Dumbbell Buying Guide: How to Choose Dumbbells For Working Out At Home

Dumbbell Buying Guide: How to Choose Dumbbells For Working Out At Home

As beneficial as cardio workouts and ab circuits are, they become repetitive. And, they may not help you achieve your specific fitness goals.

If you're looking to shake things up, you should consider buying dumbbells. They let you build and tone your muscles. You can use standard dumbbells to strengthen all parts of your body, including your arms, abs, and legs. However, their benefits extend far beyond appearances and aesthetics. Dumbbells help individuals increase muscle stabilization, eliminate strength imbalances, and prevent future injuries. 

Once you decide to add dumbbell workouts to your strength training routine, you will need to invest in some high-quality equipment. With all the options available on the market, how are you supposed to know where to start? As you start buying dumbbells, you may find yourself asking questions like: 

  • What are the different types of dumbbells? 
  • What are dumbbells made of?
  • What weight dumbbells should I buy? 
  • What size dumbbells do I need? 

We've created this guide on how to buy dumbbells. Below, we'll cover the most common types of dumbbells: fixed, adjustable, and studio. We'll break them down into their different materials and styles and discuss their benefits. Plus, we've also included some FAQs you can read over to make sure you buy the best dumbbell set for your needs.

Fixed Dumbbells

Fixed dumbbells are the most common ones you'll find in a commercial gym. You will normally see them stored on an upright or horizontal rack.

Despite their popularity in commercial gyms, these weights are also ideal for a home setting. They usually come in pairs and weigh anything between 2 and 220 pounds (1 and 100kg).

You probably don't want to purchase every pair available. Two-pound dumbbells may feel like feathers to the semi-experienced gym buff, but 220-pound (100kg) ones may be too heavy for practical use. You may want to start with four or five pairs of manageable weights.

There are many fixed dumbbells styles. Below, we will discuss some of the most frequently-used ones.

Fixed Rubber Dumbbells

Fixed rubber dumbbells are incredibly durable and robust. They will be especially beneficial to a frequent lifter, as they can withstand heavy use.

These weights feature a protective coating of rubber. The rubber typically covers a cast iron or chrome base. This material protects not only the dumbbell but also your storage stand and surrounding workout area.

If you have metal weights, they will likely gain dents, chips, and scratches. These imperfections are less noticeable and less likely to develop on rubber weights. Another nice thing about rubber free weights is that they don't make a lot of noise if dropped.

If the design of your weight set is important, you may be stuck between rubber dumbbells vs cast iron dumbbells. In our opinion, the former is definitely the way to go. They are available in various colors and designs and have clear weight denominations on the weight heads. Rubber free weights are easy to customize so that you can order your pairs with a logo of your choice.

Another benefit of rubber weights is that they are easier to clean than steel free weights. This may not seem like a big deal if you are the only one who uses your home gym. However, having easy-to-clean weights is a must if you plan on sharing your equipment. Rubber is easy to wipe down, so you will easily develop the good habit of cleaning your weights after every use. 

Virgin Rubber Hex Dumbbells

Prevent damage to floors by using these Hex Dumbbells with Rubber Heads and Ergo handgrips. The Ergo design helps to reduce fatigue and maximize comfort.

- Made with 100% Virgin Rubber
- No toxic smell 
- Product sold in singles

Shop Virgin Rubber Hex Dumbbells

Fixed Urethane Dumbbells

To the untrained eye, urethane (polyurethane or PU) dumbbells do not look much different from rubber ones. However, they have some notable performance differences that justify their higher price tag.

Most importantly, urethane free weights are much stronger than rubber ones. Urethane products are much less likely to suffer cosmetic damage. The scratches, dents, and chips left behind on rubber weights are virtually nonexistent on urethane ones.

If you accidentally drop a urethane weight on a new vinyl or wooden floor, you don't have to worry about marks getting left behind. These weights are known as “non-marking,” so they won't leave unsightly chips behind on any flooring material.

