With such an enormous variety of dumbbells on the market, how do you know which dumbbell is the best type for you? That’s exactly what this post will help you figure out.
Selectorized adjustable dumbbells are generally the best type for most people. They offer a good balance in cost, space-saving design, durability, and weight settings. The best ones are made from iron or steel and coated in a protective synthetic layer such as neoprene, rubber, urethane, or paint.
My opinion is based on 10 years of sampling different kinds of dumbbells in my home gym as well as in commercial gyms.
But just because I think selectorized dumbbells are the best, doesn’t mean they’re the only contender for the “best dumbbell type”.
Spinlock adjustable dumbbells and hex dumbbells CAN be suitable for certain types of users.
Keep reading to find out why!
You can also use the decision helper below to give you a better idea of which type of dumbbell is most suitable for your needs:
- The Different Types Of Dumbbell Material
- What Is The Best Type Of Material For A Dumbbell?
- The Different Types Of Dumbbell Variety
- Why The Adjustable Dumbbell Is Generally The Best Type
- Which Type Of Adjustable Dumbbell Is Best?
- Example Of The Best Type Of Adjustable Dumbbell
- When Hex And Round Dumbells Can Be Good
The Different Types Of Dumbbell Material
Dumbbells are usually made from metal and synthetic materials. Commonly used metals include iron, steel, chrome, and aluminum. Synthetics include neoprene, urethane, rubber, and vinyl plastic. Premium dumbbells often feature a combination of materials, whilst cheaper dumbbells feature only one type.
Below, you can find the main pros and cons for each type of dumbbell material:
|Cast Iron||Relatively cheap metal that is strong and resistant to corrosion.||Unsightly and bare metal damages flooring when dropped.|
|Steel||Cheapest metal for the manufacturer to produce and sell.||Exposed steel is susceptible to scratches, corrosion, and weathering.|
|Chrome-plating||Aesthetically attractive material that is also resistant to corrosion.||Chrome is inexpensive but the plating process is expensive and scratches.|
|Aluminum||A strong metal with high tensile strength and natural corrosion resistance.||One of the most expensive metals for a manufacturer to use and sell.|
|Neoprene||Resistant to scratches, abrasion, and mechanical stress.||An expensive synthetic material for the manufacturer to source and sell.|
|Urethane||Similar to neoprene but slightly more durable.||Similar to neoprene but emits a slight chemical odor.|
|Rubber||A cheap material that is scratch-resistant and absorbs shocks.||Emits a strong chemical smell and can mark the floor when dropped|
|Vinyl plastic||Extremely cheap for the manufacturer to produce and sell.||Susceptible to scratching, fracturing, and splitting over prolonged heavy use.|
Therefore you can see that a manufacturer has to carefully balance cost, durability, and looks when they choose the best type of material to use in a dumbbell.
That’s why the best dumbbell types are made from a combination of these materials.
This confers the dumbbell an array of benefits that are unique to each material.
What Is The Best Type Of Material For A Dumbbell?
Synthetic-coated metal is generally the best material for dumbbells. This commonly takes the form of an iron or steel core with an outer layer of protective urethane, neoprene, or rubber. The resulting dumbbell has high tensile strength but is also resistant to scratches, corrosion, and knocks.
Whilst synthetic-coated metal dumbbells are extremely durable and generally considered to be the best, they’re also costly due to the extended manufacturing process.
And not all customers are willing to pay the premium for the best dumbbell materials.
Consequently, other dumbbell materials are commonly used for the “next-best-thing” to cater to customers with smaller budgets:
- Bare cast iron and stainless steel. These types of dumbbells are cheap, offer some corrosion-resistant properties, and best for beginners to perform casual workouts. But they can damage your floor when dropped.
- Chrome-plated steel or iron. These types of dumbbells are affordable and resistant to corrosion. But the chrome can accumulate scratches and naked metal is likely to damage your floor when dropped. They are one of the best types of budget dumbbell for a beginner.
- Painted iron or steel. These types of dumbbell are cheap and the paint protects the underlying metal from rusting. But even the thickest coat of paint is susceptible to chipping over time.
- Vinyl plastic-coated cement or concrete. These are the cheapest types of dumbbell but they aren’t very durable and not the best option for serious lifters. The plastic can split and the cement can crumble. Nevertheless, they make for an affordable option for beginners.
