One of the most popular pieces of fitness apparatus in every gym is a pair of dumbbells, and for good reason. This versatile weight allows you to perform hundreds of exercises and should be one of your first purchases if you want to achieve any range of fitness goals. Check out our guide on how to use dumbbells if you're looking for inspiration.
Whether you’re looking to tone up your arms, elevate your HIIT workouts, or improve your bench exercise strength, a good set of dumbbells is key. But with a load of options available online, which dumbbells are the best?
To help you find the best dumbbells, we've spoken to two of the UK's top personal trainers who have shared their recommendations on which dumbbells they use when training their clients. You can read their expert advice in full at the bottom of this page. In line with their advice, we've pulled together our list of the best dumbbells to see you through your fitness journey.
The best dumbbells at a glance:
- Best beginner dumbbell set: Opti Cast Iron Dumbbell Set, £60 at Argos
- Best basic dumbbells: Umi Neoprene Dumbbell Weights, £13.99, at Amazon
- Best lightweight dumbbells: SONGMICS Hex Dumbbell Set with Dumbbell Stand, £39.99, at SONGMICS
- Best versatile dumbbells set: Mirafit 10kg Dumbbell Weight Set with Carry Case, £29.95, at Mirafit
- Best professional-level dumbbells: ZIVA Performance Hex Dumbbell, £37.99, at Fitness Superstore
- Best overall dumbbells: KG Physio Dumbbells Set, £60.99, at Amazon
- Best dumbbells for floor work: Domyos Fitness Twin Pack, £25.99, at Decathlon
- Best adjustable dumbbells: Northdeer Steel Dumbbells, £49.90, at Amazon
The best dumbbells
Here are our best dumbbell sets:
More like this
Best beginner dumbbell set: Opti Cast Iron Dumbbell set
Great for starting out
These dumbbells are perfect for whole-body workouts and can help you achieve your fitness goals without leaving the house. Each dumbbell is adjustable and made of cast iron with the weight on each able to be varied between 1.35kg to 10kg on each bar.
These weights are built to last with rubber grips which will make it more comfortable for you to use during longer fitness sessions. There are 18 pieces in the set and the weights are secured to the bar using a spinlock.
Best basic dumbbells: Umi Neoprene Dumbbell Weights
Ideal for occasional use
If you’re just looking to lift weights occasionally, these basic neoprene-coated dumbbells from Umi are a great choice and are available in a range of colours and weights. These fairly basic dumbbells are ideal for those not looking to invest a huge amount into their weights.
They come in a range of weights from 1kg to 10kg, so they should work for most home workout classes requiring light to medium weights. Each weight is also made with a grip in mind and has an anti-roll design.
Best lightweight dumbbells: SONGMICS Hex Dumbbell Set with Dumbbell Stand
Ideal for toning
These lighter weights, ranging from 1kg to 2kg, are perfect for those looking to maximise their repetition to assist in toning and sculpting their arms. When shopping for dumbbells, you may be tempted to go for heavier weights, but lighter weights, like this set from SONGMICS, are great for high-repetition, low-impact workouts.
Each small weight makes for a much more manageable workout if you’re attempting multiple sets or tricky movements. These weights also come with a storage rack to neatly house your weights when you're not using them.
Best versatile dumbbells set: Mirafit 10kg Dumbbell Weight Set with Carry Case
A good range of weights
This set of weights for Mirafit is comprised of four pairs of dumbbells, ranging from 0.5kg to 2kg, making a total combined weight of 10kg. The range of sizes in this eight-piece set makes these weights great for a variety of lightweight training workouts.
The set also comes with its own carry case, making them great for transporting or storing away when not in use. Each weight is covered in neoprene and can be used for weight training and other aerobic exercises like yoga and pilates.
Best overall dumbbells: KG Physio Dumbbells Set
A great set for home workouts
This set of dumbbells ticks all of our experts' boxes: hexagonal design, neoprene coating and a variety of available sizes for different exercises and levels of ability.
These dumbbells are made from cast iron, coated in a non-slip, sweat-resistant neoprene coating, and are available in weights from 1kg to 10kg, covering most requirements for at-home weight workouts. These dumbbells are also accompanied by a handy exercise poster detailing different exercises they can be used for, alongside recommended sets and repetitions.
