One of the simplest — but most effective — work-out tools you can have is a free weight. They provide resistance in any direction and can be used to gain muscle mass or perform higher repetitions to challenge endurance. Free weights — often dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells — are a great choice for any at-home gym set-up. However, there are slight differences between many of the leading options available, and these slight differences can have a big impact on the efficacy and enjoyment of a work-out regimen.
If you’re on the hunt for the best free weights to kickstart your training, the main problem (or benefit if you’re a half glass full kind of person) is that you’re spoiled for choice. We have tried and tested countless popular brands in the strength equipment realm, and in order to save you some time, we’ve broken down a list of the key categories of free weights and our selections to get you off the keyboard and into the workout room.
Best Free Weights
- Best Free Weight Set: Bravo Bar and Bumper Set
- Best Dumbbells: Rubber Hex Dumbbells
- Best Adjustable Dumbbells: NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells
- Best Kettlebell: Rogue Powder Coat Kettlebells
- Best Barbell: Rogue Ohio Bar
- Best Weight Plates: 12-Sided Urethane Grip Plates
- Best Bumper Plates: Hi-Temp Bumper Plates
- Best Medicine Ball: Titan Fitness Leather Medicine Ball
Best Free Weight Overall
There aren’t many options that are more effective and versatile than a barbell and a set of weight plates. From squats and deadlifts to rows and presses, you can work your whole body and never run out of progressions with a set of weights like this one from Rogue.
Bravo Bar and Bumper Set
Including the bar, 230lbs worth of plates and a set of collars to keep it all locked in place, this comprehensive set has everything you need to get training. Rogue has put together a great deal here, and while it may not be enough weight for the advanced lifter, there’s more than enough here to effectively challenge everyone else. And if you are advanced and looking to build your home gym, there’s always additional weight you can buy on top of a starter pack like this.
If you want a no nonsense set of equipment that will last you a lifetime and help you get the results you want, it’s hard to beat this Bravo Bar and Bumper Plates combo from Rogue Fitness, featuring a 20kg Ohio Bar and 230lb set of bumper plates.
Who Should Buy the Bravo Bar and Bumper Set
- Lifters who want a highly effective and very versatile set of equipment.
- Consumers who want to get equipment that covers their progression for the next few years.
- Gymgoers looking for easy to maintain equipment that can take a beating.
Who Shouldn’t Buy the Bravo Bar and Bumper Set
- Buyers with a tighter budget.
- Athletes who have limited space to work out in.
- Trainees who need an option that is more portable.
Plug in and play, we love how this barbell set has everything you need to get started with training. Not only that, but it has enough weight to keep you progressing for years.
Need more weight? See our full list of the best bumper plates here.
In terms of hard wearing equipment that will serve you to the very end, the dumbbell is about as tried and true as it gets. Add to this the fact that you can train so many varieties of movements, patterns and qualities, and you’ve got yourself an incredibly valuable piece of equipment. As for which specific model to get, we think you can’t go wrong with these hex dumbbells from Rogue.
Rubber Hex Dumbbells
For what you pay, it’s hard to find a better option. With weights ranging from 2.5lbs all the way to 125lbs, Rogue has got all your training goals covered. Coated with heavy duty rubber for durability and to protect flooring, the hex shape also prevents them from rolling away from you during rest periods while you catch your breath.
These classic dumbbells are perfect for throwing around the gym with their rubber coating to protect your floor and hex design to keep them from rolling. these dumbbells are available up to 125 pounds for serious strength athletes.
Who Should Buy Rubber Hex Dumbbells
- Athletes who want a very durable pair of dumbbells.
- Lifters who need something with minimal space requirements.
- Anyone who has a tighter budget and still wants a product from a reliable brand.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Rubber Hex Dumbbells
- Customers who prefer adjustable equipment.
- People looking for a more aesthetically designed set of dumbbells.
- Trainees who would prefer a set of round dumbbells for storage.
Well priced, incredibly versatile and easy to store, we love these dumbbells from Rogue. For a full body conditioning workout, they’re perfect.
Best Adjustable Dumbbells
In the battle for the title of most versatile equipment, dumbbells really stand out as one of the leading contenders — and even more so when they’re adjustable dumbbells. With this one set, you have more than a lifetime’s worth of training options open to you.
NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells
When it comes to free weights, adjustable dumbbells are one of the most versatile options. While many other brands of adjustable dumbbells use slide or quick-lock systems to switch between weights, the NÜOBELL uses a “smart” twisting handle system. With this system, you can simply twist the handle to the number you want, pick up the weight, and curl your heart out. The weight range here goes all the way from five pounds up to 80 pounds, making these versatile enough for athletes of almost any level. While you can drop many free weights, be careful with these — with their “smart” features, they’re a little more fragile than most.