Another benefit of urethane weights is that they don't emit the odor that rubber does. This odorless material will keep your home gym smelling clean and fresh. 

Fixed Chrome Dumbbells

Metal-free weights are not as common as they once were. However, they are still a viable option if you are looking for a cheap weights set. Metal-free weights are much more economical than their urethane or rubber counterparts.

Gym enthusiasts will often buy these weights used, as they are readily available. 

Fixed chrome weight sets are very stylish, sturdy, and can stand up to heavy use. However, they are more likely to acquire scratches and chips than free weights of more modern materials. 

These products are ideal for home gyms with just one or two users. They look great and deliver great performance with lighter use.

Common Shapes for Fixed Dumbbells

When it comes to fixed dumbbells, there two shapes you will commonly find:

  • Round weights are pretty self-explanatory: they feature two round weight heads joined by a handheld bar.
  • Hex-style products are named after their unique shape. Each weight head is shaped like a hexagon, and the two heads are similarly joined by a handheld bar.

Because of their many facets, hex weights will stay in place when placed on the floor. This will be very beneficial if you are always switching between different weights and exercises. 

In our opinion, hex-style products are much better than round hand weights. They won't roll around when not in use. Plus, they are great for floor-based exercises like dumbbell pushups.

However, some lifters prefer the round ones for their aesthetic benefits, as hex weights look bulky and clunky.

Adjustable Dumbbells

If you are looking for an all-in-one dumbbell weight set, adjustable weights are a great buy. 

You can change how heavy the device is by swapping out the different plates with each weight. This product often uses a mechanism like a pin, lever, or dial to allow you to change the weight. There are many solutions available in different sizes, shapes, and designs. 

Brands like Power Block and Bowflex are responsible for popularizing this kind of product. Advancements in the technology behind these products are developing every year, so you are likely to find the ones right for your home gym.

Adjustable dumbbells are great space-saving products. You won't have to invest in multiple pairs or a large stand. They often come with their own individual dumbbell cases for storage.

One downside to adjustable dumbbells is that they can be quite bulky, especially when you have a large weight load attached.

Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells

bowflex selecttech 552

These adjustable dumbbells replace 15 sets of weights. Weights adjust from 5 to 52.5 lbs in 2.5 lb increments up to the first 25 lbs.

Easy-to-use selection dials for adjusting weights. They are sold as a pair. Easily switch from one exercise to next and with the turn of a dial you can change your resistance, enabling you to gradually increase your strength.

Versatile workout for your legs, back, chest, abs, shoulders and arms. Compatible with the free Bowflex SelectTech® training App for iOS and Android.

Bowflex SelectTech 1090 Adjustable Dumbbells

Bowflex SelectTech 1090 Adjustable Dumbbells

These adjustable dumbbells have weights that adjust from 10 to 90 lbs in 5 lb. increments. Easy-to-use selection dials for adjusting weights.

Replaces up to 17 pairs of dumbbells. They are sold as a pair. Great for toning and strength training exercises for both upper and lower body including heavy leg lifts.

Compatible with the free Bowflex SelectTech® training App for iOS and Android.

Shop Bowflex Selecttech 1090

MX Select MX55 Adjustable Dumbbells with Stand

A design so compact it fits perfectly into your lifestyle

The pro-style design of the MX55 adjustable dumbbells is unmatched in the free weights market. Offering unmatched selectorised weight performance, the MX55 dumbbell’s sleek form and unique safety features inspire fresh confidence and interest from lifting enthusiasts.

While there are many exciting features to the MX SELECT patented adjustable dumbbell design), the MX55’s best-selling point is the way it feels in the hand, combined with the smooth operation of the locking rack and pinion system, for seamless weight transition between reps.

Shop Select MX55 Adjustable Dumbbells

Dumbbell Plate Sets

Another go-to solution for home gym users is a dumbbell plate set. These sets are alternative versions of adjustable weights. They consist of a small bar with plates attached on either end. Users can lock the plates into place using a spinlock collar or another mechanism. 

This set will let you participate in more intense exercises like barbell bench presses and weighted squats. 

