Revised in 2023 to include current brands and updated info throughout..

Why Urethane

Urethane dumbbells are hands-down the highest quality dumbbells you can get.

Urethane is UV resistant, heat resistant, abrasion resistant, doesn’t smell like tires… Basically it doesn’t crack, peel, rub off, or degrade.

The downside is because it doesn’t degrade it’s as bad as plastic as far as the environment is concerned. So you have to take the good and the bad. I haven’t been able to find much info on exactly how soon it can degrade. If they start making dumbbells in some material that doesn’t degrade at all for the first 50 years (basically it’ll last longer than you), and then starts decomposing nicely so we don’t have to feel guilty, I’ll let you know.

Rubber does degrade, maybe a little quicker than you’d want it to. After a few years of heavy use you can notice the abrasion or effects of sunlight or heat. It may crack if the extremes are bad enough.

Anyway, big time commercial gyms have gotten fond of urethane dumbbells. We’re talking the types of gyms who are cool with spending money to get stuff that looks and performs great for years. The big health clubs have an image to maintain and can afford to spend what it takes to keep their image intact. It’s a wise investment for a gym that plans on being around for a while. Depending on how you count it, urethane dumbbells cost about twice that of rubber, so once they have to buy a second set of rubber dumbbells, the urethane would have have paid for themselves, and a few years after that they’re actually cheaper long term.

Here I’m comparing the best of the urethane dumbbells on the market today, so you can make sure you get the right ones at the best price.

Comparison Chart

Scroll right to see all 7 brands.

 Hammer StrengthRep FitnessBells of SteelTroyRogue FitnessIntek Strength Iron Grip
USA MadeYesNoNoNoNoNoYes
Weight Tolerance3%1%2%2%3%2%2%
Handle Style32-35mm Straight32-34mm Straight32-34mm Straight34mm Straight31-34mm Straight32-35mm Straight35mm or 44mm
Straight or Contoured
Head Shape12-SidedRoundRound12-SidedRoundRoundRound
Max Size100 lb150 lb100 lb150 lb150 lb100 lb150 lb
Increments5lb5lb5lb 5lb5lb 2.5lb for 5-30lb, 5lb higher2.5lb for 5-55lb, 5lb higher
Sold in Individual PairsYesOnly up to 50lbOnly 60lb+YesYesYesNo
Price/lb (50lb)*$7.30$1.50$3.27??$3.60$6.26Quote only

* For some brands, the price of urethane dumbbells, unlike most other types of weights, is a higher $/lb for lower weights. The reason for this is urethane is expensive, and on the smaller weights the urethane itself makes up a larger percentage of the total weight, so they adjust the prices accordingly. I have listed prices for the 50lb size to pick an arbitrary weight. But some brands just price them all as the same $/lb and call it good.

The Attributes Explained

Made in the USA

Iron Grip and Hammer Strength are the only ones who make their dumbbells in the USA. Others typically come from China.

See our USA-Made Dumbbells List for non-urethane models.

Weight Tolerance

I’m featuring only dumbbells that the manufacturer gives a weight tolerance guarantee on.

3% means a 100lb dumbbell can be off by up to 3 lbs. In reality, I don’t think that happens. I used to sell dumbbells and plates all the time with weight accuracy guarantees, and I don’t remember getting a complaint that one was out of spec. If that happened very often the manufacturers would have to throw a lot away and jack up their costs.

Handle Style

Iron Grip is the only one with 3 handle styles you can choose from. One of those options is fat handles, making it the only fat-handled urethane dumbbell on the market, that I know of.

Straight handles are the most common. All these have nice thick handles, some of which are graduated thicker on the heavier sizes (hence the range given in the chart like 32-34mm). I like thick handled dumbbells like this. Even people with smaller hands really don’t mind them. Barbells are sometimes 28mm diameter, but that’s because they need to accommodate heavy pulling movements like deadlifts and cleans. With dumbbells your grip strength generally isn’t an issue unless you’re doing farmer’s walks, and in that case the whole point is to work your grip, so thicker is better.

Some people like contoured handles, which are thicker in the middle and taper to the sides, and those are harder to find with urethane dumbbells. It’s common with rubber dumbbells. For some reason every contoured handled dumbbell in existence has a weird knurl pattern. They aren’t able to knurl the whole thing with the way it’s formed I guess.

Head Shape

Round tends to be what commercial gyms have. Round is not always ideal for garage gyms, because garages have a 1 degree slope (mandated by law) down towards the entrance, and your dumbbells can roll. Round dumbbells are used best in larger saddle-style dumbbell racks (where each dumbbell is held by its own saddle), as they can roll around in traditional flat dumbbell racks. This is all typically no problem for commercial gyms, where a larger rack is actually helpful so that the dumbbells are spaced out enough to allow space for multiple users getting what they need need and also to help indicate the correct spots for each.

Weight Increments

For lighter weights, 2.5lb increments is nice to have. When you think about it, most exercises involve two dumbbells, so you’re really jumping up by 10 lbs for every 5 lb increment. When you’re only lifting 20lb dumbbells, that’s a 25% increase in weight. Even lifters who regularly use the 50-100lb dumbbells may need the lighter ones for some awkward exercises like lateral raises or when rehabbing a injury, and in those cases the 2.5lb increments makes it easier to progress in weight.

Unlike with iron dumbbells, with urethane ones you can’t stick magnets onto the heads to add a couple pounds to fill in the weight gaps. However, you can use 2lb wrist weights and get the same effect.

Individual Pairs vs Sets

Urethane dumbbells are made mostly to outfit commercial gyms, and some manufacturers prefer to package these as complete sets to keep the costs down instead of piecing them out.