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Different Types of Dumbbells – Which is Best for You?

Mar 07, 2018

All dumbbells are not created equal because there are so many different types of dumbbells.

Being one of the best and highly regarded tools in the gym, the dumbbell is a necessity.

Like the barbell, which comes in different weights, sizes, and styles — dumbbells are also varied.

You will find various construction methods, stylistic choices, and features for specific functions.

Different Types of Dumbbells - Dark Iron Fitness Wrist WrapsWhether it be dumbbells made for the gym, adjustable dumbbells for home or even DIY dumbbells — there is something for everyone.

The heavier you go with your dumbbells, the more likely you’ll want to pick up some Dark Iron Fitness wrist wraps.

Wrist wraps will keep your wrists tight so you can withstand holding heavy dumbbells for long periods.

Bigger weight, more reps, and more sets will lead to a lot more growth.

But, which dumbbells are best for you?

Let’s go over the different types available, where to find them, how to use them and why.


Purpose of Using Dumbbells

Better for Unilateral Movements

Different Types of Dumbbells - Unilateral Dumbbell CurlOne of the main reasons we cherish the use of dumbbells is their unilateral movement.

Unlike using a barbell, dumbbells work your left side and ride side separately.

You can still perform the movement for each side at the same time, but they aren’t used bilaterally.

For example, you can focus all of your strength on doing one-armed preacher curls instead of two-armed with an EZ curl bar.

There are many benefits to performing unilateral movements, especially if you’ve only trained with barbells in the past.

Fighting muscle imbalances, correcting form, and boosting weak areas are just a few of these benefits.

We tend to gravitate towards bilateral movements because they feel balanced and safe, but that often limits us.

Related: Dumbbells vs Barbell: Battle Royale


Focusing on Stabilization

Different Types of Dumbbells - Dumbbell LungesSince dumbbells are done unilaterally, they rely heavily on stabilization.

The use of stabilizing muscles and the importance of a strong core and back are evident when using dumbbells.

Even when doing seated dumbbell overhead press, you’ll realize how much you need to stabilize yourself and the weight.

The more time you spend under the stress of stabilizing yourself, the more you become accustomed to unilateral work.

Exercises may appear harder at first, but that is due to the nature of focusing on controlling the weight separately, in two hands, instead of as one.

Even weighted lunges with dumbbells instead of a barbell will emphasize your core work and the balance of your gait.

Avoiding Muscle Imbalances

Different Types of Dumbbells - Muscle ImbalancesOne thing we all strive for and attempt to achieve is the avoidance of muscle imbalances.

I’m sure at times we have all experienced one side being stronger than the other.

This is particularly true for beginners and those who workout primarily bilaterally.

Watching yourself in the mirror or in a recording can show which side you favor for your lifts.

Next time you do a barbell curl, overhead press or bench press — take a look at your arms.

You may notice one arm working harder than the other.

What this proves is that there is a muscle imbalance and you need to strengthen the other arm.

If it is a serious case, you can focus your workouts to bring up the lacking areas.

However, I would avoid only lifting on one side, as you can still use dumbbells and regain balance and symmetry in your muscles and strength.

Related: Dumbbell Deadlift vs Barbell Deadlift


Different Types of Dumbbells on the Market

Standard Commercial Gym Dumbbells

Different Types of Dumbbells - Dumbbell Weight RackYour standard dumbbells found in gyms are usually rubberized dumbbells in set weight increments.

A full dumbbell rack will normally be in increments of 5lbs with the occasional 2.5lb increment as well — for example 20lb, 25lb, 27.5lb, etc.

Most commercial gyms prefer to use the rubber dumbbells to avoid too much dropping of the weights.

I’d recommend getting our Dark Iron Fitness suede wrist wraps as well to keep control of the dumbbells.

Smaller gyms and some commercial gyms will use iron dumbbells, usually hardcore bodybuilding gyms.

There are dumbbells like this that can reach 200lbs and over, which is insane.

A lot of the time, your commercial gym will also have lightweight dumbbells that are textured rubber or shiny, sticky, smooth rubber.

These are used primarily for classes, cardio, personal training and for elderly gym members.

All of these styles of dumbbells are great to use and implement.