Plate sets won't take up as much room as fixed dumbbells do, but they will require you to have some storage area available. 

Studio Dumbbells

As their name implies, studio dumbbells are most commonly found in studio workout classes. Instructors use them to lead classes in light resistance work. They are very cheap to buy in large quantities, and they often come with a studio storage unit. 

Studio products are usually color-coded by weight. This makes the weights easy to identify during fast-paced workouts.

Studio weights don't have quite the hexagon shape common among fixed dumbbells. However, they do have an anti-roll shape that prevents them from rolling around when placed down.

Unlike their fixed and adjustable counterparts, studio dumbbells are covered entirely in textured rubber, vinyl, or neoprene. This full layer protects them from drops and general heavy use. 

What's the difference between neoprene vs vinyl dumbbells? Both have a shiny coating, but the difference is the finish: neoprene has a matte finish, while vinyl has a glossy coating. 

Studio dumbbells are ideal for home gym users who want to incorporate weights into aerobic exercises. These products are available in low weight denominations, so you can easily find them in 1-pound (0.5kg) weights. 

These products are also great for:

  • Beginners who want to build up how much they can lift
  • Individuals recovering from surgeries or injuries and can't lift as much as they once used to
  • Older people with naturally lower muscle mass

Frequently Asked Questions

As you're buying dumbbells for your home gym, you might still have some unanswered questions. Check out the answers to some common questions we get below! 

What Weight of Dumbbells Should I Buy?

If you're buying an adjustable dumbbell set, you will have various dumbbell sizes available to you. However, if you want to buy studio or fixed dumbbells, you may only want three or four pairs.

When it comes to what weight of dumbbells to buy, there isn't a simple answer. It will depend on various factors like your gender and maximum lifting abilities.

You should also consider your fitness goals. Are you focusing on power or endurance? Do you only want to tone your muscles or also add bulk?

Test out different weights at a school or public gym before purchasing dumbbells for your home gym. Never lift more than you can handle. When lifting your dumbbells, make sure you can maintain good form. 

What Are My Storage Options?

When you purchase a new set of dumbbells, you must consider the storage you have available. Your home gym is likely a place you go to relieve stress and get in a good workout. Take pride in it and keep it organized with the right storage options. 

Some home gym owners may forgo buying a weight stand. You can get away with this if you have adjustable dumbbells. However, if you have multiple pairs of fixed dumbbells, they may become trip hazards. 

Not having a stand can also be hard on your body. You may find yourself constantly bending over to pick up your weights and switch them out with new ones.

Prevent injuries in your home gym and make your workouts more efficient by investing in the right weight stands.

What Accessories Should I Get to Go with My Dumbbells?

When you buy your dumbbells, you should also consider getting some accessories to make your workouts easier. A pair of lifting gloves will prevent callouses and help you maintain a good grip as you work out.

An adjustable bench is also a good idea if you don't want to be stuck doing curls every day. You can use this piece of equipment to mix up your workouts. One of our favorite exercises to do with an adjustable bench is dumbbells rows. You can experiment with various workouts to target different muscle groups and optimize your routine.

Which Type of Dumbbells Should You Buy?

Buying free weights for your home gym can be a difficult decision to make. Your investment should help you reach your fitness goals and last for years to come.

However, after reading through this dumbbell guide, you should have a more concrete answer to What kind of weights should I buy?

If you're looking for a whole weight set, adjustable dumbbells may be the way to go. If you only need light weights for aerobic workouts, you should look into studio weights.

Here is a quick review of the benefits of fixed, adjustable, and studio weights:

  • Fixed: offers a large weight set range, high-quality design, easily customizable
  • Adjustable: offer a full set of weights in one pair, saves space
  • Studio: ideal for light resistance work, easy to grip, feature full rubber coating, affordable to buy in large quantities

We hope we've helped you decide which weight dumbbells to buy. Once you know how to buy dumbbells, you will pick out the best free weights for your home gym! 

You can shop for these quality dumbbells on the online store section of our website!