Should You Buy Dumbbells In a Set or Separate?

Should you get a complete set of dumbbells or just get the pairs you need?

Getting a set of dumbbells with a good range will serve most people best. Even if you don’t need all the weights immediately, making progress means you’ll use them at some point so buying one set makes sense. Buying separate dumbbells if you need heavier weights than in the set is a good option.

Let’s get into the pros and cons of sets and separate dumbbells below and what you should choose.

Set or Separate Dumbbells?

Both buying a full set and separate dumbbells have their own pros and cons. So let’s take a look at those to see what is better for you.

Looking for sets of dumbbells with a rack? Click here to find an article outlining your best options.

Complete Dumbbell Set Pros and Cons


  • Get all the dumbbells you need in one buy
  • A fitting rack is usually included
  • All your dumbbells look the same
  • Warranty is much easier to keep track of
  • Easier to sell if you would want to get rid of them


  • It’s expensive to buy a complete set in one go
  • You might have to buy some pairs you don’t use
  • The range of weights might not suit your needs

Separate Dumbbell Pairs Pros and Cons


  • You only buy the dumbbells you need
  • Takes up less space
  • You can just buy one set at a time which means less money


  • You might not find the same type of dumbbell to extend your set which makes your set look messy.
  • There is no included rack. You’ll have to find your own which might not fit perfectly
  • Keeping track of warranties is difficult with many different pairs

What’s Better For You?

A set of dumbbells usually comes with a range of weights and a rack to fit them in. Separate dumbbells are just that. You buy separate pairs (sometimes they’re even sold as singles). You get a single pair of dumbbells of a single weight. No other dumbbells and no rack.

That means getting a set of dumbbells is much easier and you just have to order a single item. The rack that comes with it will fit all the dumbbells well and you have a neat looking setup.

If you buy separate pairs, you can order only the pairs you need. You’ll have to find a rack that fits your dumbbells or leave them on the floor. This means your gym won’t look as tidy as it could but you could save a bit of money.

Of course you could always order the missing pairs later on but it can always happen that the manufacturer changed the design a little or that style is not available anymore and you have to get a different looking one. That’s not a big issue but it doesn’t look as good.

If you’re shopping for separate dumbbells there are more choices. There are just fewer sets available than separate dumbbells. On the other hand, dumbbells are dumbbells, there aren’t that many differences between the different models.

Most people will use the range of 5-50 lbs. of dumbbells. That means that getting a set like that will likely see a lot of use. there might be a few dumbbells in the range you don’t use immediately but when you train, you get stronger. And then having all the dumbbells with 5 lbs. increments is very useful to slowly progress.

Stronger people will need more than 50 lbs. In that case, it makes sense to buy a 5-50 lbs. set and then separate pairs of dumbbells that are heavier.

Many people find complete sets of dumbbells too expensive. If that’s the case for you, take a look at adjustable dumbbells to save a good chunk of money. You can find the best options in this article.

If you’re wondering if you should get adjustable or fixed dumbbells, click here to learn more.

Image of a dumbbell rack

Which Weight Ranges Of Dumbbells Do You Need?

What plays a big role in deciding if you need a set or separate is the range of weights you’ll need for your workouts. Everyone starts from a different strength level, has different strength goals and does different exercises.

All that means is that different people need different ranges of weights of dumbbells. If the range you need only spans 2-3 weights, buying separate pairs makes a lot of sense. No need to buy heavy dumbbells you’re never going to use.

However, usually people progress and then start using a heavier weight for the same exercises. Now suddenly those 3 different weights turned into 6 different ones and a set starts making a lot more sense.

If you don’t have the intention of even needing 50 lbs. dumbbells, there are sets available that go up to lower weights so buying a complete set can still make sense.

Even if you’re quite strong and use higher weights, you still need the lower weights. When you’re isolating the smaller muscles in your shoulders for example, you probably can’t use 20 lbs. dumbbells. So if you use heavier dumbbells for other exercises, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to get the lower weights.

What Does That Mean In Real Numbers?

If you’re used to working out in a commercial gym, you already know what kind of dumbbell weights you’re going to need. If you’re planning to get stronger in the future, a little higher weight range than you need now is good. Although you could always get a few extra heavy pairs later on so you can save money now.

Now if you’re new to working out and/or working out with dumbbells, it can be a lot more difficult to judge what you need. But there are some guidelines.

There are five things to keep in mind;

  • What’s your training level?
  • What are your strength goals?
  • What’s your workout style?
  • Men and women have different upper body strength levels.
  • Do you have a barbell with weights in your gym or are dumbbells the only weights.

If you’re already trained and just want to transition to a home gym, you likely know exactly what the heaviest dumbbell you need is. If you’re just starting out, it can be difficult to judge.

A good website to check out is On that site you can select different exercises and see how much other people are lifting at the same age and weight. That can give you a good idea of what kind of weights you should buy.

In a home gym where you also have a barbell and weights, you’ll do most of the heavy lifts with those. That means you don’t need the really heavy dumbbells. Up to 50 lbs. is likely enough for accessory exercises for the majority of people. Up to 70 is nice to have if/when you want to get a lot stronger.

If you don’t have a barbell with weights in your setup and you want to build a decent amount of muscle as a man, having dumbbells that go up to 70 lbs. is advisable. For most women 50 lbs. will be enough to do the same.

Everything above assumes you are going to lift weights to build muscle. That means in some sort of body or strength building program. If you have a different workout style that’s more focused towards endurance or just slight muscle toning, a set that goes up to 25 lbs. is likely enough.

For aerobics and similar styles the heaviest dumbbell only has to weigh 10 or 12 pounds.


Hey, I'm Matt. Welcome to After working out in many different gyms for almost 20 years and helping people build their own home gyms, i've learned a few things i'd like to share with you.

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