When it comes to gearing up your home gym, dumbbells are one of the key pieces of exercise equipment that you just can't skip over. Compared to the more "traditional" barbells they're incredibly versatile, allowing for a greater breadth of exercises. And they're just so darn convenient!
Whether you're planning to use them for compound exercises, a full-body workout, or even just as by themselves for correcting any sort of strength or physique imbalance - making sure that you're working out with high-quality dumbbells is important.
Thing is, most are quite expensive and you really do not need them. A good pair of cheap dumbbells will go just as far as the ones that cost twice as much. It's just a weight with a little bar attached. I want you to think about that.
This is one piece of equipment that you can cheap out on. I promise you. Not too cheap but darn close.
However, in today's day and age, finding a high-quality pair of dumbbells that come at the price of dirt isn't exactly a walk in the park. Gone are the days where you used to be able to walk into a sporting goods store, pick up the first set you see, and trust that you're buying something decent.
Instead, because many brands are pushing to make a buck, a bit of research is needed even for little ol dumbbells.
But, who's got the time to dig through the web for hours on end just to find a set of good affordable dumbbells?
My Research & Effort into Finding Affordable Dumbbells
To help you save your valuable time (and stay a little saner in today's already crazy world), I've done all the digging and research for you.
I mean really this is just my own research and notes that I compiled into a more (way more) presentable version with links that will hopefully accomodate my time for doing so.
I am quite honest, so now at least you know I may get a small commission if you use my links to buy what I recommend. Nobody else will tell you this, and the thing about me is I have spent almost 2 days researching, making sure this post is the best there is, and most importantly that the dumbbells down below are the absolute best bang for your buck affordable buys based on my own personal criteria.
As is with every single article on this site.
Below are my personal top picks based on reliability, cost and reliability.
In that order.
There are also two categories:
- fixed weight
I give you my personal opinion down below on which you should choose, but you do what is right for you and just use my opinion as just that, a random guys' opinion.
Fixed Weight Vs. Adjustable Dumbbells - What's Cheaper?
Before we get into covering my top picks, let's lay down some groundwork and figure out which category of dumbbells I would go for if I were you.
Namely, there are two significant categories for us to cover - fixed weight dumbbells and their adjustable counterparts. And while the differences between them may not seem all too substantial, they actually play a big role in their own finite cost on your end, over time.
Fixed Weight Dumbbells
First and foremost, let's talk about fixed weight dumbbells. Just as the name would imply, these dumbbells come in a fixed weight, with no option to add plates or adjust the weight in any way.
You get what you get.
Out of the gate, these are typically cheaper than their adjustable counterpart. However, when you dig a little deeper, that only holds up if you really need just a few particular weights and that's it.
If you have experience buying these for your own home gym setup, you eventually learn that after you buy 2 pairs, this option actually quickly becomes that more expensive option.
The magic number is most usually 2 pairs or a total of 4 dumbbells. After that, the bang for buck quickly becomes a well.. not bang for buck.
Effectively, this means that this is not a scalable option that will grow in tandem with your fitness progress. If you choose to stick to fixed weights and need to gradually move up the scale - you'll find yourself buying a new set time and time again.
Weight Sets (A Rack of Fixed Weight Dumbbells)
In addition to this, most of the time, you'll find these being sold in sets that feature lots of different weight options. Weight sets are far more expensive keep this mind.
And while it might seem great because hey you've got practically the whole spectrum of weights to play with - if you're anything like 90% of fitness folks, you'll never end up using half the weights you buy as part of that set but you will find yourself needing weights that are not in your set.
Trust me when I tell you this, it is very true.
And lastly, whether you're buying an entire set or just a few weights to exercise with, if you have a nice floor or workout area you'll want a dumbbell rack to hold them all in place when they're not in use. That is, at least if you want to avoid tearing your floor up or tripping over loose dumbbells laying around every time you set foot inside of your home gym.
While fixed weight dumbbells are the cheaper option if you only need about 4 dumbbells - what if you're the type that needs a bit more than 4 dumbbells or two weights, or even more commonly: you just don't want to own an entire set of dumbbells and would rather opt for an all-in-one solution that not only saves space but is cheaper and becomes a better bang for buck in the long run.
