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Fixed Dumbbells vs Loadable Dumbbells

By Strength Oldschool


* This article contains Amazon "Affiliated" links which means if you click on these links and buy something, Strength Oldschool will receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated!


From roughly around 2015, I've owned a huge collection of Hex Rubber "Fixed Dumbbells", ranging from 1 kg (2.2 lbs) up to 70 kg (154 lbs) (see photo below).

Strength Oldschool Collection of Hex Rubber Dumbbells - 1kg up to 70kg

* You can purchase Hex Rubber Dumbbells from Amazon.


Today I still look at the above photo in amazement and think WOW! I owned that many dumbbells! I remember that day like it was yesterday. I spent hours cleaning every one of those dumbbells! That was hard work. After finishing, I swore never to clean that dumbbell collection ever again ha ha!

A number of years later I would sell off some of the heavier dumbbells - 50 kg (110 lbs) up to 70 kg (154 lbs). I think the reason for selling at the time was to free up space as I chose to move all my gym equipment from my garage into my house. The garage gym back then, which I miss using, was and still currently is, very poorly insulated. The garage really needs to be knocked down and re-built from scratch but that costs a lot of money! All my gym equipment was rusting away so I had to either renovate my garage or shift all the equipment into my house. Shifting everything was the chosen logical solution.

Selling off my heavy dumbbells wasn't a big deal either believe it or not, because at the time I also had loadable dumbbell handles (see photo below).

Loadable Dumbbell Handles

* Dumbbell Handles above are made by Watson Gym Equipment.


So my logic was, if I needed 50 kg (110 lb) dumbbells or heavier, I could easily use my loadable dumbbell handles. To be honest though, I do remember at the time thinking about switching to lighter weights using higher reps, due to picking up injuries. So that was possibly another reason to sell off my heavier weights.

Fast forward to present times and I still have my fixed, rubber hex dumbbells from 1 kg (2.2 lbs) up to 45 kg (99 lbs) and several pairs of very expensive loadable dumbbell handles, all "custom made" by Watson Gym Equipment, including another set of standard cheaper handles.

But throughout the last year or so, I've seriously thought about selling the remainder of my fixed dumbbell collection and just using my loadable dumbbell handles. I've got plenty of olympic weight plates so I've been thinking..."Why keep my fixed dumbbells which take up too much space?" The garage gym isn't going to be renovated any time soon so why not sell them and make some money back!

Watch the video below to hear my further thoughts on this.


So yer, I decided to test out what it would be like to just use loadable dumbbell handles in a dumbbell training session and to be honest, it was a major shock to the system. It only took me "one workout" to change my mind about selling my hex dumbbells!

That workout involved 'super-setting' Incline Dumbbell Presses and single arm Dumbbell Rows. It should have been a great workout session. I was all revved up, excited to train and then within 30 minutes or so, I began to get frustrated.

The plan for the workout was to increase the weights every set until I failed to achieve my target rep number. I like to normally keep my workouts very simple, meaning, I perform very few exercises, which can be referred to as "Abbreviated Training". That session I only focused on two exercises, so it should have been a good, fun workout. My training that day however, lasted well over two hours! It became the most frustrating workout of my life simply from having to change the weight of my dumbbells EVERY SINGLE SET!

The "custom" loadable dumbbell handle I was using measures only 12" long. So one of the issues is, not much weight can be loaded onto the short bar if "standard" Olympic weights are used. Luckily I own "competition style" Olympic weight plates, which are much thinner than regular plates. I purchased these specifically for my "custom" loadable Watson dumbbell handles.

The only other issue is, you also need to use as thin as possible "Olympic locking collars" to secure the weights on to the dumbbell handles. I own several different types of collars. The easiest and best kind are "Lock-Jaw" style because their quick to add on and take off.

Different Types of Olympic Collars


The only downside to using the 'Lock-Jaw' style collars is that their quite bulky and take up too much space. You don't tend to notice this when using barbells or longer dumbbell handles but when you switch to much shorter dumbbell handles, you quickly realise that Olympic collar design is extremely important, and the thinner the collar, the better!

Olympic Collar Size Comparison - Thin Screw Clamp Collar vs Thick Lock Jaw Collar


So I used the following "Olympic Screw Clamp Collars" which can be purchased on Amazon.

