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Dumbbells can offer many benefits but you may want other options. What are some alternatives to dumbbells with similar benefits?
A dumbbell is a type of fitness equipment that is basically a handle with a weight on each side. You can use this piece of exercise equipment to modify regular exercises like lunges or to do specific dumbbell exercises.
Among other benefits, you can use dumbbells to strengthen muscles at home or in the gym, you have mobility that other free weights don’t allow, dumbbells are a compact piece of fitness equipment, etc.
Whether you don’t enjoy using dumbbells, you want a cheaper alternative, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these dumbbell alternatives can help you train similar areas of your health.
Keep in mind that implementing these alternatives can offer benefits but like while using any exercise equipment, there is always some risk of injury. Make sure you use these equipment options in a safe way and if needed, get guidance from an expert.
1. Household objects
Dumbbells are a great fitness equipment option but you may have some alternative objects at home that can be used in similar ways.
The first example that most people have available is a backpack. You can fill this backpack up with other objects like books, canned goods, and basically anything else you can find. A downside is that it is harder to keep track of progress since you generally don’t know how much resistance you are using.
The next example is a milk jug or bag of foods like for example potatoes. You can use them but you do have to keep in mind that they are generally not very comfortable and it may be hard to add a lot of weight.
Lastly, there are things like a towel, rope,… basically rope-like objects that don’t stretch out. With these, you can do dumbbell exercises in an isometric, more static, way. Isometric exercises are generally less effective than the isotonic exercises you can do with dumbbells.
A kettlebell is a metal ball with a handle on top, usually made of cast iron or cast steel. This is an alternative to dumbbells that you can use in a very similar way.
In certain cases like specific ab exercises and kettlebell exercises, this option can be even more effective than regular dumbbells.
On the other hand, for certain exercises like the Zottman curl where your twists your wrists, kettlebells are not ideal. These types of exercises are more the exception than the rule.
Besides that, other benefits of kettlebells include that they also last a very long time without much reduction in value. Even after using them many times, kettlebells will have a very similar sturdiness and strength.
A potential disadvantage is that similar to dumbbells, kettlebells often require a slightly bigger investment. That being said, they are still relatively low in price compared to for example an exercise bike.
3. Resistance bands
Resistance bands are an inexpensive type of fitness equipment that are basically elastic cords. They can be used for a variety of exercises, even more than dumbbells.
This is because you can loop resistance bands around your legs and because you are not limited to using the usual direction of gravity for resistance.
Some of the other benefits of resistance bands are that they are relatively inexpensive, easy to store, and very portable.
One downside is that resistance bands are not the type of gym equipment you can use for the rest of your life. At least every few years you will need to replace the last set with new resistance bands.
Certain exercises will also benefit from anchoring your resistance bands somewhere. Sometimes you can attach them to objects that are already around the house. Even so, it is likely safer to get an inexpensive resistance band anchor to avoid any problems.
4. Wrist weights
Wrist weights are simply straps with extra weight that can be attached to your wrists. They can be used in a similar way as dumbbells. Since you can often strap wrist weights on your ankles they also allow more unique uses in certain leg and ab exercises.
Besides that, wrist weights also have the benefits of being a lower investment alternative than dumbbells, being more portable, and taking up less storage space.
One downside of wrist weights is that they are not as long-lasting as dumbbells. Not quite to the extent of resistance bands but wrist weights do show wear and tear over time.
Wrist weights also generally do not go up to very high weights. If you are more experienced with resistance training, wrist weights may not be enough resistance to build a lot of muscle mass.
A barbell is a long steel bar you can put weight plates on. They are not the perfect alternative to dumbbells since you don’t have the same mobility as one-handed free weights. This makes it so good exercises for certain body parts like your posterior deltoids are not really an option.
However, for certain types of leg exercises like squats, barbells can be even more useful than dumbbells. This is because the barbell allows you to load the weight on your shoulders instead of your hands. For most people, this allows heavier lifts.
Similar to dumbbells, a barbell and weight plates often last a very long time without really losing their value.
In turn, a barbell set does require a relatively high initial investment. Especially if you get an accompanying barbell rack which will certainly be helpful.
There are workout sandbags that can be used as a fitness equipment alternative to dumbbells. Similar to dumbbells sandbags can be used to make a wide variety of exercises harder.
The weight distribution and feel of sandbags are very different from a regular dumbbell. This can be both an advantage or disadvantage depending on your personal preference.
Where sandbags do offer benefits over regular dumbbells is that they can both be put on your shoulders and used as a single-handed free weight. This can be especially helpful for leg exercises where you need a lot of weight to make the exercise a challenge. Workout sandbags also often require a lower investment.
A downside is that sandbags do not offer the exact same mobility and compactness as dumbbells. For certain body parts like biceps and triceps, this can hinder optimal training. While sandbags should last a long time, this is not quite at the same level as dumbbells.
7. Pull-up bar
Pull-ups are a typical resistance training exercise. To do this exercise you need a pull-up bar which is basically a sturdy horizontal bar.
By now it is clear that dumbbells are an extremely versatile piece of fitness equipment. Another area where they stand out is training your bicep and back muscles at home.
If you want an alternative to dumbbells for training these body parts, a pull-up bar can be a good choice. Even if you currently don’t have a pull-up bar or gym subscription, doorway pull-up bars are relatively inexpensive.
A benefit of pull-up bars is that there are relatively inexpensive options available. Especially compared to a good set of dumbbells
A downside of a pull-up bar is that it is just not as versatile as dumbbells. This piece of equipment will not be able to train as many body parts as dumbbells. It is also a lot harder to adjust the “weights” you use (your body weight).
8. Dumbbell water bottles
There are water bottles designed to resemble the shape of a dumbbell. These offer some of the same mobility as regular dumbbells which allows you to do similar exercises. This alternative is also many times cheaper than the real thing.
The downsides of dumbbell water bottles are relatively straightforward. First of all, you will definitely not reach the same weight so individuals somewhat experienced with resistance training may not see a lot of results with this option. You will also definitely not be able to use this alternative as long as regular dumbbells.
If you are somewhat serious about building muscle, this option will not be sufficient. That being said, it can be a fun option to combine reaching your daily water intake goals with some extra movement throughout the day.