Dumbbells are free weights and one of the most common pieces of fitness equipment you’ll find in gyms, studios and homes across the world. The reason for this? Well, there are many, but simply put they are very easy to use, extremely effective and highly versatile.
What are the benefits of dumbbells?
As with any weight-based product, their primary function is to help you build and tone muscle by training against the resistance they provide.
The ability to burn calories while you exercise will combine with the heightened metabolism you will have as a result of their muscle-building qualities, making dumbbells ideal to aid with weight loss.
Strength and endurance training
Lifting weights will help you develop the strength of your muscles, providing you use enough weight. Likewise, selecting a resistance that’s challenging but doesn’t push you to your limits in just a few reps will help improve endurance. Dumbbells are an ideal option to help you do both of those things.
Posture is best improved by strengthening your core muscles and those that stabilise the joints. Using dumbbells is a great way to go about this, as you can still use a solid amount of weight but won’t have a limited range of motion or find one side of your body over-assisting the other, both of which can be issues with barbells.
With dumbbells being such a simple piece of equipment to use and having so many potential exercises, it’s easy for even beginners to pick them up and try out, without any real training required.
The ability to perform numerous exercises with just your dumbbells optimises your workout, by allowing you to eliminate the time you’d usually spend changing between pieces of different equipment.
Types of dumbbell
Fixed weight dumbbells come as a single unit, made from a solid piece of material, where the weight can’t be changed. These are best suited for people who only plan to use one or two different weights of dumbbells. Classic examples would be Rubber Hex dumbbells and Neoprene dumbbells.
Adjustable or interchangeable dumbbells are the ones where you can alter their weight quickly and easily, depending on your own ability or the exercise you’re doing. They’re ideal for those who need a great range of dumbbells but don’t have the space to keep a full rack of the fixed weight variety. These types of dumbbells typically come in either a traditional type where you add or remove weight plates (Standard or Olympic) according to your needs, or the space and time saving type that allows you to make fast changes to the weight you're lifting such as PowerBlock adjustable dumbbell sets
Dumbbell bars are simply the handles that go between the weights on a dumbbell. They’re ideal for anyone who already has a good selection of weight plates at home, as they take up barely any room. There are two sizes for dumbbell bars, Standard and Olympic. Standard bars will fit weight plates with a 1" hole in the middle whereas Olympic bars will fit Olympic weight plates with a 2" diameter hole in the middle.
Hexagonal rubber dumbbells are made from high-density rubber, sometimes with a metal core, featuring a hexagonal shape at the ends and often with an exposed metal bar as their handle. These are ideal for people concerned about weights damaging the floor or rolling around when not in use.
Vinyl and neoprene
Vinyl and neoprene dumbbells come in both fixed weight and adjustable varieties. They feature a coating surrounding a weight that can be made of metal to concrete. A cheaper option, they are best suited to people on a budget, or anyone worried about damaging the floor.
Not so much a type of dumbbell as an accessory to go with them, a storage rack is an ideal addition for anyone who has a range of fixed weight dumbbells and wants to keep them tidy.
Things to consider
Ensure you have enough weight to provide an effective workout, but also consider if there is a weight capacity where you plan on using and storing them.
Fixed or adjustable
Do you need a great range of weight, do you have a lot of space to store multiple dumbbells, how long do you want to spend between sets/exercises? Answer all of these and it will help you decide if fixed or adjustable dumbbells are the better choice for you. If you decide to opt for adjustable dumbbells make sure that you get weight plates that will fit. 1" plates are for standard bars and 2" plates are for Olympic bars.
Take things such as the floor you are using them on, the space you have available and the noise that they make into account before selecting your preferred material.
While most will be fine with the traditional round variety, if you are worried about them rolling around between sets or when not in use, perhaps go for an option like hexagonal instead.
Your workout goals determine your style of training and, in turn, make different styles of dumbbell more or less suitable. For example, anyone doing heavy pyramids will likely want adjustable dumbbells, while those doing circuits will be better off with a range of the fixed weight variety.
If you have particularly big or small hands, ensure the handle is of a suitable size for you to be able to hold. Remember Olympic handles will be twice the thickness of Standard handles.
Knurling is the pattern that helps you grip the handle. If you use gloves or are worried about calluses then perhaps go for an un-knurled bar, but for everyone else, it is probably a good idea to go for one that features it.
Before you purchase a product, ensure it is the most optimal choice available when taking the space you have to use and store it into account. Consider if options such as adjustable dumbbells might be a better choice.
Make sure checking the price is the first thing you do, as this saves you wasting your time analysing a product, only to discover it wasn’t in your budget, to begin with.
Dumbbells require little to no maintenance. Ensure they’re stored in a strong, stable, dry location and, particularly with cast iron versions, ensure to clean off any sweat after use to avoid rusting. On adjustable versions, you should also loosen the collars off after each session, to reduce the likelihood of them seizing.