Best Dumbbells for Durability, Adjustability, Price and More

Be smart and choose the best dumbbell for your needs and training goals.

We receive free products and receive commissions through our links. See disclosures page.

They may not be the most flashy piece of equipment in the gym, but dumbbells have been a crucial part of strength training — in nearly every sporting arena you can think of — for almost as long as gyms have been around. They are the ultimate tool in versatility, and crucially, allow you to train unilateral movements highly effectively. Barbells have many benefits with regards to training, but dumbbells allow you to iron out imbalances, target specific muscles and muscle groups, and keep the body working together as a unit. 

It’s hard to know where to begin when searching for a new pair or set of dumbbells because there are so many choices on the market. Some options have changed little in over a century, but there are also some innovative new products that have only just appeared, from adjustable dumbbells, to the insanely hi-tech dumbbells. We’ve broken down our favorite dumbbells for all different goals and budgets, so if you’re on the hunt for a new set of dumbbells, this list is for you. 

Best Dumbbells

Best Dumbbells Overall

If you’ve worked out for any length of time, you’ve probably used a pair of rubber hex dumbbells. Well priced and very robust, they are the workhorses of countless gyms across the world. They may not be the prettiest piece of equipment you’ll see, but when you factor in value, a pair of classic rubber hex doubles are hard to beat.

Living.Fit Hex Dumbbells

Living.Fit’s hex dumbbells come in a weight range from 5lbs all the way up to 100lbs in 5lb increments, so they’ve definitely got the weight you’re looking for to pack on some solid muscle mass or tone up. The hex shape of these bells is nice to keep them stable and help prevent rolling around on the floor. The solid rubber caps that encase the cast iron are there to help protect your floor and increase the lifespan of these dumbbells — with proper care, they’ll last a long time. They may get beat up, but this design of this dumbbell can be structurally sound and usable for decades.

Living.Fit included a nicely textured handle with moderate knurling to help improve the confidence in your grip when you pick these bad boys up. The weight tolerance is a bit generous, coming in at +/- 3 percent of the stated weight. With dumbbells though, the accuracy isn’t quite as important as perhaps a barbell with plates when you’re dialing in openers for a powerlifting competition. The price point is competitive on these dumbbells, too, so you won’t be overspending. 

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

Who Should Buy the Living.Fit Hex Dumbbells

  • Athletes who need strong, durable dumbbells for their training. The rubber cap and steel handles mean these things are made to last.
  • Anyone who doesn’t want their dumbbells to roll away during a workout. The hex shape helps to prevent rolling.
  • Consumers who want a dumbbell that is less likely to damage their floor. The rubber cap helps to protect your floor, and reduce noise if dropped too.

Who Shouldn’t Buy the Living.Fit Hex Dumbbells

  • Buyers who don’t have space for multiple sets of dumbbells may want to look at our pick for adjustable dumbbells.
  • Trainees looking for a flashy set of dumbbells that come in different colors or patterns — these are plain, but get the job done.

You see this type of dumbbell everywhere for a reason. Durable and affordable, they will survive a lot of punishment in training, and do so without breaking the bank. They may not be flashy or stand out, but they’re thoughtfully designed and do their job consistently well. If you treat these right, they’ll return the favor.

Best Dumbbell Set

If you want a full set of dumbbells for your workouts, the REP Fitness Hex Dumbbell Sets are some of the best options we’ve discovered on the market today. With a few different packages, they’re ideal for home gym owners who have the space to house them.

REP Fitness Hex Dumbbell Sets

If you’re looking for a set of dumbbells, odds are you’re hunting for a classic set of rubber hexes with knurled handles. That’s exactly what you get with these REP Fitness dumbbell sets. It’s hard to find anything wrong with these dumbbells. They’re well made, and their knurling extends all the way to the rubber head, which means there’s ample space for grip. REP has managed to keep a decent stock of their dumbbells too. Keep in mind that a set of individual dumbbells (in the current market) is going to cost you more than a pair of adjustable dumbbells when comparing pound for pound. That said, these dumbbells are at as good of a price as we could find for their quality.

REP Fitness Rubber Hex Dumbbells
REP Fitness Rubber Hex Dumbbells
REP Fitness Rubber Hex Dumbbells

The REP Fitness Rubber Hex Dumbbells range in weight from 2.5 pounds to 125 pounds. You can buy them in pairs, and they have a knurled handle for grip, as well as a hexagon shape for stability on the floor. 