If that's the case for you - then adjustable dumbbells are by far the best option.
Upfront, they are most certainly more expensive than their fixed weight counterparts. However, if you're planning to move up the weight range as you knock out fitness goal after fitness goal, or even if you need a few different weights for exercises - then these dumbbells actually end up saving you a ton of money.
I speak from personal experience.
In addition to this, there's zero need for a rack to keep everything organized, as you've only got one pair to deal with. And overtop of this, in most cases, adjustable dumbbells honestly just look so much cooler than their more traditional fixed weight cousins. Not this matters if your main goal is cheap, but it's the truth and is a nice bonus.
So, all in all, the angle for adjustable dumbbells centers around their:
- long-term affordability
- lack of space-wise footprint
- additional accessories
- and hassle
However, as with all great things in the 21st century, there is one tiny draw-back. This has to do with the fact that when you need to change the weights, you've actually got to adjust the dumbbells, which takes a bit of time away from your exercise . But realistically speaking - it's nothing significant enough to worry about in most cases.
My Favorite "Best Bang For Your Buck" Fixed Weight Dumbbells
Now that we've had a chance to get to know both key categories of dumbbells you'll see on your shopping quest, let's dive straight into my top picks for both categories - starting with the good old fixed weight dumbbells.
Below, I'll be covering each of my recommended options in detail to introduce you to their best features, where they stand out, and where they fall short.
Rep Fitness Dumbbells
The Best "Bang For Your Buck" Fixed Weight Dumbbells
Rep Fitness Dumbbells Review
If you're dead set on picking up a pair of solid fixed weight dumbbells that offer fantastic bang for your buck - there's little, actually no reason to look any further than the Rep Fitness Hex Dumbbells.
Chances are you've seen this model in gyms or even professional training environments. And that's because they're that great of a buy.
I honestly do not know how this company is making any profit margin on them. Dumbbells are not cheap to make. And these are not only cheap but they are of high quality.
These hex-shaped dumbbells come with an incredibly durable rubber coating and a comfortable straight handle that's impossibly hard to find in the price-range they go for.
But the real standout feature to these dumbbells lies in the fact that they come with solid-mount heads, meaning they're completely fixed in place, and you won't have to deal with any sort of wobbly or lose heads, ever.
PRO TIP: Get The Set, It's A Cheaper Buy
Now, if you've decided that the Rep Fitness Hex fixed weight dumbbells are the ones you're after - here's my advice: get the set.
While you can pick up a whole spectrum of weights and options from the manufacturer's catalog of dumbbells, the sets typically run way cheaper and you'll be getting the best bang for your buck while making sure that you've got room to grow.
Cheapest Option, Slightly Lower Quality Than Rep
CAP Barbell Dumbbells Review
Coming in second on my list of the best fixed weight dumbbells out and about in 2021 are the CAP fixed weight rubber-coated hex dumbbells.
The Cast Iron version of them you can find on amazon here, but they are more expensive so I did not list them here.
These dumbbells don't differ all that much from the Rep Fitness variant that I covered above other than the quality and material they are made from is slightly less durable and in my opinion the feel of them is not quite as good.
Small differences for those that are not building a bodybuilders gym.
However, there are some minute differences that make these incredibly popular among the fitness crowd.
First and foremost, these dumbbells are built using ASTM A48 Class grey iron and they're joined together with a solid chrome barbell handle. In addition to this, the hex shape prevents any sort of rolling, while the rubber coating that CAP employs prevents any sort of unwanted accidents and ultimately provides for a bit more longevity than your average set of dumbbells would bolster.
These are an extremely solid affordable option and value for your money pick in the fixed weight category.
However, another reason I featured the Rep Fitness option first lies in the fact that the CAP dumbbells do occasionally show up with loose heads, which isn't much of an issue since it'll be taken care of under warranty in a jiffy - but it is still a bit annoying from time to time. Like I said, slightly lower quality.
PRO TIP: Again, The Set Is Pure Value
Just as I mentioned in the case of the Rep Fitness fixed weight dumbbells, the CAP fitness counterparts are also best bought in a set. You'll save a whole heap of cash while getting fantastic value for the money you're shelling out.
