The 5 best sets of dumbbells of 2021 for your home gym

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Dumbbells are an effective fitness tool for anyone looking to build and maintain strength.
  • The best vary in style, with some allowing for quick weight adjustments while others are compact for easy storage.
  • Our top pick, the Powerblock dumbbells, essentially replace 28 pairs of weights and adjust from 5 to 90 pounds.

Dumbells are among the most common and sought-after pieces of workout equipment, no matter if you’re at an actual fitness center or working out in your own home gym – and it’s not hard to see why. Not only can they be effective when used correctly but they’re highly versatile, too, capable of sufficing for a number of workouts like curls, presses, or rows.

It’s because of that multi-purpose use, however, that finding dumbbells typically goes one of two ways; either it’s far too expensive to buy multiple weights or they’re just entirely out of stock. This sort of Catch-22 makes actually shopping for dumbbells a much more arduous task than it needs to be.

But within that problem came a reasonable solution: more brand competition. And while the influx of brands dukes it out to develop the next great dumbbell, the true winners are those looking to buy them. Now, this doesn’t mean the market is flush with options but it does mean there are few more quality choices on the market (of which are, hopefully, in stock and available for purchase).

Take Powerblock, for instance, a brand that’s been around for several years but is finally starting to gather more attention thanks to a highly innovative take on the standard dumbbell. In essence, one Powerblock dumbbell takes the place of up to 28 different pairs of weights. Not only is this efficient but it’s also cost-effective as it’s not anywhere near the price of buying those 28 sets of weights on their own.

Powerblock is but one of dozens of companies trying their hand at offering a worthy dumbbell, and I saw to it to try as many of them as I could. Below are my five favorites across categories such the best budget-friendly option, the best app-connected dumbbell, and even the best traditional set.

At the end of this guide, I’ve also included some tips on how to properly use dumbbells, insight into what to consider while shopping for dumbbells, and the specific testing methodology I used in choosing which weights to feature.

Editor’s note: Due to the constant fluctuation of online inventories, we’re doing what we can to keep up with out-of-stock items or those available in limited supply. We review each product’s availability weekly to assure the guide is properly updated, though sometimes this means one or more of the included items may be sold out, or available via a third party.

Here are the best dumbbells:

The best dumbbells overall

Best dumbbells

Powerblock’s dumbbells are highly versatile in that they offer a wide range of weight variation in just one, easy-to-stow form factor — if you can find them for sale, buy them.

Pros: Max weight of 90 pounds, relatively affordable, sturdy and natural feeling

Cons: Slightly awkward weight-changing mechanism, may be a little long at max weight

The first time I saw these sitting in a weight room, I figured they’d be horribly awkward to lift. The rectangular dumbbells appear large and clunky, but I was surprised by how well they moved during workouts like Romanian deadlifts or chest presses. 

Like the Fatbells below, Powerblock dumbbells feature a handle that’s more centered in the apparatus. The weight surrounds your hands on all sides and as a result, they feel comfortable to move. They’re also constructed from steel, making them feel stronger and sturdier compared to other options built from plastic.

My favorite aspect of these dumbbells is that they’re able to load up to 90 pounds, which is enough to ensure you get plenty of mileage out of them as you get stronger. I’ve used these sparingly but they will, without a doubt, be my first purchase when I start building my ultimate home gym. 

To be finicky, I’d say the selecting mechanism isn’t as efficient compared to Bowflex’s dial system. With Powerblock, you select the weights directly on the bell with a vertically-set pin. Changing the weight requires you to pull the pin from the side of the bell and move it either up (lighter) or down (heavier). While it’s not as smooth to use as a dial, it’s not a complete dealbreaker.

The weight plates still sit on either end like a standard dumbbell, so despite looking foreign, they feel familiar and aren’t any more substantial than a heavy pair of dumbbells. Overall, these will save you from buying 28 pairs of individual dumbbells — or roughly 2,565 pounds of weights. That’s thousands of dollars of savings on its own.

Powerblock’s Home Rack Stand, which the brand sells for $179, makes it far easier to hoist the weights onto your lap or shoulders for presses. It’s not a necessity but having used the stand myself, I recommend it.