Who Should Buy the REP Fitness Hex Dumbbell Sets

  • Athletes who want a comprehensive set of dumbbells. REP has sets of 5-75lbs still available on their site.
  • If you’re dead set on a fixed dumbbells and ready to spend the money, these dumbbells come at a very fair price point.
  • People who want a dumbbell with a lot of grip on the handle. Because the knurling covers the entire handle, there’s more grippy area to work with.

Who Shouldn’t Buy the REP Fitness Hex Dumbbell Sets

  • Consumers with a tighter budget. If you’re tight on cash and want a set of dumbbells, you should opt for a set of adjustable dumbbells.
  • Lifters who prefer a center knurl and tapered handles (like you see on the Rogue Hexes). These have straight handles that are knurled end-to-end.
  • Buyers who have minimal space to store their equipment. Again, opt with the adjustable dumbbells.

For lifters that want the entire range of weights, this dumbbell set is ideal. They’re well made with no-frills. It’s hard to take issue with this dumbbell set from REP.

Best Dumbbells for the Money

Everyone has a dream equipment list, but it likely remains a dream as price and space constraints can bring you back to reality. If you want to workout, but know you can’t afford to mortgage your house to do so, Living.Fit Hex dumbbells are the best option for the money.

Living.Fit Hex Dumbbells

These dumbbells come with a knurled and etched steel handle, and a rubber cap on the heads, ensuring a good grip and even better durability. They’re available in weights ranging from 5lbs all the way up to 100lbs (in five pound increments) for you really strong people out there. The range of sizes and affordable price will allow you to get a great workout in at home, and maybe even pick up a few different sizes for the price of one pair of comparable bells.

While these dumbbells from Living.Fit are priced reasonably, they’re also very reliable and made from solid cast iron. If you’re on a budget, and want a pair of basic hex dumbbells to help you get the job done, you’ve found them. If you’re looking for something fancier or even adjustable, you may have to look in a higher budget category though. 

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

Who Should Buy Living.Fit Hex Dumbbells

  • Athletes who want great value for the money when it comes to dumbbells. These are high quality without breaking the bank.
  • Lifters who are looking for easy-to-clean and maintain equipment. These just require a wipe-down after use with some antibacterial spray, and you’re good.
  • Trainees who want durable, no-frills dumbbells. These aren’t winning any beauty pageants, but they get the job done at an affordable price.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Living.Fit Hex Dumbbells

  • Trainees who don’t have enough space for multiple sets of dumbbells may want to spend a little extra on adjustable dumbbells. 
  • Buyers looking for more aesthetically designed dumbbells may want to look at another pick on the list for some colorful options.

About as affordable as you can get, these rubber-coated hex dumbbells are a great option for anyone whose budget is limited. If you’re looking for dumbbells that’ll tear up your workouts without tearing up your wallet or floors, these are the way to go

Best Adjustable Dumbbells

Adjustable dumbbells are a trade-off in many ways — greater upfront expense and less durability, but far lower space requirements. Though long term, you will save money because you won’t need to buy a heavier set of dumbbells each time you progress. 

SMRTFT NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells

While many other brands of adjustable dumbbells use slide or quick-lock systems to switch between weights, the NÜOBELL uses a twisting handle system. With this system, you can simply twist the handle to the number you want, pick up the weight, and get to lifting. The weight range here is wider than many other sets of adjustable dumbbells as well, going all the way from five pounds up to 80 pounds. Aside from functionality, this piece of equipment looks both simple and sleek, making it a great addition to any home gym space. 

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. 

Who Should Buy The SMRTFT NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells

  • Anyone who wants to switch quickly and seamlessly between different weights. 
  • Home gym owners who want to consolidate their set-up and not own multiple pairs of dumbbells. 
  • Lifters who want a wide range of weight options.

Who Shouldn’t Buy The SMRTFT NÜOBELL Adjustable Dumbbells

  • Customers looking for a cost-effective pair of adjustable dumbbells — this pair has a hefty price tag. 
  • Folks who only use a couple pairs of light dumbbells and don’t need a wide weight range

For a modern, “smart” adjustable dumbbell with a wide weight range and twisting handlebar for fast adjustments, the NÜOBELL is one of the best options on the market. 

