Whether your mission is to tone or muscle-build, you can’t beat a home gym setup. That said, a quality dumbbell set is a good investment.
Sure, you may have a set of 10-pound weights by your TV stand, but a soft neoprene set or barbell-style lifters may provide different weight options and offer more variety in your workout.
“There are thousands of moves to do with dumbbells,” Anna Kaiser, founder of her own studio, told The Post. “With anything you do in life, you can use a dumbbell to increase the difficulty of it. If you’re doing a squat or even just walking, you can use a weight.”
The NYC-based trainer, who has more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, also had an athleisure line at Target, co-hosted ABC’s “My Diet is Better Than Yours” and is certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and Functional Anatomy for Movement & Injuries at Mount Sinai.
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Kaiser isn’t just any personal trainer, though. She’s a celebrity coach to Shakira, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kelly Ripa, Sofia Vergara and Alicia Keys, among other Hollywood-starred clients.
From the dumbbell and core-strengthening moves to prep Shakira for her iconic Super Bowl performance four months in advance to a bicep curl and shoulder press workout to prep Sarah Jessica Parker for the Sex and the City reboot (more on these in sample celebrity workouts below), Kaiser varies her moves by the client. And, she believes dumbbells are one of the most versatile equipment options out there, even for beginners.
“You can start with any weight, which is great — they start at one pound and go all the way up from there, so anyone at any level can use a dumbbell,” she said. “You’re able to see yourself progress, which is a great reason to buy a dumbbell set because the goal is to get stronger.”
Whether you’re about to hop into one of Kaiser’s live-streamed classes or simply want to begin your own move and reps plan, we rounded up the best dumbbell sets to buy. And, be sure to check out our FAQ below for tips on how much to weigh, when to change your weight and the Shakira workout you need to try ASAP.
Best Dumbbell Sets
“Any dumbbell you can get your hands on — go, go immediately,” Kaiser said. “When COVID-19 hit, it was very hard to find dumbbells because of all the at-home workouts, but a three-pound weight is a three-pound weight. It doesn’t matter where you’re buying them from; it’s a personal preference.”
That said, Kaiser outlined some things to consider when shopping for dumbbells:
- Your space: “Dumbbells don’t have to be fancy unless you want to splurge and have a fun piece to show off at home.”
- Color: Because some people want a pink set to match their pink and coral workout gear.
- Material: Some prefer holding onto a metal bar, while others prefer neoprene. “I prefer neoprene because it doesn’t create much callusing on your hands,” she said. “You can always get gloves if you prefer a metal bar and want to avoid the equipment becoming slippery when you sweat; neoprene helps with that more.”
1. JFIT Dumbbell Hand Weight Set, $46, original price: $60
“I recommend buying a set of dumbbells — three, five and eight pounds — so you can begin with something easy and then work your way up,” Kaiser said.
This two-piece set from BalanceForm is great if you want to lift five pounds and prefer metal dumbbells instead of neoprene.
3. Papababe Dumbbell Set with A-Frame Rack, $290, original price: $400
Alas, we have the splurge. Perfect for sprucing up your home gym, the Papababe Dumbbell Set with A-Frame Rack is great for advanced fitness aficionados in need of some new equipment.
4. HolaHatha Dumbell Set with Rack, $70
These fun-colored dumbbells are another three-five-eight weighted option Kaiser recommends for at-home workouts.
Customizable to the weight of your choice, Portzon offers versatility to the dumbbell online shopping arena. Plus, the purple color is too workout chic to pass up.
If you just want a no-frills three-pounder, CAP has a hot pink dumbbell for less than $5. However, it’s likely best to add two to your cart for more variety in your workout.
7. East Mount Adjustable Dumbbell Set, $70, original price: $80
Designed with a modern eye, East Mount’s Adjustable Dumbbell Set is a sleek set of two with a cast iron core and soft rubber cover. Yes, it’s truly the best of both worlds.