Olympic Screw Clamp Collars


The downside however, is the lack of quickness you get compared to using 'Lock-Jaw' style collars. Using the screw type collars isn't an extremely slow process but unfortunately, It does take a bit more time to secure weight plates on to dumbbell handles.

These are excellent collars which I actually recommend but if your changing weights on dumbbells every single set and you're doing lot's of sets, you will become extremely frustrated with the repetitiveness of having to tighten and slacken the screws. After over two hours of taking weight plates on and off, I decided to switch back to my fixed dumbbells before prematurely abandoning the workout. I spent more time and energy changing weights than actually training!

The ability to simply grab a dumbbell and go is priceless. I spent a lot of money years ago buying the fixed hex dumbbells and always felt guilty due to paying the high cost, but mainly because I felt I was being lazy to simply use loadable dumbbell handles. That frustrating workout was a wake up call and made me realise just how good and handy it is to have fixed dumbbells. The sheer quickness of grabbing a fixed dumbbell compared to loading a dumbbell handle justifies the huge price I payed years ago.

So yes, when I posted the video above on August 26, 2022, I was keen to get rid of all my fixed dumbbells. Now I've changed my mind. I still don't really have the space to store all my fixed hex dumbbells but until another "Dumbbell" solution comes along, I'll hold on to them for the time being.

Another problem which I just remembered regarding "loadable dumbbell handles" was the pain issue when cleaning heavy dumbbells from the floor to my thighs, before performing a bench press movement.

Due to the "stick out", narrow, Olympic bar ends on loadable dumbbell handles, they become very uncomfortable when resting weights on the thighs. PRO / HEX dumbbell designs are much more suited and comfortable for this type of stuff. This pain issue (although not a major problem) was one of the reasons for me several years back to use "Dumbbell Spotter Hooks".

There's definitely a gap in the market for a clever, cheap, product design which easily attaches to the ends of loadable dumbbell handles creating a wider, flatter surface to rest dumbbells on the thighs pain-free.


Other Types of Dumbbells

As someone who has trained with weights for over 30 years (shocking I know!), I've used many different types of equipment.

Growing up in the 80's I remember using the really thick, bulky, vinyl weight plates which I would add to a thin 1" barbell and dumbbell handle. This was my first experience at using a "Loadable" dumbbell handle.

York Thick Vinyl Dumbbell Weight Plates

 

These bulky, plastic type weights were my first taste to weight training. My brother actually purchased these plates and I would simply use them from time to time. You could barely load much weight onto the bars due to how thick the plates were. I believe the manufacturer was either York (pictured above), Weider or Marcy, can't quite recall. The funny thing is, you can still buy these weights from Argos and similar places, even Amazon!


SPIN-LOCK style Dumbbell Handles...

Spinlock Dumbbell Set

The 'Spin-Lock' style was an interesting design. Collars thin enough not to take up too much space on the bar but quickly (in my opinion) became a major pain in the backside taking weights on and off. The repetitive nature of having to spin the safety lock every time you needed to change the weight became annoying for me. Also from what I remember, the metal collar had solid edges so your fingers would hurt after properly tightening the collars. Or maybe that was just me?

I still own Ironmaster Adjustable Dumbbells but their too similar in my opinion to plate loadable dumbbell handles. Although, their clever design does enable much quicker weight changes along with being much more compact.

Ironmaster have been around since the 70's and have built up a tremendous reputation on building solid, compact, Home Gym training equipment ranging from adjustable dumbbells to power racks etc.

My issue with Ironmaster dumbbells has always been, why use these if I already have Olympic weight plates and loadable dumbbell handles? It's not like I'm going to get rid of all my Olympic weight plates as I use them every single workout as standard with barbells. So justifying keeping the Ironmaster dumbbells becomes questionable even though they are excellent and feel great to use.

Ironmaster Quick Lock Adjustable Dumbbells


So the next question becomes..."
Do I consider getting "Ultra Space Saving" dumbbells which can be increased in weight at the turn of a dial?"

These types of dumbbells come in many different shapes and forms, some even appear to look 'SPACE-AGE' and futuristic in style such as these "Power Block Adjustable Dumbbells".

Power Block Adjustable Dumbbells

The 'Power Blocks' in my opinion, I would never buy.

