3 Different Types Of Dumbbells For Building Muscle

If you have a home gym, you need a set of dumbbells. Fortunately, there are several types of dumbbells to choose from, so you are sure to find some to fit your needs. Some dumbbells are made from metal, some are rubber, and others may be made from a combination of the two. And if used correctly, all of them should help you build muscle. 

Dumbbells are a versatile piece of fitness equipment you can use in your garage gym, and some of the more portable dumbbells can even be used on the road while you're traveling.  

In the guide below, we will examine three types of dumbbells great for building muscle and help you decide which are best for you. 

Dumbbells have always been one of the most popular pieces of workout equipment available. And the best thing about dumbbells is that they can be used by anyone, no matter how much they've worked out before or what their fitness level is. There are a few types of dumbbells, and they can be broken down by what they are made of (like iron or rubber), what shape they are (like hex or round), or whether they are fixed or adjustable. 

It may seem like dumbbells are a recent phenomenon, but their history dates back to ancient Greece when they were called halteres. The ancient Romans also used halteres for their physical exercises, but they disappeared when the empire fell. Today, dumbbells can be used for several workouts like hammer curls, decline seated bicep curls, French presses, and preacher curls, just to name a few. 

Types Of Dumbbells

3 Different Types Of Dumbbells Explained 

Adjustable Dumbbells 

Adjustable dumbbells have exploded in popularity alongside the rise of home gyms. They come in all shapes and sizes, and some of the most popular names in the industry are Universal PowerPak, Bowflex, Ironmaster, and Powerblocks.

Adjustable dumbbells are excellent if you aren't looking to spend a lot of money or if you don't really have a ton of space for extra gym equipment.  

Adjustable dumbbells save money and space, and with them, you get the best bang for your buck if you want to build every muscle with one purchase. In addition, you can do any dumbbell exercise with adjustable dumbbells, like a push press or a tricep kickback.  

What We Like 

  • Affordable 
  • Space Saving 
  • Entire set with one purchase 
  • Works every muscle 

Things We Don’t 

  • Load limits 
  • Time consuming to change weights 

Fixed-Weight Dumbbells 

Fixed-weight dumbbells are the dumbbells you see at the gym. They're fixed weight, meaning a 20lb fixed-weight dumbbell will always be 20lbs. Fixed-weight dumbbells come in round shapes, hexagonal shapes, and kettlebells.

Hexagonal fixed weight dumbbells are a little more popular than round dumbbells because you can do more exercises with them. Kettlebells have exploded in popularity over the last few years as well. 

But, unless you plan to purchase a set of 10-20 pieces and have a lot of space in your home gym, fixed dumbbells are not the best for home use. Consider buying a dumbbell rack with your weights for easy storage.

What We Like 

  • Easy to use 
  • Versatile workouts 

Things We Don’t 

  • Expensive 
  • Takes up a lot of space 
  • Need to buy multiple pieces 

Selectorized Dumbbells  

Selectorized dumbells are a close cousin of adjustable dumbbells. Selectorized dumbbells are different, though, because they allow you to change your weight much easier.

To change your weight, you simply adjust the number of plates by moving a selector pin or turning a dial. Their design also makes them more resistant and more versatile than a traditional adjustable dumbbell. 

They are also safer than adjustable dumbbells because you can easily change your weight during your workout without feeling rushed. 

You can use these dumbbells to build muscle mass. Some people even use them for training to become professional bodybuilders. And with these dumbbells, storage is never a concern because they come with a convenient dumbbell stand. 

What We Like 

  • Easy storage 
  • Safe 
  • Very versatile 
  • Won’t slow down your workout 

Things We Don’t 

  • On the expensive side 
  • Harder to move around 

Comparing Dumbbell Types When Working Out 

For Building Muscle

Any of the three types of dumbbells will be great for building muscle. If used correctly, an adjustable dumbbell, fixed dumbbell, or selectorized dumbbell will help you shred the fat and build muscle mass. However, fixed dumbbells are available in much heavier weights, allowing you to lift heavier and build more muscle. Selectorized dumbbells are limited in their weight, and adjustable dumbbells may be able to get as heavy as fixed dumbbells, but it's much more of a hassle. 

Ease Of Use   

Suppose you're looking for something easy to use in your garage gym, and you want a variety of weights at your disposal. In that case, the selectorized dumbbells are the way to go. With selectorized dumbells, all your weights are right in front of you, and all you have to do is adjust the dial. Fixed dumbbells are easy to use, but without spending hundreds of dollars on a complete set and ample storage, you only have one or two weights available to you. 


If you're building a home gym on a budget, the adjustable dumbbells may be what you are looking for. With adjustable dumbbells, you get multiple weight options you don't get with fixed dumbbells. They come in at a much cheaper price point than selectorized dumbbells. It can be a bit of a hassle to adjust the weight of your dumbbell in the middle of a workout, but you can't beat the price. 

Longevity In Home Gyms  

For those of us wanting to build a home gym that stands the test of time, you need to select dumbbells that will survive hundreds of workouts. But, you also want your dumbbells to be easy to work with, and nothing about them should hinder your ability to workout. That's why if you're looking for longevity, ease of use, and you want a lot of options when it comes to weights, selectorized dumbbells are the way to go.

