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The 10 Best Dumbbells, Recommended by a Personal Trainer

Runner’s World Logo By Amy Schlinger of Runner’s World | Slide 1 of 12: Dumbbells might be relatively small tools, but their benefits are mighty. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), working out with dumbbells builds muscle, and it can lead to greater levels of muscle activation, increased force production, and enhanced resiliency and elasticity of your muscle tissues. And you can use them for hundreds of exercises, from full-body to functional workouts, even HIIT sessions. Plus, by using them to add resistance to your sessions, you’ll burn more fat than by cardio alone.Not only are they a great strength-training tool, but they can also benefit your running by improving your running economy, increasing the time it takes for you to reach exhaustion, and helping neuromuscular coordination.Best DumbbellsThe Expert: As a health and fitness journalist for over 12 years now, I’ve been testing gear and trying out new fitness gadgets, machines, and other technology for a long time. I absolutely live for comparing new pieces of clothing, shoes, or other fitness tools to previous models or other gear available on the market. Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of opportunities to try numerous sets of dumbbells in different gym settings. I have extensive personal experience with a number of brands like Cap, Portzon, SPRI, and Amazon Basics that have allowed me to perform workouts and strength exercises safely and effectively. During the pandemic, dumbbells became a hot commodity, and people frequently asked me which brands were the best and why. I also became a National Academy of Sports Medicine–certified personal trainer at this time, and my knowledge of equipment, along with how to safely execute exercises with different tools like dumbbells, as well as how to seek out quality options, grew.What To Consider When Buying DumbbellsBefore you go buying these powerful strength tools, there are a few things you should keep in mind.Material: If you have hardwood floors at home that you absolutely don’t want damaged, you might want to stay away from chrome or cast-iron dumbbells that lack an outer padded layer. Instead, good options are dumbbells that are coated in rubber, neoprene, or vinyl. If you’re using them on an exercise mat or non-marking floor, material doesn’t matter as much.Power Up: These Dumbbell Exercises Will Help You Become a Stronger, Faster Runner • A Dumbbell Leg Workout to Build Serious Lower-Body Strength • 9 Weight-Training Exercises for RunnersDesign: Yes, you’re probably looking to mostly use dumbbells as the main weight component for exercises like curls, rows, presses, deadlifts, and more. But consider other things you may want to do with them. If you want your dumbbells to double as grips for wrist-friendly push-ups or dips, getting a pair with a hexagonal shape might be your best bet as they don’t roll around once planted on the ground. If you want to stand them tall to balance on for exercises like deficit push-ups or to roll out with them as an ab tool, consider ones with round ends.Weight: When shopping for dumbbells, the first thing you want to consider is their weight. You want to be sure you’re purchasing a pair or pairs that are heavy enough to challenge you and allow for you to progress as you build muscle, but you might also want a pair or two of lighter weights for higher rep workouts or even some recovery and rehab exercises. Chances are good there are some exercises, like tricep kickbacks, where you’re scaling down in weight compared to what you’re using for your chest press. And if you’re consistently working on things like your deadlifts for posterior growth, you might also want to consider what weight you’ll be bumping up to next. For the greatest flexibility, look for an adjustable dumbbell that lets you set the weight as you progress or change moves.How We EvaluatedBecause dumbbell weights aren’t one size fits all, the recommendations of the best dumbbells below offer a lot of variety in weight and size. I also considered the shape of the dumbbell and looked for options, with spherical shaped heads, that could double for ab rollouts as well as pairs with hexagonal heads and flat ends that work well for renegade rows. My selections also range in material, from neoprene exteriors to chrome grips and even vinyl-coated options. All are durable and safe to use for all types of exercises and workouts and offer a range of different price points.

Dumbbells might be relatively small tools, but their benefits are mighty. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), working out with dumbbells builds muscle, and it can lead to greater levels of muscle activation, increased force production, and enhanced resiliency and elasticity of your muscle tissues. And you can use them for hundreds of exercises, from full-body to functional workouts, even HIIT sessions. Plus, by using them to add resistance to your sessions, you’ll burn more fat than by cardio alone.

Not only are they a great strength-training tool, but they can also benefit your running by improving your running economy, increasing the time it takes for you to reach exhaustion, and helping neuromuscular coordination.

Best Dumbbells

The Expert: As a health and fitness journalist for over 12 years now, I’ve been testing gear and trying out new fitness gadgets, machines, and other technology for a long time. I absolutely live for comparing new pieces of clothing, shoes, or other fitness tools to previous models or other gear available on the market. Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of opportunities to try numerous sets of dumbbells in different gym settings. I have extensive personal experience with a number of brands like Cap, Portzon, SPRI, and Amazon Basics that have allowed me to perform workouts and strength exercises safely and effectively. During the pandemic, dumbbells became a hot commodity, and people frequently asked me which brands were the best and why. I also became a National Academy of Sports Medicine–certified personal trainer at this time, and my knowledge of equipment, along with how to safely execute exercises with different tools like dumbbells, as well as how to seek out quality options, grew.

What To Consider When Buying Dumbbells

Before you go buying these powerful strength tools, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Material: If you have hardwood floors at home that you absolutely don’t want damaged, you might want to stay away from chrome or cast-iron dumbbells that lack an outer padded layer. Instead, good options are dumbbells that are coated in rubber, neoprene, or vinyl. If you’re using them on an exercise mat or non-marking floor, material doesn’t matter as much.

Power Up: These Dumbbell Exercises Will Help You Become a Stronger, Faster RunnerA Dumbbell Leg Workout to Build Serious Lower-Body Strength9 Weight-Training Exercises for Runners

Design: Yes, you’re probably looking to mostly use dumbbells as the main weight component for exercises like curls, rows, presses, deadlifts, and more. But consider other things you may want to do with them. If you want your dumbbells to double as grips for wrist-friendly push-ups or dips, getting a pair with a hexagonal shape might be your best bet as they don’t roll around once planted on the ground. If you want to stand them tall to balance on for exercises like deficit push-ups or to roll out with them as an ab tool, consider ones with round ends.

Weight: When shopping for dumbbells, the first thing you want to consider is their weight. You want to be sure you’re purchasing a pair or pairs that are heavy enough to challenge you and allow for you to progress as you build muscle, but you might also want a pair or two of lighter weights for higher rep workouts or even some recovery and rehab exercises. Chances are good there are some exercises, like tricep kickbacks, where you’re scaling down in weight compared to what you’re using for your chest press. And if you’re consistently working on things like your deadlifts for posterior growth, you might also want to consider what weight you’ll be bumping up to next. For the greatest flexibility, look for an adjustable dumbbell that lets you set the weight as you progress or change moves.

How We Evaluated

Because dumbbell weights aren’t one size fits all, the recommendations of the best dumbbells below offer a lot of variety in weight and size. I also considered the shape of the dumbbell and looked for options, with spherical shaped heads, that could double for ab rollouts as well as pairs with hexagonal heads and flat ends that work well for renegade rows. My selections also range in material, from neoprene exteriors to chrome grips and even vinyl-coated options. All are durable and safe to use for all types of exercises and workouts and offer a range of different price points.

© Runners World; Courtesy Amazon

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