The best app-connected dumbbells

Best dumbbells

If you’re a techie, or simply meticulous about tracking sets and reps, the Bowflex SelectTech 560 app-connected bells are for you.

Pros: Tracks sets and reps via a companion app, space-saving, easy to change weight

Cons: Max weight of 60 pounds

These dumbbells pair via Bluetooth to the Bowflex app which allows them to automatically record lifted weight, as well as all sets and reps per exercise. This is useful for tracking total volume, especially when your progress is smaller.

Other than the Powerblocks, these are the only other adjustable dumbbells on our list. They’re not as sturdy as our overall pick, though they’re a solid pair of dumbbells that look sleek and save a ton of space. They also come with a floor stand for better storage.

The knurled handle provides plenty of grip and the square plates on each end feel secure for even more dynamic movements like snatches and cleans. Also, the squared-off shape of the weights keep you stable while doing pushups.

Compared to Bowflex’s SelectTech 552 dumbbells, which only go up to 52.5 pounds, these adjust to an even 60 pounds. That’s a decent amount of weight for most people and should serve you well for almost any exercise. Do keep in mind that as you get stronger over time, there’s a decent chance you’ll outgrow these weights and need more than 60 pounds in a dumbbell.

The best dumbbells for comfort

Best Dumbbells

You won’t find these in any commercial gym but the Thompson Fat Bells are an innovative take on the classic dumbbell.

Pros: Very comfortable, more natural to lift, made from durable cast iron

Cons: Expensive, have to buy multiple pairs, not space-friendly

The handle is inside a spherical weight, which centers the load entirely and evenly around your wrist. This allows the dumbbell to feel more comfortable and natural.

Invented by powerlifting legend Donnie Thompson in 2006, Fat Bells are a unique take on the kettlebell — though, to me, they’re interchangeable with dumbbells, too. As Thompson explains on Rogue.com, “it’s a perfect geometric shape for maximizing optimal performance.” Your hand is an equal distance away from every portion of the sphere for a perfect geometrical design.

What I like about these is that you’re able to become one with the weight. Instead of holding a clunky piece of iron, you have a compact load you’ll hardly notice —other than the fact it’s heavy. They do feel slightly off at first due to the fact you’re not used to where the weight is centered but you’ll get over that quickly. I like to use them for moves such as chest presses and rows, since I typically go heavier, and these feel more secure.

Fat Bells aren’t cheap and you’ll most likely need to buy more than one pair. If you’re looking to splurge on your home gym, I’d say opt for one moderate pair (35-50 pounds for men and 15-35 pounds for women) so you have the most versatility with them. 

The best budget dumbbells

Best dumbbells

Though these dumbbells from Titan Fitness require you to buy weight plates, the handles themselves are one of the best deals you’ll find.

Pros: Inexpensive, can handle as much weight as you own, great grip, space-friendly

Cons: Requires weight plates, not as easy to load as adjustable dumbbells

I’d never used this brand personally but the loadable handle on these is very similar to the pair I own. The biggest plus is how affordable they are compared to other options. Of course, you’ll have to buy weight plates but if you’re a home-gym owner, there’s a good chance you have some sitting around already. If that’s the case, these are your best bet. We also recommend investing in a set of barbell collars to stop the weights from sliding off of the handles.

The sleeve, or end of the dumbbell, fits standard Olympic weight plates. If you already own a squat rack and a barbell, then the plates you have should suffice — though it’s worth it to double-check before purchasing. Another plus is that these handles from Titan Fitness are 20 inches, meaning you’re able to load them with a lot of weight. If you’re a stronger lifter, then you won’t be limited to just 90 pounds for moves like rows and chest presses. For reference, many powerlifters and bodybuilders can press and row weights well over 100 pounds.

Lifting dumbbells loaded with Olympic plates can make some exercises awkward. The plates are large enough in diameter compared to typical dumbbells they’re able to disrupt your range of motion. This tends to be problematic for moves like curls, lateral raises, and extensions while chest presses and rows should be unaffected. Another minor nitpick is that having to manually load plates manually isn’t as easy as using adjustable dumbbells. 

The best traditional dumbbell set

Best dumbbells

The CAP Barbell 150-pound Dumbbell set (with rack) is a great starter set for beginners and feels (and looks) the most familiar. 