Best Loadable Dumbbells

If you love barbells, then odds are you may love these loadable dumbbells. Essentially a miniaturized barbell, they feature the same knurling, bar diameter and rotational capacity that you’d expect from your bar, but in dumbbell form. Rogue Fitness manufactures these dumbbells to the same specifications as the Ohio bars, so we think it’s safe that durability isn’t going to be an issue.

Rogue Loadable Dumbbells

Compatible with the standard plates you’ll encounter in any gym, you have the option of getting a smaller 10lb dumbbell or a 15lb dumbbell with a longer 6.75in loadable sleeve. Rogue have really pulled out all the stops on these. The only issue we can find is that they aren’t cheap. If you have the cash on hand though, these are some beautiful dumbbells.

Rogue Loadable Dumbbells
Rogue Loadable Dumbbells
Rogue Loadable Dumbbells

The Rogue Loadable Dumbbells are for people who want to get serious about dumbbell training. Beautifully designed, these dumbbells have the same knurling and rotational function of a barbell, and the weight can be loaded and unloaded as needed. 

Who Should Buy the Rogue Loadable Dumbbells

  • Athletes who want a really durable, yet adjustable dumbbell system.
  • Lifters who want a dumbbell that can rotate as movements are performed.
  • Trainees searching for a great looking set of dumbbells.

Who Shouldn’t Buy the Rogue Loadable Dumbbells

  • Buyers with a tight budget.
  • Customers who don’t want to have to adjust their dumbbells.
  • Trainees who don’t need such a large range of weights.

The ultimate in adjustable dumbbells are not cheap, but they look awesome and perform just as well. If you have deep pockets and are training often, we highly recommend these loadable dumbbells from Rogue. 

Best Premium Dumbbells

Urethane coatings have better abrasion, sunlight and impact resistance than rubber coatings. The downside is they are more expensive. Here though, we’re going to assume cost isn’t an issue. Rogue makes an excellent set of round urethane dumbbells that are our pick for the best premium dumbbells. 

Rogue Urethane Dumbbells

Urethane aside, every component of these dumbbells is high quality. With solid steel heads welded smartly to a chrome handle with precision knurling, you can rest assured that they are going to stand the dual tests of time and training. The lack of odor you can sometimes catch from rubber coated dumbbells should please those with a sensitive nose too.

Rogue Urethane Dumbbells
Rogue Urethane Dumbbells
Rogue Urethane Dumbbells

It doesn't get much more high quality than the Rogue urethane coated dumbbells. From the welded steel to precision knurling, these dumbbells are a premium option for those who want the best dumbbells in their gym. 

Who Should Buy the Rogue Urethane Dumbbells

  • Lifters who want top of the range dumbbells that have great longevity.
  • Consumers looking for dumbbells that require very little maintenance.
  • Athletes who want dumbbells with strong but not too aggressive knurling.

Who Shouldn’t Buy the Rogue Urethane Dumbbells

  • Consumers with a limited budget. 
  • Lifters who don’t like dumbbells that could roll away or onto their toes during rest periods.
  • Buyers who would prefer to purchase adjustable dumbbells.

With a classic design, ultra low maintenance requirements and great durability, these dumbbells are more pricey, but they certainly justify it.

Best Block Dumbbells

Powerblock pioneered the adjustable dumbbell in the early 90s, and though there are many more challengers in the market now than before, their block dumbbells still sell well for good reason. These dumbbells have the option of going from 5 to 100lbs and are very well built. 

PowerBlock Series EXP

Other small details like the fact that dumbbell weights are marked in both lb and kg help mark these out as truly designed for lifters by lifters. They are relatively expensive, but work out cheap in the long run, especially if you get a heavier set. The main issue we find is that they are pretty large and can occasionally get caught on clothing or interfere with certain movements.

PowerBlock Series EXP Dumbbbells
PowerBlock Series EXP Dumbbbells
PowerBlock Series EXP Dumbbbells

One of the pioneers in the adjustable dumbbell space, the PowerBlock dumbbells are solid and reliable if you're tight on space and need lots of weight in a dumbbell. The EXP has options up to 90lbs per hand. 