The Most Affordable Option for Women
Amazon Basics Dumbbells Review
If you are looking for women's dumbbells, or if money is extremely tight, or maybe you're just not all too keen to shell out a hearty chunk of cash on a solid set of fixed weight dumbbells?
Well, thankfully, the modern world has spawned a whole myriad of affordable "basic" options for you to peruse. And when it comes to getting a decent degree of quality, without having to spend a fortune - the Amazon Basics lineup is practically a godsent.
These rubber-encased hexagonal dumbbells come with a relatively sturdy straight barbell handle and two fairly durable coated heads which are backed by Amazon's comprehensive 1-year warranty on manufacturer defects and damages.
But, do they hold up against the likes of CAP or Rep Fitness?
Truth be told, not quite.
After all, you're spending 40-50% less on these sets, so it's to be expected that the quality doesn't exactly stack up to par with the two options above.
However, if you're just getting started and you're thinking that you may upgrade in the not so distant future, this set should be plenty for you to work with.
CAP Neoprene Dumbbells
Another Cheap Alternate Okay Option
CAP Neoprene Dumbbells Review
While the Amazon Basics dumbbells are a fantastic fit for anyone just taking the first few steps in their fitness journey, what if you needed something even more affordable? After all, that set starts off at 10-lbs as the minimum weight, and some folks are in the market for something a little lighter.
That's exactly where CAP comes to the rescue once again!
Their neoprene-coated dumbbell lineup is perfectly geared towards beginners with weight options ranging from 2 to 12 pounds. And thanks to the fact that these one-piece dumbbells are lighter and less damage-prone, CAP has done away with the rugged rubberized coating in favor of the cheaper but relatively durable neoprene.
So if affordable and lightweight are two key requirements on your list of fixed weight dumbbells to check out - this might just be the best option for you.
My Favorite "Best Bang For Your Buck" Adjustable Dumbbells
As cool and as traditional of a staple as fixed weight dumbbells are - adjustable dumbbells are the cheaper and better option for those planning to need more than 4 dumbbells.
Here are my top picks that I would choose if I had to go back and redo it all over again.
The Best All-Around Cheap Quality Option
ATIVAFIT Dumbbells Review
Important Personal Note
These are my personal choice and are the one that I am currently using. These a more off brand, yet higher quality option that the Bowflex adjustable dumbbells below.
I have owned these for quite some time and use them 3-4 times a week. They still look new
These dumbbells come in two main varieties - a 55 and 71.5-lb version. Each version features a whole heap of settings, scaling up from 5 pounds in 5-lb increments for the 55-lb model, and 5.5-lb increments for the heftier 71.5-lb variant.
And here's the best bit, these dumbbells are built to withstand just about anything you can throw at them, short of a nuke. They come coated in a rubber polymer, and the handle features some comfortable, slip-proof rubber grips too.
So, how easy is it to adjust the weight on these dumbbells?
Well, I'm happy to report in and say that this model uses an incredibly simple dial, so all you've got to do is twist the knob to the setting you need and presto!
All in all, you're getting the equivalent of 17 different weights all in one, and it even comes with a super handy plastic tray for nice and tidy storage. And considering their affordability compared to other adjustable dumbbells, you're getting a great deal of value for your money at the end of the day.
The Most Popular Option
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Review
It's no secret that Bowflex is one of the most popular and reliable brands in the fitness equipment world.
But hey, don't they just stick to major cardio machines and equipment like their Max Trainer and other cardio/flex-workout machines? Nope!
The SelectTech 552 adjustable dumbbells are 2nd best option on the market.
This model comes with 15 settings in total, scaling up from 5-lbs in 2.5-lb increments to a maximum total weight of 52.5-lbs. In addition to this, they're built rugged and durable in typical Bowflex fashion. They didn't skimp out on any materials from the plates to the coating and grips.
So, how well do they stack up against the ATIVAFIT model that we just covered?
The one major area where I'd favor the ATIVAFIT option over the SelectTech 552 dumbbells is the weight range compared against the overall price you'll be paying.