Best dumbbells for floor work: Domyos Fitness Twin Pack
Ideal for total body workouts
These easy-to-grip dumbbells are perfect for a floor workout as they are designed so they won't roll away when you put them down. They are also made to not damage the floor when you drop them (from a seated position) as they are cushioned and don't leave marks.
They are both 5kg in weight so are perfect for core exercises and lighter arm movements for fitness enthusiasts of all abilities. What's more, the Domyos dumbbells come in several colourways and if you fancy going down a weight you can purchase from 500g to 5kg.
Best adjustable dumbbells: Northdeer Steel Dumbbells
One set of adjustable weights
These adjustable dumbbells from Northdeer feature a unique, patented screw-in system that lets you change the weight of the dumbbells quickly and easily.
While our fitness experts actually advise against adjustable weights, these Northdeer Steel dumbbells feature a unique “no nut” design, so you won’t have to interrupt your reps to readjust loose screws. This makes them ideal if you want the versatility of changing weights without needing multiple dumbbell sets.
Our personal training experts
Tom House and Louisa Drake are two fitness experts and personal trainers who have helped thousands of people achieve their fitness goals through in-person training, online courses and social media motivation and workout videos.
Tom House trained as a competitive rugby player and cricketer for years prior to starting a career in the City, before reevaluating what makes him happy and making his passion for fitness his career. Through in-person training and online remote classes, Tom has trained thousands of people in various strength and conditioning training workouts, and in the process, he’s seen his clients become happier, fitter and stronger.
Louisa Drake is a fitness pioneer, founder of the Louisa Drake Method, and owner of the LDM Studio in London’s Fitzrovia. The Louisa Drake Method is designed to puts as much emphasis on achieving your health goals as it does to promote a balanced and holistic approach to fitness, drawing upon Louisa’s years of fitness experience and background as a professional dancer and choreographer.
We put three questions to both of them to understand precisely what you need to know when shopping for your new dumbbells and got their expert recommendations of the best dumbbells to buy and why.
What should you look for when buying dumbbells?
“The important things to consider are aesthetics, size and weight, obviously!” says Tom. “Think about how you’re going to use them. Neoprene weights are often colourful and smooth, which makes handling a pleasure. The steel grip weights can be quite abrasive on the hands, so if you’re worried about calluses, then maybe gloves might be something to consider.”
Louisa agrees that grip and comfort should definitely be taken into consideration. “Some dumbbells have a textured and ergonomic grip that allows for ease of use in a variety of exercises. Rubber-coated or neoprene dumbbells are easier on the hands than those with a textured grip and an affordable option.”
Louisa also advises thinking about what exercises you plan to use your new dumbbells for. “If you are performing medium to high repetitions, building muscular endurance, it's best to have a lightweight you can lift without compromising your form and overloading the body. I recommend a mix of light and medium, from 1kg to 3kg sets, to heavy; most women say 4kg set weights are quite heavy to lift, but everyone is different.
Louisa also points out it’s worth bearing in mind that what you need from dumbbells might change as you begin to step up your workouts. “As the body adapts, you will need to either increase the load or amend the repetitions to help keep your workouts challenging and continue to see results.”
What should you avoid when looking for dumbbells?
While they may look like an attractive option, Tom warns against buying adjustable dumbbells, “You are lucky to get ten reps in before having to stop and tighten it again or risk the plates sliding off. No one wants to lose their momentum or end up with weights on their foot.”
Louisa also warns against overestimating your ability when you’re first starting out and making sure you don’t get anything too heavy for the style of exercise you plan to do. “It's key to have the correct weight for the appropriate training approach. Everything matters; sets, reps, tempo, rest, and exercise selection will all determine what kind of results you get from your weight training.”
Which are the best dumbbells?
“I recommend hexagonal dumbbells as they look smart, stack well and don’t roll,” says Tom. “If you’re doing glute bridges with the weight balanced across your hips, you don’t want it rolling. In my studio, I use ZIVA.”
Louisa’s also a fan of practical hexagonal weights. “I love hex dumbbells as they don't roll around when you place them on the floor. Mirafit dumbbells are a hex design and can carry a range of resistances from 1kg to 4kg. They’re an affordable option with a good grip.”