Who Should Buy the PowerBlock Series EXP

  • Lifters who don’t want multiple sets of dumbbells.
  • Trainees who want a durable adjustable dumbbell at a solid price.
  • Anyone who wants a set of adjustable dumbbells that get very heavy.

Who Shouldn’t Buy the PowerBlock Series EXP

  • Trainees who want a smaller set of adjustable dumbbells that won’t get caught as easily on clothing while lifting.
  • Lifters who want a more aesthetically designed set of dumbbells.
  • Buyers with a tighter budget.

PowerBlocks’ marketplace longevity is well warranted. These are solid adjustable dumbbells that can help expand your training repertoire.

Best Rubber Dumbbells

As a material, rubber comes with a host of benefits. It’s cheap, pretty durable, and good at absorbing shock, which means it’s a great choice for those who are going to be a bit more aggressive in their training. If you want to minimize damage to your floors and to the dumbbells themselves, rubber-coated dumbbells are a solid option.

Living.Fit Hex Dumbbells

Ranging in weight from 5lbs all the way up to 100lbs (with 5lb increments), Living.Fit has a wide range when it comes to their dumbbell selection. The durable rubber caps means that unless you’re mistreating them pretty badly, they’ll bounce back from each workout. Just like you lay down rubber mats to protect your gym floors, Living.Fit wrapped each head of the cast iron dumbbell in rubber to absorb some impact when dropped and help prevent damage to your floor. Not only does this protect your floor, it may also improve the longevity of the dumbbells too by helping to prevent the cast iron from being exposed to rust.

The knurling on the ergonomically designed handle allows for an easy and secure grip each time you pick these dumbbells up. The reliability of the Living.Fit hex dumbbells is top-tier, as well, as this design is found in gyms all over the world. Cleaning them is easy, and requires just a simple wipe-down — no moving parts to worry about here. If you’re looking for something colorful, or don’t have room to build out your home gym with multiple pairs of dumbbells though, you may be better off with a different pick on this list. 

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

Who Should Buy Living.Fit Hex Dumbbells

  • Athletes who need hard-wearing dumbbells — these will stand the test of time thanks to the solid cast iron and rubber coating.
  • Lifters who are looking for equipment that’s easy to maintain, and won’t damage your floors. Thanks again, rubber coating.
  • Shoppers on the hunt for the best price point. These dumbbells are priced competitively without sacrificing quality.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Living.Fit Hex Dumbbells

  • Trainees who don’t have enough space for multiple sets of dumbbells. Opt for adjustable or loadable dumbbells, which you can find elsewhere on this list.
  • Anyone looking specifically for adjustable dumbbells will not want to buy a bunch of fixed dumbbells like these.
  • Buyers looking for a higher end product with top-end materials, and a more custom or colorful design.

Easy to store and a great value, the rubber hex dumbbells from Living.Fit are an ideal option if you’re looking to do more dynamic moves that may involve dropping the weights. If you’re on the hunt for rubber dumbbells, these are an easy choice to protect your floor — and your wallet.

Best Hex Dumbbells 

Hex dumbbells have gained in popularity compared to round dumbbells in previous years as they are generally easier to store and are more affordable. They also don’t roll (very far) when dropped. The hex dumbbells made by Rogue are our top pick for this category. You’ll struggle to find better dumbbells as the quality and design is excellent.

Rogue Rubber Hex Dumbbells

Featuring a chrome plated handle with knurling for added grip, these hex dumbbells are rubber coated to minimize noise and damage to the floor if dropped. They have a classic hex look and you can order up to a 125lb set, so you should be covered for your training progressions and heavy lifting days

Best Dumbbells
Rubber Hex Dumbbells
Rubber Hex Dumbbells
Rubber Hex Dumbbells

These classic dumbbells are perfect for throwing around the gym with their rubber coating to protect your floor and hex design to keep them from rolling. these dumbbells are available up to 125 pounds for serious strength athletes. 

Who Should Buy the Rogue Rubber Hex Dumbbells

  • Trainees who want simple equipment that is less likely to break.
  • Buyers with enough space to store their dumbbells.
  • Lifters who want dumbbells that won’t roll away during rest periods.

Who Shouldn’t Buy the Rogue Rubber Hex Dumbbells

  • Athletes that want urethane covering for extra durability.
  • Consumers who want a more aesthetically designed set of dumbbells.
  • Buyers who would prefer a set of round dumbbells for lifting.