Additionally, while 2.5-lb increments you'll see with the SelectTech 552 dumbbells are great for someone that wants a scalable all-in-one solution to start with, it's a bit frustrating when you need to quickly dial in a higher weight and you're jumping 20+ pounds between exercises and the increased price makes these a less cheaper option.
An Alternative Affordable Adjustable Option
CAP Adjustable Dumbbells Review
While dialing in the weight you need on a plastic tray between workouts is pretty convenient, some of us just prefer the good old twist-and-mount approach.
If you'd part of that category, then the CAP barbell-handle adjustable dumbbells might just be the perfect option.
These dumbbells use tried and true cast iron weight plates mounted over a 17-inch diamond-engraved chrome handle for maximum durability and unyielding ruggedness. The weights are also secured by a set of reliable stack-lock collars that will keep the plates nice and snug on the dumbbells.
And here's the best bit - the default option comes with 100 pounds of weight per dumbbell. That's divvied up between 8 10-lb plates, 2 5-lb plates, and 2 2.5-lb plates. This setup provides for a good degree of flexibility and allows you to go further than most adjustable dumbbells would provide for.
However, as with all great things, there's a bit of a downside to this option. The biggest irk I personally had with these dumbbells while testing them was the fact that I had to constantly go back and forth to unscrew the lock collars and add new plates. All the while the plates I wasn't using were just chilling on the floor, in a similar fashion to having a bunch of loose dumbbells laying around.
If you're like me and prefer to keep your home gym neatly sorted, this sort of approach isn't exactly ideal.
However, if you're looking for top-notch quality, a higher than average set of weights, and total value for your money in the adjustable category - this would definitely be a great option to check out.
The Cheapest Adjustable Dumbbells
Yes4All Dumbbells Review
Just as I had introduced the Amazon Basics fixed weight dumbbells as being the most affordable decent option in their respective category, the adjustable category brings us the relatively well-known Yes4All adjustable dumbbells.
Weird brand name, but they are proven and are highly rated and reviewed.
These dumbbells come in a stellar range of weight options, from a meager 40-lbs to a whopping 200-lb set. And while they may not offer the pinnacle of durability or build-quality, they're quite functional, and you end up saving a ton of money at the end of the day.
All in all, they're quite similar to the CAP dumbbells we just covered in terms of coming with solid cast iron weight plates mounted on a relatively well-made straight barbell-style handle and being secured by sturdy star-lock collars.
Now, there is one thing that I like about these quite a bit, which makes them a solid competitor to the CAP dumbbells we just checked out.
The Yes4All adjustable dumbbells actually come with protective silicone sleeves for the weight plates. Aside from adding some decent aesthetic appeal, they're also handy in terms of helping you protect your home gym from any accidents, while also tacking on a bit of durability to the dumbbells themselves in the long run.
Bayou Fitness Dumbbells
Another Excellent Budget-Friendly Option
Bayou Fitness Dumbbells Review
Now, if you're not quite a fan of the old-school setup that has you manually mounting and securing weight plates every time you need to adjust the resistance for your workouts, and need an affordable option that follows a more modern design ideology - I've got just the pair for you!
The Bayou Fitness adjustable dumbbells are designed to be the ultimate cheap adjustable dumbbells with enough durability, convenience, and functionality packed in to make them really worth your time and money.
These dumbbells come with a nice set of chrome-plated weight plates that lock into place with a simple bolt mounted overtop of each dumbbell.
The total weight ranges from 10-lbs to a nice and solid 50-lbs total. This helps you eliminate the need for multiple pairs, while also doing away with the mess you'd come face to face with if you opted for the CAP or Yes4All models that I mentioned earlier.
Now, the best bit to these is, of course, their affordability. They cost a fraction of what you'd see with the other models we covered in this category.
However, it's important to understand that while they're incredibly affordable, they also don't quite make it into the top-notch quality category. But, that being said - these dumbbells are more than enough for someone to get started and progress over time, without having to break the bank whatsoever.
Why Dumbbells Are A Must Have For Any Home Gym
From blockbuster movies and TV shows to seeing your dad exercise in the morning as a kid - it's no secret that dumbbells have pretty much cemented their place in as a fitness staple in most people's minds.
