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What is a dumbbell

What is a dumbbell

In this article you will learn about what adjustable dumbbells are, how adjustable dumbbells work –
and why you need them.
  • What are adjustable dumbbells
  • How do adjustable dumbbells work – and how to adjust them
  • Knob, dial or pin
  • Twist and lift – done!

A dumbbell? What is a dumbbell? And why is it called a “dumb”bell? You might feel at ease to know the name has nothing to do with being foolish or stupid. We would actually argue the quite the opposite; everyone using a dumbbell is a very vise person; using a dumbbell means you are working out (there you have it; a dumbbell is a training equipment), and when you are training you are taking care of your body and mind – that is smart.

What is a dumbbell

A dumbbell is a piece of training equipment, that you most of the time hold in your hand. Used in pairs normally, but can also be used separetely. Dumbbells falls into the category of free weights; there’s no machine or cable attached to them.

The construction of a dumbbell is a bar with weights on each side. The weight of a dumbbell can vary quite a lot; from 0.5 kg to 50 kg (?? What would be the maximum weight?) which allows a big variety in area of use; from beginners to experts and a lot of different exercises for your entire body; big as well as small muscles can be trained with dumbbells.







Nuobell biceps curl
Nuobell adjustable dumbbell rack

Dumbbells are used to

  • Get stronger and build muscles
  • Be more toned
  • Increase endurance

– and it goes without saying that training will improve your health and potentially prevent diseases like heart disease and stroke. According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) only 150 minutes of moderate workout per week is enough to reduce the risk of these conditions. Additional physical activity can reduce the risk even more.

There’s an ocean of exercises you can perform with dumbbells, in some you use two dumbbells and work with left and right side at the same time, for example biceps curl or shoulder press. But there are lots of fun and effective exercises where only one dumbbell is used as well, like xxxxx

High flexibility

Just by looking at them, they may look simple, but don’t let that fool you. Dumbbells could be the only equipment you need; they could be used for complete body workout as the flexibility is very high. There’s no end to the variation of exercises you can perform with dumbbells and that makes a dumbbell a great training companion. Note that you will need different weights depending on what muscle group you are targeting; legs requiring heavier weight than arms and shoulders and so on.

If you have several pairs of fixed dumbbells, or one pair of adjustable, you have what it takes to progress and get stronger, more toned and increase your endurance: you have the possibility to increase the weight in small steps exactly when required as you get stronger.

Increase the weight in small steps? Why not go really heave each time I add weight? you might think. Wouldn’t that be better and more effective to get stronger?

Actually no, to get stronger, and at the same time reduce the risk of injuries, it is recommended to add weight in increments of 1,5-2 kg. (finns det någon källa man kan hänvisa till??)

Dumbbell shape

The majority of dumbbells have round or hexagon shaped weights. But you can also find other shapes on the weights, like squared. Why are there different shapes?
What are the up-/downsides with round, square, other shapes…?

Material and grip

To answer the question What is a dumbbell, one must talk about the material and grip as well. Most of today’s modern dumbbells are made of solid iron or treated steel, (why is specifically those material used?) sometimes with a rubber or neoprene coating. The coating is there to protect the inner material and to make the dumbbell more comfortable to hold.

Plastic is sometimes used, but only for dumbbells of lower weight. Since plastic is significantly lighter per cm3, heavier dumbbells are not made from plastic, they would be far too bulky. One benefit of plastic dumbbells opposed to dumbbells made of other materials is that they are cheaper, but on the downside, they have a tendency break more easily.

A dumbbell made of iron or steel is thus far more durable than the same made from plastic. Even though a plastic version isn’t necessarily bad, you will be more confident that a steel or iron version will withstand drops (intentional or unintentional) or other accidents better.


The grip of the dumbbell is not something to set aside; especially if you perform tougher workouts and your hands will get sweaty. You want to maintain a steady grip of the dumbbell even in sweaty sessions. That is solved by some kind of engraved pattern on the handle, could look different on different handles but the function is the same.

Plastic dumbbells will be more slippery when wet, compared to dumbbells made of steel or iron. The latter often have a pattern on the handle; the handle is knurled to increase the grip which is a great benefit when it comes to being able to steady hold the dumbbell.

Why is it called dumbbell

One could associate the name to stupid, but it has nothing to do with dumb or unsmart. “Dumb” in this case equals to mute or silent; it refers to (church) bells that are unable to produce sound = dumb bells.

In the sixteenth century athletes in England lacked dedicated and proper workout equipment, so they trained with what they had: handheld bells where they had removed the clapper; the bells made no sound. That’s how the dumbbell got its name.

Benefits of using dumbbells

When talking about what a dumbbell is, you obviously want to know about the benefits of using them in your workout. There are lots of “things” to gain in your training.