Aside from space requirements, hex dumbbells are hard to beat. These are well priced and have a proven track record in gyms all across the world.

Best Dumbbell Rack 

Storing any form of strength equipment can be tough due to the enormous strain it can put on shelving. However, if you’re going to purchase a set of dumbbells, you’ll want to store them properly. It’s going to increase the longevity of your weights, make them easier to keep clean, and allow you to stay organized rather than searching around to find the right weight. 

Rogue Universal Storage System

Built with 11 gauge laser cut steel, you need not worry about this shelf crumbling under pressure. The heavy duty wheels make it easy to move about, and it’s got enough surface area to store sixteen 70lb kettlebells on each shelf. Finally, Rogue’s universal rack system means you can bolt on other accessories, like a barbell holder if you want.

Rogue Universal Storage System
Rogue Universal Storage System
Rogue Universal Storage System

Whether you need a clean space to store a set of dumbbells or have miscellaneous gym equipment you need to organize, this storage system from Rogue can handle it with 11 gauge steel and heavy duty wheels. 

Who Should Buy the Rogue Universal Storage System

  • Lifters who want to clean up their training area.
  • Consumers who need a durable storage system for their weights.
  • Buyers who want to purchase multiple training implements for their home gym. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy the Rogue Universal Storage System

  • People with adjustable dumbbells that don’t need a rack.
  • Trainees who aren’t so concerned about organizing equipment.
  • Buyers who would rather spend the money on more workout rather than storage equipment.

When standard shelving just won’t do, get yourself a heavy duty storage solution like this one from Rogue that can deal with really heavy weights.

Best Dumbbells on Amazon

When you’re shopping for gym equipment, especially heavy pieces like dumbbells, the weights and shipping costs can get pretty high. Amazon is a great option that allows you to take advantage of their shipping network to help reduce the cost of shipping in many cases. Sifting through reviews and pages of equipment can be tedious and you never know what to believe. We’ve done the hard work there for you — let us present our top pick for best dumbbells on Amazon.

Living.Fit Hex Dumbbells

If you like to try getting everything from one place and shop on Amazon often, then these are the dumbbells for you. You may even save some extra money on shipping with Prime, allowing you to spend some more elsewhere — new squat shoes anyone? With weights ranging from 5lbs all the way to 100lbs, you won’t be short on weights to choose from — especially since the increments are in five pounds, instead of 10. 

The Living.Fit hex dumbbells are made from solid cast iron with steel knurled handles to give an ergonomic and confident feel in the hands. Their rubber caps help to protect both the dumbbell and your floor from damage and work as a shock absorber. The weight tolerance is a bit large at three percent of the stated weight, but for the price, that’s not a dealbreaker for us. We love the hexagon shape that helps prevent rolling — your toes will thank you. One thing to note is that the weight list is out of order, so be sure you’re choosing the right weight you want when adding to your cart.

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

Who Should Buy Living.Fit Hex Dumbbells

  • Athletes who need a pair of dumbbells that can stand the test of hard workouts repeatedly will appreciate the durability here. 
  • Lifters who want their equipment quickly. Amazon usually ships the same day and gets you things faster than most other places.
  • Customers looking for a good value. These dumbbells are competitively priced and shipping from Amazon is generally cheaper than elsewhere, if not free with Prime.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Living.Fit Hex Dumbbells

  • Anyone without Prime shipping might end up paying the same or more for shipping than they would ordering elsewhere.
  • Someone who is looking for single dumbbells. These are sold in pairs.
  • Lifters who want a more customizable or aesthetic set of dumbbells may want to opt for another option.

Living.Fit made getting their hex dumbbells quick and easy with shipping from Amazon. These dumbbells are durable and made to last with rubber caps to protect them and your floor. The knurled, steel grips are a nice addition to put the value over the top.

What to Consider Before Buying Dumbbells

Dumbbells are something you absolutely want in your training toolkit at some point. Here are the major factors you’ll want to think about before you buy a pair or a set. 

Adjustable or Fixed

The first major decision to make when buying dumbbells is whether to get adjustable or fixed weight dumbbells. If you plan on dropping your dumbbells regularly during training, go for fixed dumbbells for their durability. Adjustable dumbbells will have a higher price tag for a pair, but you’ll end up paying the same or more for an equivalent set of fixed dumbbells that can cover the same weight range. Does the versatility of the adjustable dumbbells make up for the fact they’ll need more care? Or would you prefer the simplicity of fixed sets?