These dumbbells are nowhere near as durable as the best types of synthetic-coated metal dumbbells, but they ARE more affordable.
So your choice should be influenced by how much money you’re willing to spend on a dumbbell!
Next, I’ll explain the best type of dumbbell variety.
You might also be interested in my other post for some of the best dumbbell recommendations for beginners.
The Different Types Of Dumbbell Variety
The two main types of dumbbells are fixed-weight and adjustable. Fixed-weight dumbbells are further sub-categorized as round or hex, depending on their shape. Adjustable dumbbells can be further sub-categorized as spinlock or selectorized, depending on the mechanism they use to adjust the weight.
Fixed-weight dumbbells are the ones you commonly see at the gym.
They consist of two weight heads (hex-shaped or round) welded onto a central dumbbell handle.
The weight heads are usually made from urethane/neoprene/rubber-coated steel or iron.
Some fixed dumbbells can also be left uncoated (i.e. bare-metal).
Each dumbbell has a pre-manufactured weight, meaning you need a complete set of individual dumbbells to incorporate all the weight increments required for your training.
Whilst they are strictly the “best” due to their unbeatable durability and maximum weight loads, it’s also extremely expensive to buy a complete set and they occupy a lot of space.
Adjustable dumbbells are the most popular variations you see online.
They are usually made from a combination of metals and synthetics and consist of a handle from which you combine different weight plate combinations to make your desired weight.
Spinlock dumbbells adjust weight by manually adding/removing plates and locking them with a threaded spinlock nut.
Selectorized dumbbells have a mechanism- usually a switch, dial, or pin- that allows you to quickly select a weight and leave the remaining weight plates on the floor.
Whilst they aren’t as durable as fixed dumbbells, they ARE more convenient, space-saving, and cost-effective.
Therefore realistically speaking, adjustable dumbbells are usually considered the best type of dumbbell for most people (especially beginners and intermediates).
You can check out my other post for a definitive list of the different types of dumbbells and the pros and cons of each kind!
Why The Adjustable Dumbbell Is Generally The Best Type
Here is a comparison table to give you a better idea of why the adjustable dumbbell is the best type for most people:
|Characteristic||Fixed Hex Dumbbell Set||Adjustable Dumbbell|
|Space requirement||> 15 square feet||4 square feet|
|Number of weight increments||20+||28|
Disclaimer: there’s a large variation in dumbbell specs depending on specific brands and models. The data above is just an overall representation of the average specs you would expect in each type of dumbbell.
You can see a good pair of 90lb adjustable dumbbells:
- Cost around 35% less than a set of fixed hex dumbbells (adjsutable dumbbells with less weight are even cheaper).
- Occupy 75% less space compared to a set of fixed hex dumbbells.
- Provide nearly as much weight as a set of fixed hex dumbbells.
- Give you just as many weight increments.
Put simply, the adjustable dumbbell is much cheaper but doesn’t skimp much on performance features either.
That’s why adjustable dumbbells are generally considered to be the best type of dumbbell for the average lifter.
They are perfect for beginners, intermediates, and people who do casual workouts at home.
Just be careful about the moving parts that are found in these types of dumbbells.
They can’t be dropped and need to be looked after!
If you’re interested, you can check out my other article to find out how much adjustable dumbbells should cost.
Which Type Of Adjustable Dumbbell Is Best?
Selectorized dumbbells are generally the best type of adjustable dumbbell. Selectorized dumbbells offer heavier weights, more weight increments, and are faster to adjust compared to spinlock dumbbells. However, the average selectorized dumbbell is also more expensive than a spinlock dumbbell.
Just like the comparison between fixed and adjustable dumbbells, the answer isn’t all black and white when it comes to comparing selectorized and spinlock dumbbells.
Whilst selectorized dumbbells are technically better on paper vs spinlocks, they also cost a lot more money.
For example, you can expect to pay $600+ for a 90lb selectorized dumbbell compared to $150 for a 50lb spinlock dumbbell. But obviously, you get a lot more weight with the former.
So the real question is which type of adjustable dumbbell suits your needs better?
Here’s what I recommend for different training goals:
- People looking to significant amounts of muscle- get a good 90lb selectorized dumbbell. This will give you enough weight to pack on lean mass without breaking the bank.
