In order to maximise your muscle growth and blast away body fat, it’s imperative to make use of all the equipment available at the gym. Barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells and machines all offer fantastic fitness benefits. But what about if you can’t make it to the gym? Work, family or financial issues may prevent you from being able to get to the gym regularly.
So where do you start? The number of people who can afford to build a home facility like Mark Wahlberg’s is going to be limited, of course. Costs may also prevent you from living like wrestler Triple H, who has world-renowned strength and conditioning coach Joe DeFranco travel to his home in Connecticut to train.
But you should be a able to find a great pair of dumbbells below to invest in. We tested every dumbbell widely available in the UK to discover what is truly worth buying.
How We Tested These Dumbbells
To test these dumbbells, writer Max Anderton did a six-move (biceps curl, overhead press, hammer curl, renegade row, high pull and front raise), no-bench home workout – not just with the products below, but every type he could get his (callused) hands on.
Dumbbell Buyer’s Guide
A decent set needn’t break the bank – or your floorboards. Here’s what to look for.
Shape: Hexagonal dumbbells are the smart choice. They won’t roll away when you perform moves like the renegade row, or roll under your feet when you’re off-guard.
Features: As with any contraption, the fewer parts it has, the less likely it is to go wrong. Be careful with adjustable sets that can crack if used frequently.
Weight: Less is undeniably more here – both in mass and price. Too heavy and you’ll miss out on a range of worthy exercises, but with a lighter set you can always do more reps. A 12kg set will do the trick.
Material: Rubber-coated ends might not be as eye-catching as shiny metal plates but they’ll buffer any impact with your floor (or feet). Ridged or “knurled” chrome handles offer firm grip and easy cleaning.
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Three Types of Dumbbells Explained
Fixed weight: The classic as-seen-in-the-gym dumbbell that’s set at an unchangeable weight. Gym sets typically start at 2kg and go up in 2kg increments, and a single pair of fixed-weight dumbbells is the cheapest option. However, if you opt for these you will be restricted to using the same weight for all your home gym moves. That’s a problem because for some exercises it will be far too light (such as squats or lunges) and for others far too heavy (such as lateral raises and triceps extensions). You could buy an entire set of fixed dumbbells, but that’s pricy and takes up a lot of space.
Adjustable (standard): A far wiser choices for home weight training because you can simply add or subtract weight plates to each dumbbell quickly and easily to change the amount of weight you’re lifting for different exercises. This gives you a much greater range of lifts you can do at home safely, and you can always buy extra weight plates once you get stronger and need more resistance – although there is a limit to just how many weight plates you can stack on each side.
Adjustable (selectorised): The resistance of these higher-tech dumbbells are adjustable through the addition or subtraction of weight plates, followed by the simple turn of a dial when the dumbbell is resting in its stand. This means you can adjust the weight more quickly than with a standard set of dumbbells, and these models can typically reach a much heavier weight, meaning this might be the only set of home dumbbells you ever need to buy. That said, they’re by far the most expensive option – not to mention seriously heavy when moving them from one room to another.
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The Best Dumbbells For Home
Quick Adjustable Dumbbells
For widely varying resistance with no need for a full rack
Pictured: Bodymax Selectabells (left), PowerBlock Sport 5.0 (right)
Swiftly switch weights up to a respectable 25kg at the click of a dial with Bodymax Selectabells (£125, normally £220, buy on powerhouse-fitness.co.uk).
Colour-coding makes selecting loads – up to 22.5kg in 2.25kg increments – easy with the PowerBlock Sport 5.0 (£235, normally £350, buy on gymcompany.co.uk).
Pictured: Bowflex SelectTech (left), Ironmaster Quick-Lock (right)
A satisfying click rewards every weight change on the Bowflex SelectTech (£389, buy on amazon.co.uk). Choose from 2 to 24kg.
The Ironmaster Quick-Lock (£589, normally £649, buy on valleyfitness.co.uk) feels more like a regular dumbbell. It’s slower to change than the others but goes up to a whopping 34kg.
Floor-Friendly Rubber Dumbbells
For pumping iron without clanking metal
Pictured: Bodymax Deluxe (left), Body Power Rubber Hex (right)
You can change weights on the Bodymax Deluxe (£30, normally £40, buy on powerhouse-fitness.co.uk) up to 15kg per dumbbell, while a rubber coating protects floors.
Our favourite for renegade rows.The flat sides and gripping rubber of the Body Power Rubber Hex (£48, normally £98, buy on fitness-superstore.co.uk) reduce the chance of slips.
RECOMMENDED HOME WORKOUT: Small Dumbbells Countdown Circuit
Pictured: Jordan Classic (left), Alex (right)
The Jordan Classic (£98, buy on jordanfitness.com) lets you do abs roll-outs on a wood floor without sounding like a 1940s fighter jet taking off.
The 20kg Alex (update: no longer available) is pricy, but its high-grade polyurethane coating means you won’t damage the floor if you drop it.
RECOMMENDED HOME WORKOUT: Small Dumbbells, Big Shoulders
Shiny Chromeset Dumbbells
For weights so sleek you’ll keep them on display
Pictured: Pro Fitness (left), Body Power Chrome Ergo (right)
Changing the six weight discs is slower than with the adjustables, but this 20kg Pro Fitness (update: no longer available) set is cheaper – and works for abs roll-outs.
The 15kg Body Power Chrome Ergo (£96, buy on amazon.co.uk) has a contoured handle that fits snugly in the hand and makes grip strength less of a factor.
Pictured: Marcy (left), York (right)
This one-piece 9kg dumbbell from Marcy (£29.99, buy from amazon.co.uk) won’t loosen over time. And before you scoff at its lightness, try high-rep sets of flyes with it.
We love the chunky wing collars on the York 15kg (£48, buy on yorkfitness.com), while the rubber-covered grips make long sessions less callous-inducing.
Classic Cast Iron Dumbbells
For weights so durable they’ll outlive you
Pictured: Confidence Fitness Pros (left), TurnerMAX (right)
Confidence Fitness Pros (£34, buy on tesco.com) are the bedroom workout classic. This 20kg set is perfectly fine for a full-body workout.
A carry case makes the 30kg TurnerMAX (£60, buy on amazon.co.uk) easy to transport. Just don’t indulge any weird sniper-rifle fantasies as you slot the pieces into place.
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