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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A pair of Adjustable dumbbells with 2 kg plates.

A dumbbell is a piece of equipment used in weight training, and is a type of free weight. They can be used individually or in pairs (one for each hand).



The forerunner of the dumbbell was used in India for more than a millennium, shaped like a club – so named Indian club. The design of the "Nal", as the equipment was referred to, can be seen as a halfway point between a barbell and a dumbbell. It was generally used in pairs, in workouts by wrestlers, bodybuilders, sports players, and others wishing to increase strength and muscle size.


"Dumbbells" as a word originated in Tudor England – athletes used hand-held church bells to develop the upper body and arms. These bells ranged in weight from a few ounces to many pounds. The bells were flourished in various ways. This would have made a great deal of noise, so the athletes would take out the clappers so they could practice quietly; hence the name "dumb", as in "no sound", and "bell" – dumbbell. When strongmen started to make their own equipment, they kept the name, even though the shape changed. Kettles were also available in various sizes, ranging up to those holding several gallons. Filled with sand or water, these too could be used for training. When athletes started making purpose-built equipment, they also kept the name. See Oxford dictionary definition.


By the early 17th century, the familiar shape of the dumbbell, with two equal weights attached to a handle, had appeared. There are currently three main types of dumbbell:

A spinlock adjustable dumbbell.
  • Adjustable dumbbells consist of a metal bar whose centre portion is often engraved with a crosshatch pattern (knurling) to improve grip. Weight disks (plates) are slid onto the outer portions of the dumbbell and secured with clips or collars. Shown to the right is a "spinlock" dumbbell, whose ends are threaded to accept large nuts as collars. Alternatively, a dumbbell may have smooth ends with plates being secured by a sprung collar.
  • Fixed-weight dumbbells are weights created in a dumbbell shape. Expensive varieties consist of cast iron, sometimes coated with rubber for safety. Cheaper versions consist of a rigid plastic shell that is filled with concrete.
  • "Selectorized" dumbbells are adjustable dumbbells whose weight is changed mechanically — for example, by turning a dial or moving a selector pin — rather than manually adding or removing plates. This makes it very easy to change the weight of the dumbbell between exercises. Such dumbbells often include stands that double as storage for the additional weights not being used for a particular exercise.

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