Adjustable dumbbell bars/handles are among the most common pieces of strength training equipment in home gyms. There are a few types to differentiate between to determine their weight.
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Solid Standard Dumbbell Handles
Standard 14″ long dumbbell handles weigh 4-5 lbs each, provided they are solid steel like the above, not hollow.
This type is called “standard” as opposed to olympic, which I go over further below. Standard bars are 1″ diameter, with plates that have about 1 1/16″ diameter holes to fit.
With standard handles you have a choice between a version with smooth ends or threaded ends. The smooth ends use a spring collar or crank-lock collar to hold the plates on. Threaded ends use spin-lock collars that act as a nut on a bolt.
Between the two, spin-lock handles are generally preferred by even experienced lifters for this application, for safety reasons. They’re easy to spin on and off such a short length quickly, and you can tell right away if one starts to spin loose way before it’s in danger of coming off, while a weak spring collar might suddenly slip off and drop plates onto your face.
Longer 15″ to 18″ standard dumbbell handles are becoming more common than only a few years ago. They let you load a couple extra 10lb plates per hand. They seem to all weigh around 5.5 lbs each, even with different lengths.
If you haven’t already bought these, see our guide on how these compare to modern adjustable dumbbell systems like the Ironmaster or SelectTech.
Hollow Standard Dumbbell Handles
The above CAP adjustable dumbbell set is really cheap. You’re not getting the smoking deal you think you are. First of all, that’s a hollow steel pipe you’re looking at that weighs maybe a pound. It’s made to hold up to about 20 lbs only. Don’t try to use thinner solid steel plates on it to increase the weight, or you’re in danger of the pipe handle failing. As it is, it might fail at any time if you drop the dumbbell. A solid steel rod holds up much better.
Second, when people shop for adjustable dumbbells they assume, without thinking to check, that the 40lb advertised weight is per hand, but with cheap sets like this you’re being tricked. It’s 20 lbs per hand. Good brands and specialty gym equipment stores always tell you the weight per hand.
A giveaway for hollow pipes is the smooth grip area with no knurling. They can’t press knurling into the kind of lightweight thin-walled pipe they use for this. Sometimes they’ll put a rubber sleeve over it for better grip.
Bottom line, check the weight. If the handle weight isn’t noted as 5 lbs each, they’re hollow. If they have knurling, they’re definitely solid.
Olympic Dumbbell Handles
Olympic dumbbell handles weigh 10 lbs each and are almost always 20″ long. They are compatible with plates in olympic weight sets, and that compatibility is a big selling point. As with an olympic barbell, they have large rotating sleeves. Like any other adjustable dumbbells, you’re best off using 10lb and smaller plates to keep them easy to handle. You can load these suckers to 150 lbs each using the thinnest 10lb plates.
The roomy 20″ length also creates a problem. The ends bump into each other when you do presses.
Rogue offers shorter 14.5″ olympic dumbbell handles weighing 9 lbs each, and Titan Fitness has 15″ olympic dumbbell handles weighing 8.2 lbs each. Either are in what I consider the sweet spot of 14-16″ long, where you can add a decent amount of weight but where they don’t get so long you start banging them into stuff or each other.
Like standard handles that are solid steel, the brand doesn’t matter much with olympic dumbbell handles. Years ago I had a pair that had what I think were 25mm shafts instead of 28mm. Keep an eye on that and the overall length when buying and you shouldn’t run into any surprises.
These are a specialty item that get confused with standard adjustable handles at first glance. The thing is, they basically are standard sized handles, but they are not really adjustable. They’re meant for assembling “pro-style” dumbbells, the vintage style with a stack of plates on the ends instead of solid iron heads. Each of these handles is meant to hold an exact number of plates in order for the end bolt to tighten on them.
Pro style dumbbell handles weigh from 2 lbs to 6 lbs or more, depending on the length. Size #1, the shortest one meant to hold one plate per side, is about 2 lbs. Size #10 is often the largest and weighs about 6 lbs.