  • Build muscles –which improves your heart rate Dumbbells are excellent for strength training and to build muscles. To build muscles and to get stronger you need to use resistance that is heavy enough for you, and to continuously increase the weight, but in small steps. That’s when you work with progressive overload, meaning you gradually increase one variable in your training. It could be to increase
  • The weight
  • The number of repetitions or sets
  • Or to work at a slower tempo when performing your exercises.

With dumbbells it’s easy to work according to progressive overload, and add weight exactly when you need it, with the small increments required to build muscles. Note! Did you know that building muscles can help to improve heart health? Normally we think of cardio as the most efficient type of exercising for heart health benefits, but strength training has a great ability to attain that too. Working on your muscle strength can reduce the risk of getting cardiovascular diseases by 17%, according to a study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise‌ (2017) performed on more than 35.000 women.

The study also showed a reduced risk of 30% for type 2 diabetes when participating in any strength training – and to include both strength training and aerobic activity is associated with less risk for both of the above conditions, compared to participation aerobic activity only.

If your goal is to build muscle mass and strength, aim to use moderately heavy dumbbells; meaning a weight you can lift 8–12 reps, doing 3–5 sets.

To achieve maximum strength, use heavy dumbbells and perform less reps in each set: 6 or fewer reps in 2–5 sets. Thomas: stämmer det tycker du?

Regardless the number of reps, the last one should always be as heavy as you can’t perform one more rep. When you have reached a level where you are able to do 2–3 additional reps, you increase your weight.

  • Increase your muscular endurance

To lift lighter dumbbells, but with more repetitions in each set, you will train your muscles ability to carry out the motion for an extended period, without getting tired. Aim to do at least 12 reps, in 3–5 sets.

Endurance training is an important part of your training, it gives you the ability to perform well during longer periods in your workout, but also to make your everyday life easier, due to the fact that that you will not get tired as easily when carrying out daily activities.

Burn fat

Strength training get your heart rate up, and when your heart rate increases, you burn fat. But do note that to burn fat you need to consider one more parameter, food. 80% of your weight loss results come from what you eat. [reference] The simple truth about weight loss is that you have to use more calories than you eat. A healthy way to burn fat is to do it in a pace that is good for your body; not too fast. A quick-fix weight loss will hardly last in the long run, when you stop you diet you will likely gain all that weight you lost.

Why? Because during your aggressive fat burning period, your body is set to starving mode and when you start to eat “normal” again your body will store all the calories it can, turning it into fat. There’s also a high risk that you fall back to your old eating habits, the habits that got you that extra weight in the first place. How to eat to burn fat is a chapter of its own but our strongest tip is to find a healthy way to eat to burn fat, in combination with exercise. There’s endless of studies showing that a combination of healthy eating and workout is the most effective way to burn fat and take care of your health.

Nuobell green

When you have reached the desired weight or body figure, then find a healthy way of eating that works today, tomorrow and the day after that. Not only for a limited time. You might have to adjust the way you look at “everyday eating”, but it will be worth it. Again, if eating got you the overweight in the first place, you need to adjust that way of eating permanently.

Note that this doesn’t mean that you never can eat a pizza again, it’s more about common sense. There’s an effective, but yet allowing, way of thinking; 90% of the time you eat healthy, and 10% you eat whatever you want. That being a pizza, chocolate or whatever you desire. [Link to How to eat to burn fat]

Challenges not only your strength, but also your balance

One of the many upsides of working out with dumbbells is that it will require more stability, since you don’t have the same support compared to a weightlifting machine. This will challenge your balance and as a result this will activate more of your muscle fibers, increasing your balance. A study in Bioengineering (Basel) in June 2022 showed that dumbbells are the best alternative (compared to barbell and weight west) for beginners when doing squats, due to the fact that the dumbbells help to improve stability.

Eliminates imbalances on left or right side

If one side is weaker than the other, the stronger side can’t support the weaker side in a dumbbell workout. As opposed to a weightlifting machine, let’s say a shoulder press machine, where the stronger side can compensate for the weaker and take on more of the load.When working out with dumbbells, each side must manage on its own and stabilize the load. This will help to reduce any imbalance and target any weak link you might have.

Perform whole-body workout

Dumbbells may be one of the most complete exercise equipment there is: with dumbbells only you can perform whole-body workouts. For each muscle group there are a big variety of exercises to do with dumbbells. Get inspired, or follow completely, this workout program [link to workouts]

Easy to use

Dumbbells are easy to use, there’s nothing complicated about them: just take them in your hands and start your workout. Needless to say; pay attention to the way the exercise itself should be carried out, to reduce the risk of injury.

