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Published Mar. 28, 2022

Any bodybuilder or strength trainer knows that you can use dumbbells for serious gains. Real talk here: If you walk into a gym that doesn’t have dumbbells you should ask for a refund and go find a real gym. As a lifter, it is important to have the versatility offered by dumbbells. Since they’re available in almost any increment of weight, you can customize your workouts for progressive results. While adjustable dumbbells have seen a rise in popularity, there’s something about an old-school dumbbell that can’t be beaten. 

Traditional dumbbells are a simple tool for strength training as they allow you to isolate muscle groups. The typical design has not changed in over a hundred years for this reason. But what makes a dumbbell good? Why spend a lot of money on steel or iron when you can get cheap molds for concrete? If you’re asking these questions, then you should read on as we do the heavy lifting research on the best dumbbells.

Best Dumbbell Set Overall

Are you really surprised by this choice? Rogue has become the established name in strength training and weightlifting. The products offered range from Crossfit to Strongman and everything in between. Having a set of Rogue Dumbbells in your gym is a worthwhile investment.

Stepping up the game, these dumbbells feature a hexagonal-shaped rubber head that prevents rolling when not in use. The rubber also acts as a shock absorber and helps to protect your floor and the dumbbell. A representative of Rogue told me that the material inside the rubber is proprietary material, so we’re pretty sure it’s Vibranium and you’ll feel the difference.

One notable feature of these dumbbells is the handgrip. On the dumbbells 10 pounds and under, the grip is 25mm thick, while the heavier dumbbells sport 35mm thick handles. All grips are ergonomically shaped and have knurling to ensure a solid grip. While it can get pricey building a full set, these dumbbells are worth the investment.

Product Specs
  • Brand: Rogue
  • Material: Vibranium
  • Shape: Hexagonal Handle
  • Diameter: 25 mm and 35mm
PROS

Rubber encased head reduces wear and tear

Ergonomic, chrome-plated grips

Sold in pairs

CONS

Expensive to build a full set

When it comes to dumbbells, the “best value” directly translates into “most bang for your buck.” Traditional dumbbells make that difficult, which is why the Bowflex SelectTech 552 is really the best value when you’re looking at adding some to your gym. While these dumbbells might be a little longer than you’re used to, they save tremendous amounts of space and money.

You can adjust the weight — from five to 52.5 pounds — in 2.5-pound increments with the turn of a knob. That’s 20 different weight settings, which means you’re saving the space of 20 dumbbell sets with the single pair. Plus, the cost of buying and shipping 20 different sets of dumbbells would be enough to justify purchasing adjustable ones.

Also, that 2.5-pound variance is what allows the Bowflex to really excel by allowing you to get pinpoint precision on your performance and eliminate symmetrical discrepancies.

Product Specs
  • Brand: Bowflex
  • Material: Steel, thermoplastic rubber
  • Shape: Adjustable, round
  • Handle Diameter: 38 mm
PROS

Quick dial-adjustable

Saves space and money

Complimentary membership to proprietary app

CONS

Plastic components not as durable

Limited to 52 pounds

Best Dumbbell Set with Rack

If you were to go about building a full set of dumbbells, you’ll want to find a way to store all the pairs you have. That’s why it’s just smarter to buy a set with a storage rack. These XMark heavy-duty dumbbells are pretty close in quality to what you’d get from Rogue and the set comes with a three-tier rack.

Each shelf features a 1.75-inch steel lip to hold the dumbbells in place without slipping. Since the rack measures 40 inches long, 40 inches tall, and 20 inches deep, you’ll save plenty of space in your gym for workouts and extra equipment.

At the core of this package are the one-piece cast-iron dumbbells that sport a rubber-coated hexagonal-shaped head. The kit includes weights from five to 50 pounds and will be more than enough for any workout you desire.

