The best dumbbells for women - 9 pairs to boost your workouts and help you get fit at home

Our top picks of the best dumbbells include adjustable weights and budget-friendly buys to help you work up a sweat while strength training at home

A selection of the best dumbbells, including adjustable dumbbells, dumbbells in a storage rack, and cheap dumbbells
(Image credit: Yaheetech/BodyStructure/Amazon)

Using the best dumbbells at home is not just an effective way to build and maintain muscle, it's also a gateway to unlocking a wider fitness journey. Investing in one of these sets has two main benefits - you can start small and increase your weight as you become stronger - and, you can do it from the comfort of your mat at home.

Dumbbells are the basis of multiple workouts - including HIIT classes, strength-based workouts, and even Pilates classes. When using dumbbells, expect to work up a sweat and watch your heart rate increase on your pick of the best fitness trackers - some of which can even count your reps and sets for you.

Strength training for women is even more important as we get older. As we age and go through menopause, we naturally lose bone density and muscle mass. Yet, by simply performing strengthening exercises with dumbbells, resistance bands, or our body weight, we can combat these issues and feel healthier thanks to it. 

The best dumbbells - the quick list

How we tested the best dumbbells

We tested all the dumbbells in this round-up while performing a range of strength training workouts and exercises such as goblet squats, weighted arm rows, deadlifts, and weighted lunges. We assessed our top picks on weight, type, and performance - three important factors to keep in mind when you're shopping for dumbbells, which you can read more about below. 

  • Weight: If you're a beginner, opting for dumbbells between 3 and 5kg is a good place to start. "5kg for the lower body as this is normally stronger and 3kg for the upper-body," suggests Kate Rowe-Ham, a Level 3 Personal Trainer and the founder of Owning Your Menopause. "You’ll be surprised how quickly you make progress with good form, consistency and patience." 
  • Type: From hex dumbbells to smart tech dumbbells, there are lots of types out there. Hex dumbbells are most similar to those you'll find at a gym. They're affordable, don't roll away as easily, and limit wear and tear on wooden floors. With adjustable dumbbells, you'll get more for your money, but they tend to be more expensive. Consider what type suits your fitness goals and budget before buying.
  • Performance: It's important not only to consider the type and weight but also how well dumbbells perform. A good grip and easy-to-hold handles are a must-have, to ensure you can securely lift the dumbbells and perform upper body exercises safely. 
Kate Rowe-Ham
Kate Rowe-Ham

Kate Rowe-Ham is a level 3 qualified personal trainer specialising in helping women reach their fitness potential. As the founder of Owning Your Menopause, she prides herself on helping clients find a love for exercise, giving them the tools they need to adopt a sustainable approach to exercise with long-lasting results.

How to find the best dumbbells for you

If you're still not sure what dumbbells to invest in, don't worry. Mollie Millington, a personal trainer, UK Athletics Coach and holistic health coach, shared with us her key considerations when it comes to shopping for weights. 

  • Shipping time and cost: In recent years, dumbbells have been in high demand since fitness lovers turned to working out at home. For this reason, many manufacturers ran out of stock and lots of eager shoppers were put on waiting lists to bag some weights for their at-home workouts. Shipping time for this product is often still delayed, and because of the weight of the product, it can be expensive. If you can, order via click & collect to avoid the extra charge. 
  • Order a range of weights: If you're ordering fixed dumbbells over adjustable, order them in larger increments rather than smaller ones. For example, instead of ordering 2kg, 3kg and 4kg dumbbells, order 2kg, 4kg and 6kg so that as you build strength, you can start lifting heavier. If you've invested in smaller dumbbells, you might be able to hold two in one hand to increase the weight or put them in a backpack for certain exercises. 
  • Consider material and shape: Rubber-coated weights are less slippery, offer good grip and are less likely to damage your floors. Metal dumbbells are often more accurate for the weight but can catch on jewelry and leave marks on the floor. Weights with round ends will roll around, while flat-sided weights are easier to store and thanks to their stability can be used safely in exercises such as press-ups. 
Mollie Millington

Mollie Millington is a Personal Trainer, UK Athletics Coach and Holistic Health Coach based in London. 

Fixed vs adjustable dumbbells: Which is better?

Fixed dumbbells are affordable, while adjustable dumbbells are typically more expensive costing over £200. Depending on where you're at in your fitness journey there are pros and cons to both. 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 PositivesNegatives
Fixed dumbbellsThey are great for beginners as they are affordable and easy to use - just pick up and get lifting. if you invest in only one set, you'll grow out of them quickly and need to purchase a heavier set if progressive overloading is part of your fitness goals.
Row 1 - Cell 0 They are small and can easily be stored under your bed or couch between workoutsThe heavier the weight, the more expensive the dumbbell.
Adjustable dumbbellsSmart-tech adjustable options making it easier than ever to move between weights as you build strengthMore expensive than fixed dumbbells
Row 3 - Cell 0 Take up much less space than a collection of fixed dumbbellsSwitching the plates of adjustable dumbbells can be time-consuming

What are the benefits of dumbbell workouts for women 45+?

Using weights has a bad reputation in many circles outside of the world of fitness. Contrary to popular belief, strength training (also known as resistance training or weight lifting sometimes) with a pair of the best dumbbells isn't just for bodybuilders or those who want to build lots of muscle. 

Incorporating a strength training element into your workouts can be beneficial for overall health and fitness. Lifting dumbells - whether that's in a classic gym workout or a chair workout at home - not only builds strength, but it will also combat the natural loss of bone density that comes with menopause, improve posture and balance, reduce risk of injury and overall improve mental wellbeing by releasing the feel-good endorphins that leave you feeling strong and fit. A good dumbbell workout for beginners also builds endurance as you move through the reps and will boost your confidence as you work your way to heavier dumbbells. 

By putting stress on the body through workouts with dumbbells, you'll develop stronger bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis too, personal trainer Aimee Victoria Long previously told woman&home

Dumbbells are also a great introduction to strength training for women who haven't lifted weights before and looking to do some resistance-led yoga mat workouts. They're relatively easy to use, once you master the correct posture with the help of a PT or one of the best strength training apps, and they can be less intimidating than squat racks and barbells at gyms.

What's more, dumbbell workouts can also combat menopause weight gain. It won't rack up as many calories burnt when compared to cardio workouts like walking as a workout or running, for example, but having more muscle helps to increase the speed of your metabolism, meaning you burn more calories at rest.

Aimee Victoria Long

Aimee Victoria Long is a personal trainer based in London and founder of the Body Beautiful Method.

Sarah Finley

Sarah is a freelance journalist - writing about the royals and celebrities for Woman & Home, fitness and beauty for the Evening Standard and how the world of work has changed due to the pandemic for the BBC. 

 

She also covers a variety of other subjects and loves interviewing leaders and innovators in the beauty, travel and wellness worlds for numerous UK and overseas publications. 

 

As a journalist, she has written thousands of profile pieces - interviewing CEOs, real-life case studies and celebrities - interviewing everyone from Emma Bunton to the founder of Headspace. 

With contributions from