How to use dumbbells, celebrity workouts & other FAQs
Celebrity fitness trainer Anna Kaiser shared sample workouts and answered all of our questions on incorporating dumbbells into your workout routine. It sounds simple, but there’s more to it.
What’s Shakira’s favorite arm workout?
“One of her favorite exercises is a core exercise — everyone loves her abs,” Kaiser said. “Right before the pandemic, we did a crazy program to get her ready for the Super Bowl performance. I’ve gone to Barcelona and Miami to get her ready for her new music coming out shortly, too.”
The workout explained
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders, holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.
- Lean to the right — knees slightly bent — and slide the dumbbell all the way down your leg trying to get past your knee with your right arm.
- Bend your left arm next to your armpit and then come back to a standing position.
- Repeat 15 reps on the same side.
“You’re going to slightly tuck your pelvis under and pull your abdominals in, navel to spine, so you’re scooping out the lower abs,” Kaiser adds.
What’s Kelly Ripa’s favorite arm workout?
“The most effective way to workout is not to isolate any part of your body; it’s to use your entire body functionally in space,” Kaiser said. “You can still engage every muscle even if you want to focus on one part of the body. And Kelly’s very strong, as we all know.”
The workout explained
- Come into a side plank — or a half-side plank, depending on your level — and take the elbow that’s not supporting you on the floor into your side. Your palm is going to attach itself to your belly.
- Keeping that elbow attached to your ribcage, you’re going to rotate that arm open, dropping your shoulder back, and then rotate it closed again.
“This exercise is very challenging but it’s focused on the upper body and shoulders,” Kaiser adds. “It’s a shoulder rotation exercise that’s going to get your whole body moving — if you can hold that plank position.
What’s Sarah Jessica Parker’s favorite arm workout?
“She’s been working a lot on her arms, so dumbbells are great for that — a combination of low weight, high rep and high weight, low rep,” Kaiser said. “One of the exercises I do with her is a ‘bicep curl shoulder press with a twist.’”
The workout explained
- Extend your arms straight, all the way down, and have your palms forward.
- Bring your palms up to your shoulders and then flip them over as you extend your arms to a shoulder press overhead, so your palms are facing forward.
- As you lower your elbows to your side, face your arms back, and then extend your hands all the way down.”
“I just love her — she’s so fun and focused, and if working out didn’t work out in her schedule (with multiple businesses and family) she would do my workouts on her own,” Kaiser adds.
How do I know when to use a dumbbell with a heavier weight?
“With any weight you choose, once you get up to 15 reps and the 16th is very challenging, that’s how you know it’s the right weight for you. When you do 15 reps with a dumbbell and you feel like you can do more — it’s not challenging enough — then up the weight.”
Dumbbells can range from as light as one pound to as heavy as about 40 pounds. “You want to do three sets with the weight you’re comfortable with, taking a one-minute break for cardio to get your heart rate moving, like jumping jacks or high-knees in between,” she said.
Should I use dumbbells in exercise if I have fibromyalgia or weak bones?
“People can have a lot of pain associated with fibromyalgia or may be nervous to work out because they don’t want to increase the pain,” Kaiser said. “But, the most important thing for fibromyalgia patients is to get yourself moving because it can actually help to alleviate the pain, diminish fatigue, and make your body stronger. For dumbbells, I recommend starting with a light weight – even a one-pound dumbbell — and thinking in baby steps.”
Aerobic exercise like walking, running, and swimming is all great to take pressure off your joints too, she adds.
How should I use dumbbells if I’m overweight or wanting to lose weight?
“Strength training is so important for people who have a lot of weight to lose, because it’s very hard to do aerobic movement when you have more weight on your body, since you have more pressure on your joints,” she said. “Dumbbell exercises are great because you can move quickly between exercises with them to help burn fat and additional calories, get your endorphins pumping, and increase your circulation to give you more energy.”
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