How To Choose The Right Weights For Your Home Gym
Dumbbells, Kettlebells and Barbells: How To Choose The Right Weights For Your Home Gym
If you’re looking to build up your strength at home, a good quality set of weights can be both an investment in yourself and a motivator to keep it up. But when you’re a beginner, choosing the right weights can be a challenge. Should you get a kettlebell set? What’s the difference between dumbbells and barbells? This buying guide will help you understand the different types of weights and how to choose the best weights for you and start building up your strength.
How to choose which weights to buy?
To get what you want out of your weight training it’s important to have the right kinds of weights at the right heaviness for your purposes. Before you order weights online, consider these factors:
Purpose: Do you want to get stronger, improve your endurance, build bigger muscles or lose weight?
Current Strength: How many kilograms can you comfortably lift to start with?
Space: How much room you have for a home gym can impact what you could reasonably purchase. For example, a weights bench may fit in your spare room, but will you have room on either side to safely use it?
Budget: As with most things, the more you have available to spend, the more choice you have. Generally, heavier weights are more expensive, with differences in the types of weights as well
What is the difference between Dumbbells, Kettlebells and Barbells?
These are the three main types of weights used for strength and endurance training. Simply put, dumbbells are bars you hold in each hand, with a weight at each end, kettlebells are round weights with a single top handle and barbells consist of a long bar with weights attached at either end.
Dumbbells are best for exercises that require more freedom of movement, as they provide a greater range of motion and enable most strength-training exercises. While kettlebells will work in many situations, the distributed centre mass of dumbbells can make it easier for curls, cardio and endurance training.
Kettlebells are more suited for building power, muscle conditioning and calorie burning. Their shape can support full-body movements such as swings, snatches, lunges and squats a little better than dumbbells. These weights are built to be moved dynamically, creating momentum and activating your entire body.
Barbells are designed for lifting heavy weights using your chest, shoulder and back muscles. Because you lift barbells with both arms, keeping the bar level, you can add more weight and have more controlled lifts. These are the type of weights used in Olympic weightlifting and are good tools for maximising muscle strength.
How much weight should I use for a home gym?
This is different for everybody and depends on what you can already lift. There’s no given weight that you ‘should’ be able to lift, so listen to your muscles and avoid straining or potentially injuring yourself by sticking to a rigid expectation. The same is true whether you’re looking for dumbbells or kettlebells.
It also depends on which area you are concentrating on. It’s important to exercise your whole body, not just your arms or your back, but it’s also true that your legs will benefit from a much heavier set than your arms can manage. It’s also important to lift lighter weights to stabilize the muscles, protecting your tendons and ligaments when you lift heavy. Then you can use a heavier weight to build muscle mass. We recommend choosing a set with a few different weights, or some adjustable dumbbells, to get the best workout for every muscle in your body.
If you have no idea how many kilograms you can lift, test your strength with some household objects. A full 1l bottle of water weighs approximately 1kg, while bags of books or full plant pots can weigh a lot more. Be careful though. Lift something and see how much it weighs to find the right starting weight for buying dumbbells and kettlebells.
Test how much you can comfortably lift by filling a 1l bottle with water and doing 10-12 bicep curls. If this feels roughly heavy enough to start with, then a 1kg set of dumbbells is great to use for your lighter set. If you want something a bit harder try lifting a full 5L watering can or bucket to see if 5kg is right for you. Most likely, your light set will be somewhere between 1kg-5kg.
What types of weights are suited to different exercises?
