Best Free Weights — Dumbbells, Barbells, Kettlebells, and More

Go from screen to superset with these handy free weights.

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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 workout regimen. 

If you’re on the hunt for the best free weights on the market to kickstart your training, the main problem (or benefit if you’re a glass-half-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 the best free weights on the market and our selections to get you off the keyboard and into the workout room.

Best Free Weights

Best Free Weight Set

There aren’t many options that are more effective and versatile than a barbell, a power or squat 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 Before the Barbell Package

REP teamed up with Meg Squats to make a comprehensive home gym package that encompasses basically all you need to start lifting. The package includes a PR-1100 rack, a pull-up assist band, 20kg Sabre Barbell, a bumper plate set, some change plates, dumbbells, a kettlebell, a bench, and clips to round everything out. 

REP Fitness Before the Barbell Package
REP Fitness Before the Barbell Package
REP Fitness Before the Barbell Package

Equip your home gym or expand your current collection with high-quality equipment from REP Fitness. This deal scores you a power rack, barbell, weight plates set, and more.

The package comes out to about $1,400, which is a solid deal for all this equipment. While it may not be enough weight for the advanced lifter, there’s more than enough here to effectively challenge most recreational athletes. You can also follow along with the eight-week intensive training program that this package was named after for free.

Jake tests the REP Fitness PR-1100 rack
Jake tests the REP Fitness PR-1100 rack

Who Should Buy the REP Before the Barbell Package

  • Lifters who want a highly effective and very versatile set of equipment. This option allows you to pick up multiple high-use pieces at once.
  • 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, weight plates, and some extras to add versatility. 
  • Buyers on a budget will like the amount and variety of equipment you get here for the price. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy the REP Before the Barbell Package

  • Athletes who have limited space to work out in may want to consider a folding rack package instead. This set comes with a regular 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. 
  • Those who already have a rack or weight plate set can likely pick up the other equipment for cheaper without a package.

One stop shop — 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 beginners progressing for a while. You will likely need to purchase more weight, but that won’t be for at least a year or two.

Read our full reviews of the REP PR-1100 Power Rack, REP Bumper Plates, and REP Sabre Barbell.

Best Dumbbells

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 Living.Fit.

Living.Fit Hex Dumbbells

These are a great option for anyone looking to add durable and affordable dumbbells to their arsenal of lifting equipment. The rubber coating on the heads serves to improve their longevity and reduce the noise they make when dropped — an added bonus is they also protect your floors. The hex shape of the heads also helps to prevent the dumbbells from rolling away and makes them more stable during push-ups.

Living.Fit Dumbbells
Living.Fit Dumbbells
Living.Fit Dumbbells

These hex dumbbells from Living Fit come with an etched, knurled, grip, and durable rubber cap to help you hold them and protect your floors. Available in weights from 5lb up to 100lb, they’ve got what you need to progress along your fitness journey.

These bells have ergonomic, knurled texture handles with chrome plating that provides a comfortable yet stable grip. You can even buy these dumbbells in sets if you want to build out a rack of dumbbells in one go. They’re available all the way up to 100 pounds in five-pound increments to accommodate more advanced lifters.

Using the Living.Fit Dumbbells for pushups
Jake tests the Living.Fit Hex Dumbbells at the BarBend garage gym

Who Should Buy Living.Fit Hex Dumbbells

  • Athletes who want rubber-coated dumbbells that may help protect their floors and provide a bit more longevity. 
  • Lifters who want to work on their grip or who have nagging wrist injuries will appreciate the ergonomic design of the handles.
  • Anyone who is on a tighter budget. These dumbbells are cheaper than many others on the market.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Living.Fit Hex Dumbbells

  • Customers who prefer adjustable equipment may want to opt for an adjustable dumbbell. 
  • Trainees who would prefer a knurled handle more akin to a barbell may want to check out other options.
  • Advanced lifters who may want dumbbells that are heavier than 100 pounds can find more extensive sets out there — some even go up to 150 pounds or more. 

These dumbbells are durable, well-designed, and have a wide weight range from five to 100 pounds, which will suit most people. The fact that they’re priced well is an added bonus, making them our favorite dumbbells at the moment.

Read our full review of the Living.Fit Hex Dumbbells.

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.

SMRTFT NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells
SMRTFT NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells
SMRTFT NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells

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. 

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. 

Jake tests the NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells
Jake tests the NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells

Who Should Buy The NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells

  • Gymgoers who need a highly adjustable piece of equipment. These are adjustable and can go up to 80 pounds if you opt for the heavier set.
  • Anyone looking for a very space-efficient free weight option will appreciate that these can replace an entire rack of dumbbells.
  • Lifters who want a set of adjustable dumbbells with a wide weight range. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy The NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells

  • Those looking for a cost-effective pair of adjustable dumbbells may want to check out other options — this pair has a hefty price tag. 
  • Customers who are looking for a more durable free weight option. These can break if dropped or mistreated.

