Before the dumbbell there was the haltere, which was used in ancient Greece for lifting weights.
Dumbbells itself originates from referring to equipment simulating the action of a bell rope for the purpose of developing technique for the purpose of practicing bell ringing but without making a noise. When strongmen started making their own equipment they kept the name, even though the shape and form changed.
What to look for when buying a set of dumbbells
If you are just starting with weight training but want to be able to do a wide variety of exercises, then the adjustable type would be best as you can use the bars and a selection of weight plates to change the weight so it is heavy enough to stress your muscles on different exercises.
If you need a set that doesn’t rely on having possibly a wide range of weight plates, and don’t have the room to store many different fixed weight style dumbbells, then selectorized is probably the best option. This will allow you to use just one set of dumbbells but simply slide the pin out of the weight plate stack to a different level when you want to change the weight. These will also fit in your car easily if travelling a lot and still wanting to perform exercises.
Exercises you can perform
The central bar portion is often engraved with a crosshatch to help improve grip, and the ends of the dumbbell where you attach the weight are usually threaded due to the type of collar. You can then spin the collar down until it is tight against the weight plate to keep it in place.
These will often be stored on a weight rack due to the need to have a wide range for all exercises. For example if you were looking to perform dumbbell kickbacks to work your triceps then 12kg may be enough weight, whereas the same lifter might need a set of 40kg dumbbells for shoulder presses.
Even with this range you would have 15 sets of dumbbells. This does allow for more people to use the different weights at the same time which is why they are so popular in commercial gyms but not home gyms.
Usually the weight is covered in rubber or neoprene for comfort and to be less noisy when dropping to the ground, fixed-weight dumbbells also come in the metal weight plate version.
Consisting of a series of weight plates and a pin that you can slide into different weight levels, they save time when switching weights between sets or supersetting and often come with a clear colour coded guide on which pin position relates to which weight. A very similar system to how cable machines operate with the weight pin and weight stack.
The popularity of dumbbells is well founded thanks to the number of exercises you can perform with a variety of dumbbell sets. Whether you need rubber coated, adjustable or fixed weight dumbbell sets, we take a look at some of the best in the Dumbbells product section.