GENERAL About Dumbbell Quality / Durability

Dumbbell Quality

Typically a gym dumbbell will be constructed using two weights, (dumbbell heads) attached to a handle.  The heads may be coated and the mechanism of attaching them varies.  The heads may be a single piece or in the case of rubber or plate dumbbells, several pieces.  Durability of any given dumbbell will depend on a variety of factors.  These will include design, materials, assembly mechanism and quality.  It is worth considering dumbbell usage when selecting a type or style for your gym.  For example, for a personal training studio where users are always supervised, (or a home gym where the user has a good regard for the equipment) a less robust dumbbell will probably we suitable.  In an uncontrolled environment where discipline may not be so good you should invest in higher grade product.  Most, (but not all) modern dumbbells are made from composite/various materials each with different attributes/benefits.  Below we outline the pros and cons.

Bear in mind, NO DUMBBELL IS INDESTRUCTABLE, if you allow users to drop or throw dumbbells this WILL adversely effect their life.

Governing influences for durability are: Head Core Material, Head Outer material, Bonding between materials, Handle Material/Design, Securing mechanism between Head and Handle.

Head Core material.  For commercial dumbbell sets typically dumbbell head core material will be made from cast iron or steel.  The Head construction will generally be either a single piece of metal, plates of metal made up to a given weight or a composite of cast/mild steel.  The mild steel head is a superior product but is more expensive.  Generally speaking a steel Dumbbell head will not fail in itself even is subjected to extreme abuse.  A cast head can crack, or break under impact load and this is more likely in plate dumbbells rather than solid head dumbbell.  Another advantage of the mild steel head is it lends itself to welding, (see securing mechanism below).  One other option is stainless steel if the Dumbbell head is not to have an outer coating, (although this will have a negative impact on the surroundings as the dumbbell itself will be hard to the touch)


Head Outer Material.  A wide selection of outer materials can be used for the dumbbell heads.  It main purpose is aesthetics, identification of the dumbbell weight, to protect the gym environment and to prevent the head from rusting, (although this will not be necessary for Stainless Steel Dumbbells).  Materials include Foam, Vinyl, Neoprene, Rubber, Urethane, Paint or Chrome.  Paint and Chrome have a tendency to flake off with impact/usage and although suitable for some gyms they are not for everyone, (painted steel is popular with hard core body building gyms).  For studio dumbbells neoprene and vinyl is a good option.  Although the material is soft the dumbbells tend to be lightweight and not exert a large force on the outer shell.  These materials are pleasant to feel and can easily be colour coded.  For studio dumbbells the outer head material is often applied to the handle too.  Rubber and Urethane coated dumbbells are becoming the most popular choice for most weight training gyms.  Of the two, urethane is the superior product, (and is far more expensive).  The urethane, (or polyurethane,PU) is very tough, pleasing to the eye and is applied in a mould by reacting 2 chemicals together.  Rubber coated dumbbells are an excellent intermediate dumbbell but not as durable as Urethane product.  The quality of the raw rubber will affect the coating performance and virgin rubber will have superior characteristics to recycled rubber.


Dumbbell QualityOuter Material Bonding.  For hard core gyms steel/cast painted dumbbells are popular, particular in plate format.  Often painted black, the paint will chip/knock off.  However, these can easily be touched up or resprayed if required.  A Chrome finish on a solid head is more durable as the Chrome is applied in an electroplating process.  However, chrome can chip and peel and this style of dumbbell is becoming less popular.  For studio use the Vinyl and neoprene coated dumbbells are practical and as long as the dumbbells are not being dropped or impacted against sharp objects they will have a good service life.  Generally for studio use this will be the case as the DB will be in use in the class or in storage.  For rubber coated dumbbells the bonding between the substrate and the rubber is not good.  Therefor they rely on the rubber to completely encapsulation of the plate to hold the rubber in place.  If the rubber remains intact then the rubber will serve its purpose well.  However, should the rubber be impacted repeatedly on a sharp surface and a cut form the rubber can eventually peel?  By the same manner, if the core material has sharp edges the outer layer may be cut from the inside if dropped.   Care should be taken not to allow the rubber dumbbells to come into contact with sharp/pointed surfaces.  Because the urethane if far tougher/stronger than rubber it does not cut anywhere near as easily and is unlikely to suffer this mode of failure.


Dumbbell Handles. Dumbbell handles are typically made of Chrome plated mild steel.  These will be knurled to give grip and may either be straight or arced, (ergo grip).  Some handles are made from tube but good quality commercial grade handles tend to be Solid and can be made of higher grade steel.  It is possible for handles to bend on heavier dumbbells if dropped from a height but this is unusual and only really found in cheaper hollow handles.  The handle may have additional collars fitted to make it more robust and these will typically be welded and painted.  Handles are generally 28mm - 32mm in diameter although these can be supplied right up top 2” (Olympic size) if required. 


Head Attachment Mechanism. Probably the single most important factor affecting the durability of a gym dumbbell is the mechanism of attaching the dumbbell head to the handle.  Typical methods are screw, nut, adhesive, compression, welding or a combination of these.  Some dumbbells are built such to allow the heads to rotate during using which is considered a desirable attribute by some users.  Some dumbbells even have bearings to allow for smooth rotation.  Screw / Nut assembled dumbbells have the benefit that they can be transported unassembled and built on site.  They do however have a tendency to work loose and require regular tightening.  Compression fit dumbbells are not considered a good choice for commercial usage as should the heads loosen specialist tools are required to refit them.  Externally welded dumbbells are popular with hard core gyms and although the heads will rotate after usage they can be rewelded at any time.  Internally attached dumbbells tend to be the most popular for rubber or urethane coated dumbbells.  A combination of internal nut, adhesive or welding give good service life.