What are dumbbells made of?
Dumbbells are made of varying materials, which all change the durability, price and effectiveness of the weight. These materials include:
- Cast Iron: Cast iron dumbbells are a popular choice due to their durability and affordability. They are made by pouring molten iron into a mould and allowing it to cool and solidify. They are typically more expensive than other types of dumbbells but are praised for their long-lasting nature.
- Chrome: Chrome dumbbells are made of solid steel with chrome plating that provides a smooth and shiny finish. They are often seen as an ‘old school’ style of dumbbell used in gyms for decades.
- Water and sand: Cheaper dumbbells, ones which people usually buy for home use, can be made of plastic which is filled with water or sand to add weight.
Other materials might also be used when dumbbells are made, and these are often used to cover the weights and protect them. These include:
- Neoprene: Neoprene dumbbells have a layer of synthetic rubber around the weight that provides a comfortable grip and helps to prevent calluses. Neoprene is usually used to cover metal weights rather than plastic.
- Rubber: Rubber-coated dumbbells have a layer of rubber around the chosen weight that provides a non-slip grip and helps to protect floors from damage.
What exercises can you do with dumbbells?
Here are three of our top workouts you can perform when using dumbbells, for more see our guide to dumbbell exercises:
One of the most traditional exercises to perform on a weight bench is the bench press. The classic exercise targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Here’s how to perform:
- Lie the bench down flat and position yourself with your back on the bench and feet flat on the ground.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and bring them to the sides above your chest.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells towards your chest, stopping just before they touch your chest.
- Press the dumbbells back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms.
- Repeat the movement for your desired number of reps.
Another great exercise with dumbbells is the bicep curl which helps strengthen the biceps (obviously), forearm and shoulders. Here’s how to do them:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing up.
- Keep your elbows close to your sides and upper arms still.
- Slowly curl the dumbbells up towards your shoulders, keeping your palms facing up and elbows still.
- Feel the strain in your biceps as you lift the weights close to your shoulder/arm.
- Lower the dumbbells back down and repeat the curling motion for your desired number of reps.
Squatting with dumbbell punches
This exercise targets almost all muscles in the leg with most strain being put on the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. Here’s how to do the exercise:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing each other, arms by your sides.
- Lower into a squat position by bending your knees and pushing your hips back.
- Keep your chest up and your weight in your heels during the squat.
- As you come up from the squat, punch one dumbbell forward at shoulder height while keeping the other dumbbell by your side.
- Alternate arms with each squat, continuing to punch while squatting for your desired number of reps or time.
What’s the difference between dumbbells and kettlebells?
When it comes to weights, two are often confused, dumbbells and kettlebells. They are both popular types of free weights used in strength training and fitness workouts. When thinking about the difference between the two, there are certain features of each that help you tell them apart.
Dumbbells: Short bar with equal weights on each end, straight grip, versatile, great for beginners and targeting specific muscle groups.
Kettlebells: Cannonball-like with a handle, single grip, versatile with dynamic swinging movements, engages core more, suitable for functional training and cardio. The choice depends on fitness goals, both can be used for well-rounded strength training. If you’re looking to buy a kettlebell, see our guide to the best kettlebells.
When it comes to the exercises you can perform with both, dumbbells target specific muscles and offer versatility for strength and rehab exercises. Kettlebells provide dynamic, full-body movements, enhancing functional strength and cardio. Dumbbells allow for isolated muscle training and various exercises like curls, presses, and lunges. On the other hand, kettlebells engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, promoting core stabilisation and improved cardiovascular fitness.
For more information on dumbbells and how to use them, check out our guide to the best dumbbell workouts.
Want to read more expert-recommended fitness round-ups and guides? Check out our Fitness page for a full list of recommendations, including the best kettlebells, the best weight benches and the best dumbbell exercises, all recommended by fitness experts.
Finn Byrne is a Digital Writer for Immediate Media. He works across several brands including The Recommended, RadioTimes.com, MadeforMums and BBC Gardeners’ World. Finn has previously written for publications including MyLondon, The Mirror, The Express, and The Star. When not writing Finn enjoys spending time on the football pitch and getting stuck into a book.