I think they will appeal to only certain individuals due to the awkward design shape which would make performing certain exercises unnecessarily challenging and uncomfortable to do. I have strong feelings that to most serious weight trainers, they would appear laughable but maybe I'm wrong?


Bowflex dumbbells
 on the other hand...

Bowflex Adjustable Dumbbells


Designed to be compact with "ultra quick" changing of weight. Shape wise, it resembles much more of a typical round dumbbell which makes it much more aesthetically pleasing to the eye compared to the 'Power Blocks'.

The problem however, with these types of dumbbells and there's many different types of brands out there with various unique designs, but overall, these dumbbells are built too large. Even at the lightest weights, the dumbbells are very long making them awkward to use on certain exercises. That's a major turn off for me unfortunately.

The Bowflex dumbbell with just the turn of a dial can automatically increase or decrease resistance from something like 2 kg (4.4 lbs) all the way up to 24 kg (52.8 lbs), maybe even as much as 34 kg (74.8 lbs).

There's no need to remove and add on weight plates making this design a major space-saving feature which specifically target the 'HOME GYM' user. This style of dumbbell would appeal to both the young and old as it still somewhat resembles an actual dumbbell shape and remains aesthetically pleasing.

I've never actually used one of these 'Dial' based "machine" dumbbells as I like to call them but they do receive mixed reviews when you research them online and quite a few of the reviews are positive.

These "selectorised" dumbbells can be increased in weight using the following increments (kg): 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 16, 18, 20, 23, 24 etc. These increments may change depending on the dumbbell model/brand.

The low increments allow a more natural weight progression which helps minimise the risk of injuries. Quick changes in weight also enable lifters to perform exercise supersets thus helping increase the intensity of training and most importantly, help avoid the extreme boredom of changing weight plates every set! I know how that feels ha ha!

To give you a sense of scale in regards to "Storage" between Bowflex dumbbells and some of my Hex Rubber Dumbbells; below is a photo displaying my rack containing dumbbells ranging from 1 kg up to 27.5 kg in the following paired increments: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. 9, 10, 12.5, 15, 17.5, 20, 22.5, 25, 27.5.

 Strength Oldschool Hex Rubber Dumbbell Collection - 1 kg up to 27.5 kg


I don't even need to include the measurements of the rack for you to see and understand the sheer difference in scale between the quick changing Bowflex dumbbells and my massive Hex dumbbell rack which takes up considerable room in my house. From a storage point of view, The Bowflex dumbbells easily wins hands down.

Do I regret buying my Hex Rubber Dumbbells? NO. I love them. They definitely take up a lot of room and cost a fair bit of money (£1000+), but because I do currently have extra room in my house to store these, then I see no reason to get rid of them at this point in time.

Due to the Hex dumbbells being coated in Rubber, this will help reduce noise levels when training, but also help protect your floors should you happen to drop your dumbbells accidentally.

If you are looking for "Fixed" Dumbbells, Hex Dumbbells are one of the cheapest styles to buy. Due to their unique shape, they won't roll about like 'Pro Style' dumbbells and therefore can also be securely stored on top of one another should you wish to minimise storage space.

Strength Oldschool Hex Rubber Dumbbell Tower Storage


I'm not an expert on this matter but in my opinion, all Hex dumbbells are the same no-matter where you buy them from. Gym companies simply import these dumbbells from China and stamp their brand name on. If the brand name is popular, it gives the company more reason to charge a fortune! I do not know this for a fact but If you are planning to buy Hex Dumbbells, I would consider going for the cheapest price (however, you do this at your own risk!).

Hex dumbbells are pretty hard wearing and should last for years, preferably a life-time! So consider it an investment if you buy these types of dumbbells.

So at this point in time, I'll keep using my fixed rubber hex dumbbells along with the 'occasional' use of my loadable dumbbell handles. Who knows, in time, I may even just decide to give up dumbbell training and just focus on barbells!? Or...I may decide to try out a "selectorised" fast weight changing dumbbell! Time will tell.

Anyway, thanks for reading this article. I hope I've given readers something to think about when it comes to dumbbell training. And if you wish to share any personal opinions, please post your comments below. I'd be more than happy to read what others think on this topic.


[ * UPDATE * ]

In regards to "Ultra Space Saving" Dumbbells, I recently made a decision...Check out the following article, where I explain what I've done.

 

Thanks for reading and keep training hard folks!

All the best,


Strength Oldschool



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