5 Best Dumbbells to Upgrade Your Home Gym in 2024, Tested by Us

For a complete home gym setup, you need a proper set of dumbbells—period.

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5 Best Dumbbells to Upgrade Your Home Gym in 2024, Tested by Us

LET'S CUT to the chase: If you want a complete home gym setup, you need a proper set of dumbbells—period, full stop. Sure, a barbell, weight plates, and a pull-up bar are great places to start, but they're not as beginner-friendly as one might be lead to believe. Bench presses, pull-ups, and chin-ups are excellent for building muscle and strength in your back, but they can be challenging and even risky for beginners due to their difficulty and the potential to get hurt in the process.

Read more: How Men's Health Thoroughly Tests and Reviews Fitness Products

The solution? According to Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., Men’s Health Fitness Director, "Grab a pair of dumbbells. Or even a single dumbbell." The best dumbbells provide a versatile and accessible way to build strength, preparing you to slay more advanced lifts while targeting crucial muscle groups throughout the body.

For novice lifters, incorporating the best dumbbell exercises into your routine helps build the muscle and strength. That's especially true once you embrace heavier-weight dumbbell exercises such as farmer’s carries and powerful presses and rows, Samuel explains.

In short, the best dumbbells vastly improve any home gym setup. They’re great for upper and lower body exercises, can help address muscular imbalances, and allow for more gradual and predictable weight progression. The best part, though? They are not only more accessible and practical, but also more affordable than most other weightlifting tools, regardless of whether you opt for rubber or iron, adjustable or standard, round or hex-shaped. When you’re in the market for new dumbbells, it’s easy to assume they’re all the same. While there's some truth to that, the devil is in the details. The best dumbbells feature a combination of durability, comfort, and versatility. Whether you prefer rubber or iron, adjustable or standard, keep an eye out for those that cater to your specific needs. Don't compromise on quality, as investing in the right set will pay off in the long run.

Taking a moment to consider which set is the right fit for you is well worth the effort. Having extensively researched and tested numerous models over the years, we're here to guide you through a list of our all-time favorites. Here are our brutally honest picks of the best dumbbells to elevate your home gym game in 2024.

They’re not the cheapest or the most expensive—these adjustable dumbbells from Bowflex are just right in almost every way. First off, despite the 105-pound total set weight, they’re incredibly compact. The entire set is small enough to take up just about one square foot, which works easily in most spaces (whether it's a closet or a basement-turned-home-gym). The plastic-coated steel construction is extremely durable, built to last for years, if not decades with proper maintenance. The material is also quieter without the typical “bang and clang” design of old-school metal dumbbells—a nice feature if you’re living with children or significant others who are sensitive to such things.

The unique selectable design makes it easy for lifters of any fitness type to dial in their exact weight setting. Each dumbbell is adjustable from 5 to 52.5 pounds each, providing the flexibility to grow and adjust to just about any training goals. This is the perfect dumbbell set for everyone from novice lifters to amateur bodybuilders. Premium grips provide rock-solid lifting with almost no slippage.

We also like that these dumbbells coordinate with the complete range of Bowflex home gym products, including kettlebells, barbells, and more. Just a nice seamless aesthetic perk if you already have your gym stocked with one (or many) pieces from Bowflex.

For all these reasons, 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 2024.

Read more: Best Adjustable Dumbbells

If you’re building the mother of all home gyms and money is no object, this comprehensive premium set of dumbbells from SMRTFT is our top recommendation. The Nüobell dumbbell set is crafted from near-bulletproof machined steel that’s built to outlast you. The included portable cradles make storage easy, and the compact design means the entire set takes up far less space than a set of typical fixed-weight dumbbells.

The adjustable design means you can use the same set of weights for every muscle group for a complete full body workout. Drop down to a little weight for bent-over flys, for example, or pile on the plates for more intense squats. It all adjusts seamlessly and easily with the built-in selector. Knurled handles make for safer lifting at any weight.

Although there are thousands of fitness apps available, we also like the free app included with the SMRTFT dumbbells. It offers access to on-demand workouts with pro trainers, plus the ability to plan your own fitness journey, find nutrition tips, and get daily motivation. An all-around solid product that delivers on value in the long run.

