If you’re new to fitness and weightlifting, knowing what weight to use can be difficult. This decision is made even harder when purchasing weights for the first time. It’s different to going to your local gym and being able to choose from a large selection of weights until you find which ones are suitable.
We understand. You don’t want to waste your money. You’re imagining your shiny new dumbbells arriving at your door, but to your horror, you’re unable to lift them off the ground.
As a beginner lifter, this sort of investment can be especially daunting. Hopefully this guide will erase any doubts or queries in your mind. You’ll have a set of new dumbbells heading your way and you’ll be able to set off on your fitness journey.
What weight Dumbbells should I use?
Your body naturally has some muscles which are much larger or smaller than others. For example, your legs are likely much stronger than your arms. This means that, if you want to build overall strength and size, you’ll need a small selection of weights to train different areas of your body.
Don’t worry, this is simpler than it sounds.
Heavy Dumbbell Set
Firstly, you’ll need a heavy set of dumbbells for leg exercises.
There is a great selection of dumbbell-based leg exercises. To hit the quads/thighs and glutes, the Bulgarian split-squat and the goblet squat are easy to execute and effective exercises to build leg strength. For your hamstrings, the dumbbell Romanian deadlift is available. The weighted glute bridge can also be executed with a dumbbell to target your glutes and lower back. Finally, weighted calf raises can be performed with dumbbells to grow your calves. All of these exercises require a heavy set of dumbbells to ensure maximum results.
Medium Dumbbell Set
Secondly, a medium set of dumbbells is needed to perform most upper-body exercises.
For the chest, dumbbell bench press is a staple in most bodybuilders’ workouts, alongside the dumbbell fly. For shoulders, the dumbbell shoulder press and Arnold press are essential exercises for building both size and strength. Dumbbell rows and pullovers provide excellent dumbbell alternatives to traditional cable/barbell exercises in terms of working your back muscles.
Light Dumbbell Set
Lastly, a light set of dumbbells will help to train the smaller, naturally weaker muscles in your body.
Your biceps need intense training with a light weight and high reps in order to grow. Some of the best dumbbell bicep exercises for building size are the hammer curl, concentration curl, and the seated incline curl. For your shoulders, the side-delts will not grow unless you train them directly with a light weight. This is where the dumbbell lateral raise is essential. Your triceps can also be worked with light dumbbells, with exercises like the tricep kickback, and the single-arm overhead extension.
How to Choose the Right Dumbbell Weight
A 1 litre water bottle will weigh approximately 1kg. Pick this bottle up. Do a few bicep curls with it. If you feel like this is heavy enough to do about 10-12 curls with, a 1kg set of dumbbells is perfect for your ‘light’ set. If this felt too easy, fill a 5l watering can up, it should weigh about 5kg.
For your medium set, find a medium sized plant pot, or even fill a backpack with some books or water bottles. Weigh your chosen item on some weighing scales, and see how heavy it feels. Can you lift it above your head with both hands? Do some rowing movements with it. Is it easy or is it slightly too hard?
Obviously, this isn’t the most scientific way of testing your strength, but with no equipment, lifting household objects and seeing how heavy they are is the most practical way to gauge what weight of dumbbells you should get.
Generally speaking, your medium set of dumbbells should be about double (or slightly more) the weight of your light set. Your heavy set of dumbbells should be roughly 50% heavier than your medium set.
For example, if I needed a 5kg pair of dumbbells for my light set to perform arm exercises, my medium set for upper body exercises would be around 12.5-15kg. Based on this, my heavy set, used for leg exercises, should weigh around 20-22.5kg.
We stock several different types of dumbbells. Depending on the weight and purpose, some types of dumbbells are more suitable for you than others. It mainly comes down to personal preference and experience level.
Our Neoprene Dumbbells range from 1-10kg. A perfect weight for your light and/or medium set. Neoprene dumbbells are great for beginners due to their low price point and all-round versatility.
We have a huge selection of Hex Dumbbells and Fixed Dumbbells ranging from 5-50kg. Depending on the weight you need, hex dumbbells are suitable for beginners and advanced trainees alike. They are very durable and are a nice long-term addition to anyone’s home gym.
Alternatively, our range of Adjustable Dumbbells is the perfect solution to the dilemma of not knowing which weight of dumbbell to buy. Each adjustable dumbbell’s weight can be increased or decreased to whatever you need, meaning they are suitable for a range of experience levels and can also be used for a wide variety of exercises. Effectively, an adjustable dumbbell is equivalent to multiple dumbbells in one single package. Just one set would be adequate for your entire workout!
For maximum results and better workouts, our Adjustable Dumbbell Bench unlocks a wide array of exercises that can be performed with dumbbells, including the ones mentioned in this guide.
Key Points to Remember when Buying Dumbbells
- For a full workout, you’ll need a light, medium, and heavy pair of dumbbells.
- To get a feel for what weight you need, pick up some household objects and see how much they weigh.
- Your medium set should be about double the weight of your light set, and your heavy set should weigh about 50% more than your medium set.
- Choose from our selection of neoprene, hex, and adjustable dumbbells, depending on your preferences.
Jamie Grover, Fitness Journalist from Bristol.