The 7 Best Dumbbells for Beginners – First Steps to Building Muscle at Home

A few things were changed as we refreshed this article. Most notably, we gave our chart a good reshuffle, adding four new dumbbells to the list.

These included the Sunny Health and Fitness 33lb set, the Yes4All adjustable dumbbells, the AmazonBasics neoprene set, and the affordable Marcy neoprene set.

A good pair of dumbbells is one of the most practical things you can add to your home gym. These humble tools can be used for countless exercises to develop your entire body.

However, beginners may find dumbbells a little difficult to get used to – absurdly heavy dumbbells are intimidating, while the sprawling dumbbell racks found at commercial gyms simply aren’t practical for a home setting.

Don’t worry – the dumbbells on this page are geared specifically towards beginners! They come in manageable sizes and offer enough quality to grow with you as you progress in your fitness routine.

Whether you’re looking to build your physique or simply want to add a new dimension to your daily workout, these dumbbells will be ideal.

First, we will break down each of our choices to help you compare the different offerings. Then we’ll explain what to look out for when shopping for new dumbbells, answering some frequently asked questions about dumbbells for beginners along the way.

Top 7 Best Dumbbells for Beginners:

Pros

  • Dumbbells are fully adjustable
  • Sleek chrome finish
  • Knurled metal grips
  • Includes carrying case

Cons

  • Only one pair included
  • Adding and removing weight plates takes time
  • Circular weights can roll

Total Weight: 33lbs
Pairs: One
Material: Steel
Case/Stand: Yes
Features: Removable plates, multiple weight sizes, knurled grips, locking cogs, plastic carrying case

This 33lb dumbbell set from Sunny Health and Fitness is our top pick here thanks to its adjustable design. Unlike many of the others on this list, this set includes just one pair of dumbbells.

However, the set comes with 12 different weight plates that you can add or remove depending on your preferences. The eight 2.5lb plates and four 1.25lb plates give you plenty of different weight combinations, up to a total of 16.5lb per dumbbell.

The shiny steel finish delivers a clean, fresh look. The handlebars are also knurled for added texture and grip as you lift the dumbbells. If you ever need to take the set on the road, the included plastic carrying case is a simple and organized solution.

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Pros

  • Adjustable weight levels (up to 25lb each)
  • Rugged steel and cast-iron construction
  • Enough weight to grow with you for years of lifting
  • Knurling and grooves on bar

Cons

  • 3lb and 7.5lb plates don’t allow for fine weight adjustments
  • Circular weights may roll away when set down
  • No case or stand included

Total Weight: 50lbs
Pairs: One
Material: Steel and cast-iron
Case/Stand: No
Features: Steel handlebars, cast-iron weight plates, knurled handles, adjustable weights, cogs to prevent weight slippage

Though they may seem much heavier than some other pairs on this list, these Yes4All adjustable dumbbells offer light enough weights for beginners with plenty of room to grow. With just one pair of dumbbells, you can create loads ranging from 4lb to 25lb each!

The steel bars and cast-iron weight plates are grooved for easy adjustments. The handles themselves weigh only 4lbs – the perfect weight for beginners just getting into working out. As you progress, you can add some of the four 3lb plates or four 7.5lb plates to increase your strength.

These dumbbells can grow with you through years of progress. Not only are they adjustable, but they’re also extremely durable thanks to the combination of steel and cast iron.

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Pros

  • Easy to grip and hold
  • Color-coded to stand out
  • Build your own custom set
  • Both light and heavier dumbbells available

Cons

  • Cost can build up quickly
  • No case or stand included

Total Weight: Varies
Pairs: One
Material: Cast-iron core, PVC exterior
Case/Stand: No
Features: Color-coded weights, smooth and grippy PVC finish, hexagonal ends, mix and match weight sizes

If you’d prefer to build your own set of dumbbells in weights that suit you, this selection from Yes4All is the perfect solution. These sets are sold by the pair, with each one coming in a unique color.

The cores of these dumbbells are made from cast-iron, with a bright PVC exterior providing a smooth grip. They’re easy for beginners to pick up without causing hand or knuckle pain.

The ability to mix and match sizes is another major plus – while they’re sold by the pair, these dumbbells are available in sizes ranging from 3lbs to 15lbs each. The wide variety of weights gives you ample freedom to construct a versatile set of dumbbells to match your strength. Just beware of the cost, which can add up quickly!

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Pros

  • Durable and simple construction
  • Solid grip with robust knurling
  • Vintage look and feel
  • Wide range of weight options

Cons

  • Works out expensive to buy multiple pairs
  • No case, stand or rack included

Total Weight: Varies
Pairs: Single dumbbell
Material: Cast-iron heads, steel handle
Case/Stand: No
Features: Sturdy construction, multiple pairs available, knurled handle, hexagonal heads, smooth enamel coating

The CAP Barbell Cast-Iron Hex Dumbbell is a great fit for fans of vintage, no-frills designs. These rugged black dumbbells are constructed from cast-iron and steel for maximum durability. Singles and pairs are available in weights ranging from 5lbs to 50lbs each.