However, if you're anything like me and don't have an entire fortune to shell out freely when putting together your own home gym - you're likely going to put a lot of thought into just how practical and impactful each piece that you're thinking of buying really is.
So, why should you save a spot for a nice set of dumbbells?
While they may look dated and somewhat clunky, they're actually incredibly practical and versatile. Whether you want to lose weight quickly, build strength, get a nice full-body workout in, or even get lean and shredded - they're one of the best pieces of exercise equipment for the job.
First of all, this is largely due to the fact that they are hyper-portable and can be factored into a whole treasure trove of exercises.
From aerobics to cardio and strength training - the use-cases are nearly limitless. The real goldmine here lies in the fact that dumbbells allow you to do dynamic movements, unlike traditional gym machines, without any sort of mechanically-limited range of motion, think of a shoulder press machine or hammer strength chest press.
In addition to this, they're very portable and compact, which makes them a perfect piece of equipment for small space. Especially since you can exercise anywhere and anytime, without the need for any sort of specialized gym equipment in order to get a good workout in.
And let's not forget how easy and quick it is to adjust the resistance of the exercises you're doing. Whether you opt for a set of fixed weight dumbbells or their adjustable counterparts - all you need to do in order to mix things up in the resistance department is either grab another pair or simply adjust the one you're using in a matter of a few seconds. Convenient huh?
Compared to other exercise equipment and full-fledged gym machines, dumbbells (of either variety) are incredibly cost-effective. Not only are they exponentially cheaper than other exercise equipment, but they also typically provide for roughly the same range of fitness results, depending on the exercise you'll be doing with them.
No they won't improve you cardio like some expensive professional treadmill will but as far as toning, building muscles and even losing weight, they are almost unbeatable.
All in all, these are just a few of the reasons that dumbbells are awesome. However even with just these few points, I think the case for going out to grab a pair or set of your own is already pretty darn strong.
How Much Weight Should I Get?
Now that we've established some of the reasons that drive people to opt for adding some dumbbells to their home gym setup - let's answer one of the most important questions that should drive your purchasing decision.
How much weight do you actually need to get?
To help break this incredibly open-ended question down into something more concrete, below, I've separated the answer into two key categories for the types of people that would be using the dumbbells at the end of the day.
Keep in mind the goal of this is to keep things as cheap as we can.
Beginners & People Who Don't Train Often - Get Fixed Weights
First and foremost, we've got the newbies. Whether you're just getting started in your fitness journey, or simply don't put too much time and effort into regular exercise - you'll probably be looking to get some lighter weights.
I'm talking about one or two pairs of fixed weight dumbbells ranging from 5 to 25 pounds, depending on the exercises you plan to be doing with them down the line.
Getting an entire set or even an adjustable pair doesn't make much sense for this group since you'll probably never end up using most of the weights at first, and it would be more cost-effective to buy individual pairs later as you build up your strength.
You might end up spending more in the long run if you stick with it and use them, but if you are just starting out I still recommend this just because you don't know for sure what the future will bring. What if you get burnt out and stop working out entirely?
On the other hand, whether you're a fitness-minded person or even a professional athlete, you've likely got a pretty wide range of weight-wise needs when it comes to various exercises that are part of your fitness routine.
If that's the case - adjustable dumbbells are your better and the most obvious bet.
Going down the adjustable route helps you save money on buying a set, and do away with the inconvenience and space-wise footprint of owning 5-10 different pairs (for which you'll also likely need a rack too).
It's also worthwhile mentioning that beginners can benefit a whole lot from adjustable dumbbells in the longterm as well. This is because they're not only convenient but are also incredibly scalable and effectively they grow step-in-step with your fitness progress.
FAQ Most Buyers Have When Trying To Find Cheap Dumbbells
Now that we've sorted out why it is that you should opt for a nice set of dumbbells as a solid piece of exercise equipment in your home gym - let's take a look at some of the burning questions that most people have when looking around for an affordable pair to buy for themselves.
Below, I'll answer some of the most popular questions that came from readers, the online fitness community, as well as my own personal experience over the years.
Why Are Dumbbells So Expensive?
