Dumbbell Buying Guide
Durability and Finish
Any kind of painted-on finish is going to be the least durable, even though the baked-on finish of our hex dumbbells is pretty good.
Powder coating, on the other hand, looks like paint but has a bumpy texture that feels great in your hands. It adheres better, and it's harder. whereas paint can chip off more easily. It's also more corrosion resistant than regular paint. And if you're enviornmentally conscious, the powder coating process produces less waste and pollution, and the waste it does produce isn't hazardous.
Rubber is pretty good, but the rubber used on dumbbells does not do well under sunlight. It softens and then cracks as it hardens again. If it's in a commercial facility away from direct sunlight, or with tinted windows, it will do just fine.Rubber also has the advantage of a certain amount of cushion when you drop them, protecting the dumbbells, floors, and any equipment it bounces into.
Urethane is technically polyurethane and is better than rubber, hands down. It has no odor whatsoever, and direct sunlight isn't a problem. Urethane has all the advantages of rubber as far as dumbbell covering, and it lasts pretty much forever. The only question is whether you can pay for it.
Just to be clear, any kind of rubber or urethane dumbbells are only coated with it. These materials don't weigh enough to make heavy dumbbells out of. They would have to be twice as wide to get up to weight. So instead they have an iron core with the rubber or urethane coating.
Chrome is pretty good too. It's a hard chrome plating that doesn't chip easily. You pretty much have to leave them outside for the iron underneath to start to corrode, so good chrome dumbbells like these will last many years.
Round-head dumbbells are nice to use, but you kind of want a saddle rack to use them on so they don't roll around, as shown at left. The rubber coated saddles also reduce noise and improve durability.
You can use hex or other multi-sided dumbbells on a saddle rack like this, but that isn't really ideal. You would be better off with a "shelf" style rack as shown at right. The shelf racks can hold round dumbbells too, but they may roll out of place. The modern York roundheads address this problem by having a small flat spot on their heads to be set down on so they won't roll.See our article on Two Rep Cave, The Best Types of Dumbbells: A Buying Guide.