This Swedish-designed “smart” dumbbell adjusts from 5 pounds up to 80 pounds — all you have to do is twist the handlebar. Its sleek, modern design will make a great addition to any home gym.
Who Should Buy The NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells
- Gym goers who need a highly adjustable piece of equipment.
- Anyone looking for a very space-efficient free weight option.
- Lifters who want a set of adjustable dumbbells with a wide weight range.
Who Shouldn’t Buy The NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells
- Customers looking for a cost-effective pair of adjustable dumbbells — this pair has a hefty price tag.
- Customers who are looking for a more durable free weight option.
For a modern, “smart” adjustable dumbbell with a wide weight range and twisting handlebar for fast adjustments, the NÜOBELL is one of the best space-saving weight options on the market.
If you had to single out one piece of equipment to use for whole body conditioning that’s also incredibly space saving, it’s tough to find a better contender than the kettlebell. Using swings, get ups and pistols, you can get very strong and mobile with just this single piece of metal.
Rogue Powder Coat Kettlebells
These powder coated kettlebells are single-piece cast and have a void free surface covering for durability. Better still, the coating also aids with grip which is always an issue as you get sweaty during your kettlebell workouts. We also love the color coding for easy identification when you just want to get lifting.
These are perfect for those looking for room to grow into your kettlebell practice. They come in 11 weight increments, from 13 pounds all the way up to 88 — so you can learn basic swings with comfort and solid construction.
Who Should Buy Rogue Powder Coat Kettlebells
- Trainees looking for an all in one training option.
- Buyers with a tighter budget who want a quality kettlebell.
- Anyone who wants to keep their workouts simple and to the point.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Rogue Powder Coat Kettlebells
- Gymgoers looking for adjustable equipment.
- Athletes looking to eventually compete with kettlebells who should get a competition bell.
- Customers who prefer a rubber coated kettlebell to help avoid damage to flooring.
With high quality manufacturing at an excellent price, these kettlebells should be on the list for anyone wanting a simple and durable piece of equipment.
It isn’t hyperbole to suggest that barbells are one of the best free weights you could use for training goals ranging from fat loss to muscle gain to building strength. If you aren’t training with a barbell, you could be missing out on huge potential improvements that will help you hit your fitness goals.
Rogue Ohio Bar
This bar is an ideal option for gymgoers who just want to get training and need a reliable, battle-tested barbell. With a lifetime guarantee against bending, it can handle any lifting discipline you choose. Decent but not overly aggressive knurling means the bar has good grip but won’t shred your skin — and we love the different color combinations.
The Rogue Ohio Bar is a classic. It is 28mm in diameter, has a sleeve length of 16.4 inches, and features two knurling marks for optimal hand placement. It also comes with a lifetime warranty so you only have to buy one.
Who Should Buy the Rogue Ohio Bar
- Athletes looking for a solid bar that is designed for daily training.
- Lifters who want a bar with a lifetime warranty.
- Buyers who want different color options for their bar.
Who Shouldn’t Buy the Rogue Ohio Bar
- Anyone with more limited space to train in.
- Lifters who are training for a barbell sport and want a bar that is designed specifically for that discipline.
- Buyers who want a bar with more intense knurling for better grip.
Strong, durable and well priced, it’s hard to ask for anything more from a bar that can take you from beginner lifter all the way to the upper echelons of strength sports.
Best Weight Plates
Barbells are great, but you’ll probably need weight plates if you want to progress and make the most of it. For lifters that aren’t planning on dropping a bar, normal weight plates (coated or uncoated) make a lot of sense. They are very hardy (so long as you don’t drop them) and are normally more affordable than the equivalent bumper plates.
12-Sided Urethane Grip Plates
With a 12-sided design that prevents bars from rolling, these Rogue plates have a urethane coating that is notoriously hard wearing. Slightly recessed central handles mean that it’s easy to grab the plates no matter how they lie on the floor, and it also allows trainees to grip and use them as a free weight on their own. With all of this function built in, we were impressed at how affordable these plates are considering the quality of materials used.
These 12-sided plates are a great option if you're looking for durability and convenience. The design of these Rogue plates allows for easy loading and unloading of the barbell while also preventing roll when the barbell is resting on the ground.
Who Should Buy 12-Sided Urethane Grip Plates
- Buyers who want a set of plates with handles for convenient loading and unloading.
- Lifters who want a very durable set of plates that will resist wear and tear.
- Athletes looking for a great value set of plates that can compete with higher end models.
Who Shouldn’t Buy 12-Sided Urethane Grip Plates
- Anyone who wants bumper plates that can be dropped and slammed on the ground.
- Shoppers looking for color coded plates for ease of identification.
Cleverly designed and very durable, these plates are some of the best value for money we’ve seen and should last decades if they’re well cared for.