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.

Read our full review of the NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells.

Best Kettlebell

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. These kettlebells are our favorites.

Onnit Kettlebells

These bells are forged from one single piece of iron, making them ultra-durable and able to withstand the most grueling of workouts. Onnit’s unique gravity casting process helps to ensure the weight is distributed evenly and accurately throughout each kettlebell, improving balance. 

Onnit Kettlebell
Onnit Kettlebell
Onnit Kettlebell

Available in sets, well-built, and color-coded for easy weight identification — this is a great starter kettlebell. 

The powder coat finish Onnit uses provides a visually pleasing sheen and adds a bit of texture, so you can have a solid grip (whether you’re using chalk or not) despite being drenched in sweat. Onnit Kettlebells are available in weights ranging from 13 pounds to 70 pounds and are priced competitively with regards to other similar bells.

Onnit Kettlebell in Action
Jake tests the Onnit Kettlebell at the BarBend garage gym

Who Should Buy Onnit Kettlebells

  • Trainees looking for an all-in-one training option. Kettlebells are extremely versatile for working strength, conditioning, and power.
  • Buyers with a tighter budget who want a high quality kettlebell. These are well-priced for their quality.
  • Anyone who wants to keep their workouts simple and to the point will enjoy how straightforward kettlebell flows can be.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Onnit Kettlebells

  • Gymgoers looking for adjustable equipment for saving space may want to check out other options available on the market.
  • Athletes looking to eventually compete with kettlebells should get a competition bell.
  • Customers who prefer a rubber-coated kettlebell to help avoid damage to flooring.

Onnit kettlebells boast high-quality forging and an affordable price point. This, plus a durable and grippy finish, make them the go-to for most folks looking to pick up high quality kettlebells. 

Read our full review of Onnit Kettlebells.

Best Barbell

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. This barbell is one of the most versatile, and it happens to be our personal go-to. 

X Training Elite Competition Barbell

This multi-purpose barbell is the jack of all trades with dual powerlifting and weightlifting knurling for seamless movement between exercises, like power cleans and bench press, for example. It comes with a host of features and threatens to dethrone the longstanding top dogs in the barbell game. This bar offers perks like a 215,000 PSI rating, bronze bushings, and present but not aggressive knurling.

X Training Elite Competition Barbell
X Training Elite Competition Barbell
X Training Elite Competition Barbell

The X Training Elite Competition Barbell has a 215,000 PSI tensile strength, and features medium, dual knurl marks. This bar is made with alloy steel and has a black chrome finish — plus, its oil-impregnated bronze bushings provide a great spin.

The Elite Competition Barbell is built to last a lifetime so long as you take care of it, and X Training backs up its bar with a lifetime warranty. The moderate knurling is great for higher reps and beginners, though advanced lifters may find it underwhelming. The only major downside is that it doesn’t come in a variety of colors — only black chrome. While it offers great corrosion resistance, black chrome isn’t as fun as some of the colors and patterns offered by other companies.

X Training Elite Competition Bar
X Training Elite Competition Bar at the BarBend garage gym

Who Should Buy the X Training Elite Competition Barbell

  • Athletes looking for a solid bar that is designed for daily training. This bar is an exceptional multi-purpose piece of equipment.
  • Lifters who want a bar with a lifetime warranty will appreciate that this comes with one.
  • Buyers who are on a budget will enjoy that this is priced well, especially considering the high quality.

Who Shouldn’t Buy the X Training Elite Competition Barbell

  • Anyone with more limited space to train in may want to look for space-saving options like dumbbells or kettlebells instead.
  • 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.

This bar is strong with a high PSI, able to last a lifetime, and priced well. The X Training Elite Competition Barbell is one that you’ll have from your days as a beginner to when you’re advanced, and it will still prove useful.

Read our full review of the X Training Elite Competition Barbell.

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 — these are our favorites. 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 thicker than solid metal plates, which can be an issue if you’re loading the bar with 400+ pounds.

Again Faster Evo Bumper Plates

These colored bumper plates come in 10-, 25-, 35-, and 45-pound pairs, all colored to international color standards, as well as IWF size standards, which can make switching weights mid-workout seamless. Again Faster uses high-quality virgin rubber, which allows for a near dead bounce, so you don’t have to worry about chasing these around when you drop them. Paired with the 304 stainless steel collars, durable is an understatement.

