Whether your home gym is a purpose-built space or just a corner of your bedroom, having a set of dumbbells to hand is a must.
If used correctly, the dumbbell can be an incredibly versatile piece of equipment that will deliver a range of fitness goals, from muscle growth to increased cardio and toning. But achieving those fitness goals will depend on picking the right set.
There are three types of dumbbell: fixed (where the weight can’t be changed), adjustable (using interchangeable plates), and selectorised (where different weights are kept in a block and are selected by a mechanism, usually in the handle).
If your aim is to get stronger, you will want a set that will allow you to progressively overload the muscles and stop your workouts becoming too easy. Whereas if you’re just looking to add some hand weights to make a cardio workout more challenging, then a single lighter set will do the job.
We tested a range of weights in a varied workout to see how versatile, comfortable and practical each set was to use. Here’s what we found...
The best dumbells for 2021 are:
- Best overall – Mirafit rubber dumbbells, 5-35kg: £34.95, Mirafit.co.uk
- Best for high energy routines – VLFit softgrip dumbbells, 1kg: £14.99, Amazon.co.uk
- Best for different weight options – DKN rubber hex dumbbells, 2kg-30kg: £17.99, Sweatband.com
- Best for your home exercise bike – Opti neoprene dumbbells, 1kg: £5.99, Argos.co.uk
- Best for long-lasting – Jordan Fitness ignite urethane dumbbells, 1kg-50kg: £20.40, Jordanfitness.com
- Best adjustable weights – Northdeer adjustable dumbbells: £159.90, Amazon.co.uk
- Best selectorised weights – Powerblock pro 32 adjustable dumbbells: £379.99, Sweatband.com
- Best for outside gyms – Umi dumbells, 10kg: £63.74, Amazon.co.uk
- Best for impact resistance – JLL PU dumbbells, 4kg-32kg: £39.99, Jllfitness.co.uk
- Best for renegade rows and chest press – JTX fitness dumbbells, 2kg: £19, Jtxfitness.com
Mirafit rubber dumbbells, 5-35kg
These sets from Mirafit can take an awful lot of punishment thanks to the rubber-coating. When you’re coming to the final reps of a particularly exhausting set you can just drop them to give you some relief, without having to worry about damaging the weights, or the weight damaging your floor. The raised steel grip was comfortable and effective, even when we got to the heavier weights in the range, which goes up to an arm-aching 35kg.
Being fixed you never need to worry about taking evasive action from a falling weight plate, too, so you can just concentrate on your form. We fully recommend investing in one these sets to get the most out of your workout and most value for money.
VLFit softgrip dumbbells, 1kg
Best: For high energy routines
The soft grips on this 1kg set mean that you won’t have to let a lack of grip strength get in the way of a good workout. As well as the foam overlay on the cast iron weights, there is an adjustable strap that will secure the weight to your hand, making them ideal for high-energy routines. The fact that they are so easy to hold would make them well suited for carrying during walking workouts too.
DKN rubber hex dumbbells, 2kg-30kg
Best: For different weight options
These weights from DKN are ideal, they’re comfortable to lift and won’t slip out of your hand even when they’re sweaty, thanks to the grip pattern on the steel handles. The range goes from 2kg all the way up to 30kg, and we liked how there are are a lot of different weight options in between, including sets of 2-10kg, so you can really fine tune your progress by increasing the weight by just a single kilo if you want.
Opti neoprene dumbbells, 1kg
Best: For your home exercise bike
If you have a connected home exercise bike, a lot of the online workouts will involve jumping out of your saddle, picking up some light weights and engaging in a full body and floor workout. Easy to grip with sweaty hands, this Argos own-brand set will fit in the holders on most of the connected bikes currently on the market, and they are a lot more competitively priced than the branded accessories on the bike manufacturer’s websites.
Jordan Fitness ignite urethane dumbbells, 1kg-50kg
Best: For long-lasting
Similar to the design of DKN hex dumbbells (£17.99, Sweatband.com), the ignites also won’t roll away when you need them thanks to bumps on the weight ends. The high-quality, high-impact resistant urethane coating means that they won’t suffer chips or tears over time, and they will look as good in a few years as they do now. We were able to get a good grip on the steel handles, even with the heavier weights in the range, which goes from 1kg through to 50kg.
Northdeer adjustable dumbbells
Best: Adjustable weights
These are an interesting take on the adjustable concept: rather than having a cradle to house all the weight, you can choose between 7, 10, 12 and 15lb simply by screwing the plates on or off the handle. The process was easy to do, including taking on or off the rubber rings that will protect flooring. The foam handles were comfortable and, if you have limited space for your indoor gym, these could be a good choice because of their versatility and compact size.
Powerblock pro 32 adjustable dumbbells
Best: Selectorised weights
If you’re trying to pack on size and increase strength, then you need to ensure that you’re progressively overloading your muscles with more weight every time things get too easy. That’s what makes selectorised weights the ideal choice for this kind of training, and the Pro 32 offers eight weight choices from 1.8-14.5kg. The pin selection mechanism was efficient and smooth, and the rubber grip allowed us to really get hold of the heavier weights.
Umi dumbells, 10kg
Best: For outside gyms
These Amazon own-brand fixed weights come in seven different weight sets, 1kg-10kg, and start from just £10.19. They’re encased in neoprene, making them entirely suitable for outside gyms where the equipment can be exposed to the elements. The hex heads make them stable on the ground and the neoprene was comfortable to grip.
JLL PU dumbbells, 4kg-32kg
Best: For impact resistance
These good-quality weights come in 12 different weight pairings, ranging from 4-32kg, and have a durable impact resistant plastic coating, so you don’t need to worry about dropping and cracking the weights. The metal handles give a good grip: they made it easy to keep the dumbbell properly balanced as it was curled up and helped us to keep good form throughout the range of movement.
JTX fitness dumbbells, 2kg
Best: For renegade rows and chest press
These fixed weights from the UK manufacturer come in ten different weight settings, from 2-20kg, so you can purchase heavier pairs as your training demands and all the weights in your home gym will look uniform. The hexagonal weights provide a good stable base to perform exercises such as renegade rows, and the encasing rubber means that they are nice and quiet in use so we didn’t have to worry about the noise they would make when we banged them together at the top of a chest press.
The verdict: Dumbbells
Whatever you’re looking to achieve with your free weights, the Mirafit Rubber Dumbbells offer a good weight range and the rubber casings offer quiet and safe use, while keeping the price competitive.
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