If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Sometimes, these stale old adages hold up. Even in an industry as performative as fitness is, with its Hollywood allure and outrageous fads, hand weights prove tried and true staples for achieving concrete results.
When the world plunged into lockdown last year, fitness became a matter of finesse. Just before the pandemic, I’d failed upwards into a membership at a boutique gym boasting five unique Manhattan locations—one in an abandoned church that was once an iconic nightclub, another near Union Square with an entire Himalayan salt lounge, another in the Financial District with a big bouldering wall. I liked to take weightlifting classes and use the elliptical. I lost a little weight.
When the gym shut down, I resolved to maintain my meager inertia. I walked an hour each day, but cardio alone can’t give the gains that sculpt a body. Weightlifting is absolutely essential.
I rummaged under the kitchen sink of our warehouse apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and found a stack of five bricks. This became my home gym. The simple power of free weights allows them to work with the body’s own rhythms, targeting weak spots, optimizing results. It’s nice to be the one who can lift heavy things for others. I can even do a backbend, after 25 years of trying.
Don’t be fooled by the fitness industry—oftentimes, less is more. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend bricks because they are difficult to hold and unforgiving debris rains down on my corneas when I accidentally bang them over my head during shoulder lifts. However, a simple one-time investment into a great set of hand weights that suits your needs will get you that much closer to a confidence that truly transcends appearance.
What to consider when buying hand weights
Because wellness is worldwide and the market knows it, a preliminary search for Amazon hand weights or Walmart hand weights turns up an overwhelming wealth of results. Here’s a few factors to consider as you embark upon your search.
There’s two overarching categories of at-home weights: barbells and dumbbells. The former has a longer bar and the silhouette typically associated with body builders powerlifting massive stacks. Dumbbells, meanwhile, are more colloquially known as hand weights. That’s what we’ll be working with for our purposes here.
Dumbbells come in a variety of shapes. Every single one will give your body the same results—it’s predominantly the weight that matters, paired with your own action. Professional lifters usually use flat dumbbells with weights like pancakes on either end. If your workout space isn’t flat, though, this could prove a hazard as they’re liable to roll away. Hexagonal dumbbells make for compact, safe storage because they stack on each other neatly. Beyond these considerations, imagine the muscle groups you’d like to target and which shape would be most comfortable to move with while executing the appropriate moves.
The ideal material for your new dumbbells ultimately comes down to preference. This category of at-home gym gear runs the full spectrum: cast iron and chrome, neoprene and plastic. Metal options can feel a little more durable, where neoprene or vinyl are softer to the touch.
Grip makes a huge difference, as it’s literally the place where you and your hand weights meet. Consider a tailored grip like a crucial foundation. Some come with smooth handles, others with grooves and textures to make sure your hands and the weights can stick.
Dumbbells are available in both fixed and variable models. Fixed hand weights are far more common, but selectorized hand weights offer multiple options in one, allowing you to increase and decrease the weight you’re lifting according to each exercise and your own progress. This option, while a bit more expensive, actually offers a wider range of weights in one while staying even more compact than stacked hexagonal dumbbells.
Today, with this saturated market, fitness retailers are getting more and more specific with the weights they offer, serving ever more niche needs. If you know your way around your needs and are looking to build an entire at-home gym, there’s all kinds of additional offerings to enrich your workout. Kettlebells, egg weights, plates, and wrist weights all help you to push even harder through your routine. Incorporating specialized options into your hand weight collection aligns with that other adage that new results require new actions.
Selecting the heaviness of your hand weights
Bearing each of these factors in mind, take a moment to consider your fitness goals. Are you aiming for bulk or tone? Weigh each of the aforementioned qualities alongside your own goals and complete the process by choosing the appropriate weight or weight range to fill out your home gym. Daily Burn recommends acquiring at least one lighter and one heavier set of hand weights to suit your entire workout. Heavy weights build muscle mass, lighter weights foster stability.