These 12-Sided Urethane Grip Plates are an ideal choice for anyone who won’t be dropping their bars. Durable outer covering, smart design and very affordable considering all the features.
Best Bumper Plates
If you plan on doing some snatches or just enjoy dropping your bar when you hit a PR, you’re going to need a set of bumper plates. They are specifically designed to be able to absorb impacts with a metal core surrounded by a rubber exterior. The drawback is, they tend to be larger than solid metal plates, which can be an issue if you’re loading the bar with 400+ pounds.
Hi-Temp Bumper Plates
These Hi Temp Bumper Plates are made from recycled rubber, which is the cherry on top of the cake. Environmentally conscious, yet very well priced, they are a great destination for old rubber that otherwise would go to waste. Used daily in many gyms, you can be sure they’re well made and can withstand a beating too.
A staple in box gyms across the globe, these Rogue bumper plates by Hi-Temp are really affordable and can take a beating. They're known for having a good amount of bounce, which can be a pro or con depending on your personal training preferences.
Who Should Buy Hi-Temp Bumper Plates
- Athletes who want a set of plates that can be dropped without any problems.
- Buyers looking for an environmentally conscious choice with their gym equipment.
- Lifters who want great value for money plates .
Who Shouldn’t Buy Hi-Temp Bumper Plates
- Consumers who need thinner plates to load the bar heavier.
- Gymgoers who want plates with handles for easier loading and unloading.
- Lifters who need bumper plates, but don’t want too much bounce.
These bumper plates are eminently affordable and would be a great fit for a home gym. Don’t think that the price means lower quality either, they are very hardy.
In terms of great value plates, it’s hard to beat these Hi-Temp Bumper Plates from Rogue. Made from recycled rubber, they’re time tested and great fun to slam when you hit a PR.
Best Medicine Ball
A slightly less travelled route, medicine balls are nonetheless an incredibly effective piece of equipment and well worth your consideration. Especially if you are looking to do some rotational training, power work or hammer your core, these balls are an underrated option in our book.
Titan Fitness Leather Medicine Ball
Sporting a soft, but grippy outer covering, this ball from Titan shouldn’t slip through your hands mid workout. The interior is filled with polypropylene cotton for even weight distribution and the double-stitched, reinforced seams maximize durability. Just make sure you don’t slam this ball, there are other slam balls available if that’s a priority for you.
This leather medicine ball from Titan Fitness is perfect for developing explosive power on a budget. In comes in a variety of different weights, and has a classic look to it.
Who Should Buy the Titan Fitness Leather Medicine Ball
- Trainees who want a ball perfect for conditioning workouts.
- Buyers who need an affordable medicine ball.
- Lifters who want to do more work on explosive power training.
Who Shouldn’t Buy the Titan Fitness Leather Medicine Ball
- Athletes who want adjustable equipment.
- Anyone looking for a smaller, more durable medicine ball for their training.
- Consumers looking for greater choice in the available weights of the medicine balls.
Well worth your time, medicine balls are affordable, versatile and provide a great option for people who want to explore some less well known training methods.
What to Consider Before Buying Free Weights
If you haven’t just won the lottery or reside in a mega mansion, you’re likely to be facing some limitations when buying equipment. From price to training space, here are some factors you should think about before swiping your card.
There is a big price range for the products we’ve listed. Obviously a barbell and plates are going to cost more than a solitary kettlebell. Thankfully, when compared to machines that can cost thousands of dollars, everything here is eminently affordable and many now have optional payment plans to make things even more accessible.
Which to Prioritize
We’d caution you to keep in mind Warren Buffet’s immortal words: “Price is what you pay, value is what you get.” A medicine ball is a great tool and very affordable, but it simply isn’t going to have the same utility as a set of adjustable dumbbells. Budgeting decisions definitely have a large impact, but try to be patient and keep your eye on the bigger picture before buying.
If you want hypertrophy, then a single pair of 20lb dumbbells just isn’t going to cut it. Eventually, you’ll need to go heavier, and probably sooner than you might think if you’re training consistently. Make sure that you choose the right tool for the job so you can grow. Yes, you will struggle and hit barriers when pushing your limits, but you’ll be glad you bought the tools to challenge you.
Also consider what results you want. If you’re training for power, a barbell and weight plates might be your route. If you’re training for aesthetics, you may be better suited with dumbbells.
Durability isn’t going to be a huge issue with most of these products, adjustable dumbbells being a notable exception. For everything else, the only thing we can state is that free weights are naturally pretty damn durable, and you have to be rather negligent and/or neglectful in order to break them. This doesn’t give you a license to abuse them, but this should reassure you that your purchase will have good longevity if you take basic care of it.
Barbells are pretty unwieldy and require a decent amount of space to use safely. Dumbbells on the other hand don’t. Most other free weights operate somewhere in the middle, but you definitely need to think about where you are going to be training and how much space is available to you.