Read more: SMRTFT Nuobell Review

The hex dumbbell is a staple of commercial gyms, and now, many modern home gyms. Living Fit’s Hex Dumbbells feature the classic, stable shape that won’t roll around on you mid-workout. The cast iron construction is extremely rigid and durable (though perhaps not as much as rubber dumbbells) and coated in rubber for extra protection. Moderate knurling on the handles also adds texture for improved grip and safer lifts.

These are a great option for home gym builders with a bit more floor space who want the simplicity and feel of traditional dumbbells and who might not need a complete adjustable set. They’re sold in pairs in increments between 15-100 pounds. Buy a variety of weights (light, medium, and heavy) to help complement your personal training regimen. (Every sub-45-pound pair is priced at less than $100, making them one of the most affordable, quality dumbbells we've ever come across.)

If there’s a downside, it’s that cast iron dumbbells typically don’t last as long as their 100% rubber counterparts. Although, in this case, the rubber coating helps protect the design for years to come.

A complete set will also take up significantly more floor space than an adjustable one. But, if you’re just looking for just 2-3 pairs of classic hex weights, it’s hard to complain about these for the price. (Which is why we ranked these dumbbells among our picks for the best home gym equipment of 2024.)

Read more: Home Gym Essentials

It’s no secret we’re big fans of adjustable dumbbell sets. PowerBlock’s EXP line might be the most clever design we’ve seen. Using the built-in polypropylene pin, you simply dial in the weight you want between 2.5-50 pounds per dumbbell (in varying increments). The unique design takes the place of a bulky and insanely heavy full set of standard dumbbells with a minimal footprint (just 12"L x 6.5"W per dumbbell).Plus, the pair stows easily with no storage tray or cradle required.

It’s great for apartment dwellers and anyone without the room for a lavish, 1,000-square-foot home gym setup. The powder-coated welded steel construction is also extremely durable and designed to protect against rust and corrosion.

We especially love that PowerBlock offers expansion kits for lifters who outgrow the 100-pound limit of this “entry-level” kit. Successive kits allow for up to 70- and 90-pound limits per dumbbell, respectively. This is a great option for newbie and mid-weight lifters who want to start out small and grow their strength over time.

The only other thing that might take getting used to is the square form factor. It doesn’t feel as natural to lift as traditional free weights, so it may not be for everyone.

The downside? Price is the biggest issue with these beasts. At more than $400, they may be out of budget for many folks, especially for those who have already dropped considerable coin on other fitness equipment to outfit a home gym. Still, dollar-for-dollar, this dumbbell set is an incredible value.

Read more: Best Weight Benches

Sometimes simpler is better, especially for beginners and novices just starting out with lifting at home. This pair of straightforward dumbbells from CAP Barbell is about as barebones as it gets, and there's nothing wrong with that. The heads are crafted from rock-solid grey iron coated with odor-free rubber, and joined together with a cold-rolled steel chromed handle. They may not be adjustable, but it’s a tried-and-true design that’ll last for a really long time. We also like the medium depth knurling on the handles which allows for a surer grip while lifting.

The standard (non-adjustable) design does mean that a full set takes up more floor space. But, if your home gym is starting to look a little cramped, consider going with a few pairs of dumbbells in varying weights to complement your existing setup without sacrificing too much room. They’re available in 5, 8, 10, 12, and 15-50-lb weights (in 5-lb increments).

Read more: Best Dumbbell Workouts

Fitness and Training Goals: As with any new home fitness gear, you should always consider your own training goals first. If you’re looking to supplement your existing powerlifting or bodybuilding training with accessory work, a set of adjustables is best. If, however, you’re looking to do Olympic lifts, rubber hex dumbbells are the way to go.

Space: How much available space do you have? If you’re a city dweller, live in a cramped apartment, or are shoehorning your home gym setup into the corner of a garage, consider an adjustable set of dumbbells. These take up far less space than a full (and massive) set that includes a rack and a bunch of fixed dumbbell weights that individually weigh between 10 and 100 pounds.

Standard or Adjustable: Here, it comes down to your available space and a bit of personal preference. In most cases, adjustable dumbbells are the way to go. They take up far less space and are often a little bit cheaper than standard, fixed weight alternatives.

Ease of Use: Basically, does the dumbbell feel “good” or natural to you? Again, this comes down to personal preference, and might involve a trip to your local sporting goods store or gym equipment provider to compare a few models in-person.

Construction: We’re talking about what your dumbbells are made of and how durable they are. We recommend rubber hex dumbbells for the vast majority of fitness types. They’re extremely durable, designed to take a beating, including being dropped, dragged around, and lord knows what else. Buy one decent set of hex rubber dumbbells, and there’s a good chance you won’t have to buy another set for a very long time, if ever.

