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
RRP: £249 for one
Weight variation: 2 to 24kg
The Bowflex SelectTech 552i Dumbbells are the best dumbells if you're in the market for a rack of adjustable weights. The steel plates can be adjusted with a simple turn of the dial, taking them from 2-24kg in just seconds. With a plastic grooved handle, they’re easy to hold and don’t slip as you sweat.
Buy it if: you want ultimate convenience, tidy storage, and a wide weight range.
Don't buy it if: you're limited to a smaller budget
RRP: From £28 for one
Weight variations: 1 to 40kg
For single premium dumbells, look no further than the Eleiko Vulcano Dumbbells. Made of sturdy polyurethane, these weights offer great grip, are twice as strong as rubber, and are odor-free. The gently sloped handle is designed to provide a secure grip and we found them comfortable to hold as we made our way through both lower and upper body workouts.
Buy it if: you want high-quality weights and have plenty of space to store them.
Don't buy it if: you only have limited storage space, as these are all individual dumbbells.
Best for beginners
RRP: £65 for all
Weight variations: 1.5kg, 3kg and 5kg
This set is the perfect choice for those new to strength training. The range includes a pair of 1.5kg, 3kg (great for upper-body workouts) and 5kg (for lower-body exercises) dumbbells, as suggested by a personal trainer. It covers all the bases of working out at home with a sturdy stand for easy storage.
Buy it if: you're new to weight training
Don't buy it if: you can already lift 5kg over your head with ease
RRP: from £30 for a pair
Weight variations: 5kg
Want a no-fuss pair of dumbbells? How about this set, made with durable, rubber-hex ends and contoured ergonomic handles, these dumbbells perform well for all kinds of lower and upper-body exercises. They were comfortable to use, thanks to the knurled textured grip, and felt secure to hold and set down thanks to the 6-sided hex design. We tested the 5kg pair, however, they also come in 10kg and 15kg combinations.
Buy it if: you need an affordable hex set.
Don't buy it if: comfort is supreme, the grip can be a little uncomfortable after a while.
RRP: £200 per dumbbell
Weight variations: 3.6kg to 22.7kg
If you're into everything digital then these smart adjustable dumbbells have your name all over them. Featuring a small LCD screen on the weight rack, you can change the weight of your dumbbells at the touch of a button - genius! Yes, they're expensive, but adjustability means adaptability as you can move the weight up and down to suit the specific exercise. You also won't have to worry about storage space.
Buy it if: you'd get your money's worth from an adjustable set.
Don't buy it if: you're just starting out with strength training
RRP: From £11 for a pair
Weight variations: 1.5kg to 5kg
These are a great pick if you're looking for a simple set of dumbbells at a cheaper price point, without compromising on quality. Sold as a pair, these are the most budget-friendly weights on our list. The neoprene material around the weights means they are grippier than some of the metal options and friendlier to floors. Kit out your home gym with a pair of every weight for under £90.
Buy it if: you want to build up your home gym set in increments.
Don't buy it if: you need heavier weights than 5kg
Best alternative adjustable
RRP: From £25.99 for one
Weight variation: 15 - 30kg total (individual weights range from 1.25 to 2kg)
If you're not into the tech that often accompanies adjustable dumbbells, this budget-friendly pair may be for you. Yaheetech's adjustable dumbbells are a favourite of health editor Grace Walsh as they're so easy to use - you just slide the individual plates on and off - and versatile as you can use the plates for other exercises too. Plus, they're a little less bulky than the premium adjustable dumbbells.
Buy it if: you want to buy an adjustable set on Amazon at a good price point.
Don't buy it if: you want an adjustable dumbbell set with limited moving parts
Best for spinning
Weight Variations: 1-18lbs
These fun, colourful weights are perfect for adding a bit of a challenge to your next workout on your spin bike. Even if you start with smaller weights, you'll soon feel the burn with these as you increase your reps. Made from vinyl-coated cast iron, they are affordable and available in a wide range of weight variations. A great purchase to supplement your existing workout routine.
Buy it if: you want a way to elevate your spin bike routine.
Don't buy it if: you'd prefer to stick to non-coated weights.
Weight variations: 2.5-5kg
Save space and max out on the gym equipment you can get with this clever 2-in-1 kettle and dumbbell set. The singular dumbbells fit securely into the gaps in the holder or can be used on their own to tone the arms or upper body. For this price, this is the perfect set for a gentle introduction to lifting weights at home.
Buy it if: you want to easily swap between kettlebells and dumbbells on a budget.
Don't buy it if: you're looking to work your way through weight variations.
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 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 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.
|Header Cell - Column 0
|They 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 workouts
|The heavier the weight, the more expensive the dumbbell.
|Smart-tech adjustable options making it easier than ever to move between weights as you build strength
|More expensive than fixed dumbbells
|Row 3 - Cell 0
|Take up much less space than a collection of fixed dumbbells
|Switching 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.
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 is a personal trainer based in London and founder of the Body Beautiful Method.
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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.
- Grace WalshHealth Channel Editor
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