Pros: Feels familiar, great grip, stable when lifting

Cons: Have to buy multiple pairs which can get expensive, takes up a lot of space, included weight only goes up to 25 pounds

Practically speaking, these aren’t the best dumbbells you can buy but, as the saying goes, the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. These dumbbells don’t offer any sort of fancy weight mechanism or require a complicated method for use —and that’s their major appeal.

The handles are nicely knurled (i.e. they feature a pattern of angled lines etched into the steel of the dumbbell) so they won’t slip out of your hands, and the hexagonal rubber ends won’t roll around on the floor. From personal experience, I like using this type of dumbbell for heavy chest presses since they feel stable in my hands and the weight is more evenly distributed compared to the modern models in this guide.

Now, the downsides: You have to buy multiple pairs to have access to a variety of weight. This means the cost adds up rather quickly. Plus, the more dumbbells you own, the more space it’ll take up, so you’ll likely have to buy a dumbbell rack to hold your increasing collection.

Many of the most affordable sets, like our pick here, only go up to 25 pounds. This is great for exercises like curls, light presses, or squats, but it’s likely you’ll graduate from that weight quickly. But if it’s familiarity you seek, this is the set for you. 

How to properly use dumbbells

Best Dumbbells

Getting that toned look most people covet comes down to reducing body fat percentage and gaining muscle mass. The former comes down almost entirely to your diet while gaining muscle involves a balanced weight-training regimen in addition to the diet.

You’ll want to focus on two things:

  1. Placing tension on your muscles by lifting weight
  2. Increasing the total volume (or, amount of weight lifted) over time

To find this, multiply your total reps for one exercise by the amount of weight used. For example, if you do dumbbell chest presses for three sets of 10 reps with 50 pounds, multiply 30 (sets times reps) by 50 to get 1,500 pounds for that exercise. If you were to lift 55 pounds for just one of your sets next week, you’d increase your total volume to 1,550.

Your goal for each workout should be to slightly increase your volume for each move. Add volume by adding weight or increasing your total reps. 

A general rule of thumb is to find a weight you’re able to use for three sets of eight reps. Add one rep to each set each week and once you reach 12 reps, add five pounds and start back at eight reps.

It’s good to have a light, moderate, and heavy pair of dumbbells if this is your primary source of exercise. That way, you can increase your total volume without having to pump out an insane amount of reps with a lighter pair.

How to shop for dumbbells

Before you start the process of finding a set that’s right for you, it’s important to know what a dumbbell is and why they’re an important investment for your home gym. Put plainly, a dumbbell consists of a central handle with weight on either end capable of ranging anywhere from 5 to 100 pounds.

Dumbbells are a versatile foray into weight training for beginners, too. Anything you’re able to do with a barbell, you can do with a dumbbell — albeit with lighter weight. Lifting dumbbells is a great way to teach yourself moves like the squat, overhead press, and row before graduating to the heavier weight a barbell often affords. They’re also less cumbersome than barbells and much easier to store in your home or apartment. 

More advanced trainees benefit from the fact dumbbells allow you to better isolate your muscles unilaterally (one side at a time), as your right and left sides need to work independently to balance the weights. In turn, you’ll strengthen your weaker side, which translates to stronger and more efficient lifts overall.

According to personal trainer, Chris Parnell, lifting with dumbbells is also a great way to give your abs extra attention. He asserts that, compared to barbells, dumbbells challenge your body’s stability more. With a barbell, you work with a singular mass versus the dumbbell that uses two separate masses.

“Dumbbells provide the beginner or advanced lifter with an opportunity to exercise using compound movements [moves that move more than one joint at once] with low to high intensity using two separate masses,” Parnell told Insider.

Our testing methodology

Each set of dumbbells in this guide went through a series of tests to see how well they compared across these four categories: Design, quality, portability, and value. Here’s how each category specifically factored into which dumbbells made this guide:

Design: Dumbbell design is mostly straightforward, though unique innovations from brands like Powerblock and Bowflex have turned the humble dumbbell into a versatile all-in-one gym. What I mean by this is that both of the dumbbells featured in this guide from those brands are designed to be several sets of dumbbells in the form of just one set.