The lightest weights you use should be for training the naturally smaller muscles in the body. Your biceps will grow with high numbers of fast reps using a lighter weight. Exercises to do with your light set to build your arm and shoulder muscles include:
- Hammer curl – bicep
- Concentration curl – bicep
- Seated incline curl – bicep
- Dumbbell lateral raise – shoulder side-delts
- Tricep kickback
- Overhead extensions – tricep
From here you can scale up to find the right weight for your medium and heavy sets of weights. Your medium weights set should be double the weight of your light set. So if your light set is 1kg, your medium set should be 2kg, but if your light set is 4kg, your medium set should be 8kg. The medium weights are used to strengthen your whole upper body, with exercises such as:
- Dumbbell shoulder press – shoulder
- Dumbbell bench press – chest
- Single arm row – back
- Pullover – back
Finally, you can choose your heavy set of weights. These should be 50% heavier than your medium set, or three times as heavy as your light set. The heavy weights are used to get the best possible results from leg exercises, working the thighs and glutes as well as the hamstrings, calves and lower back:
- Bulgarian split-squat – thighs
- Romanian deadlift – hamstrings
- Weighted calf raises – calves
- Weighted glute bridge – glutes & lower back
Best Dumbbell Sets for Beginners
If you are at the very beginning of your weight-lifting journey and find that you can comfortably do 10-12 reps with 1kg without it feeling too easy, then the JLL Ergonomic Neoprene Dumbbells Set (with rack) is perfect for you. These dumbbells are designed to fit snugly into your hand. Their iron cores ensure they are sturdy enough to last, with a soft, durable, sweat-resistant neoprene coating that makes them easy to grip. They also come with a stand for convenient storage.
For heavier weights, you can buy dumbbells in pairs. Look for high-quality dumbbells with comfortable grip handles, such as the JLL Rubber Hex Dumbbells. These are available in weights from 4kg-32kg and have a rubber casing to reduce the risk of damaging your floors if you drop them.
Save Money with Adjustable Dumbbells
Rather than buying multiple sets of dumbbells, you might find it suits you better to buy an adjustable dumbbell set. These include a bar, like with a barbell but much shorter, onto which you add weighted plates at each end. You can add more plates for a heavier weight, and remove some to make it lighter.
The JLL Cast Iron Dumbbell/Barbell Set has two chrome-plated dumbbell bars and a central chrome join, allowing you to switch easily from dumbbell to barbell without having to purchase lots of equipment. This set was voted the Best Value Weight Training Equipment by the Women’s Running Awards 2022, offering 4x 1.75kg and 4×2.5kg plates. This means you can choose whether to use 3.5kg, 5kg or 8.5kg dumbbells, or a barbell ranging from 3.5kg up to 20kg. The same is available in Vinyl.
Best Weights for Weight Loss
It is well-known that lifting weight can help you lose weight, burning fat and calories and toning your core muscles. Many fitness experts recommend using barbells at least twice a week, in conjunction with cardio and good nutrition, to reach your ideal weight.
The reason lifting weights supports weight loss is that strength training improves your metabolism after your workout. Engaging and challenging your muscles leads to “post-exercise oxygen consumption”, in which your muscle cells are consuming more oxygen for longer periods to create energy. This also means they are consuming more glucose, which is stored in your body as fats.
Barbells are recommended for this as they require you to engage your core abdominal muscles to control the weight. Here are some exercises you can do with a barbell to burn fat and lose weight.
Deadlifts – stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the barbell on the floor. Bend down and grip the bar with both hands. Slowly raise the bar to hip level using your legs and hips, keeping your arms extended and back straight. Lower the bar gently to the ground.
Barbell Lunges – Lift the barbell so that it is across your back, holding it with both palms facing forward. Stand with your feet together, then step into a lunge, with both legs at 90-degrees. Push through your front leg to return to standing and repeat, alternating your legs. You can also do barbell squats with this barbell position.
Bench Press – Lie flat on your back on a bench with your hands gripping a barbell in the rack above you. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart. Lift the bar off the rack and extend your arms fully, keeping the bar over your shoulders. Slowly lower the bar towards your chest. Quickly push the bar back up to the starting position.
Weight Benches – What is the best Weight Bench for a Home Gym?
If you want to perform any kind of bench press, or would like some support while you do other exercises, a weight bench is a useful addition to a home gym. Choose a bench that is long enough for you to lie back on. Some models have a folding backrest, enabling you to lie flat for bench presses or sit upright for other exercises.
The JLL B200 Adjustable Weight Bench has four levels of incline adjustment, allowing you to activate different muscle groups as you choose. With fully foldable parts and transport wheels, it is easy to move around and store in smaller spaces, making it perfect for a home gym.
Strength Training at Home
Deciding whether to purchase dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells will depend on your fitness goals. There are many benefits to all three, so it is worth visiting a gym to try some out before you buy. Consider your budget and how much space you have to store weights at home before splashing out on a full weights rack. Whatever you choose, ensure you always use proper form and take care of your muscles by warming up and stretching them out before and after your sessions.
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