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.
In the right hands, 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.
Understandably, there’s quite a premium on home gym equipment at the moment, but we managed to test a range of weights to see how versatile, comfortable and practical to use each set was in a varied workout.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
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.
Buy now £34.95, Mirafit.co.uk
VLFit softgrip dumbbells, 1kg
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.
Buy now £23.99, Amazon.co.uk
SPRI deluxe vinyl dumbbells, 10lb
These hexagonal bells will brighten up any weights room. What’s more, the vinyl coating felt really good in our hands as we were lifting and was easy to grip. The bells are bought individually in sets of two, so you can buy a particular weight for a specific fitness goal or you can build a set as you tailor your workout and increase the weight. All the different sets are colour coordinated, according to their weight, so you can recognise what you need quickly when you’re in the middle of a workout routine.
Buy now £50.40, Amazon.co.uk
DKN rubber hex dumbbells, 2kg-30kg
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 2kg-10kg, so you can really fine tune your progress by increasing the weight by just a single kilo if you want.
Buy now £23.99, Sweatband.com
Opti neoprene dumbbells, 1kg
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.
Buy now £5.99, Argos.co.uk
Jordan Fitness ignite urethane dumbbells, 1kg-50kg
Similar to the design of DKN hex dumbbells (£23.99, 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.
Buy now £14.50, Jordanfitness.com
Northdeer adjustable dumbbells, 15lb
These are an interesting take on the adjustable concept: rather than having a cradle to house all the weight, you can choose between 15lb, 12lb, 10lb and 7lb 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.
Buy now £129.90, Amazon.co.uk
Powerblock pro 32 adjustable dumbbells
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.
Buy now £379.99, Sweatband.com
Umi dumbells, 10kg
These Amazon own-brand fixed weights come in seven different weight sets, 1kg-10kg, and start from just £30.99. 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.
Buy now £95.99, Amazon.co.uk
JLL PU dumbbells, 4kg-32kg
These good-quality weights come in 12 different weight pairings, ranging from 4kg-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.
Buy now £34.99, Jllfitness.co.uk
JTX fitness dumbbells, 2kg
These fixed weights from the UK manufacturer come in 10 different weight settings, from 2kg to 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.
Buy now £19.00, Jtxfitness.com
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.
We know weight-training isn’t for everyone though, so here’s the best home exercise equipment to keep working out while the gyms are closed