PVC Vs Rubber Vs Urethane Dumbbells (Compared For Home)

Dumbbells are undoubtedly one of the most essential and versatile pieces of gym equipment. They are a key piece of equipment for strength building and muscle toning in the upper body and can act as stand-in equipment to replace a traditional bench press or intensify your push-up routine. WebMD gives an excellent breakdown of their health benefits here. 

There are many different types of dumbbells, but the most popular non-metal options are PVC, rubber, and urethane. This guide will break down the differences and similarities to show you all the pros and cons of PVC vs rubber vs urethane dumbbells! 

PVC dumbbells (also known as vinyl dumbbells) are usually made of either concrete or sand, coated in a synthetic plastic called polyvinyl chloride, or made entirely of PVC itself. 

Vinyl is an excellent choice for beginners, as it is cheap and cheerful. PVC dumbbell colors are often bright and eye-catching, and the durability should be enough to tide you through until you need to upgrade to something heavier.  

pvc dumbbells

However, fans of longevity should beware, as PVC dumbbells often succumb to damage over time, especially with regular use. Strenuous, sweaty exercise may also leave them slippery, which can be an unnecessary workout risk. They are also often unavailable in heavier weights. 


Pros & Cons Of PVC Dumbbells 

What We Like 

  • Great, cheap entry-level equipment 
  • Perfectly weighted for beginners or casual exercisers 
  • Quieter and less risk of scuffing floors than metal  
  • Often color-coded 

Things We Don’t 

  • Less durable, prone to cracking  
  • Become more slippery when wet  
  • Low-density material means heavier weights are not possible 

Rubber/HEX Style Dumbbells Explained

woman holding a rubber hex dumbbell

Rubber dumbbells are the next step up the ladder in terms of quality.

Rubber vs PVC dumbbells are superior in terms of ergonomics, durability, and versatility. 

This makes them the perfect intermediate choice for home and garage gyms. 

Rubber dumbbell brands also often feature HEX style options. With HEX dumbbells, the head of the dumbbell features hexagonal sides instead of being perfectly round. 

This allows your dumbbells to double as push-up grips, for example, and helps keep your floors and gym racks un-scuffed.  

However, choosing the right brand can make or break your rubber dumbbell experience. Virgin rubber dumbbells will use rubber extracted directly from trees, making for an excellent durable product with few downsides.  

Recycled rubber, however, often comes plagued with durability problems, unpleasant odors, or even toxicity problems. It is important to buy your rubber dumbbells from a reputable brand using virgin rubber in production. 


Pros & Cons Of Rubber Dumbbells 

What We Like 

  • Durable and robust for long-term use  
  • Hexagonal head option allows greater versatility 
  • Quieter and less environmentally damaging than metal dumbbells 
  • Good value for money 

Things We Don’t 

  • Quality depends on selecting a reputable brand 
  • Can have a distinctive smell 
  • Duller and less professional look than urethane dumbbells 

What Is Urethane & Why Is It Used In Dumbbells? 

Urethane models are the best of the bunch when it comes to non-metal dumbbells. However, their pricing normally reflects this, so they usually make the best choice for seasoned home gym enthusiasts.  

The main difference between rubber and urethane dumbbells is that urethane is a man-made material while other rubbers are naturally extracted. 

titan fitness urethane dumbbell

This means that urethane vs rubber dumbbells are unbeatable when it comes to build quality and durability.  

If you are looking for the strongest non-metal dumbbell material, able to weather direct sunlight and outdoor conditions, urethane is the material for you. Urethane also looks much better when colored, engraved, or finished – if you are trying to create a professional environment. 


Pros & Cons Of Urethane Dumbbells 

What We Like 

  • Harder, stronger, and more tear-resistant than regular rubber 
  • More resistant to weathering and UV damage 
  • Professional look  
  • More resistant to scratching, chipping, and scuffing than metal materials 

Things We Don’t 

  • Often expensive 
  • Material can have a slippery feel 
  • Can be harder to find HEX-style dumbbells made of urethane 

PVC Vs Rubber Vs Urethane Dumbbells: Key Differences Explained

Now that you have a good idea of what each dumbbell material type has on offer, it is time to get into the nitty-gritty of how each product measures up against the others. 

The following is a full breakdown of PVC vs urethane vs rubber dumbbells across those all-important categories: 

Durability & Longevity

None of our contenders do durability quite like urethane. They are harder than rubber dumbbells – and are specially designed for increased resistance against UV rays, outdoor conditions, and other types of weathering. Their abrasion resistance also means they show less cosmetic wear and tear than rubber. 

Good quality virgin rubber dumbbells are still a good choice for durability and impact resistance, especially when the price difference of rubber vs urethane dumbbells is considered. They both also resist water and sweat damage well. 

If durability is what you are after, PVC dumbbells should be avoided. They are prone to cracking when dropped and will be similarly easier to damage in other ways too. 