This means you don’t have to buy a set of 5 lb weights, a set of 15 lb weights, and a set of 25 lb weights. You buy either of those and you have the adjustability to hit any weight you’d need. The design choices I looked for in standard dumbbells were how well they felt while holding and if they were versatile for a variety of lifts. 

Quality: Most steel dumbbells feature a quality that allows them to last literal decades (if taken care of) before you’d even need to think about replacing them. Because of this, it’s easy to spot a dumbbell that’s made of anything other than quality metal. Thankfully, this never was an issue during testing. This category was useful when judging how well the adjustable systems of the Bowflex and Powerblock dumbbells would hold up over time. 

Portability: Yet another category where praise heaps onto the adjustable dumbbells are portability. When you’re forced to buy multiple sets of dumbbells in different weights, the problem of how to store them can add up quite quickly. Though some come with their own stand like the traditional set from CAP, not all options are that convenient. 

Value: Considering how expensive dumbbells can get when buying multiple sets (and especially when stock is low and demand is high), value is a key component. But it’s also important not to buy an inferior set if it’s your only option. I view value as the combination of the categories listed above as well as its final sticker price — and feel that spending more on a quality product is better than spending less, more often on something that’s second-rate.

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The 5 best gym bags, for storing gym clothes or hauling workout equipment

  • Gym bags allow you to comfortably and easily carry workout apparel and gear to and from the gym.
  • The best gym bags keep clothing and accessories organized, making for easy access and efficient storage.
  • Our top pick, the Adidas Defender II, holds plenty of gear, is highly durable, and stays comfortable slung over a shoulder.

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If you regularly work out at a gym or play a sport, you’ll want to own a gym bag to help transport your gear. A dedicated gym bag lets you establish a routine that makes preparing for a workout more convenient and your time at the gym more efficient. It also makes any post-exercise transport, laundering, and storage of fitness apparel and gear easier and more hygienic.

A proper gym bag should have multiple compartments that can be used to create your own organizational system. You can appoint one or two pockets to store soiled, sweaty garments and shoes, while dedicating another for clean clothing. Other compartments store water, energy bars, snacks, or supplements and you’ll want to stash your phone, keys, and wallet somewhere safe, as well.

There’s certainly no shortage of gym bags available to purchase, too, as almost every athletic brand offers its own version. But they’re not all created equal. To help, we’ve tested a number of bags from top brands like Adidas, Under Armour, and Thule to find the best worth owning.

At the end of this guide, we’ve also included some insight into how to shop for a gym bag and what to keep in mind when picking one out, as well as the testing methods we used in deciding which made the cut.

Here are the best gym bags:

Best overall

adidas gym bag

The Adidas Defender II Duffel Bag is well made and refreshingly simple with a few compartments and two ways to carry it.

Pros: Lasts for years of heavy use, simple intuitive design, comes in multiple colors

Cons: Medium and large sizes too big for many people

The Adidas Defender II Duffel Bag has one large main compartment with enough room for a change of clothes and a towel, a water bottle, deodorant and shampoo, and whatever other workout gear you prefer.

Within the main chamber is a smaller zippered pouch perfect for a wallet, keys, phone, and other small valuables. Each end of the bag has a compartment that can fit shoes, sweaty garments, and anything else you want to keep separate. The base is padded to keep your gear safe and the fabric is rip- and puncture-resistant. There’s also both a shoulder strap and handles to allow for comfortable and easy transport. 

And that’s it. But hey, that’s really all you need out of gym bag. So why does this bag cost almost twice as much as other options on our list? Simple. It’s remarkably well made. Adidas even offers a lifetime warranty. And when you think about it, that’s an impressive amount of faith Adidas is putting in this gym bag. Adidas knows the thing is going to be hauled back and forth to the fitness center, to the track, the field, and everywhere else such luggage gets lugged.

It doesn’t hurt that the Defender II comes in nearly two dozen different color patterns, so you can easily find one that not only matches your needs but that matches your personal sense of style, too.

Best on a budget

everest gym bag

The Everest Gym Bag’s dedicated water bottle sleeve, versatile front pouches, and adjustable, padded shoulder strap make it a great budget-friendly gym bag.