Again Faster Evolution Bumper Plates
Again Faster Evolution Bumper Plates
Again Faster Evolution Bumper Plates

The Evolution Bumper Plates from Again Faster are high-quality plates made from virgin rubber and stainless steel inserts. These affordable bumpers have a high dead bounce rating making them great for everything from Olympic lifts to rows and deadlifts.

The weight tolerance is a bit wider than some other, more expensive plates at +/- one percent where other plates may measure their tolerance in the gram. For the price though, the quality of these plates is practically unbeatable. In addition to the pairs you can also purchase sets of these ranging from 160 pounds to 1,000 pounds.

Again Faster Evo Plate Comparison
Jake tests the Again Faster Evo Bumper Plates

Who Should Buy Again Faster Evo Bumper Plates

  • Athletes who want a set of plates that can be dropped over and over without any problems.
  • Buyers looking for colored weights that follow international color and size standards, so they can easily see how much weight they’re loading. 
  • If you’re looking to stock up or outfit a gym for multiple lifters then one of the higher weight sets here might be a good idea. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Again Faster Evo Bumper Plates

  • Gymgoers who want plates with handles for easier loading and unloading may want to look at machined plates.
  • Lifters who want a bouncier plate with a lower durometer for easier bar cycling may want to check out other options. 
  • Anyone who wants a narrower weight tolerance for the most precision with their bar loading.

Again Faster made these bumper plates to be durable first and foremost with stainless steel inserts and virgin rubber. The EVO plates also match IWF standards for sizing and color, making bar loading a breeze. These plates are great for anyone from beginners to advanced athletes alike.

Read our full review of the Again Faster Evo Bumper Plates.

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.

Again Faster Crumb Bumper Plates

These Crumb Bumper Plates are made from recycled rubber with colored flecks mixed in that correspond to the plate’s weight. Crumb bumpers in general are the workhorse of many gyms thanks to their ability to take a beating, and these are no exception offering top-notch durability. Again Faster’s inside out approach boasts a co-molded steel insert for added longevity and high-density, medium bounce in the plates.

Again Faster Crumb Bumper Plates
Again Faster Crumb Bumper Plates
Again Faster Crumb Bumper Plates

Again / Faster Crumb Bumper Plates are made from 100 percent recycled vulcanized rubber and built to last. These tough bumpers are a great value thanks to their durability and engineering. 

You can purchase these plates individually or in sets, and they come in pairs of 10, 15, 25, 35, 45, and 55 pounds. The sets range from 160 pounds all the way up to 1,000 pounds for outfitting larger spaces. Despite being color-coded with IWF standard color flecks, these plates are smaller in width than competition size plates. That can be a plus, though, since you can fit more on the bar that way.

Who Should Buy Again Faster Crumb Bumper Plates

  • Athletes who are looking for bumper plates made from a softer rubber to cushion their drops and add a little bounce. 
  • Buyers looking for an environmentally conscious choice with their gym equipment will like this 100-percent vulcanized 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 — especially considering the high quality. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Again Faster Crumb Bumper Plates

  • Consumers who want competition standard plates will want to look at other, more high-end options.
  • Lifters who need weight plates, but don’t want too much bounce. These bounce more than some harder plates do. 
  • Anyone who wants plates they won’t have to air out first may want to look for other options. 

These bumpers are durable and will serve you well for years to come if you treat them right — and honestly, even if you don’t. Again Faster thought out every detail of these plates to engineer a long-lasting and cost-effective crumb bumper.

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 core sessions. We love this medicine ball from REP.

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.

REP Fitness V2 Medicine Balls
REP Fitness V2 Medicine Balls
REP Fitness V2 Medicine Balls

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. 

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.

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. 

Free Weight Benefits

Free weights are the preferred method of lifting for many individuals, and for good reason. They can potentially involve more muscles, improve your stabilizing muscles, and open up a new world of options compared to machines. That’s not to say machines aren’t also useful tools for working out, but they simply have a different intended purpose. Essentially, free weights and machines are two sides of the same coin — we call heads.

Practice for competition

As far as we can think of, there are no strength sports that involve machines in the contest — it’s all free weights. If you intend on competing someday in anything from powerlifting to CrossFit, or even the Highland Games (Heavy Athletics) then you’ll need to practice with free weights.

Better Stability and More Muscles Worked

Free weights must be stabilized in order to perform exercises properly. In the case of a back squat, that means your core — muscles like the abdominals, obliques, serratus, erector spinae, and others are involved. On machines, the stabilization is done for you by the machine, so you miss the opportunity to train these muscles and reap the stability rewards unless you train them directly on top of your other exercises. For movements like the shoulder press, the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder girdle like the rotator cuff muscles, as well as the abdominals and rear delts, which are trained indirectly. In short, you get more bang for your buck with free weight exercises.

