Tone Fitness has put their emphasis on innovation and the overall technological development of fitness equipment and techniques. 

The Hourglass is one of the offspring of this design philosophy, as a home gym oriented product that fulfills the needs of those who need low weight regular exercise. These weights are at the low end of the price range, making them an affordable addition or centerpiece to any home gym.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other dumbbells sets?

These weights have been specifically designed to be an addition to any home gym for people who want to maintain a certain level of muscle mass. 

They are made of durable neoprene, which means they require limited to no cleaning beyond a simple wipe down and do not degrade over time the way metal does. 

The nature of neoprene provides grip as part of its surface texture, and the hourglass design makes the weights easier to hold when doing calisthenics and aerobic exercise. Another advantage of neoprene is that it can be used outside as it is water resistant and performs well in a wide range of temperatures.

The set of weights are small and easy to transport for travel. They also come with a convenient rack so you don't have to worry about the round weight tests or storage. 

What's not so good about it?

These weights are not appropriate for individuals looking to get into fitness with the intention of building a moderate amount of muscle mass, and they are equally inappropriate for individuals at higher fitness levels who want to maintain or grow their muscle mass. 

Many customers have complained about the quality of the stand, and that the weight themselves are easier than they should be to damage. Customers have also complained about the smell.

Pros:
  • Good for maintaining some muscle mass
  • Easy to transport
  • Made of neoprene
  • Inexpensive
Cons:
  • Not appropriate for building muscle mass
  • Poor quality rack
  • Neoprene not as durable as advertised
  • Smell

5) TheraBand Water Weights available for $31 on Amazon

Key features
  • Fixed weight
  • 2.5-6 pound resistance range
  • Foam and padded handle
  • Designed for use in water

Finally, we're taking a look at the TheraBand Water Weights. TheraBand began as a resistance band manufacturing company and has since expanded to other forms of resistance training. The TheraBand Water Weights are designed especially to provide resistance in water-based physical therapy and exercise. Each dumbbell costs about as much at the Tone Fitness Hourglass set.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other dumbbells sets?

These weights are by far the most unique on this list. All of the previous weights are intended for terrestrial use whereas the Water Weights are just as their name suggests. A pair is meant to be used while performing fitness routines or physical therapy sessions in the water. 

The unique benefit from this method of resistance training is that swimming is scientifically proven to be the best full body exercise, so adding resistance in any part has fitness implications for muscle groups that would otherwise be unconnected to the workout. 

The weights are made of a lightweight foam with a padded handle, making them easy to move and store when not in use. They also don't require cleaning in the same way normal dumbbells do. The nature of their resistance mechanisms means that using these weights puts far less impact on the joints as well.

What's not so good about it?

If you don't have access to a pool, these weights are useless for you. Additionally, someone who swims often and already has a fairly high level of strength may not get as much out of these as someone who doesn't meet those criteria. 

They don't have a great weight range and land weights that offer the same pound-for-pound resistance are generally cheaper per pair. Customers have complained about several quality issues with the foam heads. For some, they fell apart after a short period of use, and for others, the texture of the heads caused abrasions after a single use.

Pros:
  • Good for water exercise
  • Easy to store
  • Low impact
Cons:
  • Not useful if no water access
  • Low resistance range
  • A little pricey
  • Quality issues

In conclusion...

When building or adding on to your home gym, you should always think about dumbbells first. Whether adding to your existing sets, upgrading to more advanced models, or adding them as a new piece of equipment. it is key to understand what you want and what you really need. Hopefully, in this article we have provided you with the right tools and a few good options so that you can make the best choice when buying dumbbells.