What Are Dumbbells Made Of?

Whether you want to level up your dumbbell exercise or have that ripped body, incorporating weights like dumbbells is a big help to achieving your body or weight goals. But before you lift the nearest dumbbell, you should first know the different materials they’re made of to figure out what will work best for you.

We’ve rounded up the materials usually used to help you know what are dumbbells made of. We also determined each material’s pros and cons and what to look for when buying them.

Ready to discover the best dumbbell material for you? Read ahead! 

Types of Dumbbell Material

Below are five dumbbell materials you should know. We also listed the advantages and disadvantages of each, so make sure to read before you settle on your choice!

1. Plastic Dumbbells – Best for Light Workouts

plastic dumbbells

A plastic dumbbell is your perfect workout partner if you’re a beginner. Compared to other dumbbell materials, plastic dumbbells are distinctly lighter despite being filled with concrete or sand inside. 

They also come as fixed-weight dumbbells, so adjustments aren’t needed to make them lighter or heavier for you. Additionally, a plastic dumbbell is suitable for warm-ups, bicep workouts, and light arm exercises.


  • Lightweight
  • Stylish and colorful
  • Affordable
  • Polished grip provides a smooth, comfortable texture
  • Suitable for beginners and light workouts
  • Often used in starter fitness classes


  • Only offers limited weight options
  • Prone to heat damage

Buying guide: Select cement-filled plastic ones instead of sand because they may spill over once the plastic is punctured or damaged. Make sure that the dumbbell’s plastic material is also thick enough to handle several dumbbell exercises for quite some time.

2. Rubber Dumbbells – Best for Gym-goers

rubber dumbbells

A certified gym rat would know what a rubber dumbbell looks like. Those made from synthetic rubber, also known as neoprene dumbbells, are often used in gyms because of their protective ability. Additionally, the silver metal handlebar and black rubber weights also look premium.

A neoprene dumbbell usually has cast iron or steel inside the weights. It offers heavier-weight options so that it can handle intermediate workouts. Moreover, you can use rubber dumbbells as a substitute for barbells.


  • Has a preventive layer
  • Damage-resistant due to the rubber layer
  • Waterproof
  • Easy to clean
  • Better grip ability
  • Provides a heavier weight feeling compared to plastic dumbbells


  • Expensive
  • Emits a foul odor if not maintained properly

Buying guide: Choose those with a hexagonal shape instead of round rubber dumbbells for maximum safety. The latter easily rolls around and can lead to accidents. In addition, opt for dumbbells made from high-quality rubber. If the dumbbell smells intensely foul, it’s most likely made from low-quality rubber.

3. Cast Iron Dumbbells – Best Multipurpose or Adjustable Dumbbells

cast iron dumbbells

Both available in adjustable and fixed weight, heavy cast iron dumbbells are the most common. It’s even considered a traditional dumbbell material!

Cast iron dumbbells are meticulously processed by melting raw cast iron material and then poured into a mold cavity. You can choose between two types: fixed cast iron or adjustable. Fixed cast iron dumbbells have a short handlebar with two round or hexagonal plates on both ends. Adjustable dumbbells have different cast iron weight plates that you can mount on each side of the handlebar. 

Adjustable or not, a cast iron dumbbell has various weight options. Experts also often use these multipurpose cast iron dumbbells to cater to multiple muscle groups and exercises.


  • Durable
  • Cost-effective 
  • Offers a wide range of weight sizes
  • Perfect for heavy workouts


  • May cause injury or harm if not handled carefully

Buying Guide: If you plan to use cast iron dumbbells for multiple workouts, it’s better to go for an adjustable dumbbell since it offers a variety of weight plates. A hex cast iron dumbbell is safer to handle since they’re more stable than a round cast iron dumbbell, especially if you don’t have a workout carpet. Choose a knurling grip polished handlebar that helps keep a firm grip when exercising.

4. Steel Dumbbells – Best Rust-Resistant Dumbbell

steel dumbbells

If you have the budget for high-quality and rust-resistant equipment, you should go for a steel dumbbell. Available in both fixed and adjustable weights, dumbbells made from steel are durable and offer a wide variety of weight options to choose from.

Moreover, gym and sports professionals usually use these. Steel makes the heaviest, which explains why bodybuilders prefer it. Despite their high price, steel dumbbells are cost-effective in the long run because of their extreme durability.


  • Durable
  • Sturdy
  • Rust-resistant 
  • Offers a wide range of weights
  • Premium look


  • Expensive 

Buying Guide: If you buy a fixed-weight steel dumbbell, ensure you get the right weight you can handle. Many steel dumbbells tend to be heavier than expected and might cause an injury if not proportionate to the user’s strength.

5. Concrete Dumbbells – Best Budget-Friendly Dumbbell

From an expensive option, here goes a relatively cheaper choice for dumbbell enthusiasts: concrete dumbbells! They might be low-cost, but they’re durable enough to last longer than rubber-coated and plastic ones. 

These types are not typical in commercial gyms, but they can often be found in backyards or home gyms since it’s an affordable alternative to other dumbbell materials. Though not as aesthetically pleasing as other dumbbells, solid concrete dumbbells can help you achieve your fitness goals.


  • Affordable
  • Easy to manufacture
  • Can be made at home 
  • Customizable shape 


  • Prone to breaking down if handled hastily
  • Can be easily destroyed by the impact
  • Somewhat rough surface

Buying Guide: Look for high-quality cement to make the dumbbell with. Also, an impact-resistant material like plastic or rubber coating can prevent damage.


Dumbbells are a piece of excellent equipment for your workout routine, whether you want muscle growth or a more intense dumbbell exercise.

Now that you know what they are made of and their benefits, you can pick the right one that caters to your strength and help you achieve your goals!

If you like this article, check out our other reviews at ExpertFitness.org.

Nathan Lloyd, MSc

I’m a personal trainer, based in Boulder, Colorado.
I service clients physically in the Boulder area, mainly in the ONE Boulder Fitness Gym, but am also available for online consulting and coaching.

If you’re interested in my personal coaching programs, please contact me via the contact page.