Dumbbell Materials

Consider space as well. If you’re looking to build strength and progress in your training, then you’ll need to continue upping the weight. With fixed dumbbells, this can start to take up a lot of space — fast. But one pair of adjustable dumbbells can help you progress without taking up a lot of space. Our advice: assess your training goals and strength trajectory to make an informed decision.

Ease of Use

This really only applies to adjustable dumbbells, as fixed dumbbells are (we hope) foolproof. Changing the weights on adjustable dumbbells hasn’t historically been the easiest, quickest, or most reliable process. Thankfully, with the recent surge of interest in gyms and gym equipment — generally — a lot more thought has gone into these mechanisms. It’s true that you can still find wacky, difficult-to-use models out there, but you should be able to spot them from reviews and by asking around. We made sure to pick models we know to be solid for our list, but there are a ton of decent options out there, so research accordingly.

Durability

As we just noted, adjustable dumbbells won’t be as durable as fixed weights. Fixed weights have zero moving parts and are usually cast as one single, solid block. This doesn’t make them indestructible, but they can endure some serious punishment. You only need to watch CrossFit or strongman athletes dropping dumbbells at the end of the workout to see this in action. 

If you plan on doing any kind of intense training, fixed dumbbells may be your only choice due to their durability. On the other hand if you plan on doing mostly bodybuilding, powerlifting, or recreational lifting, your dumbbells are rarely going to be used in situations where you’re pushing to failure and dropping them immediately. They’re usually for accessory movements where you’ll be less likely to drop the dumbbells. 

Common Dumbbell Materials

There are a variety of materials you’re going to see used to construct dumbbells, so we’ve highlighted the most common ones and their pros and cons below.

cast iron dumbbells

Rubber 

This is generally the most common covering for dumbbells. Virgin rubber is cheap. Recycled rubber is even cheaper, but can smell odd. It is a decently durable material and will survive an average trainees’ workouts so long as they aren’t chucking the dumbbells on the floor every time they finish a set (and even then they might still be fine). Relatively soft, rubber will help cushion a dumbbell’s fall and can prevent some of the excess damage to your floor if you drop them regularly. 

Urethane 

This is the premium option for covering dumbbells. Hard wearing and great for customization, it is very resistant to damage. The obvious downside is the price. Urethane dumbbells are going to be significantly more expensive than their rubber counterparts, but if you’re on the hunt for a good-looking premium dumbbell, then urethane is probably what you’re looking for. 

Steel

Alongside iron, steel is a very common base material. It is more expensive than iron, but will not oxidize quite so easily, or almost at all depending on the type of steel used. It can, however, be more brittle due to the added carbon. This means that if you weaken the dumbbell over time, it may snap. We make this sound like a simple task, but trust us, you’ll have to put in quite a bit of time and effort to have this happen.

Cast Iron

Cheaper than steel, this will commonly be used in lower cost dumbbells, with a lot of the hex models being prime examples. It’s great so long as it remains covered by the rubber, urethane, or chrome plating. Once exposed it is easily oxidized and will rust, which isn’t the end of the world in the short run, but long term can result in structural weakness.

Plastic

Plastic is rarely used with fixed dumbbells, it is almost always used to manufacture the adjustment mechanisms for adjustable dumbbells. It is almost impossible to create a lightweight mechanism out of anything else, but the trade off is the fragility of the plastic. This is why you have to be careful not to drop or smash a pair of adjustable dumbbells. The weights themselves will survive, but the mechanisms can be easily damaged.

How Much Space Do You Have?

This is either a major pain point for, or a passing thought unless you accumulate an unusually large collection of weights. If you don’t have much space, then adjustable dumbbells are the obvious move. They save so much space when you consider the wide range of weight they can cover. On the other hand, they can be expensive if you opt for a high-quality pair. 

Spider Curl With Dumbbells

You will save money by purchasing pairs of dumbbells for weights that you use regularly, but fixed weight dumbbells will inevitably take up much more room if you end up buying a whole set. Those with a dedicated garage gym should have space to store them, but if you’re looking to discreetly plant some dumbbells in your bonus room behind the treadmill, be sure to consider what you need and how much space you have. 