Something you may not have thought about is that shipping is potentially very expensive for free weights. In order to minimize costs, it’s worth thinking about whether you can delay an individual purchase in order to buy more and get free shipping, or to order through somewhere like Amazon Prime that enables you to avoid the pain of seeing that extra cost added on right before you check out.
How We Picked These Free Weights
Free weights can be used in countless ways that can fit most exercise routines. Helpful for physical therapy, gaining muscle mass, aerobics, barre, and muscle toning, free weights are the perfect tool for home exercise set-ups. For those hoping to skip the gym or supplement their work-out routine with some home exercises, free weights can be a great help — but only if the products satisfy the exerciser. There are variations in material, design, and variety that could mean the difference between satisfaction and disappointment. Here are categories we used to help us evaluate these products.
Weight options offered
The wide range of sets, weights and styles available online shows just how much variety there is in different people’s exercise routines. Some brands have individual weights available all the way up to twenty plus pounds, while some only make weight choices up to twelve pounds. People looking for a complete collection of weights may opt for buying each set, or at least every individual weight within a certain range.
Ease of use and storage
These products will need to have a home within any exercise room, garage, or basement they will be used in. Free weights that come with a rack provide an easy place to store this equipment — however, not all racks are easily assembled or particularly sturdy. Free weights that are purchased individually may need to live on their own on the floor or otherwise stable surface.
Often times neoprene can damage finished wood when in contact with the surface after getting moist from use or in extreme heat. Adjustable free weights take up much less space but can oftentimes be harder to use. Some of these free weights have somewhat complicated or clumsy mechanisms to change weights. Depending on each exerciser’s needs, individual free weights or an adjustable set might be preferable.
There are many ways for a person interested in a home gym set-up to fill out the list of equipment they plan to use. A lot of this will depend on the budget of the shopper. Those hoping to get one pair of dozens of different weights will expect to spend a pretty penny. Additionally, those looking for a complete set of weights might opt for an adjustable weights. These may cost more on aggregate than pairs of individual weights, but offer many more options for different types of exercise programs. Regardless of budget, there are plenty of options for free weights that can fit in most spending plans.
Not sure which free weight is right for you? Here are some things to consider before making your purchase:
What type of exercises do you enjoy?
One of the biggest considerations to make before purchasing free weights is to identify the actual workouts you plan on doing. If you are hoping to use the free weights for physical therapy, rehabilitation from an injury, or for movement-based aerobic or barre exercises, smaller weights like dumbbells might be the route to take. If interested in gaining muscle mass or training for a sport, look out for weight types like barbells and weight plates that have heavier options available to purchase.
How often do you plan on using them?
Unfortunately, exercise equipment can end up collecting dust more than anything else. If you aren’t a strenuous exerciser or you prefer going to the gym, perhaps only getting one or two pairs of weights would be the prudent move. Alternatively, people who are looking to create a home gym that allows them the widest range of exercise choices may splurge on several weight pairings, weight sets, or adjustable dumbbells. Having a set around for emergencies or boredom is not a bad idea, but figure out out which weight set you are most likely to use is a decision you will have to make.
How many different exercises will you do?
People who will only be using the weights for a specific purpose, like physical therapy, barre, or while running, may only need one or two weights. Those hoping to use different weights based on the different strength-training exercises may find it beneficial to have a wide range of implements at their disposal. Consider your overall training picture and make a decision based on your realistic expectations.
At this point in time, if it isn’t abundantly clear to you that free weights are awesome, we don’t know what else to say. Yes they have their flaws, and yes you should still use machines, bodyweight exercises, isometrics, do stretches and more. But when you consider affordability and effectiveness, free weights simply cannot be ignored.
There are important questions as to which free weights you should prioritize getting. Should you get a barbell, dumbbells or medicine balls first? Answering these questions will be based on personal preference and your situation, so make sure you spend some time, do some research, and get the equipment that is going to give you the biggest bang for your buck.
Why use free weights instead of machines?
First, the price of free weights is typically much lower than the price of a machine. A second reason is versatility. Most machines have only one (at most, a few) function, but free weights have many functions. There are more reasons why you might use free weights vs machines, but these two are pretty compelling in their own right.
Are free weights dangerous to use?
Potentially yes. Machines are also potentially dangerous. So are cars, the bleach you use to clean your toilet and the stove you use to cook. Be sure to train within reason, with good technique, and don’t overload yourself. If you stick to a safe and sound training regimen, your free weights should do you much more good than harm.
How do I get the most benefits out of free weights?
There are a few keys here. Progressive overload, long term variation in training, and periodic deloading are probably the three biggest keys we can think of. Make sure you’re constantly increasing the difficulty of your training so that you’re not always performing the same exercises at the same level for years on end.