One of the simplest — but most effective — workout 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: REP Fitness Home Gym Package
- Best Dumbbells: REP Fitness Rubber Grip Hex Dumbbells
- Best Adjustable Dumbbells: NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells
- Best Kettlebell: Rogue Powder Coat Kettlebells
- Best Barbell: Rogue Ohio Bar
- Best Bumper Plates: REP Fitness Color Bumper Plates
- Best Cheap Weight Plates: Rogue Hi-Temp Bumper Plates
- Best Medicine Ball: REP Fitness V2 Medicine Balls
Best Free Weight Set
There aren’t many options that are more effective and versatile than a barbell, a rack, 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 package like this one from REP Fitness.
REP Fitness Home Gym Package
This set includes a bar, a power rack, and your choice of Iron or Sport plates. Depending on the package you choose, you will either get REP’s PR-1000 or PR-1100 power rack. As for the weight plates, no matter if you choose Iron or Sport plates, you’ll receive a set of pairs of five-, 10-, 25-, and 45-pound plates, plus REP’s 20kg Black Sabre bar.
REP 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 most recreational athletes. 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.
This package comes with a power rack, weight plates, and a bar. No matter which package you choose, you'll get a set of five-, 10-, 25-, and 45-pound plates, plus REP’s 20kg Black Sabre bar.
Who Should Buy the REP Fitness Home Gym Package
- Lifters who want a highly effective and very versatile set of equipment.
- Consumers building their home gym from scratch who are looking for more than just weights will appreciate that this set comes with a rack, bar, and weight plates.
- Buyers on a budget will like the amount of equipment you get here for the price.
Who Shouldn’t Buy the REP Fitness Home Gym Package
- Athletes who have limited space to work out in. This set comes with a rack, which can take up quite a bit of room.
- Advanced athletes who may want a more extensive set of weights or a more elite power rack.
Plug in and play — we love how this set has everything you need to get started with training. Not only that, but it has enough weight to keep most athletes progressing for years.
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 REP Fitness.
REP Fitness Rubber Grip Hex Dumbbells
For what you pay, it’s hard to find a better option. With weights ranging from five pounds to 50 pounds, REP has got a good amount of your training goals covered. Coated with heavy duty, low odor rubber for durability and to protect flooring, the hex shape also prevents your bells from rolling away during rest periods while you catch your breath.
Plus, they have textured handles that are similar to what you would find with knurled steel handles. You can even buy these dumbbells in sets if you want to build out a rack of dumbbells in one go. However, with weights only going up to 50 pounds, more advanced lifters may be limited in options.
These weights range from five pounds to 50 pounds. Plus, they're coated with heavy duty, low odor rubber for durability and to protect the flooring in your home gym.
Who Should Buy REP Fitness Rubber Grip Hex Dumbbells
- Athletes who want rubber coated dumbbells that may help protect their floors and provide solid grip.
- Lifters who need something with minimal space requirements will appreciate that these dumbbells take up much less space than a barbell, weight plates, and a rack.
- Anyone who has a tighter budget and still wants a product from a reliable brand.
Who Shouldn’t Buy REP Fitness Rubber Grip Hex Dumbbells
- Customers who prefer adjustable equipment may want to opt for an adjustable dumbbell.
- Trainees who would prefer a knurled steel handle on their dumbbells.
- Advanced lifters who may want dumbbells that are heavier than 50 pounds can find more extensive sets out there.
Well-priced, incredibly versatile, and easy to store, we love these dumbbells from REP Fitness. For a full body-conditioning workout, they’re an ideal choice.
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 gym goers 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 28mm in diameter, has a sleeve length of 16.4 inches, and features two knurling marks for optimal hand placement. It's made of stainless steel, and comes with a lifetime warranty.
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 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.
REP Fitness Color Bumper Plates
These colored bumper plates come in 10-, 25-, 35-, 45-, and 55-pound pairs, all colored to international color standards, which can make switching weights out mid-workout seamless. The 10-pound weight is also extra thick, which can help prevent “tacoing” (or warping with use). Some recycled rubber bumper plates can have a high bounce, but REP Fitness’ have a very low bounce.