With selectorized dumbbells, your weights will range from 5lbs up to about 52.5lbs, so as you get stronger, you will still have heavy dumbbells to lift. And they are easy to use, so you will never get discouraged in the middle of a workout. With selectorized dumbbells, you can lift for years in your home gym. 

Comparing Dumbbell Types

Types Of Dumbbell Materials  

Neoprene Dumbbells  

Neoprene is a synthetic polymer. Neoprene dumbbells are made with a cast iron core dipped in neoprene. Neoprene is very pliable, making the dumbbells very comfortable. However, neoprene dumbbells usually only weigh between 1 and 15lbs, and they typically won't come much heavier than that. The neoprene coating tends to wear down quickly as well. 

Cast Iron Dumbbells  

Cast iron dumbbells feature a cast-iron mold and solid, one-piece construction. Serious lifters tend to love cast-iron dumbbells because they are virtually indestructible, no matter how many times you drop them. With cast iron, you don't have to worry about any cracks if you drop them on the floor. They also go up to around 120lbs, so cast iron is the way to go if you want to lift heavy. 

Rubber Coated Dumbbells  

Rubber-coated dumbbells are made out of metal and coated in rubber. The rubber is there to protect the floor (and the dumbbell) when you drop them. Rubber dumbbells can be used in the same ways as the other dumbbells, but some people are put off by their odor. The rubber will sometimes let off a powerful smell, making them unbearable for some lifters. 

Chrome Dumbbells  

Chrome dumbbells are made out of solid steel and tend to weigh between 3 and 50lbs. The weight may not go as higher as cast-iron dumbbells, but the handles are usually more comfortable. You'll need to watch out for rust with chrome dumbbells, so you should never keep them outside or use them on wet surfaces. They're probably the most visually attractive dumbbells you'll find, but they tend to scratch easily and wear down over time. 

Urethane Dumbbells  

Urethane is just a different type of rubber, so these are very similar to rubber-coated dumbbells. With urethane dumbbells, your weight can go up to 200lbs. Urethane dumbbells tend to be much more durable than your typical rubber dumbbell, though. But the extra durability comes at a price because urethane dumbbells tend to be the most expensive. 

Basic Dumbbell Exercises (For Muscle Building)  

Dumbbell Curl And Press  

The curl and press will work your biceps and your shoulders. Start out by standing with your hip feet width apart with a dumbbell in each hand. Bend your elbows, bring the weights to your shoulders, keeping your elbows tight to your sides. Move your arms upward, straightening them above you as you turn your hands so your palms face out.

Once your arms are fully extended above you, bend your elbows and lower the weights back to the front of your shoulders, turning them so your palms face your body again. Straighten your elbows and lower the weights, bringing them back down to your sides. 

Dumbbell Pullover  

The dumbbell pullover will work your back and chest. Start by lying face-up on your bench, planting your feet firmly on the ground. Hold a dumbbell at one end with both ends, slightly bend your elbows, and press the weight over your chest.

Keep your lower body and hips still while you lower your arms back, maintaining the slight bend in your elbows. Lower the dumbbell until you feel a stretch in your lats and chest. Pull your arms back into the starting position keeping your elbows bent. 

Dumbell Swings  

The dumbbell swing will work your arms, core, glutes, and quads. Grab your dumbbell and hold the middle of it with one hand in front of the other with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly, push your hips back, and swing the weight between your leg without round your lower back.

When the weight is behind you, contract your glutes, thrusting your hips forward, and swing the dumbbell to chest level. When you reach the top of the movement, tighten your core, glutes, and quads as hard as you can. Then allow the weight to swing back between your legs. 

Dumbbell Overhead Press 

The dumbbell overhead press will strengthen your shoulders as well as improve core stability. To start, stand upright with your back straight. Take a dumbbell in each hand at your shoulders with an overhand grip.

Your thumbs should be on the inside with your knuckles facing up. Carefully raise the weights above your head while exhaling. Pause at the top of the motion and then return the dumbbells to your shoulders while inhaling. 

Basic Dumbbell Exercises

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What are the biggest dumbbells called? 

The biggest type of dumbbells is fixed-weight dumbbells. Cast-iron fixed weight dumbbells can go up to around 120lbs, and urethane dumbbells can go up to about 200lbs. 

Are dumbbells ever made out of lead? 

Dumbbells should never be made of lead. They are typically only made out of the materials we talked about above, like cast iron or neoprene. 

Do rubber dumbbells last? 

Rubber dumbbells and plates are excellent for people looking for a reliable dumbbell. High-quality rubber dumbbells can last a long time, and they won't rust. We do recommend to clean them regularly and you can follow our guide on cleaning dumbbells here.


Dumbbells are incredibly versatile pieces of fitness equipment that have been used for centuries. Every home gym needs dumbbells so you can have well-rounded workouts. This guide should have helped you decide which dumbbells are best for your needs, especially if you are trying to build muscle. 

Last Updated on April 10, 2023

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Andrew White

Andrew White is the co-founder of Garage Gym Pro. As an expert fitness professional (gym building nerd) with over 10 years of industry experience, he enjoys writing about everything there is to do with modern fitness & the newest market innovations for garage gyms. When he isn’t testing out products for his readers, he’s usually out surfing or playing basketball.