Easy to improve

As you get stronger, just ramp up to the next level of weight. And then the next, and then the next. Boom! you’re as strong as any tiger out there.

From rehab to heavy strength training

Since the weight span on dumbbells is on the larger side; starting with dumbbells with as light weight as 0,5 kg up to 50 kg (?), you have the possibility to - perform rehab exercises with light weigths - work on your endurance - perform cardio-based HIIT-sessions - lift heavy to build strength

Fits both beginners and experts

Dumbbell training is a great option for both beginners and pro-athletes. For someone who has just started working out, it could feel overwhelming to know where to start and what exercises to perform. But working out with dumbbells is easy, there are lots of easy to perform exercises, that is not too time consuming nor requires too much space – and those are still very effective and will give you a great workout. [Link to beginners workout or suggestion on a program] On the other hand, pro-athletes can also find great challenges in dumbbell workouts since heavy weights and a huge range of different exercises are available. This allows athletes to get the weights and variation of exercises they need to improve and to ensure progressive overload.

Different types of dumbbells

There are more parameters to the initial question; What is a dumbbell? There are different kinds of dumbbells; mainly two different types:

  • fixed
  • adjustable

You might want to give it some thought before deciding which type that will be the best match for you. As the names imply, the main difference with the two types is whether the weight on the dumbbell is fixed or if it’s possible to adjust it.

Fixed dumbbells

Fixed dumbbells are the ones you normally see at every commercial gym, placed in long rows. Weight span going from light to seriously heavy. With such a large weight span there is a suitable weight for everyone, and for every exercise. Many people can use weights at the same time which is a necessity for any commercial gym. A completed range of fixed weights however requires a lot of space, normally not an issue for a gym but it’s something to consider when getting dumbbells for your home.

As mentioned before, fixed dumbbells are not an easy target for breakage; you can throw or drop them on the floor more or less anyway you like without any damage on the dumbbell. There’s a higher risk of damaging the floor than the dumbbell, unless you’re at a gym with dedicated weightlifting floor, or have the same specific floor at home.

The fixed dumbbells are suitable for home training as well, not only for commercial use. But if you want a complete range and be able to perform complete whole-body workouts, be prepared to give up some space as you may need as many as 16 pairs of dumbbells (32 pcs).

However, if you have limited space but plan to use dumbbells for a limited number of exercises only, fixed can be the right choice for you.

Adjustable dumbbells

As opposed to a fixed dumbbell, that has a set weight per dumbbell, an adjustable dumbbell offers the possibility to change back and forth between weights – in one and the same dumbbell.

You can add and remove weights as you wish, normally with increments at 1,5-2 kg. Max and min. weight on the dumbbells depend on the model but they are around 2–30/40 kg.

If you haven’t heard about adjustable dumbbells before, it might sound a bit confusing. How can one dumbbell change its weight? Well, there are different techniques for that, explained below. Pay attention to that different adjustable dumbbells work differently and are more or less easy / smooth to adjust and use.

01. Knob

The simplest version consists of a bar with loose weight plates and knobs on the sides. The knobs are what holds the weight plates in place. To add or remove weights, unscrew the knobs and put on the desired amount of weight plates. A bit time consuming, but totally doable. + cheap + durable (should we mention this? Could one get the association that other variants are not durable?) - takes time to change weights - the plates can rattle - max weight is limited; the length of the bar in combination to what size of weight plate that makes sense to use, limits the max load. More??

Nuobell replacement handle

03. Dial

Another version is by using a dial on each side of the bar. To adjust the weight, put the dumbbell in its rack and turn the dial on both sides.
- Some of these versions are a bit clumsy, and could potentially feel a little awkward to use More??

Nuobell replacement handle
Nuobell replacement handle

02. Pin

Another construction technique is to use a pin to adjust the weight, compare it to the way you adjust weights on a weightlifting machine. Manually move a pin to set the weight of your choice. There are a few different versions, but the main function is the same on all of them.
+ fairly quick to change the weight - cumbersome, the length of the dumbbell is the same (and too long, it will be in the way in certain movements) regardless of the chosen weight and the shape of the dumbbell could be unnatural More??

Nuobell replacement handle

04. Twist and lift

The twist and lift dumbbells consists of a bar with equally sized round weight plates and a docking station [term??]

The construction of the twist and lift version is a bit more advanced than the other alternatives. But from a user perspective this model is as easy as it gets to use.

As the name implies; you twist the handle to choose your weight and then lift the dumbbell. The weight plates not in use will remain in the docking stataion. To change the weight, put the dumbbell back in the docking station and choose a new weight.

When twisting the handle, the adjustment mechanism in the dumbbell hooks into, or releases, one more plate on each side.