They’ve been tested to hold up to over 12,000 drops from a height of eight feet, which equates to years of durability. However, this rubber can have a strong smell, so it’s best to let them air out for a few days before bringing them into your home.
These colored bumper plates come in 10-, 25-, 35-, 45-, and 55-pound pairs, all colored to international color standards. They have a low bounce, and have been tested to hold up to over 12,000 drops from a height of eight feet, making them extra durable.
Who Should Buy REP Fitness Color Bumper Plates
- Athletes who want a set of plates that can be dropped over 12,000 times without any problems.
- Buyers looking for colored weights that follow international color standards, so they can easily see how much weight they’re loading.
- If you’re looking for thicker light weights, you’ll like that the 10-pound weight here is extra thick to help prevent tacoing.
Who Shouldn’t Buy REP Fitness Color Bumper Plates
- Gym goers who want plates with handles for easier loading and unloading.
- Lifters who are looking for black bumper plates or plates that are all one color for a more cohesive look in their home gym.
- Anyone who doesn’t want to have to air out a strong rubber smell will want to look elsewhere.
These bumper plates are durable, have a very low bounce, and come in colors that follow international color standards, making them great for beginning and advanced athletes alike.
Best Cheap Weight Plates
Barbells are great, but you’ll probably need weight plates if you want to progress and make the most of your training. For lifters who aren’t planning on dropping a bar, normal weight plates (coated or uncoated) make a lot of sense. But bumper plates can help cushion the blow for those who often find themselves dropping after their sets — and these are some of the least expensive ones on the market.
Rogue 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.
You can purchase these plates individually or in sets, and they come in pairs of 10, 15, 25, 35, and 45 pounds. They’re all black, which some may like, while others may prefer color coding. It’s worth noting that they are softer than many weight plates though, which means they do have a decent amount of bounce.
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 Rogue Hi-Temp Bumper Plates
- Athletes who are looking for rubber-coated bumper plates that may help cushion their drops.
- Buyers looking for an environmentally conscious choice with their gym equipment will like this recycled rubber.
- Lifters who want great value for their money. While the sets may seem expensive, as far as weight plates go, these are fairly cheap.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Rogue Hi-Temp Bumper Plates
- Consumers who need thinner plates to load the bar heavier.
- Lifters who need weight plates, but don’t want too much bounce. These bounce more than some harder plates do.
- Anyone who wants colored plates to easily distinguish between weights.
These bumper plates are eminently affordable and can be a great fit for a home gym — especially if you’re trying to protect your floors. Don’t think that the price means lower quality either, they are very durable.
Best Medicine Ball
A slightly less traveled 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.
REP Fitness V2 Medicine Balls
Sporting a soft, but grippy outer covering, this ball from REP shouldn’t slip through your hands mid-workout. Hand-made from synthetic leather, these balls have an even weight distribution, and their double-stitched, reinforced seams maximize durability. Plus, they’re color coded for easy weight identification. And the weight is stitched on, so it won’t wear off with each use.
You can purchase these medicine balls in weights of four, six, eight, 10, 12, 14, 16, 20, 25, and 30 pounds. Just make sure you don’t slam this ball, there are other slam balls available if that’s a priority for you.
Hand-made from synthetic leather, these balls have an even weight distribution, and their double-stitched, reinforced seams maximize durability. You can purchase these medicine balls in weights of four, six, eight, 10, 12, 14, 16, 20, 25, and 30 pounds, and the weights are stitched onto the surface, so they won't wear over time.
Who Should Buy the REP Fitness V2 Medicine Balls
- Trainees who want a variety of medicine balls they can use with conditioning workouts.
- Anyone looking for a durable medicine ball that has double-stitched, reinforced seams.
- Lifters who want an easy-to-grip surface will like the leather covering on these medicine balls.
Who Shouldn’t Buy the REP Fitness V2 Medicine Balls
- If you don’t do a lot of conditioning work, you may not need to make this investment — medicine balls aren’t particularly cheap pieces of equipment.
- For those who are looking for a piece of equipment for wall slams, these balls are not for you. There are separate slam balls for that.
If you’re keen on conditioning workouts, medicine balls are versatile and provide a great option for those who want to branch out from more typical weight lifting — they aren’t super inexpensive though, so you’ll want to ensure you’ll make use of them before purchasing.
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.