What Are Dumbbells Made Of?
One of the most popular pieces of weightlifting equipment, the dumbbell is relatively small, handheld, and with two weights attached at either end of a handle.
Although it’s a relatively simple piece of equipment, the dumbbell’s importance can’t be overstated. Not only can the dumbbell be used in many different exercises, but it’s also often the first piece of equipment used by beginner weightlifters.
Whether you’re just venturing into weightlifting or are gearing up for your 12th season of bulking and cutting, it’s important to fully understand the basics of dumbbells. If you are wondering what dumbbells are made of, how they can be used, or are simply asking the question of “what weight dumbbells should I use?”, we have your answers. With this knowledge in your back pocket, you’ll be able to have a safe, productive workout each time you hit the gym.
How Are Dumbbells Made?
Since the Greeks first designed them nearly 2,000 years ago, dumbbells have been constructed from many materials—from wood to church bells.1
Clearly, that wasn’t a sustainable engineering choice. So what are dumbbells made out of now? In the modern era, dumbbells have predominantly been made from:
- Rubber – Wondering what is the difference between rubber vs cast iron dumbbells? Popular for their safety, rubber coated dumbbells are simply cast iron or steel dumbbells that have been encased in a flexible rubber coating.
Regardless of the rubber type, a rubber hex dumbbell is perfect for beginning lifters, thanks to its safety and grip. The latter is especially important for lifters looking to incorporate lighter dumbbells into their yoga or studio workouts. The rubber used in this type of dumbbell can either be:2
- Natural – Cultivated from the saps of various trees, a natural rubber coating is more environmentally friendly than synthetic rubber. However, natural rubber often costs more to produce than synthetic rubber.
- Synthetic – Made from a variety of chemicals and artificial polymers, synthetic rubber coated dumbbells tend to cost less than natural rubber. It’s more resistant to temperature and aging than natural rubber.
- Cast iron – Considered the most traditional type of dumbbell, a cast iron dumbbell is made by pouring molten cast iron into a cavity mold.
As a result of the cast iron base, the cast iron dumbbell tends to be incredibly durable but can also cause significant damage to floors (and severe bodily injury to lifters) if not used properly. While not the shiniest type of dumbbell, cast iron is noted for its weighted feeling.
- Steel – Similar to cast iron dumbbells, steel dumbbells are made by pouring molten steel or sometimes stainless steel into a mold cavity. Durable and rust-resistant, steel dumbbells are the most aesthetically pleasing.
- Vinyl – Vinyl dumbbells, with their flexible exterior and often rounded edges, are perfect for beginner weightlifters who want an inexpensive set to start them on their journey. They’re usually made of concrete or sand, then encased in a plastic outer coating.
Most often, a set’s weight range is from one to 15 pounds, unlike cast iron and steel dumbbells which can rack up serious weights for more intense lifters.
- Neoprene – Much like rubber dumbbells, neoprene dumbbells are softer and less likely to injure the lifter or damage the floor. The weights are usually made of cast iron then covered with neoprene, a specific type of synthetic rubber. Another entry-level option for weightlifters, neoprene coated dumbbells boast high safety ratings.
Consider Your Physical Fitness Level
One of the most important factors to consider when gauging your correct dumbbell weight is your current level of physical fitness. This is especially important in lifting safely as well as lifting to achieve your full potential.
If you never or hardly ever step foot into a gym, you’re most likely a beginner when it comes to lifting. That said, it’s still important to test your aerobic conditioning and muscular endurance before picking up any weight.
To gauge your fitness level, test the following:
- Strength and endurance – One of the most effective and simple ways of gauging strength and endurance is to do as many pushups as you can before tiring out. Although many factors, including age and gender, should be considered when analyzing results, in general, men in their 30s who can do 44 or more pushups are considered in “great” shape.
Conversely, men in the same age group who can only do 12 or less are considered in “poor” shape. This classification should be used only to determine your weight lifting limits, not your fitness progress or physical worth.
- Aerobics and cardio – To test your aerobics and cardio, see how far you can run in 12 minutes. A woman in her 40s who can run between 1 and 1.5 miles in 12 minutes is considered in “above average” shape, while a man in his 40s is expected to be able to run between 1.3 and 1.55 miles to earn the same classification.
- BMI – While BMI is certainly not an accurate predictor of health or physical capabilities, it can provide a very rough suggestion of where you may fall on the spectrum of body mass.
These measurements provide an approximate starting point for beginners, but the safest approach is still to start your lifting journey slowly and carefully. You can always reach for a heavier weight next time, but it’s hard to bounce back from a severe injury your first time out.
What Are Dumbbells Used For?
Extremely adaptable and portable pieces of gym equipment, dumbbells have been used in a wide variety of exercises. However, how you use your weights may depend in part on the shape of your dumbbell, as there are certain limitations, as well as advantages and disadvantages associated with each:
- Hexagonal (Hex) – Named for its six-sided weights, the hex dumbbell doesn’t roll away when placed on the floor between sets. Its convenient shape also allows for the dumbbells to stack and save space. More than that, it’s the perfect dumbbell shape for exercises like a push up or plank row, as it provides a sturdy base to complete these kinds of floor exercises safely.
- 12-sided – Similar to the hex in terms of shape, the 12-sided dumbbell is both convenient and comfortable. This is because the weight’s sides are more gradually etched, allowing weightlifters to rest their gym equipment comfortably on their thighs or on the ground between sets.
- Round – Naturally, a round dumbbell has rounded weights at each end of the handle. This shape provides maximum comfort but also leaves you at risk of run-away dumbbells when you place them on the floor haphazardly after an intense lift. Unless you’re extremely confident in your core strength and stability, round dumbbells aren’t a safe choice for plank exercises.
Across the board, regardless of the shape of your weight, some of the most common dumbbell exercises include:
- Bicep curls – One of the most recognizable lifts, bicep curls involve holding the dumbbell firmly in your hand and bending your elbow to lift the dumbbell to your shoulder. This works the bicep muscle and, to a lesser extent, the tricep.
- Chest press – A cousin to the barbell bench press, the dumbbell chest press involves lying on a bench on your back and lowering the dumbbells to your chest before pushing them back up toward the ceiling.
- Shoulder flys – To perform this exercise, stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand at your side. Slowly raise your arms out to the side until they are parallel to the floor. Your body should look like the letter T. Lower your arms slowly and repeat.
While these are three of the most popular dumbbell exercises, there are many more that incorporate this important piece of equipment. Perfect for beginners, compact home gyms, and on-the-go exercise enthusiasts, dumbbell exercises can fit easily into your workout routine.
Finish Your Set With Tru Grit
Whether you’re looking for rubber or cast iron, hexagonal or 12-sided, the perfect dumbbell can take workouts to the next level.
Fortunately, when it comes to weight lifting, Tru Grit has you covered. From Hex Neoprene Dumbbells to Hex Dumbbell Sets for beginners and powerlifters alike, Tru Grit has the equipment to meet your lifting needs.
For those who refuse to quit, there’s Tru Grit.
FITDAY. An Introduction to Dumbbells. https://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/fitness/equipment/an-introduction-to-dumbbells.html
GMT. Natural vs Synthetic Rubber. https://www.gmtrubber.com/natural-vs-synthetic-rubber/