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The Best Dumbbells for Your Home Gym — And the Best Moves to Do With Them


October 16, 2019 Buying Guides By

There’s a lot to be said for domestic resistance-training setups. “Exercising with weights at home can be liberating since you won’t need to go to the gym,” notes Rick Richey of Independent Training Spot. When you’re building the perfect home gym, a pair of dumbbells should be at the top of your list. They can save you hundreds of dollars a month thanks to their multi-purpose nature.

If you have the space, it’s beneficial to have at least one pair to pick up and use for curls, overhead presses and farmer carries. But first, you have to figure out how many pounds you want them to be. “If you’re not sure what size to get, go to the nearest sporting goods store and see how much weight you can lift overhead ten times that is challenging, but not exhausting,” Richey says. Then you’ll have the ideal resistance to challenge your muscles appropriately.

If you find yourself wondering, what happens when that set of weights feels easy, Richey has the answer: “Once you can do more than 25 repetitions [of each move], you can still make the most of your workout without upgrading your purchase by slowing your tempo down and increasing time under tension.” In the long run, you might get bored and/or plateau, which means you’ll have to buy another pair. Or, if you’re looking to make one purchase and never worry about it again, you’ll have to spend a bit more on adjustable dumbbells.

We chatted with a handful of personal trainers and physical therapists to learn their favorite at-home weights and moves.

Power Systems Rubber Octagonal Dumbbell

The most versatile tools for an at-home gym are, hands down, kettlebells and dumbbells, says Nick Briney, senior personal trainer at Life Time. Power Systems weights are the ones you’re most likely to see at most larger gyms. They’re easy to spot thanks to the silver handle and rubber ends. While these aren’t adjustable, Briney recommends picking up a few sizes, so you have more exercise choices.

The Move to Do: Goblet Squats
Stand holding one or two weights at your chest, feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Turn your toes out slightly to 11 and 1 o’clock and squat as low as you can, keeping the weight steady between your hands. Return to start for one rep.

NordicTrack 55-Pound Adjustable Dumbbell Set

If adjustable weights are the way you choose to go, the NordicTrack 55-Pound Dumbbell Set is ideal. “The NordicTrack set comes with a perfect storage rack to minimize space,” says Andrew Stern, founding trainer of Rumble Boxing. The dumbbells range from 10 to 55 pounds, so you cn go light or heavy. You essentially get 30 weights in one compact package. Quickly change from, say, 10 to 20 pounds with a slide and clip system.

The Move to Do: Stern recommends doing the 21s. Grab a light set of dumbbells with your shoulders relaxed and arms fully extended at your sides. Start with a curl that stops at a 90-degree angle. Do seven reps. Next, start with elbows at 90 degrees and lift up to your shoulders. Do seven reps. Finish with seven curl reps moving through the entire range of motion (from your sides up to your shoulders). You will feel the biceps burn.

Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells

If you’re willing to invest , the Bowflex SelectTech 552 weights are worth it, says Jordan Dubow, PT, DPT at React Physical Therapy. This set starts at five pounds and goes up through 52.5-pounds. Since Dubow works with many rehabbing clients, there must be lightweight options them to start with before moving up as they heal and strengthen their muscles. “What I love about this product is that it takes the guesswork out of which and how many dumbbells to buy for your home gym,” Dubow explains. “Additionally, muscles are different sizes and therefore can support different weights, so why not purchase one product to fit all your needs?”

The Move to Do: Overhead Press
Sit in a chair with a supportive back and a dumbbell in each hand. Goalpost your arms (bend elbows at 90 degrees with upper arms parallel to the ground). Push the weights overhead, so they touch lightly without smacking each other. Hold for one count. Slowly return your arms to the goalpost position for one rep. Make sure your feet are planted on the ground, so you don’t arch your back as you push the weights overhead.

The 5 Best Kettlebells to Buy

If you’re looking for one functional tool that’ll work with every move you do, pick up a kettlebell today.
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