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The best weights 2018: top dumbbells to use at home

T3 logo T3 09/11/2018 Leon Poultney

Courtesy of T3: T3 image © Courtesy of T3 T3 image Don't be fooled by the myriad offers from your local gym promising cheap memberships, reduced personal trainer rates and enticing deals to get that beach bod you've always dreamed of. For the price of a couple of months spent sweating away in a basement, while Katy Perry music videos play on repeat, you could start building your very own workout zone at home, starting with the best dumbbells. 

The best home weights really come into their own in winter, when heading out becomes a less attractive proposition.

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Dumbbells © Getty Dumbbells A good set of weights is at the centre of any muscle-building, fat-shredding, sweat-inducing workout and can be used for numerous different exercises to achieve any number of fitness goals, from basic weight loss to fat-shredding High Intensity Interval Training and advanced gun sculpting.

Smart shoppers should consider waiting for the best Black Friday deals on these dumbbells. The good news is, you won't have long to 'weight', and we will 'spot' them for you. 

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What is the best dumbbell?

Man using dumbbells © Reuters Man using dumbbells We found that the latest adjustable weight systems from PowerBlock and Bowflex are the easiest to use, as you simply dial in the required weight and the dumbbell cleverly grasps the correct plate/s. 

But they can be mighty expensive, which is why the £120 25kg units offered by Men's Health soar right to the very top of this list.

This clever adjustable plate system means it's possible to rapidly swap weights on the fly, ultimately offering the user a 2.5kg-25kg weight spread that aids progression and is suitable for a huge array of exercises.

That price is only for one dumbbell, mind, but a pair still comes in cheaper than rivals from Bowflex and the like.

How to buy the best dumbbells

Doing weights © Getty Doing weights Invest in a top array of weights and you'll be surprised at what you can achieve with some help from a few online workout plans and a dollop of dedication.

As with many things in life, the humble dumbbell comes in a confusing array of shapes, sizes, weights and mechanisms, so choosing the right one for you is important.

Typically, a dumbbell will either be rounded or hexagonal, the latter being the smart choice as it doesn't roll away when you put it down. It's also perfect if you fancy using a dumbbell for press-up variations.

Courtesy of T3: T3 image © Courtesy of T3 T3 image Secondly, the weight is particularly important, especially if you opt for a fixed dumbbell system, which can't be adjusted or added to.

This singular weight will make progression tricky, as it could be too heavy for certain exercises, or too light to effectively build muscle or add enough resistance to raise the heart rate.

Finally, the choice of material should also be a consideration. Matte black metal weight discs might look masculine and cool but they can also wreak havoc with wooden floors and make a racket.

Rubber coated weights tend to make less noise and, generally, less mess. Although as with a tyre on a road, if you drag a weight across a hard floor, you can end up with skid marks. Nobody wants skid marks.

We've got options that are good for everyone from beginners to slightly more challenging sets for when the guns begin to show. 

The best dumbbells you can buy, in order

a close up of a camera: Bowflex SelectTech Dumbbells © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. Bowflex SelectTech Dumbbells

Please note that pricing on Bowflex is often per weight – check before purchase. 

Halting a workout to unscrew unwieldy metal spin collars and replacing weight plates can break flow, while those who are really looking to bulk up will need plenty of weight options to choose from, which means a surplus of storage space.

These beasts from Bowflex pack 2-24 or 4-41kg in each dumbbell, depending on the model you go for, with weight selection as easy as spinning a dial. When paired with a simple weights bench, they offer an effective alternative to a gym floor, yet don't require an entire rack to house. 

Compared to Powerblock, the rival modular weight system (see below), the Bowflex weights look and feel far more like classic dumbbells, although a lack of colour coding does mean you have to pay a little more attention when piling on the kilograms and it's best to avoid launching them across the room.

That said, the spinning dial is easy to navigate and the included plastic stand makes it simpler to guide the weights back into place when you're finished, although with certain configurations, you do have to be quite careful.

Overall, a great solution for those who like to push on with intensive 'drop set' workouts or for those who are tight on space. In fact, our only real reservation is the price, which will make you sweat before you even try to lift them.

  • Also available: the Bowflex 560 'smart' dumbbells. They have a movement sensor to count reps and an app that helps with workout suggestions and encourages good form. It's probably the best set of weights you can get, but the non-smart ones offer considerably better value for money,

York Fitness Cast Iron Dumbbell Spinlock Set © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. York Fitness Cast Iron Dumbbell Spinlock Set

These must surely be the most-used weights in the UK, and are a staple of Argos and Amazon's websites. And little wonder.

You just can't beat a good old pair of cast iron weights, and a testament to this is the fact they can be found under the beds of dads and granddads up and down the country. Just don't go looking for them, there's probably stuff under there you really don't want to see.

Get your own and they will last a lifetime and for all of their noisy, palm-chafing downsides (get weight-lifting gloves or pay the price), there is a kind of nostalgic loveliness to the spin collar set-up. Even though at least one weight will nearly always comes loose mid-workout, it's never so much so that you feel endangered. The overtly rough grip and stupidly masculine cast iron finish have a lot of charm and even more longevity.

For less than £40 you get a not-particularly-heavy 10kg per arm maximum that is built to outlast civilisation as we know it. Honestly, a cast iron weight set is a modern day fossil… but a fossil that can keep you fit.

a close up of a device: Men's Health Adjustable Dumbbell 25kg © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. Men's Health Adjustable Dumbbell 25kg

Thankfully, the fitness buffs over at Men's Health have noticed the benefits of a modular weights system, and have fashioned their own that nicely undercuts he competition on price but retains the benefits.

