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Dumbbells: Types and History

The Dumbbell, also known as hand weights and free weights, is undeniably one of the most common equipment utilized for weight training. It is usually used in pairs but can also be used individually. It consists of a narrow single bar in the middle with equal weights on each end. Some dumbbells are very light in weight while others are very heavy. With this, dumbbells vary from only a few pounds to as heavy as 50 pounds or more. In addition to that, they can be fixed in weight or variable. Weight discs can be added or removed from the bar by quantity or by size. Most people think that this type of equipment has only been in the modern ages. However, this versatile piece of free weight tool has been used for a variety of exercises since 2,000 years ago.

As stated above, the dumbbell has been used for weight training in order to tone and increase the muscle size. They are frequently used by bodybuilders, powerlifters, athletes, and other exercise enthusiasts within their workout routines. Each exercise designed using the dumbbell targets a specific group of muscles. With comprehensive and regular exercise, muscles of the arms, shoulders, back, chest, legs, and core can be developed in order to be more toned and strong.

History of Dumbbells

The history of dumbbells traces back to the ancient Greek times around the 5th century B.C. They used the word “Halteres” which means to lift weights or heavy material. Historians and Archaeologists have found out that Greeks used handheld weighted objects similar to the modern dumbbells to strengthen their muscles. In India, a club-shaped device called “Nal” was used for almost a millennium for the same purpose of lifting weights. However, this version of India can be considered as a midpoint between a barbell and a dumbbell. Over many centuries later, plummets and lead plus with wood were used just like the dumbbells modern times have. Early Physicians have observed that these heavy metal plates can be used for exercise in order to improve the lifestyle and overall health of people.

After the modern eighth century, the term “dumbbell” was established from England. However, its meaning is not the same with the modern definition of dumbbell. During that time, it means the practice of pulling the rope for the ringing of heavy church bells high in church steeples. It means the practice of bellringing. In order to do bellringing, it took much strength and practice to ring heavy church bells, so inexperienced bellringers were taught without the use of the clappers within the bells. The noiseless ringing of bells caused for the english people to associate the word “dumb”. After such time, the practice of bellringing came to be known as a “dumbbell.”

Around the Sixteenth century, people of England realized that they could improve their physique by working with these dumbbells attached to ropes. After such time, in the Nineteenth century, the original rope and weighted bell-like object was developed and replaced with a short bar and rounded discs with weights on each end. This evolved to be known as the modern dumbbell people use today.

Types of Dumbbells and their Benefits

1. Adjustable Dumbbells


(Source: Elements.envato.com)

This type of dumbbells are the most common type of dumbbells. Exercise beginners or novice can utilize this dumbbell in order to get the hang of weight training. Most home gyms have adjustable dumbbells because they are the most basic ones. It consists of a bar of metal that bears a crosshatch pattern in the center in order to improve the hand grip of the user and reduce the risk of slipping. Dumbbell collars can be used in order to secure the weight plates onto the ends so that it would slip and slide. You can also easily add more weight plates through adjusting the collars at the end. This is great for those who are just starting with weight training so that they can slowly adjust the weight as they progress to their fitness routine. It is good to note that when buying a set of adjustable dumbbells, storage space must be a great consideration because they take much space. They must also be stored in a metallic ground shelf because they might rust in a humid environment hence, wooden storage is discouraged.

Benefits of Adjustable Dumbbells

  • Just like other dumbbells, you can utilize them to exercise almost all muscle groups of the shoulders, arms, back, chest, and core. They are extremely versatile offering you a wide range of exercises to choose from.
  • When learning to use adjustable dumbbells, you do not have to go through a difficult adjustment period because you will only have to add and subtract weight discs as you go along your fitness routine.
  • They are usually small and significantly safe because of the collars they come with. You can mix plates differently in order to add variety to your exercise through adjusting the collars and adding or subtracting weight plates.

