How many Dumbbells do You Need?

So you’ve decided you want to purchase some equipment for a home gym. Machines are insanely expensive and take up far too much space unless you have an extra room you can afford to turn into a home gym. Free weights are a great option for beginners who are looking to start purchasing workout equipment for their homes. The easiest free weight to get your hands on and the most useful for a variety of exercises is the dumbbell.

But how many pairs of dumbbells do you need?

I am going to discuss the optimal amount of dumbbells you need to get started with a great at-home workout program for beginners.

For the bare minimum, one pair of dumbbells can suffice. However, for a greater variety of exercises and intensity, it’s best to have three pairs, a light, medium, and heavyweight. This gives you the ability to perform different movements with a suitable weight.

You wouldn’t want to use the same weight for abductions as you would for lunges.

For example, you’ll want a relatively lightweight when performing shoulder abduction, a medium weight for bicep curls, and a heavyweight for walking lunges or RDL’s. Having different weights will also allow you to move up in weight as you increase in strength for some exercises.

So what are dumbbells used for?

Let’s break this down into sections. What are some uses for light, medium, and heavy dumbbells?

Now keep in mind that the specified weight of each dumbbell is relative, a light dumbbell for someone might be 15 pounds while for someone else a light dumbbell could be 3 pounds it all depends on your strength level and preference.

Exercises For Light Dumbbells

Depending on your experience level lighter dumbbells are great for a variety of exercises involving the shoulders, triceps, biceps, and chest. You can also add them to more complicated or difficult movements like the pistol square for an added challenge. Here are some examples of exercises you can perform with light dumbbells.

Side Raises or shoulder abduction

Stand with your arms at your sides holding a dumbbell in each hand, raise your arms from your sides making sure your thumbs remain either neutral or pointed slightly up, you don’t want to point them down like you’re pouring a pitcher of water as this can cause impingement.

Tricep Kickbacks

Bend over or get down on all fours with a dumbbell in one hand, bend you at the elbow and extend your arm back, squeezing your tricep.

Bent-Over Rear Delt Raises

Bend over, keeping your back straight and your knees slightly bent. Allow your arms to hang down in front of you, palms facing in. Pull your arms back up to shoulder height and then go back to starting position.

Overhead Squat

Perform a square with your arms raised straight over your head holding each dumbbell. Make sure your knees are in line with your toes.

Crab to Toe Touch

Get in the crab position, hold a dumbbell in your right hand. Raise your left foot to touch your right hand, repeat, and then switch sides.

Turkish Get-up

Lie on your back with your right leg bent and left arm by your side; hold a dumbbell in your right hand. Keep your hand above your chest. Turn onto your left side and prop yourself on your left forearm. Push with your left arm, raise your hips, and push into a kneeling position, place your left leg behind your right. Stand up.

Push-up Position Curl

Get into a push-up position holding on to the dumbbells, perform a push-up, and then bring one dumbbell to your chest and then back to the floor, repeat for each side.

Split Squat Shoulder Raise

Perform a split-squat, at the bottom of the movement abduct your arms.

Russian Pistol Squat

Perform a pistol square while holding your arms straight out in front of your chest.

Russian Twist

Sit on the ground and bring your feet off the floor, hold the dumbbells close to your body, twist or torso, and the dumbbells from side to side while keeping your toes off the ground.

Medium Dumbbells

The above exercises can be completed using medium dumbbells as your strength increases. However, here are some other exercises suitable for medium weight dumbbells as well.

Bicep Curls

Make sure your elbow stays in a fixed position while you curl your arm up.

DB Shoulder Press

Keep your back straight and core engaged when performing a shoulder press.

Walking Lunges

This is a great exercise for your quads and glutes. You can perform this in a small space by stepping forward and then back to your starting position if you don’t have the space to take a few steps.

Heavy Dumbells

Lastly, these are exercises you can perform with heavier weights.

Chest Press

This movement can be performed on the floor or bench if you have one. Make sure you get a spotter for this movement.

Goblet Squats

A great way to build up your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Hold the dumbbell between your legs and perform a squat, keeping your back straight and your knees in line with your toes.


Make sure not to round your back while performing a Romanian deadlift, bend forward with the dumbbells in your hands, allow a slight bend in the knees, and feel the stretch in your hamstrings, pull up squeezing your glutes.

DB Row

This is a great back exercise. Bend over on a bench keeping your back straight. Make sure you don’t twist your spine. Squeeze your back muscles and pull the dumbbell up toward your chest. Your elbow shouldn’t go past your back.

Are Dumbbells worth it?

Overall, yes. Dumbbells are worth it if you want to start or continue a weight training program. Compared to the price of a single machine and the range of exercises they offer they are worth it.

Eventually, you will potentially move up in weight and need to purchase heavier dumbbells, but this isn’t something that will happen overnight, and either way you can increase the difficulty of exercises in a variety of other ways before increasing the literal weight of the movement.

 For example, for squats you can move into a split squat, then a pistol squat, and then a weighted pistol squats all while using the dumbbells you have.

How much dumbbells cost and what type is best?

Typically you will pay around $1.50-2.00 per pound of weight for dumbbells. For lighter weights, like a set of Neoprene (synthetic rubber), you can get a set of three different weights for an affordable price because they are the lightest. Although they will eventually flake and you’ll have to purchase a new set.

For medium, to heavyweights, you’ll want to choose between regular cast iron or hex.

Cast iron is simple, nothing fancy but they can be damaging to your floor if you set them down too hard or accidentally drop them. Your feet could pay for it as well.

Hex on the other hand might be a little more expensive but overall, will save you the damage to your floor and feet.

Lastly, you could purchase an adjustable dumbbells. These can be used for light, medium, and heavyweights. The downside to these is that they are a pain to change and because they are adjustable they are made up of smaller parts making them prone to damage. These aren’t the best options if you are looking for longevity.

Whatever dumbbells you decide to purchase it’s totally up to you and your budget, however, weight is a weight so I would also suggest looking for some used weights on eBay or craigslist to get your home gym started for an even better price.