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Types of Dumbbells

Dumbbells come in surprisingly many varieties. At first it can be overwhelming to decide which one to buy. We will cover the most popular dumbbell choices and explain their pros and cons. We will first start with a list of dumbbell types and then cover them one by one. The dumbbell types are as follows:

DumbbellSpinlock dumbbellsIronmasterPowerBlockBayou Fitness DumbbellBowFlex SelectTech 552 & 1090Universal Power-Pak 445
Weight RangeDepends on bar length5-165 lb5-175 lb5-25 lb & 10-505-52.5 lb & 10-90 lb4-45 lb
Dimensions (H, W, L)Depends on bar length and weight plates6.5" x 6.5" x 14.5/19/23.5"More compact than fixed dumbbells9" x 8" x 15.75"9" x 8" x 15.75",
18" x 18" x 27"
7" x 15" x 14"
Weight incrementsBuy as light or heavy weight plates as you wish2.5 lbDepends on model2.5 lb & 5 lb2.5/5 lb & 5 lb5 lb
Uneven loadingYesYesNoYesYesNo
Speed of changing weightsVery slowSlowMedium-FastFastQuickQuick
DurabilityUnbreakableUnbreakableVery durableDurableBreaks if dropped on floorDurable, handle made out of plastic
Price Range$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
Accurate Price75 lb set: $499
Add on Kit to 120 lb: $229
Add on Kit to 165 lb: $239
Many, depends on set and add on kit
E90: $590.91
25 lb set: $162
50 lb set: $286
52.5 lb set: $279.99
90 lb set: $664.94
$294.53
WarrantyLifetime First User WarrantyClassic: 10 years
Sport: 15 Years
Urethane: Lifetime home use warranty
1 year1 year
NotesCheapest but slowestHeavy, traditional & durableHeavySome users experience issues with knobWeight plates can fall on your toesSome users have reported cracks on plastic handle upon receiving
RecommendedYes#1 Recommendation#2 RecommendationYesNoYes

Fixed Dumbbells

Fixed Dumbbells

Reebok Fixed Dumbbells

Fixed dumbbells are by far the best dumbbells for working out. All you have to do is pick up the right weight pair of dumbbells and start exercising. You can do drop sets and move from one exercise to another quickly by just putting the dumbbell pair back and picking another pair.

However, they do come at a cost. Training with fixed dumbbells means you will need an awful lot of dumbbells, especially if you train with heavier weights. The lightest dumbbells are 0.25 kg, 0.5 kg and 1 kg, after which it increases incrementally one kilogram: 2 kg, 3 kg, 4 kg and so on. Let’s assume the smallest weight you use is 1 kg and you use up to 20 kg. That means you will need to buy 20 times 2, a total of 40 dumbbells! What if you need heavier dumbbells? Say up to 50 kg. You would need a whopping 100 dumbbells! That would be a total of 2,550 kg!

This means you will end up using a lot of space for your dumbbells and it will be very expensive since you have to buy several times more weight than you would need if you used adjustable dumbbells. It can also be a burden if you need to move and therefore have to carry your entire dumbbell collection too.

Who are fixed dumbbells for? They are often seen in gyms. Since there is often a lot of different sized dumbbells, they are placed in dumbbells racks with a nice order from lightest to heaviest. If you’re a gym owner, the training convenience and effectiveness will win over the other cons. Your customers will be happy picking up weights and ditching them as they change exercises.

What about the rest of us? If you need just a few weights or aren’t planning to move soon or often, fixed weights might be for you. But if you have restricted space, move frequently or are tight on budget, you might want to opt for adjustable dumbbells.

Hex Dumbbells

Hex Dumbbell

Hex Dumbbell

Hex dumbbells have chrome solid steel handles. The heads are iron cast with a painted finish and they have 6 sides instead of being round, making it possible to place on floor without fear of them sliding.

Rubber alternatives also exist, which are finished with rubber instead of paint. Rubber hex dumbbells are slightly more expensive but they won’t scratch your floor like regular hex dumbbells. Rubber hex dumbbells come with a rubber smell when bought which fades over time and they do not like heat. Heat can cause the rubber to expand and crack which is an issue if you train outside. However, if you only train inside, then this might not be an issue for you. But do be cautious for the smell before buying rubber hex dumbbells.

Adjustable Dumbbells

With adjustable dumbbells the weights can be changed based on needs. While fixed weight dumbbells are one solid piece, adjustable dumbbells have three main parts: a dumbbell bar, weight plates and a lock to hold plates still. The biggest advantage of adjustable dumbbells is that they don’t require a lot of space or weights, you can just adjust the weights as you wish.

Instead of having a big collection of fixed dumbbells, you can just have a few weight plates and mix them together to vary the weight. They save space and money, and should you decide to move, also your energy and time. But it does mean you can’t smoothly move from one exercise to another because you have to adjust weights between exercises.