Related: The 30-Minute Dumbbell Workout


Adjustable Dumbbells for Home Use

Different Types of Dumbbells - Adjustable DumbbellsAdjustable dumbbells are a hit for using at home.

If you don’t have time or money to use a commercial gym, you can use dumbbells at your own place.

You can, of course, buy a full run of dumbbells and use a weight rack, but that gets pricey.

For convenience and moneysaving, you can also go with adjustable dumbbells.

This will save you plenty of cash and even more space.

Adjustable dumbbells come in all varieties — metal with clamps or screw ends or sometimes plastic.

The technology for adjustable dumbbells also varies.

Some dumbbells use weight plates that can be removed or added, while others use a selector knob to lock in the amount of weight you want.

Adjustable dumbbells should be your go to if you don’t use a gym, are low on space at home and want to save money.

Do your research to find the best set for you and your individual needs.

Related: 6 of the Best Adjustable Dumbbells for Home Use


Do it Yourself Dumbbells

Different Types of Dumbbells You Can Make at Home

Different Types of Dumbbells - Homemade DumbbellsYou probably didn’t come to this article for any DIY information, but I have some.

Like I said earlier, buying weights gets expensive.

Yes, adjustable dumbbells will cut down on costs, but they are still pricey nonetheless.

Imagine making your own dumbbells to use at home.

Some cool ways to make dumbbells include using:

  • Milk jugs and PVC pipe in between
  • Cement blocks and steel pipe
  • 2-liter soda bottles filled with sand and PVC pipe
  • Molding your own out of sand/cement or metal

There are so many ways to make your own dumbbells — all you need is two uniform weighted sides and a connector in the middle.

You may be asking why you’d want to do this, besides simply being creative and having fun.

Related: What Can I Use Instead of Dumbbells?

Why it’s Worth it

Different Types of Dumbbells - Homemade DumbbellsI think it’s worth it to make your own dumbbells for several reasons.

For one, your costs to make them can range from $0 to less than $100.

Already you’d be cutting a huge cost from a gym membership or buying a set of dumbbells.

If you have the household items available, why not give it a shot?

Or, you can most likely find a way to purchase what you need very cheaply.

The other reason it’s worth it is that it’s something you can do to learn more about weights and working out.

Figuring out how to create a dumbbell that works with your body and gives you maximum results is beneficial in several ways.

Furthermore, you can make it a project to do with friends and family.

Lastly, depending on how you decide to create your dumbbells, you can vary the weight in unique ways.

You can fill jugs with sand, water, etc. and add or remove whenever you need to.

The DIY dumbbell is not that popular or well-known, but it could be what you need.


Different Types of Dumbbells Conclusion

Training with Different Types of Dumbbells

Different Types of Dumbbells - Dumbbell Heavy CurlThe purpose of training with different dumbbells is to get some variation in your routine.

However, as stated above, dumbbells can cater to different situations and environments.

This means you can train differently when at the gym, at home, or outside.

But, as long as you have some form of dumbbells, you can still achieve muscle gain and strength.

It all depends on where you are and what is available.

The more you train with different types of dumbbells, the more strength you can build.

Using the Dark Iron Fitness wrist wraps will keep your wrists from fatiguing during dumbbell use.

They are a great investment to make for your training, just as investing in your own dumbbells may be.

Related: Dumbbell Only Workout


Investing in Different Types of Dumbbells

Different Types of Dumbbells - Dumbbell Push-UpsAs for investing in different types of dumbbells — only invest what you can afford.

If you can’t get a full set of dumbbells that each have their own weight, then look into adjustable.

Adjustable dumbbells range in price pretty widely, but usually are relevant to the increments you can adjust them by.

For those of you who can’t afford to invest in buying any at all, you can always invest in a gym membership, which will guarantee a full set of dumbbells at all times.

The beauty in this is that you don’t have to purchase them for yourself, you don’t have them taking up space in your home and it forces you to workout at the gym.

The downside would be having to pay a membership and travel to the gym, of course, but you’d have to weigh your options.

Lastly, you can do it yourself with homemade dumbbells.

The biggest investment here is trial and error and spending time on your creation.

But, if time and experimentation are abundant for you, give the DIY a try!

All dumbbells are worth using and each has specific purposes.

Find what is suitable for your training and lift those dumbbells like no tomorrow.

Related: The Best Types of Dumbbells