Choosing dumbbells can be tricky… Mostly because at first glance they all look very similar. And because they do look so simmilar one may wonder – what’s the reason for the difference in price? In reality, there’s a lot of factors that contribute to that including shape, materials, thickness of layering and durability.
In this guide, I will take you through the most popular types of dumbbells one by one and get in depth about their features and functionality, so that you can make an informed choice when you decide to purchase your equipment.
The main 2 categories of dumbbells is fixed dumbbells and adjustable dumbbells. That divides dumbbells into the ones that come with a fixed weight and usually you’ll buy few pairs of them to get a variety of weights, and adjustable ones where you buy a set or a system that lets you adjust the weight in one pair of dumbbells. Both categories offer a variety of different dumbbell types which are explained below…
Hex dumbbells are the most common type among fixed weight dumbbells. They’re usually the cheapest fixed weight option which brings most people to them, especially if they don’t know the differences between hex dumbbells and more expensive types. Thanks to their hexagonal shape, they don’t roll away when you put them on the floor. This also makes them perfect for exercises that require stability such as dumbbell push-ups.
Hexagonal shape makes them easy to store, even without a rack – you can place them on one another. Hex dumbbells incorporate durable rubber coating that makes them quiet to use, protects your floor from damage and prevents rusting. Additionally, the knurled handle offers supreme grip, making sure the dumbbell doesn’t slip out of your hands. One disadvantage of the hex shape is that the edges wear off way faster than round dumbbells.
PROS – don’t roll away, easy to store on top of each other, most budget-friendly fixed weight option, can be used for exercises such as dumbbell push-ups, coated with durable rubber
CONS – edges of the hexagonal shape are prone to wear and tear
Pro dumbbells are similar in features to hex dumbbells – rubber coating and knurled handle – but with one major difference that affects their functionality. The shape of Pro dumbbells is round, which means… they roll. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a disadvantage as you can use them for exercises such as ab roll-outs. The round shape makes them less prone to wear and tear so they are a more durable option.
Pro dumbbells (like hex dumbbells) are made of cast iron and coated in thick, durable rubber that prevents floor damage, rusting and noise.
PROS – more resistant to wear and tear, can be used for rolling exercises such as abs roll-out, coated with durable rubber, more long-lasting compared to hex dumbbells
CONS – more expensive than hex dumbbells, may roll away when placed on the floor / stored
Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) is a versatile thermoplastic elastomer with high durability and flexibility. Unlike rubber, it has no smell, it’s highly resistant to scratches, oils and greases and its colour doesn’t fade away with time. TPU dumbbells are covered with a thick layer of TPU coating that makes them extremely robust and hard-wearing. Their functionality resembles that of Pro dumbbells – they can be used for rolling exercises such as ab roll-outs; however, their TPU coating makes them superior to any rubber coating. TPU dumbbells can be used both in home and commercial gym environments thanks to their full commercial warranty. Producing TPU is more expenisive compared to rubber, which affects their selling price too, making them a bit more expensive compared to hex and pro dumbbells. They’re also sold as a single dumbbell, so remember to buy 2 if you need a pair.
PROS – no smell, extremely durable and robust TPU coating, very resistant to wear and tear, can be used for rolling exercises such as abs roll-out, high scratch resistance, superior colour stability, resistant to oils and greases, commercial warranty
CONS – more expensive than hex and pro dumbbells, may roll away when placed on the floor / stored
Adjustable dumbbell sets consist of handle bars, a set of plates and collars. There’s a variety of those on the market so you can find both cast iron and rubber coated plates. Depending on the size and materials the prices vary, however they’re always cheaper than buying a set of fixed weight dumbbells which makes them a perfect budget-friendly option for beginners.
If you are a more experienced weightlifter, this may not be the choice for you. Unfortunately, the weight adjustment system isn’t very efficient and it takes a lot of precious exercising time to change the plates and adjust the weight. Usually, we don’t have few minutes in between each exercise to change the weight, which is why if you’re a more advanced fitness enthusiast you may want to consider a set of fixed weight dumbbells or selectabells instead.
PROS – budget friendly, adjustable weight, space-saving
CONS – takes a lot of time to change the plates and adjust the weight, less hard-wearing than fixed weight dumbbells
Selectabells were designed to provide an all-in-one dumbbell solution. The weight can be quickly and easily adjusted with a release/locking button, so you get the compact and space-saving option without the disadvantage of loosing workout time on changing the plates. Selectabells go up to 36kg per dumbbell offering a lot of space for progression and are an equivalent of 18 pairs of fixed weight dumbbells.
The process is quite simple – you unlock the button, select the desired weight and lock the button. The amount of weight plates needed for your chosen weight will be attached to the handlebar, leaving the remaining weight plates in the tray.
PROS – quick weight adjustment system, space saving, many dumbbells in one, comes with a storage tray (easy to store), all-in-one design
CONS – bulky design, pricey (although still way cheaper than buying the same set of fixed weight dumbbells)
As you can see each type of dumbbell comes with its pros and cons so it’s crucial to consider your own needs before making a decision. If you’re a beginner on a budget, an adjustable dumbbell set may be enough for you. Or, if you’re an advanced lifter that doesn’t have time to loose during workouts you may want to consider getting a selection of fixed weight dumbbells or adjustable selectabells.