Premium Dumbbell Features

There are some high end features that may be of interest if your budget isn’t a factor and you’re looking for the best of the best. Beware, this can get expensive fast.

Knurling

Several brands offer custom knurling on dumbbells. Knurling won’t be a big deal for most people as the weights they use aren’t heavy enough to be seriously impacted by this. If however, you’re going super heavyweight on dumbbell rows and need some aggressive knurling for a solid grip, know that there are options available.

Rotating Handles

If you look back at the Rogue Loadable Dumbbells, you’ll see an example of this feature. The theory is that, like a barbell, having bearings or bushings that allow rotation leads to better movement of the dumbbell, which can lead to more weight lifted. This is a really cool option, but it is probably the most expensive of all of these premium features and the benefits may only help a few in the top tier of strength sports. 

Handle Diameter

Another option that has recently garnered discussion is handle diameter. Theories abound that thicker grips lead to greater irradiation and thus muscle activation overall. If you find this to be true for you, larger diameter handles are more and more available to consumers. 

Other Customizations

The sky really is the limit here, especially with urethane dumbbells. You can have a custom logo or name added to your dumbbells. You can change colors or have different finishes. Companies have realized that there isn’t much of a downside to offering these options, so if you want it, they’ll almost certainly do it and charge you extra for the privilege.

Kettlebells vs Dumbbells

So onto the first of a few face offs. Kettlebells are a great conditioning tool and have their own hardcore following. They are a fantastic tool for people who like HIIT training and a wide variety of workouts to perform. If you’re a huge fan of kettlebells, there are ways to perform almost everything you can do with a dumbbell, but movements tend to be geared more towards using multiple muscle groups or the entire body, whereas dumbbells can more easily target individual muscles. Let’s just say it’s a lot easier (and comfortable) to do a bicep curl with a dumbbell than a kettlebell. 

Barbells vs Dumbbells

Both barbells and dumbbells can fulfill similar roles in training, but they both have strengths when compared to each other. Generally barbells are better for super-heavy weight training and 1 rep max days as it is difficult to hold or even afford dumbbells that heavy. On the other hand, dumbbells allow for more movement variations, better unilateral training, and higher rep sets with less weight. What you get is really going to depend on what you want to prioritize in your training.

Fatbells vs Dumbbells

Fatbells are a new entrant into the equipment market and should technically be classified as “center mass bells”, but the inventor’s name has stuck. The way these dumbbells work is by placing the bar within a centered, round weight. The weight is generally closer to your hands and evenly distributed, as opposed to flaring out far beyond your wrists like traditional dumbbells do.

Center mass bells are as good as dumbbells in basically every respect other than price. They’re generally pretty expensive and that’s probably the biggest deal breaker for most consumers. 

Final Word

We can’t recommend dumbbells highly enough. The versatility available from a single pair of dumbbells is unequalled by virtually any other piece of equipment (don’t worry, we love the barbell immensely). Ask yourself how wide a weight range do you need and how robust do the dumbbells need to be?

Adjustable dumbbells will bring that range, but can come at a cost. You may be paying for more weight than you need. In terms of durability, they can’t match fixed dumbbells. 

Fixed dumbbells are great if you want to do movements like the dumbbell snatch, as they are much more durable, but you lose some versatility if you don’t by a whole set, or you’ll need more space. Have a think about your training and choose accordingly. You won’t regret adding a quality pair (or set) of dumbbells to your training arsenal. 

FAQs

Are adjustable dumbbells better or fixed dumbbells better?

This all comes down to your goals. Adjustable dumbbells have great versatility, but are more fragile. Fixed dumbbells are durable but take up much more space with all the different pairs of weights. Think about your own training and choose accordingly.

What range of weights do people normally use with dumbbells?

We think that you can get an incredible workout in with dumbbells up to 50lbs. If you’re good at manipulating tempo, adding pauses and changing leverage of lifts, you can eke out some incredible workouts even when you’re very strong and only have access to dumbbells up to 50lbs.

Is unilateral training easier with dumbbells? What is it and why should I do it?

Unilateral training simply means training with one side. An example would be doing a single arm dumbbell row. This kind of movement is great for equalizing out strength, coordination and size differences between body parts, but there are plenty of other reasons to add this training in too.