Five dumbbells for your gym and ideas for using them:
Rubber Hex Dumbbells from Rogue Fitness
Play serious with these heavy lifting hand weights
These Rubber Hex Dumbbells from Rogue Fitness are a durable bet, and they’re stackable too thanks to their shape! Rogue is a no-nonsense retailer whose hardcore aesthetic is practical and inspiring—evocative of movie montages of a hero training, pumping iron. These bad boys are available in a downright impressive array of available weights, from 10 lb dumbbells and 25 lb dumbbells all the way up to 125 lbs. Even better, they sell by the pair, which is harder to come by than one might think. These versatile hand weights can be used for virtually everything, including a full body workout that includes deadlifts, chest presses, jackknives and, of course, bicep curls. Additionally, use these to practice burning out for intense muscle gain and for workouts that target large muscle groups.
neoprene-coated hand weights from Fitness Alley
Add a little extra push with these colorful supplements
You can find this set of five neoprene-coated hand weights from Fitness Alley on Amazon. Their wide range of bright colors will help you grab the correct pair in a stitch between sets. These weights max out at 12 lbs, so they might not help you get swole, but they will foster an extra bit of resistance that, with larger and larger sets, can reach those difficult, in-between places. “I haven’t tried many other brands of dumbbells, but I am finding that these are great to exercise with!” writes Chris in the reviews. “The coating on them feels nice in the hand and provides plenty of grip especially when your hands are covered in sweat. The hexagonal shape is great at stopping them rolling away when you put them down and also for stacking the weights away.”
Selectorized Dumbbell from ARVO
Optimize your potential with this all-in-one weight
If you’re looking for a product that can grow with you, then look no further than this adjustable, all-in-one Selectorized Dumbbell from ARVO, also available on Amazon. This dumbbell incorporates many different weights into one single piece of equipment. Buyers should note that this option comes as a single dumbbell, but their available weights range from 15 lb dumbbells to 55 lb dumbbells. ARVO’s multifaceted tool rivals its peers with quick and easy adjustment courtesy of streamlined technology, providing a more seamless workout. Try this triumph of design with a single arm dumbbell row, an exercise that focuses on building muscle mass while improving posture so you can carry that cut body of yours with a proud carriage.
Cast Iron Kettlebell from Fitness Factory
Explore new possibilities with different shapes
Don’t forget leg day! This Cast Iron Kettlebell from Fitness Factory will help you add weight in a new way, encouraging new muscles to take shape as your body adjusts to the novel experience. Fitness Factory’s take offers large, easy grip handles, single piece casting, a smooth surface, and can be purchased in weights ranging from 5 lbs to 100 lbs. In addition to offering pristine craftsmanship, Fitness Factory also prices their products at extremely reasonable rates—maybe that’s why their higher weight options can be difficult to come by, as they’re often sold out. However, anyone looking for a supplemental kettlebell 50 pounds or under can count on consistently finding their best options from Fitness Factory. Trade your 20 lb dumbbells for this new addition during your squats, practicing a controlled swing between the legs with a measured pulse at the top to make sure your workout routine is all the way well-rounded.
Wrist Weights from The Wright Stuff
Hands free hand weights for the fitness fanatic on the move
Hand weights don’t necessarily need to be held—sometimes their construction allows them to stay close by while keeping your grip free for other activities like changing the song while out on a run. When getting your heart rate up with some cardio, consider adding a little extra resistance with this Rocky-ready set of Wrist Weights from The Wright Stuff. Their adjustable 4 pound wrist weight has convenient pockets on the inside to slip additional weights in and out, increasing resistance as you see fit. Wrists are crucial, so you’re going to want to opt for this option, designed with safety in mind. The manufacturer’s website states that these wrist weights were designed by a former occupational therapist “with health, safety and comfort in mind,” which “permits full wrist range of motion including flexion and extension, and full wrist radial and ulnar deviation.” Try them on your next run and watch how this very tiny tweak increases creates much larger change within your body, and maybe even your life.