Man performing seated shoulder dumbbell press
Image via Shutterstock / Ground Picture

Free weight exercises tend to skew toward compound exercises — movements that involve motion at more than one joint — which leads to working more muscles. Machines typically target only one muscle or muscle group at a time, and you can certainly do that with free weights, but the exercise selection for free weights offers notably more multi-joint exercises than machines do.

More Options

It’s important to keep things fresh in your workouts, not only to challenge yourself and your body in different ways but to stay mentally stimulated as well. Free weights aren’t bound to a set range of motion or way of moving like machines are. This opens up a ton more options for you to switch up your workouts and modify exercises any way you see fit. The possibilities are essentially only limited by your creativity.

How We Chose the Best 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 workout 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 the 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 20+ pounds, while some only make weight choices up to 12 pounds. People looking for a complete collection of weights may opt to buy each set, or at least every individual weight within a certain range. Weights that come in a variety of options, whether that be colors, sets, or poundage offered, are given priority to ensure that everyone has an option that suits them on our list.

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 surfaces.

Woman performs deadlift exercise
Image via Shutterstock / Kleber Cordeiro

Oftentimes 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 often 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. We kept storage and ease of use in mind when making our picks and options that are clumsy to move around or difficult to store won’t rank as highly on our list.


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 should expect to spend a pretty penny. Additionally, those looking for a complete set of weights might opt for an adjustable weight. These may cost more in 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 into most spending plans. Only pieces of equipment that are cost-effective or provide a high value made their way onto this list.

How Much Do Free Weights Cost?

Free weights are such a wide category that their price is nearly impossible to nail down. You can purchase a small pair of dumbbells for under $20, or you can splurge and buy an entire home gym setup with a power rack, weights, bar, and more for thousands of dollars. 

Best Free Weight Set REP Before the Barbell Package Starting at about $1,400 before add-ons, upgrades, and accessories
Best Dumbbells Living.Fit Hex Dumbbells Pairs from $29.99 through $414.99
Best Adjustable Dumbbells NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbell Starting at $595
Best Kettlebell Onnit Kettlebells Starting from $34.95 through $129.95
Best Barbell X Training Elite Competition Barbell $219.00
Best Bumper Plates Again Faster EVO Bumper Plates Pairs from $79 through $239 and sets from $419 through $2,249
Best Cheap Weight Plates Again Faster Crumb Bumper Plates Pairs from $59 to $249 and sets from $399 to $2,099
Best Medicine Ball REP Fitness V2 Medicine Balls Starting from $42.99

What’s important when purchasing free weights is that you keep your goals in mind when making your decision about what to buy. If you want to improve at the sport of weightlifting, then buying a bunch of medicine balls and dumbbells likely isn’t the most prudent first score. They have their place and can be useful, but you’ll want to pick up the important pieces first, like a solid weightlifting bar, squat rack, some weightlifting shoes if you don’t already have them, bumper plates, and a platform — then you can branch out.

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.

Your Budget

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 companies 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.

Your Goals

If you want hypertrophy, then a single pair of 20-pound 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 yourself.

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.


Still not sure which free weight is right for you? Here are some further 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 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 many other things in your home. 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.

Person readies themselves to lift a kettlebell with chalk
Image via Shutterstock / oleksboiko

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 figuring 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.


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 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.

Size Requirements

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 order through somewhere like Amazon Prime which enables you to avoid the pain of seeing that extra cost added on right before you check out.

Final Word

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 downsides, and yes you should still use machines, bodyweight exercises, isometrics, stretches, and more in your training. But when you consider affordability and effectiveness, free weights simply cannot be ignored. The other lifting modalities have their uses, but the “meat and potatoes” of your lifting should be free weights for the best potential results.

There are important questions as to which free weights you should prioritize. Should you pick up a barbell, some dumbbells, or a medicine ball first? Answering these questions will be based on personal preference and your training regimen, so make sure you spend some time, do some research, and purchase the equipment that is going to give you the biggest bang for your buck. The pieces of equipment that we highlighted on this list are great options to maximize your dollar for the value you’ll receive.


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.

How much do free weights cost?

Since there are so many options for free weights, their costs can range quite dramatically. You can potentially spend under $30 for a pair of light dumbbells or thousands on a full power rack and home gym package, or all-in-one trainer. Free weights cost as much or as little as you’re willing to spend with some options being more expensive than others.

What are the best free weights?

It may sound cliché, but the best free weights are the ones that you’ll use consistently. If you don’t like kettlebell workouts and prefer to use dumbbells or barbells instead, then buying a bunch of kettlebells isn’t right for you. Take into consideration what you enjoy doing, your budget, and your space available, and the best free weight options will likely reveal themselves naturally.

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.