Pros and cons with fixed
vs adjustable dumbbells


  • Usable for many different exercises and muscles.
  • Easy to store and saves space, one set is more or less only the size of two single dumbbells. Put them under your bed, the sofa or in a closet.
  • Low cost compared to buy a full set of fixed dumbbells.
  • More portable than fixed weights.
  • You can make small weight increments without buying another set of dumbbells.


  • Usable for many different exercises and muscles.
  • Easy to store and saves space, one set is more or less only the size of two single dumbbells. Put them under your bed, the sofa or in a closet.
  • Low cost compared to buy a full set of fixed dumbbells.
  • More portable than fixed weights.
  • You can make small weight increments without buying another set of dumbbells.

Pros and cons with fixed
vs adjustable dumbbells


  • You can’t drop or throw them on the floor, put them back in the rack.
  • Some are larger and longer than fixed dumbbells, meaning you might not be able to perform all exercises you can with fixed dumbbells. Make sure to buy a slim version, where the size changes depending on how much weight you put on; smaller/shorter with less weight.


  • You can’t drop or throw them on the floor, put them back in the rack.
  • Some are larger and longer than fixed dumbbells, meaning you might not be able to perform all exercises you can with fixed dumbbells. Make sure to buy a slim version, where the size changes depending on how much weight you put on; smaller/shorter with less weight.



How much do dumbbells cost

Ever heard the phrase: it depends. In this case it depends on your needs and your preference; do you want to have the possibility to do whole-body workouts or are your needs restricted to be able to perform only a few numbers of exercises? For whole-body workouts, you need a larger range of weights.

In general, pairs of fixed dumbbells cost roughly:

2,5 kg = 20 EUR
5 kg = 35 EUR
7,5 kg = 55 EUR
10 kg = 70 EUR
12,5 kg = 90 EUR
15 kg = 110 EUR
40 kg = 300 EUR

10 lbs = $20
15 lbs = $30
20 lbs = $40
25 lbs = $50
30 lbs = $60

The conclusion of the costs of fixed dumbbells is that if you only need a few different pairs of dumbbells, it’s worth buying fixed.

But you do the math if you require a full set of fixed dumbbells for complete whole-body workouts, let’s say at 10–16 pairs of dumbbells. The cost adds up quickly.

Adjustable dumbbells differ a lot in price, but you get what you pay for. The more expensive ones will be more durable, easier to handle, easier and faster to adjust, more weights in the same dumbbell and often in a more convenient shape; not too bulky.

Price range of adjustable dumbbells is roughly:

100–700 EUR In the lower price range you find the ones that requires some more time to adjust, like the ones you adjust with knobs on each side. The cheaper ones come with just a few weight options.

In the higher range, the dumbbells have a significantly more weight options, roughly 16 different options, starting at 2 kg and ending somewhere at 35 kg. Some even up to 40 kg.

How to choose the right dumbbell

For a commercial gym, its most of the time a no-brainer to get fixed dumbbells. But if you’re looking to buy dumbbells four your home training, think about you needs before deciding.

There are a few things to consider when choosing dumbbell for your home training: - how much space you have - the exercises you plan to perform - your budget (to have a complete range of weights; endless: fixed, restricted; adjustable)

You might consider buying fixed dumbbells
if the following is true:
  • You need only a few pair of dumbbells
  • You don’t know if dumbbell training is for you; start with a few pairs and try it out before you invest in a complete range of weights
  • You have a lot of space
  • You need a complete range of weights –  and your budget has no limits
You might consider buying adjustable dumbbells if the following is true:
  • You need many different weights – and you’re on a restricted budget
  • Your space is limited
  • You want to perform many different kinds of exercises
  • You want to be able to bring your weights at occasions, outdoors or to vocational home

Don’t be too modest when choosing the maximum weight; the goal is to progress and to get stronger you need to be able to “gear up” the weight. Therefore you need enough weight to not out-grow your range, nor to “stop” your progression.

Final words

Even if you prefer to work out with dumbbells; a mix of other forms of training is key to success if you want to be healthy and strong. So don’t forget to do cardio, yoga and other complementing training forms.

There are pros and cons with both fixed and adjustable dumbbells, but if you spend the majority of your training at home, and include strength training, cardio based HIIT workouts, strongly consider adjustable dumbbells. They offer a great weight range to suit all your needs and when not using the dumbbells, they can easily be stored in your wardrobe or under your bed.

It offers a great spread of weight in a compact shell that can easily be tucked in the corner of a room or stashed in the bottom of a wardrobe when not in use. The general design might feel a little alien to seasons gym-goers and the versatility of use can’t quite match a traditional fixed dumbbell, but where value for money and convenience is concerned, adjustable dumbbells are heard to beat when it comes to the home gym.