Pros: Great low price, dedicated water bottle pocket, keeps gear and sundries organized

Cons: Occasional issues with side pocket tearing, longevity questionable

The Everest Gym Bag may be our pick for the best budget bag but it’s far from something that should be considered cheap. For starters, it’s manufactured out of durable 600D polyester that resists scratches and tears, and is even water-resistant. Of course, you don’t want to submerge it in a bathtub while your smartphone is inside or anything, but don’t worry about some drizzle as you jog from the subway to the gym.

The bag features a large primary compartment with plenty of room for shoes, clothes, showering accessories, and more, and its twin front pouches are perfect for a phone, wallet, some energy bars, or other smaller sundries. A central water bottle sleeve handles most water bottle sizes, too.

On one side of the bag, you will find a zippered mesh pouch, and on the other, there is a closed compartment. Both can be extended into the main area of the bag, allowing you to stash sweaty clothes or muddy shoes away from the rest of your gear.

The only real drawback with this bag is that the side pockets in which you can store soiled gear must take up room in the main compartment to be sufficiently spacious, so it can be tricky to tell exactly how much room you will use in each area after a workout. After a few trips to the gym, though, you should have the balance down and can pack and plan accordingly.

Best backpack

Under Armour gym backpack

The Under Armour UA Hustle 3.0 Backpack has enough space to carry a pair of shoes, a change of clothes, a full-sized laptop, and a few accessories, and it distributes the weight of all your gear evenly across your torso.

Pros: Distributes weight evenly, water-resistant exterior, padded laptop sleeve

Cons: Capacity is too small for some athletes

Now yes, we just mentioned a lot of stuff that you can fit into a UA Hustle 3.0 Backpack, but to be clear, if you put a pair of sneakers, your gym apparel, a computer, and your wallet, phone, and keys in this bag, it would then be just about full. But that’s just fine, because what else do you need to carry with you as you travel from the office to the gym and then home?

And unlike with traditional gym bags that must be slung over one shoulder or carried in your hand, this backpack distributes that weight evenly across your shoulders and down through your core, meaning you can transport all that stuff for miles and miles in comfort if need be.

Anyone with a long trip between the gym and the home or office should consider this gym backpack. Its padded laptop sleeve keeps that invaluable computer safe while the brand’s UA Storm technology-treated exterior resists rain, sleet, or snow, keeping your stuff safely dry within. The bottom panel is abrasion-resistant and the entire backpack is rip-stop and puncture-resistant.

And also, the UA Hustle 3.0 Backpack comes in colors ranging from black to blue to pink to orange and more.

Best leather bag

_komal gym bag

If you love the timeless styling of luggage from generations past, then this Komal’s Passion Leather KPL Vintage Leather Gym Duffel is the gym bag for you.

Pros: Beautiful vintage style, multiple compartments and pockets, versatile

Cons: Requires care and maintenance

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a bare-knuckle boxer or 19th Century strongman to appreciate the Komal’s Passion Leather KPL Vintage Leather Gym Duffel. While this leather duffel may have the look of a vintage piece of equipment, it’s actually brand new and manufactured to modern standards and with modern apparel and accessories in mind.

There is a front pocket perfect for your smartphone and keys, there are side pockets that can accommodate shoes or sweaty gear, and there is a large main compartment perfect for a change of clothes, hygiene products, snacks, or whatever else you need to have on-the-go.

This durable leather duffel is the perfect size for use as a gym bag, but it’s also great for the traveler. The bag is suitable for carry-on use and will easily fit in overhead compartments and will even fit under the seat aboard many aircraft. And it’s hard to mistake this unique, handsome duffel with another traveler’s luggage.

While of course there are drawbacks to using a leather duffel, such as the need to avoid heavy precipitation and the more complicated cleaning procedures, these mild issues are greatly outweighed by the KPL Vintage Leather Gym Duffel’s classic charm for those who truly value style. And for a leather bag, it’s reasonably priced.

Best water-resistant

best water resistant bag thule chasm

The Thule Chasm is a water-resistant duffel that protects your gear from the elements. It’s also a great travel bag, and it can convert into a backpack for easier hauling.