Product Specs
  • Brand: XMark
  • Material: Cast iron, chrome-plated steel, rubber
  • Shape: Hexagonal
  • Handle Diameter: 28-33 mm
PROS

Durable rubber hex heads

Sturdy three-tier storage shelf

10 pairs of dumbbells

CONS

High price point

Expensive shipping costs

Best Cast-Iron Dumbbell Set

You’ve heard the age-old adage of “keep it simple stupid” when talking about developing and executing plans. Sometimes that means getting the gear that works without being overly fancy so you can stay focused. Old school lifters didn’t get sick rubber-coated hexagonal-headed dumbbells, but you don’t need to use actual bells either. The CAP cast iron dumbbells are simple enough to get the job done.

While the heads are made from A48 gray iron, the handles are 1018 cold-rolled steel. There is no rubber coating on the hex heads, which isn’t a bad thing because you don’t want to drop cast iron. To protect from corrosion, there is a baked enamel coating, which is a nice touch since the weight is indicated by a different color on the numbers.

Product Specs
  • Brand: CAP
  • Material: Cast-iron
  • Shape: Hexagonal
  • Handle Diameter: 29 mm
PROS

Solidly built

Slightly more affordable

Hexagonal-shaped head

CONS

More brittle than steel

Not rubber-coated

Best Dumbbell Set for Beginners

When someone says “beginner” in reference to strength training, I always think of someone who has never lifted weights before in their life. This could be kids or adults, but either way, it’s important to start small and work your way up. HolaHatha dumbbells are coated with neoprene, which makes them ideal for someone who has never torn their palm on a barbell or dumbbell. This set has five pairs of dumbbells at two, three, five, eight, and 10 pounds. Each weight is a different color of neoprene, another beginner bonus.

Also, this kit includes a tiered storage rack for convenience. Aside from the soft neoprene covers, what makes these dumbbells ideal for beginners is the lower weight. It is far more important to learn proper technique and form when lifting weights than it is to lift heavy. By starting out light and focusing on form, a beginner will go a lot farther in their fitness journey.

Product Specs
  • Brand: HolaHatha
  • Material: Cast iron, neoprene
  • Shape: Hexagonal
  • Handle Diameter: Not listed
PROS

Neoprene cover

Lower starting weights

Rack included

Hexagonal shape

CONS

Neoprene could wear down and break

Limited weight options

Best Loadable Dumbbell Set

Adjustable dumbbells aren’t really as new as you might think. While quick-adjusting dumbbells like the Bowflex SelectTech 552 have become the standard, loadable dumbbells have been around for a long time. Similar to a barbell, these are small bars with a handle and bar locks that you load with plates.

Included in this kit are four five-pound and four three-pound cast iron plates designed specifically for the one-inch bar. Securing the plates is easy enough with a spinlock that threads onto the 4.5-inch section of the bar. We wish this kit came with more plates, but any one-inch plate should fit and are easy enough to find, making this a great starting point.

Product Specs
  • Brand: Marcy
  • Material: Cast iron, chrome steel
  • Shape: Round plate
  • Handle Diameter: 25 mm
PROS

Customizable loads

Weight locks included

Storage case included

CONS

Limited space for plates

Few plates included

Why you should trust us

During my time as a strength athlete, I learned a lot about weights. My personal experiences help shape my understanding and allow me to develop friendships with people who know more than me. That’s what I combine with in-depth research to answer the big questions like Is there a barbell supreme? or What’s the best weight bench? 

Types of dumbbell sets

The dumbbell itself is a standard design that doesn’t allow for much deviation — two weighted sections connected by a handgrip. Because dumbbells are made to specific weights, the material isn’t as important when it comes to defining dumbbells. That’s why we’re going to define the types by the shape. 

Round

Probably one of the oldest designs are round dumbbells. Old school strongmen would lift dumbbells that were metal spheres connected by a handgrip. This design was eventually replaced with a cylindrical shape that looked like cans attached to the handle. 

Hexagonal

Over the past few decades, the hex-head dumbbell has become more popular. The main reason for this is that the hexagonal shape offers six flat sides for the dumbbell to rest on. This reduces the risk of the dumbbell rolling away. 

Key features of a dumbbell set

Rubber coating

Many dumbbells feature a rubber coating or hard rubber that covers the weighted ends. This is listed first because it isn’t just an appearance feature. Covering the weight in rubber creates a protective layer for both the weight and your floor.

