A woman working out with dumbbells at home

Weightlifting isn’t just for bodybuilders and gym fiends. Everyone can benefit from this form of resistance training since it improves bone density[1] and boosts metabolism. Health Canada even recommends that all adults do muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week.[2][3]

Planning to work out from home? You’ll want a few sets of dumbbells to assist with everything from static strength moves (think side raise holds) to more dynamic exercises like squats and lunges. But if you’re not sure how to choose dumbbells, let us spot you on this move! We’ve got all the info you need to execute it perfectly.

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1Types of dumbbells

Three types of dumbbells

There’s a variety of shapes, sizes, weights and even materials to choose from, but dumbbells fall into three main categories.

Type Best for…
Fixed dumbbells come in set weights, often in pairs. People who have room to store multiple sets of dumbbells, in a home gym for example.
Adjustable dumbbells allow you to use a single piece of equipment that can change weight on the fly. People who like a variety of weights but are short on home workout space.
Studio weights tend to be lighter and can come in different shapes, like bracelets, and materials, like neoprene (a type of synthetic rubber). Cardio workouts and light lifting.

Fixed dumbbells

Fixed hex dumbbells from Walmart

These dumbbells are the classic hand weights found on gym racks and in home workout spaces. If you’re serious about building muscle, you’ll need a variety of weights, which means numerous pairs. They’ll take up a bit of space, which can be a drawback if you don’t have a dedicated home gym, but many people like this style because it’s well-balanced and easy to lift.

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Adjustable dumbbells

Adjustable dumbbells from Walmart

This type is different from the standard dumbbell, so you might not have seen it in a gym setting. It tends to be great for home lifters who are low on space, but also feels different to hold than fixed dumbbells and can be a bit bulky or awkward.

  • How do adjustable dumbbells work? There are two main types: bars with plates and modern adjustable dumbbells. With a set of bars and plates, you simply increase the weight by adding more plates. The modern adjustable style has a click-and-lock mechanism, so you can increase your lift without having to manually remove or add the weight.
  • Are adjustable dumbbells worth it? If you’re serious about weight training at home, but don’t have space for a full rack of weights, adjustable dumbbells may be a good training solution.

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Studio dumbbells

Studio dumbbells from Walmart

Lightweight neoprene or rubberized dumbbells are ideal for taking cardio-based workouts to the next level. Studio dumbbells also tend to be affordable and a good way for newbies to ease into weightlifting. They’re generally available up to 10 pounds.

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2Materials, shapes and grips

A range of dumbbell materials, shapes and grips

  • Materials: Cast iron is coveted by serious lifters for fixed dumbbells because it’s heavy and durable. Steel is popular for the same reason. You might want these types of weights to have a vinyl, rubber or neoprene coating to protect your floors. Neoprene wrapping is also popular on studio weights because it’s grippy for sweaty hands during high-intensity workouts like spin classes.[4]
  • Shape: Rounded dumbbells are classic, but many people prefer a hexagon shape for better stability if you’ll be balancing on them during push-ups or renegade rows. The flat sides also prevent the dumbbell from rolling when you put it down between sets.[5]
  • Grip: Lighter weights often have a vinyl, rubber or neoprene coating to assist with maintaining a strong grip. But this grip type isn’t adequate at heavier weights. A textured metal handle (the grooves are known as knurling) is more common on dumbbells over 20 pounds to enhance your grip but can also be tough on your hands. Many weightlifters wear their calluses with pride, but you can also add training tape to grips or wear gloves to keep your dumbbells from slipping while protecting your palms.[6]

3Dumbbell sizes

A woman doing resistance training in her living room

If you’re a woman just starting out, some fitness experts recommend buying two five- to 10-pound dumbbells and using them for most exercises. However, this number will vary according to your existing strength levels.[7] One set of “light” weights and one set of “medium” weights may also be a good option.

Size Amount of weight Exercises to try
Ultra-light 1, 2 or 3 pounds This weight is perfect for taking a Pilates routine to the next level or for adding upper-body work to a spin-bike workout.
Light 5, 7.5, 10 or 12.5 pounds Light weights can enhance many core exercises like jackknives or leg raises. You’ll also likely use these weights for arm workouts like bicep curls, front raises and side raises.
Medium 15, 17.5, 20 or 22.5 pounds Go all out on your full-body workout by adding medium weights to your rows and lunges.
Heavy 25, 30 or 40+ pounds Targeted moves—think Romanian deadlifts and goblet squats—that require your biggest muscle groups (like your glutes) call for the heaviest weights.

When in doubt: If you’re still not sure what dumbbells you’ll need, look at a training plan. Many plans will come with a weight suggestion of light, medium or heavy. Note: The general advice is that it’s always better to go lighter and do the correct form than go heavier and risk injury.[8]

4Top brands

Walmart carries some of the best quality and most well-known names in fitness equipment. Whether you’re a serious lifter or adding resistance to your cardio routine, one of these brands will have exactly what you need.

  • GoZone: This brand makes a full range of equipment for people at every fitness level. When it comes to weights, they’ve got everything from neoprene-coated dumbbells to serious adjustable hand weights and even resistance bands and kettlebells.
  • CAP Barbell: A leading equipment manufacturer, CAP Barbell is known for classic cast iron hex dumbbells. They also make a full range of other equipment including adjustable weights.
  • Bowflex: Since 1986, Bowflex has been building home gyms and innovating a range of award-winning strength and cardio equipment. Their dumbbell offering is no exception.
  • Sunny Health & Fitness: While Sunny might be best known for stationary bikes and treadmills, they also have great free weight options including chrome dumbbells and accessories.
  • PurAthletics: If you’re a general wellness enthusiast (rather than a powerlifter), you’ll love the quality equipment from PurAthletics. For neoprene walking weights or a soft weight to add to your Pilates mat routine, they’ll be your go-to.


If you’re simply looking for a few pairs of ultra-light or light starter dumbbells, you can probably get a full set of three-, five- and eight-pound weights for around $50 or $60. The heavier you go, the more you’ll have to spend, because dumbbells are made with high-quality materials and are costly to ship due to their weight. For example, a pair of 30-pound dumbbells could set you back around $130.

Luckily, dumbbells tend to be very well-made and you’ll be able to use them for decades to come, so it’s important to think of them as an investment.

Walmart also has free shipping on orders over $35 to help you keep your cost down!

6Strength-training accessories

A home gym with dumbbells and a weight bench

Dumbbells are some of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can own. Just think: You can cover presses, rows, squats and Romanian deadlifts all with the same weights. Add a few well-positioned accessories and the workout possibilities are endless.

Dumbbell racks

A dumbbell rack from Walmart

If you plan on purchasing more than one or two sets of weights, then a storage rack will keep your space and equipment organized.

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Weight benches

Weight bench from Walmart

You can hit pretty much every muscle on your body using a good bench as your base. When you’re comparing benches, consider the weight capacity, whether it has an adjustable incline and if it can collapse for easy stowing. A set of heavy-duty food pads and a steel frame will ensure the whole rig is super stable.

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Weightlifting gloves

Weightlifting gloves from Walmart

Some lifters skip gloves because they may prevent you from developing your grip strength. However, those in the pro-glove camp say they protect their palms from calluses and sores and keep the weights from slipping when their hands get sweaty. If you’re shopping for a pair of gloves, you’ll need to consider how much coverage you like on your fingers, the fabric’s grip level (silicone and leather have the most grip) and whether you require wrist support.

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