Published on Dec 29, 2019

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These types of dumbbells are the most common for home and commercial gyms. This guide will help you navigate among the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Hex dumbbells are made with chromed solid steel handles and welded-on cast iron heads with a painted finish. They’re typically found in home gyms and in some smaller fitness establishments.

Rubber hex dumbbells are the same as the above, with steel handles and iron heads, but with a rubber coating instead of paint. So while they are really just rubber coated, we call them rubber dumbbells for simplicity.

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Pro style dumbbells are found in most commercial gyms. They’re made using solid steel handles and standard “pancake” style weight plates. They differ from standard adjustable dumbbells in that the handle ends are a precise length to fit an exact number of plates, it’s bolted together so as to be semi-permanent, and they usually have end caps to further smoothen out the edges.

All types above can have contoured handles rather than straight. Contoured handles are thicker in the center than the edges, making for a wider and more ergonomic grip.

Cost

The relative difference in cost varies widely depending on weight, because pro style dumbbells start at a higher price but the price doesn’t increase as much as the weight increases. Hex and rubber hex dumbbells are generally just priced per pound, although the smallest and largest sizes might be price-adjusted for minimum retail margins or to factor in skewed shipping costs.

Protecting The Floor

Rubber dumbbells are softer and won’t scratch your floor. The winner here is rubber pro-style because of the smooth edges of the heads. Even rubber can be kind of hard, and the comparably sharper edges of rubber hex dumbbells can conceivably stab into a sensitive floor if you aren’t careful. But that may be reaching because the edges are really not very sharp. Painted iron is the biggest threat to a sensitive floor, so hex dumbbells with their sharper edges and rougher surface score last.

Durability

Even the high-quality baked-on finish on modern iron hex dumbbells will eventually chip when the dumbbells are banged around a lot. Rubber dumbbells are made to be banged around. However, rubber exposed to the hot sun will expand as it heats, and repeated exposure can cause the rubber to start cracking from all the expansion and contraction, so if you’re in a hot climate, it would be best to keep them out of the sun. Assuming you can manage that, rubber comes out ahead.

Best Use Of Space

The smallest hex dumbbells take up minimal space, while the largest ones have a larger diameter than pro-style dumbbells and will consume more rack space. The size of pro style dumbbells reaches a maximum diameter (the size of a 10lb plate) and it just keeps adding more plates onto the end. So for larger sizes the pro are actually the most space-conscious.

The rubber coating of rubber hex dumbbells is thick enough that rubber hex dumbbells take up the most space on a rack at larger sizes.

Don’T Roll Away!

The worst thing that can happen is your dumbbells roll away, causing a passer by to trip and smash their head open on a machine. But it’s also annoying when you’re trying to set up for an exercise with heavy dumbbells and they keep rolling away on your uneven garage gym floor. Garage gyms are always sloped towards the entrance. And you want dumbbells to stay in place on the rack so they don’t get mixed up.

Maintenance Cost

For higher weights, the maintenance on damaged hex dumbbells is considerably higher. If you aren’t the only one using the equipment, you can bet that people are going to drop weights. Clumsiness, injury, no respect for equipment, whatever, it’s going to happen with enough use. When a dumbbell hits the floor at an angle, too much stress can be put on the end of the handle, and it can bend. A hex dumbbell instantly becomes trash, and you have to buy a new one, and heavy ones aren’t cheap to ship, either.

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