Budget: Price is important for just about every home gym builder. For many people, this might be the deciding factor. We recommend adjustable dumbbells for most fitness types, and they’re typically the most affordable, so we suggest starting there. If, on the other hand, you have the space and extra money to burn, a dedicated set of rubber or iron hex dumbbells might be the better way to go.

So, why should you invest in a set of dumbbells? In short, they’re arguably the most versatile, best bang-for-your-buck addition to any home gym setup—all of which is why our own Ebenezer Samuel is a big fan of dumbbells. He’s previously shared at least 15 ways to smoke your back using dumbbells, including Dumbbell Pullovers, Elevated Plank Row Holds, and, most importantly, a wide variety of rows.

Our friends across the pond at Men’s Health UK have shared the best ways to blast your entire body with just two dumbbells:

“If you don’t have access to a selection of weights, but are still looking for a balanced way to hit your whole body, our ‘descending ladder’ has you covered. You’ll begin with a pre-fatiguing bodyweight primer, hitting those pecs and getting the blood pumping, before picking up your dumbbells and working your way from the heavy lifting muscles of the legs, through to the back, before finishing with a shoulder blast. The reps of each movement tactically descend throughout the circuit, meaning you'll work each muscle group to its limits."

For fitness, a little goes a long way, especially in your workouts. Short and fast doses can be the most optimal for your lifestyle, and that's where the best dumbbells come in handy. Life's too short for fussing with a ton of equipment during your workout window. Dumbbells get the job done.

As we’re fond of saying, there’s no “best dumbbell material,” but rather what’s best for you. Dumbbells come in a handful of major construction types—each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Steel: Traditional steel dumbbells usually lack a protective coating. That means that, while they’re incredibly strong, they’re also susceptible to rust and corrosion over time.

Cast Iron: These are the classic dumbbells you’re probably used to seeing on TV and in old-school gyms around the world.

Rubber: This is the material we recommend for just about everyone. Rubber is extremely strong, built to last for many years to come. Some models do keep that familiar rubber smell, however, which can be off-putting and hard to completely get rid of.

Urethane: Urethane is a special type of rubber that’s even more durable than traditional rubber. The downside? That means it usually costs more.

Plastic: We can’t think of any fitness type that would benefit from plastic dumbbells over any other material. They feel cheap (usually because they are) and just don’t hold up as well as rubber or metal alternatives.

Experts including our fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., fitness editor Brett Williams, NASM, and fitness instructor Hollis Tuttle put dozens of dumbbell models through the wringer. (Samuel and Tuttle also utilized the top performing dumbbells with several of their training clients.) Each dumbbell was rigorously tested in a variety of categories, including design, durability, functionality, and effectiveness. All dumbbells were tested with three types of exercises: Explosive exercises (like swings and cleans), multi-joint strength exercises (like bench presses and Romanian deadlifts), and accessory motions (like biceps curls and lateral raises). A minimum of 10 sets and 100 reps were performed at both comfortable and near-max weights for each motion. All dumbbells were also dropped from a basic bench to test baseline durability and were monitored for signs of rust over a three-month period. We also consulted with both our MH Advisory Board, and our Strength in Diversity trainers for deeper anecdotal and experiential thoughts on the best dumbbells. The list above represents our honest, carefully considered picks for the best dumbbells to upgrade your home gym in 2024.

At Men's Health, we take great pride in providing our readers with reliable and trustworthy product recommendations. We believe that our readers deserve the best, which is why we always make sure to conduct thorough research and testing before making any recommendations. Our writers and editors thoughtfully select experts for collaboration on product recommendations, and are also experts in their own right, using their informed opinions to select products and ensuring that our content is of the highest quality.

Our product recommendations are purely editorial, and while we may receive free products to test and review, we only recommend the products we are most impressed by. We never let retailers or public relations contacts dictate our content or product coverage. Which is why you can trust us to provide you with reliable and unbiased product recommendations.

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Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is the fitness director of Men's Health and a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience. He's logged training time with NFL athletes and track athletes and his current training regimen includes weight training, HIIT conditioning, and yoga. Before joining Men's Health in 2017, he served as a sports columnist and tech columnist for the New York Daily News.  

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5 Best Dumbbells to Upgrade Your Home Gym in 2024, Tested by Us

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