The smooth enamel coating and knurled handles make these dumbbells easy to grip for beginners and pros alike. While there are many heavy pairs available, there’s plenty of selection for newbies who need lighter weights to start out with.

The wide variety of options is a major plus. These dumbbells make it easy to assemble a uniform rack of weights. However, they are fairly expensive already – and the price shoots up as you buy more. A case or stand isn’t included either.

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Pros

  • Lightweight dumbbells perfect for beginners
  • Comfortable neoprene finish
  • Three pairs for variety during workouts
  • Includes stand

Cons

  • Weights may be too light for strength gains
  • Plastic rack is a little wobbly

Total Weight: 32lbs
Pairs: Three
Material: Neoprene
Case/Stand: Yes
Features: Three pairs in different weights, hexagonal ends remain in place, weight markings, colorful neoprene finish

This neoprene set from AmazonBasics offers plenty of variety in a streamlined package, perfect for beginners. The set includes three pairs of dumbbells, weighing in at 3lbs, 5lbs and 8lbs each.

The lighter weights are perfect for beginners – you can mix and match sizes depending on your strength without feeling overwhelmed or worrying about injury. The flashy pastel neoprene finishes are another plus. They’re smooth and comfortable to hold without tearing up your hands.

These dumbbells come with hexagonal heads to prevent them from rolling away once you set them down. If you want to keep them organized, the included plastic rack is another bonus. Though these are some of the lighter dumbbells on the list, they work well for beginners who need an accessible first set.

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Pros

  • Three different pairs provide variety
  • Multicolored neoprene finish
  • Inexpensive set

Cons

  • Stand is a little flimsy
  • 8lbs max weight might be too light for some

Total Weight: 32lbs
Pairs: Three
Material: Neoprene
Case/Stand: Yes
Features: Different color for each pair, mixed weight levels for light and heavier exercises, hexagonal dumbbell ends

Like the AmazonBasics set above, the j/fit 32lb Dumbbell Set is a great mid-tier option for beginners who want lighter weights with a bit of room to grow. The three pairs of neoprene-coated dumbbells come in loads of 3lbs, 5lbs and 8lbs each.

The different weights make this set perfect for toning and building muscle. You can use them to perform specific weightlifting exercises or simply incorporate them into your standard cardio workout.

Each pair is finished in a different color to help you easily tell them apart. The neoprene finish is resilient enough to last through plenty of use, yet smooth and easy to grip. The included plastic stand isn’t the strongest, but it gets the job done.

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Pros

  • Lighter weights that are great for beginners
  • Non-slip neoprene is easy to hold
  • Colored finishes distinguish different weights
  • Great budget option

Cons

  • Too light for building much muscle
  • Carrying case isn’t top quality

Total Weight: 20lbs
Pairs: Three
Material: Neoprene
Case/Stand: Yes
Features: Brightly colored pairs to distinguish weights, lighter weights for beginners, smooth neoprene coating, carrying case

The Marcy Neoprene Dumbbell Set is built for beginners who want a lighter alternative to many other sets. With three pairs weighing 2lbs, 3lbs and 5lbs each, this set offers an easy first step into the world of dumbbells, particularly for women and seniors.

The dumbbells are coated in a bright neoprene finish – each pair is a different color, which helps you easily distinguish the different weights. Unlike some other dumbbell materials, neoprene is naturally non-slip. Even if you’ve never picked up a dumbbell before, these ones are easy to hold!

The included carrying case features secured spaces for each dumbbell. This makes it easy to organize the dumbbells after your workout or take them with you.

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Shopping for Dumbbells for Beginners

If you are looking for your first set of dumbbells, it can be difficult to evaluate the options available to you. Because there are so many types of dumbbells available, you’ll need to find some common features in order to compare them effectively.

The features listed here offer a comprehensive overview of all the different options you’ll find on beginner dumbbell sets. Keep them in mind as you shop to make a more informed purchase.

Design

You’ll come across two main dumbbell designs in the beginner category: fixed and adjustable. While they both have their advantages, the different designs will work more effectively for different uses.

Fixed dumbbells, or dumbbells with a pre-set weight on either side, are the most common type. You’ll find fixed dumbbells in the vast majority of beginner sets. They’re durable and easy to use – unlike adjustable dumbbells, you don’t need to change the weight and lock it down each time you want to exercise.

However, fixed dumbbells aren’t as versatile as adjustable models. If you need to increase or decrease the weight, you’ll have to switch to a different pair.