2. Fixed-Weight Dumbbells

(Source: Elements.envato.com)

Fixed-weight dumbbells are basically weights designed in a dumbbell shape. They are most likely the first ones you see in the gym when you attempt your weight training. Each dumbbell has specific and fixed-weight designed for each exercise. Inexpensive variety of this type of dumbbell consists of cast iron often coated with rubber or neoprene in order to add a sense of comfort to users. However, there are versions that are available in the market made with a rigid plastic shell that is filled with concrete. The standard weight usually available is from 2 kg to 25 kgs. It is not usually ideal for home gyms because you have to buy approximately 10 to 20 pieces just to have the full range of weights you need to complete exercises. It is good to note that this type of dumbbells have a significant effect on the increase of muscle mass especially when you use the heavier weights.

Benefits of Fixed-Weight Dumbbells

  • It challenges your creativity when doing exercises because of its non-adjustable nature. Squats and lunges can be modified together with triceps extensions and lateral raises. It still offers a wide range of exercises to choose from even if it has a fixed weight.
  • Having an entire set requires a lot of space, however if you only buy the ones you think you really need and can aid in your workout program then storing it is easier because you do not have to think with the weight plates like in the adjustable type. More than that, cheaper versions made from plastic will not rust due to the humid environment.
  • You can do weight training faster because changing weights is relatively easier because you do not have to adjust clips or collars to subtract or add weights to do your next exercise.

3. Selectorized Dumbbells

(Source: Elements.envato.com)

One of the modern dumbbells found in most modern home gyms and recreational centers. Selectorized dumbbells are basically adjustable dumbbells whose number of weight plates can be swiftly and easily changed when resting in the dumbbell stand. Rather than manually adding or removing weight plates, you can adjust a dial or moving a selector pin in order to adjust the number of plates and hence the adjusting the weight of the dumbbell. This offers an easier way of changing the weight of the dumbbell between exercises. It also saves a lot of storage from the additional weights not being utilized during a specific exercise. It is extremely heavy so it is difficult to move around. The downright disadvantage of this type of dumbbell is that it is expensive. However, they are a good investment because they are proven to last long due to its compact structure and quality materials.

Benefits of Selectorized Dumbbells

  • They are suitable for quick routines because of their highly adjustable function. They are proven to be safe and offer a safety mechanism because you can change the weight during exercise especially when you feel like it is too heavy for you.
  • They are relatively heavier compared to other dumbbells, hence they significantly promote muscle strength and muscle gain.
  • It offers better storage because you do not have to buy a lot of weight plates or dumbbells in order to get the full range of weights. Hence, you can save more space in your home gym.

Indeed, dumbbells are one of the most common equipment you see in commercial and home gyms. It is often used for joint-isolation exercises such as biceps curls, shoulder raises, or chest flys. However, you can also use it for full-body multiplanar movements in order to provide full body strength outcomes. Other than promoting muscle strength and gain, it also offers cardiorespiratory fitness and flexibility. With that, it is good to know which type of dumbbell will benefit you most and fit your lifestyle and workout routine. Knowing these things will surely aid you in achieving your fitness goals in no time.

1. All About Dumbbells. 2017. Types of Dumbbells. Retrieved from: https://allaboutdumbbells.com/types-of-dumbbells. Retrieved on 6 June 2020.
2. Jrank. 2017. Dumbbells. Retrieved from: https://reference.jrank.org/fitness/Dumbbells.html. Retrieved on 6 June 2020.
3. McCall, P. AceFitness. 2015. 5 Benefits of Dumbbell Training. Retrieved from: https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/professional/expert-articles/5675/5-benefits-of-dumbbell-training/. Retrieved on 6 June 2020.
4. Mitchell, Luke. 2018. 3 Types of Dumbbells: How Each Can Benefit You. Retrieved from: https://dysfunctionalparrot.com/health-and-fitness/types-of-dumbbells/. Retrieved on 6 June 2020.

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