Pros: Water-resistant, converts from duffel to backpack, large opening, padded bottom

Cons: Expensive, no laptop compartment

Having gone through a good number of bags for the gym, I’ve grown to appreciate the ones with large openings. It not only makes it easier to pack, but it also lets me get to things much quicker. Which is the reason why I like the Chasm from Thule. The 40-liter version (also available in 70, 90, and 130 liters) is the right size for the gym or a weekend trip, and it has a big opening that I can easily shove workout clothes, shoes, and other gym gear into it.

But there’s so much more to this bag. Don’t feel like carrying it or slinging it over your shoulder? The Thule Chasm converts into a backpack, making it easy to haul. For me, the versatility is a plus because some days I feel like using a backpack, while other days I prefer a duffel.

The Thule Chasm is made with a water-resistant material, and the bottom is padded to offer some protection. There are mesh pockets on the inner part of the lid for storing dirties. And, you can lock the zippers to prevent theft, which is handy for when you use a gym locker room. The only thing I wish this bag offers is a laptop compartment, which would allow me to carry just one bag from home to office to gym.

Thule products are very well made. I also use Thule bags to carry my camera equipment, so you can rest assure that this bag will protect your gym gear. It is quite expensive for a bag, but if you want to invest in something that offers flexibility and longevity, this is a good option.

If you’re looking for a water-resistant duffel, you should also consider two options from Eagle Creek: the Cargo Hauler Duffel 45L and Migrate Duffel 40L. Like the Thule Chasm, both Eagle Creek bags can convert into backpacks. The Cargo Hauler is expandable for when you need more room, while the Migrate Duffel can be packed down for easy storage. I find Eagle Creek bags to be well made, but also affordable. — Les Shu

Best rolling bag

olympia rolling gym bag

Anyone with joint or shoulder injuries or issues shouldn’t carry a gym bag by hand, so the Olympia Luggage Rolling Duffel Bag is just right for them.

Pros: Rolling design takes strain off your body, multiple pockets for easy organization, great price

Cons: Does not stand up straight, lacks sufficiently large compartments for some users’ preferences

Gym bags can get heavy quickly, what with all the gear most of us lug along to our workouts. There are shoes, changes of clothes, water bottles, energy bars, shampoo and a towel, and so on.

If you have strength or grip issues in your hands, shoulders, lower back, or really anywhere else, you should not be carrying a heavy gym bag, nor should you sling one over a shoulder. Doing so can throw of your center of balance and/or put undue strain on the sensitive area. With the Olympia Luggage Rolling Duffel, you can tote along all the fitness apparel and gear you want and then some while letting the wheels do most of the work.

At 22 by 12 by 12 inches this gym bag offers plenty of room to stash shoes and clothes, snacks and water, accessories, personal items, and more, but it’s not so large that you can’t easily bring it on the subway or bus and stash it under your desk at work. As the duffel has no fewer than eight pockets, it’s easy to keep all of your stuff organized, not to mention keeping soiled gear separate from clean stuff.

When needed, such as when you encounter stairs or uneven terrain, the Olympia Luggage Rolling Duffel can be picked up by its handles and carried along. But the recessed, in-line skate style wheels — which turn smoothly thanks to metal ball bearings — and the retractable pull handle are what set this bag apart from the rest. Also, it costs only about thirty-two bucks.

How to shop for a gym bag

When choosing the right gym bag for you, there are a few factors to consider. First, think about what you’ll be carrying to the gym and then find options that can accommodate it all.

Next, consider when and where you’ll have the bag. Do you need to bring it with you on the subway or on a bus? If so, a smaller bag is like a good idea. If you have a long walk or prefer to jog to the gym, then a backpack might be your best bet.

Finally, don’t dismiss style as an important element. You’ll have your gym bag on you often, so choose the one you’ll be proud to have over your shoulder and on display.

How we test gym bags

When compiling a list of the best gym bags, we only considered those with multi-compartment designs. Wel also looked at the materials used, well aware that while one person might value performance and durability, someone else might value style — thus, we included a leather gym duffel.

We heavily weighed the cost, too. Bags can get expensive but unless it’s truly unique, we don’t think a gym bag needs to cost a fortune. Finally, we looked for special features that set these bags apart from the competition. There are so many currently on the market and while most are quite similar, the bags we chose each have at least one unique factor that earned them a spot.

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