You might think £120 for a single dumbbell is expensive, but this Men's Health beauty packs 2.5kg-25kg weights in handy 2.5kg increments, making it one of the most compact and versatile systems money can buy.

The overall build quality is great, with thick plastic used for all of the grippy bits, while the spinning weight selection collar is easy to use and neatly clicks into place for added safety and peace of mind.

Alas, there are some downsides to these systems, including the inability to drop them on the floor if gunning for a one-rep max (you'll break the weight selection mechanism if you do that too often), as well as the slightly unbalanced feeling thanks to the wide weight plate area.

But these are factors that are easy to adapt to and seem a small price to pay for such a versatile workout package, which will help gun-shapers and fat-shredders easily progress to the next level thanks to the easy incremental weight system.

a close up of a dumbbell: Escape Fitness Classic Urethane Dumbbell Set © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. Escape Fitness Classic Urethane Dumbbell Set

Escape is a name that regular gym-goers will likely recognise from their local sweatbox, where the brand can be found supplying all manner of weight-related fitness gear.

This ridiculously expensive Urethane upright rack and weight kit perfectly highlights the true cost of investing in a spread of individual dumbbells, which are absolutely brilliant for maintaining perfect form but may require you to take up unlicensed boxing to fund their purchase.

The dumbbells are extremely well put together and will happily survive a lifetime of being dropped from a height and generally punished, but the weight spread is very limited and will only suit those with precision sculpting and cardio work in mind.

a close up of a camera: PowerBlock Sports 5.0 Dumbbells © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. PowerBlock Sports 5.0 Dumbbells

Although pricier than simpler dumbbell systems, the PowerBlock Sports combine great design with a solid range of weights, and are far cheaper than the comparable Bowflex. 

These space-saving puppies replace 10 pairs of fixed dumbbells, offering a spread of 2kg to 22.5kg per hand in 2kg increments.

You rapidly swap weights simply by moving a pin up or down, with handy colour coding offering visual assistance for quick changes between sets.

The ergonomic grip and clever design mean these things can be used for a range of exercise movements, from chest pressing to squatting, while the compact proportions equate to the size of two shoeboxes.

Granted, the cost may prove a stumbling block for some, but there's very little else out there that offers so much in such a compact package. 

a close up of a device: Bodymax Deluxe 40kg Hammertone Dumbbell Kit © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. Bodymax Deluxe 40kg Hammertone Dumbbell Kit

Everything about this set harks back to the glory days of bodybuilding, when Arnie was Pumping Iron and Gold's Gym was the place to hang out.

Finished in a robust Hammertone coating, these beefy metal plates resist wear and won't crack when dropped (although they may crack your tiled floor), while the rubber grips provide excellent traction even when hands are sweaty. 

The 20kg per hand weight spread via a variety of 1.25-5kg weight plates is heavy enough to give both arms and legs a good workout, no matter your fitness level. 

However, changing weights requires unscrewing the metal spin collar, which can be more time consuming and fiddly than you really want, mid-workout. 

a close up of a phone: IronMaster Quick-Lock Set © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. IronMaster Quick-Lock Set

Where the bulky units from Bowflex and PowerBlock promise ultra-rapid weight changes, they don't take too kindly to being thrown across the home gym when you've just repped out a super set, and it can be a little fiddly to go from low to high weight settings.

The Quick-Lock system from IronMaster, on the other hand, is basically indestructible, but offers a similar kind of compact weight spread that's perfect for those lacking space.

A unique locking nut system allows the thin and tapered plates to be loaded on and secured with a couple of twists, rather than awkwardly spinning a collar for ages, only for it to then come loose. The entire system stacks in a storage unit that measures just 53cm wide, 38cm deep and 61cm tall, while the dumbbells measure just 36.5cm when fully loaded.

IronMaster's kits can be a bit pricey but the price does includes a stand and with the full set, not only are able to pump each dumbbell up to a substantial 34kg, you can then add a 74kg add-on kit, if you're a  monster. That actually represents great value when you consider the cost of a similar rack set-up.

a close up of a box: Body Power 12.5Kg Rubber Hex Dumbbells © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. Body Power 12.5Kg Rubber Hex Dumbbells

The hexagonal shape and rubber coating mean it is possible to use these dumbbells for more than simply pumping iron.

They can be placed on a flat surface and used for tricky dumbbell press-ups, renegade rows and more, without risk of damaging your floor or, hopefully, face.

Available in a variety of weights, this 12.5kg model seems to be the go-to number for your average fitness fanatic. Since the weight is not adjustable, costs soon mount up if you want more. A four-weight (12.5-20kg) will set you back well over 200 quid, but is arguably worth it, if you have a lot of space.

TNP Accessories Vinyl Dumbbell Set 40KG © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. TNP Accessories Vinyl Dumbbell Set 40KG

This affordable weight set might not boast the same neat finish as the more premium products here but the innovative grip handle shape means the weight plates can be used for a number of exercises on or off the provided bar. 

You can either load up the 18-inch, non-slip metal bar for typical dumbbell curls, overhead pressing and weighted squats, or remove the weight plate to assist with ab crunches or weighted squat twists. 

They also boast a floor-friendly plastic covering, which has also been designed to last.

As well as the 30kg set, there are various other maximum weight options from TNP in the same range.

Gallery: Easy exercises you can do at home [StarsInsider]


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