Despite what some of the modern dumbbells might look like, they're typically made of solid iron. Obviously enough, iron tends to be fairly pricey and costs way more than other materials that you'd find being used for gym equipment.
In addition to this, dumbbells need to be pretty darn durable to withstand the harsh wear and tear that most people will put them through. As such, most decent models will come coated in either rubber, neoprene, or other similar materials - this adds another solid chunk to the price tag.
As with most things on the market in today's day and age - dumbbells tend to be manufactured in some far-off place before being shipped overseas to the end-customers.
And as you'd imagine, when you factor in the weight of any given set, the shipping charges for a pair (or a set) of dumbbells tend to run quite high.
Is There Something Else I Can Use Instead of Dumbbells?
Maybe you're financially tight, or simply don't want to spend the money on a pair of dumbbells. Whatever the case, there are definitely some workarounds in terms of household objects that you can use instead of dumbbells.
From canned goods to fashioning your own exercise equipment out of sand-filled jugs, there's almost no foreseeable limit to human ingenuity.
Cheap Homemade Concrete DIY Dumbbells
However, typically, none of the easily accessible options will do you much good. Sure, you may be able to curl a can of peas or do extensions with a sand-filled jug, but what about the other wealth of useful and beneficial exercises that you're not able to do with these?
In addition to being incredibly limited in your exercise options via the lack of versatility - you really don't save that much money. You can pick up a solid pair of dumbbells for anywhere between $30-50 on the mid-end, with even cheaper options available online. And while the canned goods you may be using as a substitute might last you a while, eventually you'll have to replace them, and over time you'll end up spending the same amount of money, if not more, for absolutely lackluster results.
What's The Best Place To Buy Used Dumbbells?
While there's no shortage of places to buy yourself a new set of dumbbells, some people may want to opt for a used pair or set to cut down on their costs a tad.
This isn't a bad idea by any means since dumbbells are built so ruggedly that they'll typically survive anything you throw at them, short of a nuclear blast.
So, where can you get a nice used pair on the low-low?
If you're not much of an online shopper, you may want to try a secondhand goods store such as Value Village or Thrifts.
Typically, you'll be able to find some decent quality dumbbells here and they'll be relatively fairly priced most of the time too.
However, if you're a more net-savvy individual - eBay is definitely the place to hit up. Thanks to the fact that you can bid, you'll typically be able to score yourself a nice pair or set of high-quality dumbbells, without having to break the bank what so ever.
Should I Get A Few Weights Or An Entire Set?
This depends entirely on you and your goals. As I noted earlier in the article, I typically recommend that beginners opt for 1-2 pairs that they'll be using regularly. You can pick up weights over time, or even get an adjustable pair that'll grow with you as you knock your fitness goals out of the park.
At the same time, fitness enthusiasts who use a wide range of weights for the various exercises they've incorporated into their workouts should probably opt for either getting a full set of fixed weight dumbbells or an adjustable pair altogether.
The drawback to owning a set of dumbbells has to do with the space-wise footprint and inconvenience of having to constantly go back and forth to pick up a new set, stack everything up later, and keep everything tidy during your workouts. While it might not seem like much, it's definitely something that'll start to get on your nerves and distract you from your workouts in the long run.
This is why I recommend getting adjustable dumbbells.
Do I Need Anything Else For My Dumbbells?
While dumbbells are an incredibly low-maintenance piece of exercise equipment, there are a few things that go hand in hand with them.
Things to Get:
- Cheap Dumbbell Mat
- Adjustable Weight Bench
- Affordable Dumbbell Rack
- And for those that want the ultimate home gym set up I would recommend a folding treadmill and a power rack that has a lat pulldown attachment.
Let's start with a fantastic barbell mat that I strongly recommend you get if you want to avoid dents in your precious hardwood floor that is. No matter how good of a grip you've got, it's always a sound idea to have an extra bit of protection, isn't it?
Additionally, if you decided to opt for an entire set of dumbbells, you'll likely want to get a rack to keep them all stacked up and neatly organized. This helps you avoid having to walk around your home gym as though it was a minefield, and helps you focus on the exercise you're doing in order to get the most out of your workout.
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