Home Gym Buildout: Dumbbells

An incredible amount of fitness can be achieved just with your own bodyweight: push-up, sit-up, running, jumping, playing sports, etc.

For this reason, I always recommend the first piece of equipment you purchase be a weightlifting object. More specifically, a pair of dumbbells.

The Value of Dumbbells

Every functional movement performed with a barbell can also be performed with a pair of dumbbells. Conversely, not all dumbbell movements can be performed with a barbell.

Don’t kill me, a barbell with bumper plates is eventually on the “Home Gym Buildout” list. But the versatility, price, and size of a pair of dumbbells can’t be beat.

You can perform all barbell movements either with a pair of dumbbells or just one dumbbell. The stimulus of a double dumbbell snatch is very different than a single-arm dumbbell snatch. Both should be trained as the core is taxed and twisted differently.

Additionally, dumbbells take up little to no space. This is important because you’re generally going to be limited on space inside of your garage (or basement) gym. Dumbbells are nice because they can be easily stored and stacked on top of each other.

And when you pull them out to do a metcon, you can also invite your spouse or children to join in with you they won’t take up any more space than a body will.

What Type of Dumbbells?

I recommend the rubber hex dumbbells because they’re durable. Not only will they last forever, but they also are comfortable to hold.

The rubber heads do three things: minimize noise, protect the bells of the dumbbell, and reduce potential damage to the floor if dropped. The hexagon-shaped bell also prevents it from rolling around if your garage is sloped.

I would refrain from purchasing the “all-in-one” options like these because they’re fragile. If you try to do metcons with these, you’ll be more worried about them breaking then getting a good workout in.

These dumbbells are the better option only if you plan to do bodybuilding workouts with them (and not metcons).


Buy a pair of rubber hex dumbbells. You can find them at Rogue, Walmart, or Amazon. Just make sure they’re rubber-encased and hexagonal (not round).

For starters, I would buy a moderate weight–something that you can perform 10 presses overhead in a set. For most, that would look like 35-50 lbs for a guy and 20-35 lbs for a girl.

Before buying anything else, I would then purchase a heavier pair of dumbbells–something that you can press overhead maybe 3 times. This would be something like 50-70 lbs for a guy and 35-50 lbs for a girl.

Remember that fitness is achieved in the gym with your friends and a coach. It’s maintained at home when you workout alone. A mistake I see too often is buying a dumbbell “set”; you don’t need to buy every incremental weight between 5-50 lbs. If your home gym is a supplement to your gym membership, which I believe it should be, your home gym only needs a few things. Just buy two pairs of dumbbells: one at a moderate weight and another at a heavier weight.

And with these two pairs of dumbbells alone, your workout options grow infinitely.


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