- People looking to burn fat and tone- get a good 30-50lb selectorized dumbbell. Spinlock dumbbells are also good for this application if you don’t mind the cumbersome weight adjustment mechanism.
For more information on what weight you need, you can visit my other post for a guide on how to choose the right dumbbell kg for beginners.
Example Of The Best Type Of Adjustable Dumbbell
I use and recommend the Powerblock Elite selectorized adjustable dumbbell.
The weight plates consist of powder-coated steel rails that adjust weight using a pin-selector mechanism, so there are minimal moving parts.
Whilst powder-coating is not as chip-resistant as urethane, it does the job well enough.
The rest of the dumbbell is made from a combination of hard composites and synthetics.
It feels sturdy and I’ve been using it regularly for over 2 years now. It’s not scratched, chipped, or corroded.
The base model weighs 50lbs, but you also have the option to retro-fit addon kits that take it up to 90lbs per dumbbell whenever you are strong enough.
Having owned both, I prefer the Powerblocks over the Bowflex dumbbells.
The Powerblocks have a comfier handle, feel more durable, offer a much heavier weight capacity, and generally provide a lot of function at a relatively affordable price.
For those who don’t need as much weight and simply want a budget option for casual workouts, then the Yes4Alls are one of the best iron spinlock adjustable dumbbells available.
They are a top-seller with plenty of positive reviews.
These are some of the best spinlock-type dumbbells you can currently buy.
And they don’t cost a bomb either!
You can find the best Yes4All price here.
When Hex And Round Dumbells Can Be Good
If you’ve read this post, you’ll be aware that the main reason I don’t recommend hex/round fixed dumbbells as “the best type of dumbbell” is due to their sheer inconvenience.
You need a complete set of individual dumbbells to make them worthwhile.
This is expensive and takes up a lot of space.
But that’s not to say they are bad dumbbells.
Quite the opposite.
They are usually high-quality dumbbells and this is why commercial gyms use them.
But they’re simply just too unrealistic for most people to own.
Here are the exceptions:
- Current or aspiring powerlifters and bodybuilders.
- Home gym enthusiasts.
- Advanced weight lifters.
If you belong to any of the above, then you’re likely looking for the heaviest and best quality dumbbells you can find.
And if that sounds like you, then fixed-weight dumbbells will be the best type of dumbbell for you.
For more details on dumbbell weight classes, you can go to my other post to find out which dumbbells are considered to be heavy.
Are rubber or steel dumbbells best?
Steel dumbbells are generally better than rubber dumbbells. Steel has higher tensile strength and a heavier weight capacity compared to rubber alone. However, some of the best types of dumbbells feature a steel or iron core that is coated in a protective outer rubber layer.
Are neoprene or metal weights better?
Metal weights are generally better than pure neoprene weights. It is uncommon to find a free weight made entirely from neoprene. This is due to the relatively weak structural properties of neoprene, making it more suitable to be used as a protective outer layer instead.
Are vinyl or neoprene dumbbells better?
Neoprene-coated dumbbells are generally better than vinyl-coated dumbbells. Neoprene is a much more durable material that is resistant to shock, scratches, and splitting. Plastic vinyl, on the other hand, can form cracks when used heavily for long periods of time.
Are metal weights better than plastic?
Metal performs better than plastic for free weights. Compared to plastic, metal free weights have greater tensile strength, are more rigid, and are less likely to crack. Conversely, plastic weights are susceptible to shock damage when dropped at a high enough distance.
I’ve explained what I think is the best type of dumbbell.
Whilst fixed hex/round dumbbells are technically the best dumbbell type, they are simply too inconvenient for the average person to own.
In my opinion, the selectorized adjustable type of dumbbell is best due to the sheer convenience and value-for-money they provide for the average lifter.
They work great for building muscle, burning fat, and getting toned at home.
If you’re on a tight budget or simply looking for a basic weight for casual workouts, then iron spinlock dumbbells make a great alternative.
What kind of dumbbell do you think is best?
Let me know in the comments!
You may also be interested in the downloadable Kalibre Blueprint PDF which details exactly how I gained 40lbs of lean muscle (it’s 100% free!). It details the exact exercises and nutrition I used to go from skinny to ripped!
Thanks for reading guys!
(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)