Depending on the set you purchase, the weights may increase in larger increments. That means you may not be able to make fine tweaks the way you can with adjustable dumbbells.

Adjustable dumbbells use a pair of bars with spiral grooves on either end. To change the weight, you can add or remove weight plates. While these models aren’t as common, they allow for more precise weight adjustments compared to many fixed dumbbells.

They also tend to take up less space – adjustable dumbbell sets only need one pair of bars rather than the multiple pairs you’ll find in sets of fixed dumbbells. However, changing the weight takes time and can grow annoying after a while. If you want to avoid the hassle, a fixed dumbbell set is better for you.

Material

While the design may be the most basic feature, the material is another crucial element of any dumbbell set. You’ll find dumbbells made from a variety of materials in the beginner market, but steel, neoprene and cast-iron are the most popular.

Steel lends a sleek, shiny vibe to your dumbbell set. Steel dumbbells pair well with other workout machines and match stainless steel tools. On the feel side, steel dumbbells can become slick if you sweat while exercising.

While they’re not always glossy, the material is also more susceptible to sweat than some other choices. You can alleviate this problem with knurling – a secondary feature we’ll discuss later.

Neoprene dumbbells are the most common on lightweight beginner dumbbell sets. These dumbbells are often brightly colored, and use a powder coating to give you a better grip while exercising.

These are easy and comfortable for beginners to pick up. However, low-quality neoprene finishes may chip or flake over time. Evaluate each set carefully to make sure you don’t buy a lemon!

Though cast-iron dumbbells are more common in heavy dumbbell sets, you can find them on a few sets for beginners as well.

These metallic finishes evoke the dumbbells you’ll find in gyms and old-school weight rooms. They’re often glossy, which may exacerbate sweat. If you can find them, bars with knurling will be easier to grip. If you like the vintage look and feel, it’s hard to beat an iron dumbbell!

Weight Levels

Though beginner dumbbell sets often fall within a general weight range, you’ll still need to consider which weight levels you want to buy.

If you have never picked up a dumbbell before, you’ll want to make sure you have some manageable options. Thankfully, beginner dumbbell sets are light enough for novices to use without risking injury or ruining their form.

To ease into weightlifting with dumbbells, you might consider a weight set which includes 3lb or 5lb pairs.

As you adjust to weightlifting, your body will adapt to the extra weight and grow more comfortable with a dumbbell routine. Users just looking to tone their muscles won’t need to go much heavier than 5lbs or 8lbs per dumbbell.

However, if you want to build some muscle with a beginner set, you’ll need to include some heavier options. Ten-pound dumbbells are a good place to start for building muscle. They will help you establish a foundation for critical exercises like curls, presses and squats.

If you’re worried about overstressing your muscles out of the gate, a set that includes both lighter and heavier weights may be the best option for you. This will allow you to work on your form with light weights, before building muscle with heavier ones.

If you feel extra confident, 12lb or 15lb dumbbells will help to build more muscle. These pairs may be too heavy for complete beginners to use on exercises like curls or overhead presses. However, they are certainly manageable for bigger lifts like squats and bench presses.

Ultimately, heavier weight levels give you more room to grow, while still remaining firmly in the beginner range.

Secondary Features

Beyond the features we have discussed above, you will still need to take a couple of other factors into consideration as you shop for a beginner dumbbell set. While these might not decide your ultimate purchase, they are worth familiarizing yourself with as you shop.

As we briefly mentioned before, knurling is a feature found on steel and iron dumbbells to promote better grip. Knurled bars offer a cross-etched pattern embedded in the center of the dumbbell. When used properly, they can alleviate problems with sweaty hands while exercising.

Knurled dumbbells are a bit rougher on the hands than smooth bars – if you don’t want to develop calluses, or simply don’t like the feel, you should opt for smooth coated-iron or neoprene dumbbells instead.

Depending on the layout of your home gym, you should also pay attention to the end shapes of your dumbbells. Many dumbbells come with hexagonal ends so that they stay in place when you set them down. Round dumbbells may roll away if you’re not careful!

Placing your dumbbells on a rack or stand negates the problem, although you’ll still need to keep them in place while you exercise.

Speaking of placement, you should also consider whether or not your dumbbells come with a stand or carrying case. Many beginner dumbbell sets (particularly lightweight neoprene sets) come with a plastic stand or tree that holds them when not in use.

Other models may include a carrying case, which allows you to take your dumbbell set on the go as well.

No matter what type of storage system you use for your dumbbells, make sure it’s a quality one – the included plastic stands and cases are often flimsy and break after repeated use. Investing in a sturdier dumbbell rack may be a good idea down the line.

Frequently Asked Questions

Muscle toning is one of the primary reasons many people start lifting weights. Beginner dumbbells sets, which are lightweight and easy to handle, are particularly good for this purpose.