Spinlock Dumbbells

Spinlock Dumbbell

Adjustable Spinlock Dumbbell

Spinlock dumbbells allow you to slide the weights into the bar like you would to a barbell. After the weight plates are in place, you spin the lock tightly to the weight plates locking them between the handle and the spinlock. The spinlock itself can take significant space from the bar meaning you can place one weight plate less per side than you otherwise would have room.The bars are very basic and easy to use but the spinlocks tend to get loose especially with heavier weights and you might find yourself tightening the locks between (or in the middle of) sets to make sure the weights stay in one place.Some users also find the grip

The bars are very basic and easy to use but the spinlocks tend to get loose especially with heavier weights and you might find yourself tightening the locks between (or in the middle of) sets to make sure the weights stay in one place.Some users also find the grip

Some users also find the grip inconvenient for skin on heavier weights and use gloves to counter it. The size of the bar also varies, with smallest allowing you to place only three 5 kg plates per side, meaning the weight of a single dumbbell can be a maximum of 32.5 kg (the bar weights 2.5 kg itself). Some bars have too small grip to use 10 kg weight plates.

Spinlock dumbbells are by far the cheapest adjustable dumbbells. They are also more durable than most other adjustable dumbbells since they are made of 100 % iron. But the cheapness and simplicity do come at a price: they take significantly longer to change weights than other adjustable dumbbells.

Bowflex Dumbbells

Bowflex SelectTech 1090 Dumbbells

Bowflex SelectTech 1090 Dumbbells

Bowflex SelectTech dumbbells are the best selling adjustable dumbbells on Amazon. Their popularity is largely due to them being the best trade-off between fast weight changing speed and maximum weights. Since the dumbbells carry all weight plates when not used, they will save a lot of space even compared to spinlock dumbbells.

They come in two choices, Bowflex SelectTech 552 and Bowflex SelectTech 1090 dumbbells depending if you want heavier or lighter dumbbells.

Ironmaster Dumbbells

Ironmaster 165 lb Adjustable Dumbbell

Ironmaster 165 lb Adjustable Dumbbell

Ironmaster dumbbells are the closest you can get to fixed dumbbells. They look and feel like fixed ones and you couldn’t tell the difference at a quick first glance.

Since they are made of 100 % iron and are similar to fixed dumbbells, they are very durable and heavy. While there are also other durable adjustable dumbbells, there’s no comparison to Ironmasters. Should you ever run into problems, they come with a lifetime first user warranty and the customer support is top notch.

If you are worried of outgrowing your dumbbells, these badasses can go up to 165 lb (a total of 330 lb for a pair). Ironmaster is so proud of this particular feature they dare you to go and work out with the heaviest 165 lb expansion kit.

All this does come at a cost though, and they manage to beat only spinlock dumbbells when it comes to speed of changing weights.

PowerBlock Dumbbells

PowerBlock Elite 90

PowerBlock Elite 90 dumbbells with the handle taken outside

PowerBlocks are a close second to Ironmaster dumbbells. While they do have parts not made out of iron or steel, they come reasonably close to Ironmaster in terms of durability. PowerBlock is so confident in their durability they offer a 10 year, 15 year or a lifetime home use warranty based on the model. Unlike Ironmaster dumbbells, you are advised to not to drop PowerBlocks though.

PowerBlock dumbbells have a large variety of weight ranges with the heaviest going up to 175 lb. This means a total of 350 lb for a pair.

The speed of changing weights is based on how accurately you want to fine tune it. If you are happy going with bigger weight increments, you will be pleased to hear weights can be changed in seconds (5 seconds per dumbbell). But if you want to fine adjust your weights more accurately, it will take closer to a minute.

These dumbbells are by far the most compact dumbbells out there beating even fixed dumbbells with their shortness.

Kettlebells

Kettlebells

Kettlebells

Kettlebells are weights shaped like a ball with a handle on top for grasping. They are significantly different from traditional dumbbells and they are used to perform swings and ballistic exercises. The weight in kettlebells is distributed unevenly making exercises harder to perform, requiring more strength and activating higher amount of muscles.

Conclusion

There are a lot of different dumbbells out there. You will want to carefully learn the differences of each and choose one based on your own individual needs.  This article is still not finished yet and I will add keep adding more and more adjustable dumbbells here. If you are unsure which one to go with, be sure to leave a comment below.

4 Comments

  1. Steve F.

    Hey Mathew, Great Site! I think you have great content here, a lot of helpful information for sure I didn’t know there were so many different types of dumbbells. Keep up the great work!

    Reply
    • Matthew

      Thanks, Steve! There are indeed a lot of different dumbbells to choose and it can be confusing to choose from at the beginning. I will be adding more different dumbbells as I create content. Let me know if you have any suggestions or wishes for new content/articles.

      Reply
  2. Lee Zhi Wei

    Hey Matthew.

    Great information for someone who works out like me. I have no personal preferences on which dumbbells to work on but I usually go for the Hex ones. I made the choice purely because the Fixed/Spinlock ones are too ugly for my liking. Also, I love the rubber grip on those Hex ones as they provide a comfortable feel on my palms. How often do you work out?

    Cheers!
    Zhi Wei

    Reply
    • Matthew

      Hello Lee,

      Glad to hear you like working out with dumbbells! There are a lot of different choices when it comes to dumbbells, something for everyone. I work out 3 times per week. I have found out that Mon, Wed, Fri is a good schedule for working out 3 times a week. It allows to have one rest day between workouts and leaves you a free weekend. Happy working out, Lee!

      Reply

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