Dumbbell Comparison: Hex vs Rubber vs Pro Style
These types of dumbbells are the most common for home and commercial gyms. This guide will help you navigate among the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Hex dumbbells are made with chromed solid steel handles and welded-on cast iron heads with a painted finish. They’re typically found in home gyms and in some smaller fitness establishments.
Rubber hex dumbbells are the same as the above, with steel handles and iron heads, but with a rubber coating instead of paint. So while they are really just rubber coated, we call them rubber dumbbells for simplicity.
Pro style dumbbells are found in most commercial gyms. They’re made using solid steel handles and standard “pancake” style weight plates. They differ from standard adjustable dumbbells in that the handle ends are a precise length to fit an exact number of plates, it’s bolted together so as to be semi-permanent, and they usually have end caps to further smoothen out the edges.
Rubber pro style dumbbells are the above with rubber coating on the attached weight plates instead of paint. Again, for short we call them rubber rather than rubber coated. Keep in mind that regular pro style dumbbells can also be made with only rubber end caps.
All types above can have contoured handles rather than straight. Contoured handles are thicker in the center than the edges, making for a wider and more ergonomic grip.
The relative difference in cost varies widely depending on weight, because pro style dumbbells start at a higher price but the price doesn’t increase as much as the weight increases. Hex and rubber hex dumbbells are generally just priced per pound, although the smallest and largest sizes might be price-adjusted for minimum retail margins or to factor in skewed shipping costs.
#2: Rubber Hex – 1.5 to 2 times the price of hex dumbbells.
#3: Pro Style – Anywhere from 1.5 to 8 times the price of hex dumbbells.
#4: Rubber Pro Style – Anywhere from 1.5 to 11 times the price of hex dumbbells.
PROTECTING THE FLOOR
Rubber dumbbells are softer and won’t scratch your floor. The winner here is rubber pro-style because of the smooth edges of the heads. Even rubber can be kind of hard, and the comparably sharper edges of rubber hex dumbbells can conceivably stab into a sensitive floor if you aren’t careful. But that may be reaching because the edges are really not very sharp. Painted iron is the biggest threat to a sensitive floor, so hex dumbbells with their sharper edges and rougher surface score last.
#1: Rubber Pro Style
#2: Rubber Hex
#3: Pro Style
Even the high-quality baked-on finish on modern iron hex dumbbells will eventually chip when the dumbbells are banged around a lot. Rubber dumbbells are made to be banged around. However, rubber exposed to the hot sun will expand as it heats, and repeated exposure can cause the rubber to start cracking from all the expansion and contraction, so if you’re in a hot climate, it would be best to keep them out of the sun. Assuming you can manage that, rubber comes out ahead.
The plates on pro style dumbbells have a flatter finish that’s more resistant to chipping than the finish on hex dumbbells. If you’ve ever dinged old hex dumbbells together at the top of a bench press rep and gotten paint flecks in your face, you know how significant this is. A rubber coating will of course prevent this, and non-rubber pro dumbbells can be assembled with rubber end caps.
Hex dumbbells are welded together, and while the welds are usually very good, the small risk of a bad weld here has to be acknowledged, particularly for dumbbells that don’t go through the quality checking of one of the top US manufacturers. The way to break a dumbbell is to drop it from high up at an angle, so one head hits first and puts a lot of torque stress on the handle. When a weld fails the head won’t usually come clear off, but it may become a little loose and wobble. The risk of this isn’t really a safety issue, because it’s pretty obvious when a head is just loose or if it has smashed around enough to actually fall off.
On pro-style dumbbells the plates are secured in place by an allen bolt that is quite tight from the factory. It’s pretty obvious when it starts to come loose after a lot of usage, and it’s a simple matter of tightening it.
#1: Rubber Pro Style
#3: Rubber Hex
#4: Pro Style