Toning muscle is different from building large amounts of muscle. Rather than drastically increasing the size of your muscles, toning will help their definition and appearance to get you in better shape without bulking up.

Most weightlifters tone muscle by performing many repetitions of a certain exercise without a ton of weight. The lower weight level generates muscle fatigue over time, rather than decimating your muscles with just a couple reps.

If you’re looking to tone muscle with a beginner dumbbell set, focus on your form and work on increasing the number of repetitions you can do at each exercise.

Be careful that you don’t choose a weight that’s too heavy. Ideally, you should be able to do 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise for multiple sets without your muscles failing.

The exact weight level to use will vary depending on the exercise and on your fitness level. If you’re a complete novice, start out with 3lb and 5lb dumbbells to tone muscle. You can increase the weights gradually as you gain experience and strength.

Unfortunately, there is no magic number of repetitions you should do throughout your workout. The ideal number for you depends on a couple of factors – primarily, your goals and the exercise you are working on.

As we mentioned above, most people begin lifting weights either to build new muscle or to maintain (or ‘tone’) their existing muscles. Which goal you have will influence how many repetitions you should do.

It’s a subject that has been discussed in great depth elsewhere on this site. However, in general, lifting for 4 to 7 reps is the target for building strength, while the 8 to 12 rep range is best for muscle growth.

As for muscular endurance, you will want to aim for 12 to 20 reps. However, if you are able to lift a weight for more than 20 reps, it is too light to give you much benefit. Aim to lift a heavier pair of dumbbells for your next set.

Many exercise newcomers think that cardio (i.e. running, cycling and rowing) is the only way to burn pesky body fat. Of course, that’s not the case! When done properly, lifting weights can help you burn more calories in a shorter amount of time than steady-state elevated cardio.

This is because weightlifting forces your body to summon more energy on each rep than exercise methods like cardio. When you combine sets of different dumbbell exercises for a rapid-fire workout, you can burn a large number of calories in a short amount of time.

To burn fat with your dumbbells, look for exercises that challenge you but don’t completely wipe you out.

Your goal should be to assemble a circuit of two to four different exercises that you can perform in quick succession. Keep alternating through these exercises (after performing one set of each) for a specified timeframe.

Compound exercises are a great way to increase your calorie burn with dumbbells as well. Consider adding bigger moves like squat-press combos, thrusters, lunges, and carries to your cycles.

Many circuits workouts use five-minute periods, though some use eight- and even ten-minute frames. Perform a circuit of exercises, then rest for a minute or two before performing a few more for a fat-blasting workout.

As you can see, dumbbells are an outstanding tool to burn fat while you exercise. They may require a bit more creativity and planning than simple cardio work – but, if you put in the time and effort, you’ll reap the same rewards with a much shorter workout.

If you have never picked up a dumbbell before, it can be difficult to determine where to start. The plethora of workout plans and off-the-wall exercises you’ll find online can make dumbbell weightlifting a confusing topic.

It’s important to remember that there are many ways to achieve your fitness goals. There’s no one-size-fits-all method! While certain programs and strategies may work for many people, you shouldn’t feel stressed or concerned if you prefer a different option.

At the same time, you should know that consistency is by far the most important factor in getting the results you want.

Light or moderate dumbbell workouts every day will do far more for your health and physique than extreme workouts once a week or less. No matter what you choose to do with your dumbbells, commitment and dedication are essential to success.

We’ve already discussed how your specific fitness goals can influence how you use dumbbells. If you’re just starting out, you should make sure you are clear about your ideal results.

Do you want a thick muscular body, or a smooth and toned one? These goals will greatly influence how you should start out with your new dumbbells.

If you’re looking to gain muscle, your goal should be to increase the weight you can lift over a period of time. Beginner dumbbell sets are a great starting point to get comfortable with the shape and feel of dumbbells.

However, to gain significant muscle you’ll need to lift heavier weights than many beginner dumbbell sets can offer! Be prepared to grow out of your beginner set over time.

Users who just want to maintain their existing muscles face a different situation. Unlike muscle builders, you don’t need to constantly increase the amount of weight that you lift to keep your existing muscle. Beginner sets, which remain very lightweight and manageable, are great choices for people looking to simply keep their muscles in shape.

The Ver(ve)dict!

We selected the Sunny Health and Fitness’s adjustable dumbbell set as our top pick. It’s an easy and intuitive set to use, yet provides enough room to grow for beginners and intermediate lifters alike. The durable steel construction and included carrying case just add to the value.

Having said that, each new lifter has different needs and all of the dumbbells on this list serve slightly different purposes.

If you’re looking to try out weightlifting for the first time, make sure you evaluate each option on this list carefully. The right set of beginner dumbbells can mean the difference between a boring, tedious workout and a new fitness obsession!

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