Look & Feel 

Again, it is hard to beat urethane on looks. Their material composition makes them ideal for coloring, engraving and finishing professionally. They are also much more resistant to those cosmetic scratches that may plague rubber products. However, some people find them more slippery to grip than their rubber counterparts. 

For the price, good quality virgin rubber dumbbells hold up well in their looks. Purely cosmetic scuffing should not bother home gym users too much, and a variety of textures available mean you can find the right feel for you. We only really advise you to opt for the aesthetic superiority of urethane if professional looks are your primary concern. 

While the color-coding of PVC dumbbells can be a great help for beginners trying to quickly memorize their set weights, the advantages end there. PVC dumbbells are often unnecessarily bulky, and they often become slippery with a bit of sweat. 

Odor 

You will not need to worry about an odor with either urethane or PVC dumbbells. Both products are almost entirely odorless. 

When it comes to rubber dumbbells, however, caution must be exercised. If you opt for a cheap rubber dumbbell made of recycled rubber, it will likely come with an unpleasant tire-like odor. This will usually fade with time but is also usually the sign of a generally inferior product. Choose reputable brands selling virgin rubber dumbbells to avoid this issue. 

Coating Thickness 

Coating thickness is important in a high-quality product. Again, professional urethane products will be the best of the bunch here. Many manufacturers show cross-sections on their websites to demonstrate exactly what coating thickness you will be getting. 

Like in many other categories, the coating thickness of rubber dumbbells will depend on the quality of the product you choose. Good quality virgin rubber dumbbells usually boast a good coating thickness, especially HEX style models. Remember, with rubber dumbbells; it pays to shop reputably.  

Coating thickness does not matter a huge amount with PVC dumbbells, as the coating itself is of an inferior and more fragile material. Therefore, no matter how thick it is, it is bound to crack eventually.  

Safety When Lifting 

When it comes to safety to the user, both urethane and virgin rubber dumbbells are excellent choices. Both are sturdy and have enough grip to ensure you do not put yourself at unnecessary risk during your routines. They are also both safer for your surrounding home environment than metal dumbbells in terms of scratches and scuffs. 

PVC dumbbells suffer from the annoying issue of becoming slippery with a little sweat – which is something that comes naturally with any vigorous workout routine. The last thing you want to be doing is dropping a dumbbell on your feet, so this represents a serious con.  

Price 

rubber hex dumbbells sitting on a plyometric box

In terms of price, PVC dumbbells will always be the cheapest. This makes them ideal for anyone just getting into exercising, as they are affordable entry-level equipment. However, this cheap price does mean they are inferior in every other category.

When it comes to value for money, we would advise selecting rubber dumbbells. There is no contest when it comes to the quality of PVC vs rubber-coated dumbells, with PVC losing every time. Plus, the extra benefits of urethane dumbbells are usually not significant enough to justify the extra price if your budget is tight. If you do opt for the value for money of rubber dumbbells, just remember that this only applies to virgin rubber dumbbells from reputable brands. Recycled rubber dumbbells are generally not worth their price tag.

Verdict

In conclusion, the choice usually boils down to either good quality rubber or urethane. When deciding between urethane dumbbells vs rubber dumbbells, you may need to ask yourself the personal question of whether those extra mod-cons are worth the price difference.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

Which material has the best quality for dumbbells? 

When price is not considered, urethane is undoubtedly the best quality material. It is the most durable, with increased resistance against all types of weathering. 

Additionally, it is the best material for customization. If you are looking to get your dumbbells colored, engraved, or finished, you will get the best-looking results with urethane dumbbells.  

Which type of dumbbells are best for beginners? 

PVC dumbbells are usually the best for beginners, as you will be able to figure out if home fitness is the thing for you without risking a whole heap of money. 

However, if you know that you are going to be in it for the long haul, we advise jumping straight in at rubber dumbbells. They will last you much longer, give you better value for money, and you run less of a risk of them slipping out of your hand. 

What are adjustable dumbbells usually made out of? 

Adjustable dumbbells are usually made of metal. Their weight customizability can be better for seasoned bodybuilders with varied routines. 

However, metal dumbbells come with their own downsides. They are more prone to chipping and scratching and some rust over time. Furthermore, they are louder and more likely to cause environmental damage to your home gym environment. 


Conclusion

When it comes to selecting the right dumbbell for your needs, only you can know the right answer.

However, we would strongly advise avoiding PVC dumbbells, as well as recycled rubber dumbbells. Either good quality virgin rubber dumbbells or urethane dumbbells are excellent choices.

However, urethane dumbbells are only usually worth the extra expense if you are very serious about your home gym exercise! If you're looking for a bit more versatility, we recommend checking out our favorite adjustable dumbbells sets.

Whatever choice you make, we wish you the best of luck and happy gains!