Knurling 

To knurl or not to knurl?! That really is the question. Knurling is that dimple-looking texture on barbells and dumbbells. That texture makes the bar easier to grip, especially when your hands are sweaty. Whether you use chalk or not, I always encourage knurling. It also offers a sense of security when you’re doing Arnold Presses, or any other overhead and heavy lifting. 

Material

Is there an ideal material for dumbbells? Whether you choose to go with steel, cast iron, or even concrete, a 30-pound dumbbell is going to weigh the same. However, the durability of a dumbbell is directly related to what it is made from and should be considered. The density of the material is also a factor, as 100 pounds of concrete will have more mass than the same amount of steel. For durability and storage purposes, it is better to choose steel, iron, or similar materials. 

Benefits of dumbbell sets 

Unilateral training

The single biggest benefit of using dumbbells is the ability to train the individual sides of your body. Examples of this are single-leg dumbbell deadlifts or alternating bicep curls. While you’re lifting the weights, you are using one side to do the work at a time. This isolates the muscle group more than bilateral training and targets balancing muscles that don’t normally get used with barbells or when working both sides. A Bulgarian split squat is much more challenging than a traditional squat even at bodyweight for this reason. 

Precision muscle targeting

Our muscles are designed to move certain ways, but your grip and the direction of motion can place the stress differently on your muscles. A prime example of this is the traditional bicep curl versus a hammer curl. Because the hammer curl has your hand turned in and arcs up instead of having your hand turned out and moving linearly, your bicep gets a different form of stress placed on it and it must adapt. Using dumbbells opens the possibilities of targeting your muscles from every angle. 

Tone

Believe it or not, dumbbells aren’t just for bodybuilders. Shocking, I know. But the truth is that anyone can use dumbbells to achieve their fitness goals. Many lifters don’t want to go out and become Mr. Olympus or anything, and that’s okay. Owning a set of 10- to 30-pound dumbbells can easily allow you to get some high-volume workouts that will burn fat and tone those muscles up. 

Dumbbell set pricing

Pricing

Let’s not beat around the bush, dumbbells are going to be expensive. You’re not just paying per pound. if you’re ordering online, you’ll be paying for shipping per pound as well. Fixed weight dumbbells are typically priced around $2 per pound, give or take. Adjustable dumbbells are more expensive per dumbbell but are significantly more affordable than full sets of fixed-weight dumbbells. The more you buy, the more you’ll spend. As long as you stay committed to lifting, it will be a worthwhile investment. 

How we chose our top picks

Our top picks were selected to fit specific categorical and performance criteria, as well as features and benefits. We avoided looking at extravagantly priced products or products with unrealistic claims. Each product had to be affordable and functional. The selected dumbbells were evaluated using personal experience, industry knowledge, communication with manufacturers, and in-depth research.

FAQs on dumbbell sets

You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q: Why are they called “dumbbells?”

A: One theory suggests that the English poet Joseph Addison unintentionally created the name when referring to the church bells he used to work out. Since he’d removed the clappers to silence them, he referred to them as “dumb” bells. This seems to be the most probable origin, but we may never know the real reason. 

Q: What range of weights do people normally use with dumbbells?

A: This is going to be highly subjective depending on spatial needs and fitness goals. That being said, most lifters can effectively utilize dumbbells from 10 to 40 pounds for their goals. 

Q: Should I buy adjustable dumbbells or fixed dumbbells?

A: Once again, this is highly subjective. If you’re tight on space, you might benefit from adjustable dumbbells. But if space is no concern and you want the widest range possible, fixed dumbbells are the way to go because you don’t have to mess with dials or plates.

Q: Is unilateral training easier with dumbbells?

A: Yes. Dumbbells allow you to focus on specific muscle groups and sections of the body. This is really beneficial if there is a large symmetrical discrepancy in performance between sides. If you can curl 50 pounds with your left arm but only 25 pounds with the right, you can tailor your workouts to improve onside and decrease the discrepancy.

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