Metal Dumbbells vs Rubber: Which One is Better?

In this article, we discuss the differences between rubber vs metal dumbbells to help you choose which one to get.

How are metal dumbbells vs rubber different? Rubber dumbbells are technically metal dumbbells coated in rubber. Therefore, the two types are generally of similar build except for the added layer of protection rubber-coated dumbbells offer against damage, rust, and corrosion. For this reason, rubber dumbbells are more durable than metal dumbbells.

Dumbbells in Use

What are metal dumbbells?

Metal dumbbells are the more traditional form of this fitness equipment. They are made of either cast iron or steel, with stainless steel offering greater value due to its rust-resistant property. 

Metal dumbbells can generally come in three styles: selectorized, adjustable, or single-piece. Traditionally, this type of dumbbell comes with a bar with various weight plate options for weight customization. Also, these dumbbells are generally made of toughened metal and anti-chip chrome to increase the quality, however, I find rubber or urethane-coated dumbbells more durable.

Dumbbells made of metal are generally recommended for people who suffer from allergies to rubber or latex. It’s also more advisable for people sensitive to strong and musty odors to opt for metal dumbbells since rubber can give off an unpleasant smell for some.

Athlete with the Dumbbell

Our recommended dumbbell

A personal favorite of mine is the CAP Barbell Black Cast Iron Hex Dumbbell. I enjoy using it mainly because of the knurled grip feature which makes handling easier and safer. I’ve had them for quite some time and I still find zero signs of it wearing out.

Pros

  • Aesthetically pleasing

  • Great for those with latex allergy

  • Takes less space to store

  • More affordable

Cons

  • Less durable compared to rubber-coated dumbbells

  • Prone to rusting, especially iron dumbbells

CAP Barbell Black Cast Iron Hex Dumbbell

What are rubber dumbbells?

Rubber dumbbells are still technically made of metal, usually steel or iron, but coated in rubber. This rubber can be made of synthetic material or tree sap. They can either be fully or partially rubber-coated with the partially coated ones only encasing the balls or plates. 

This rubber coating makes them more durable since rubber serves as another layer of protection from damage in cases of your dumbbell falling on the floor. This does not only protect the dumbbell but your floor as well. For this reason, it’s also the added rubber coating that makes this dumbbell type more expensive than its metal counterpart.

Another great thing about rubber dumbbells is that it saves you from any rusting issue typically seen in metal dumbbells. They are also waterproof which allows them to offer superior longevity. 

Be careful with what you buy though, not all rubber-coated dumbbells are made of metal inside. Some rubber dumbbells are filled with concrete rather than metal and this type of dumbbell tends to be less durable. Also, some types of rubber may give off strong scents which may be bothersome for some people. 

Our recommended dumbbell

For rubber dumbbells, I highly recommend the Amazon Basics Rubber Encased Hex Dumbbell. It offers a striking balance between price and quality. I also enjoy the easy and secure grip it offers as it allows me to just focus on my workout. Overall, this is definitely a great buy!

Pros

  • More durable and long-lasting

  • Offers another layer of protection

  • Waterproof 

  • No rust issues

  • Less noise when dropped on the ground

Cons

  • May give off a strong, unpleasant smell

  • Not recommended for people with latex allergy

Amazon Basics Rubber Encased Hex Dumbbell

Rubber vs metal dumbbells comparison

Durability

Since the rubber coating adds another layer of protection, rubber dumbbells tend to be superior in durability compared to metal dumbbells. And since rubber doesn’t rust and corrode, you can expect rubber dumbbells to hold up longer.

Additionally, the rubber dumbbell’s waterproof property also aids in its durability since water increases the rate of corrosion. Therefore, when it comes to durability and longevity, rubberized dumbbells are the way to go.

Grip

Both dumbbell types are available in different grip features: straight, contoured, coated, or textured grips. Among all these types, I find that rubber dumbbells with coated and contoured grips offer more comfort and ease of use. Plus, rubber is a less slippery material than metal, making it relatively safer to use as well while preventing the development of hand fatigue.

Price point

While the cost of dumbbells may vary significantly depending on the brand and weight differences, you can expect rubber dumbbells to be generally pricier than metal ones. The main reason behind this is the additional cost of adding protective rubber coating over the metal build.

Storage space

Since rubber dumbbells are usually bigger in dimensions compared to metal dumbbells of the same size, rubber-coated dumbbells take up more space when stored. This should especially be taken into consideration if you’re planning to set up a home gym where your free space may be limited. But if you’re just planning to get a dumbbell or two, this should not be that big of an issue.

Additionally, consider the fact that rubber may give off a pungent smell so storing them in a small, enclosed space may not be the best idea.

FAQs

Are rubber dumbbells toxic?

Dumbbells are made of either synthetic or natural rubber. Synthetic rubber in the form of neoprene is sometimes used to construct a dumbbell. Unfortunately, neoprene contains chloroprene which is considered a toxic chemical. On the other hand, rubber dumbbells made of natural rubber pose no health risk, making them safer to use.

Can cast iron dumbbells break?

Yes, cast iron dumbbells can definitely break, especially when dropped. Although iron is a sturdy material, dropping cast iron weights may lead to breakage so always be cautious when using them. Between rubber weights vs iron weights, iron weights are more prone to breakage.

Are neoprene or metal dumbbells better?

Between neoprene dumbbells vs metal, neoprene dumbbells offer a softer and more comfortable grip than metal dumbbells. They are also less slippery even when your hands start to sweat, offering added safety to your workout. The extra grip support makes neoprene dumbbells better than metal ones especially if you’re concerned about hand fatigue and safety.

Conclusion

Between metal dumbbells vs rubber, rubber-coated dumbbells offer greater durability through the additional layer of protection it provides. Rubber is also rust- and water-proof which essentially prevents corrosion.

Don’t forget to share your thoughts or leave some questions in the comment section below.

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References:

  • Neoprene (Polychloroprene) // Chemical Safety Facts:
    https://www.chemicalsafetyfacts.org/neoprene/


I'm Tanya, and I love lifting weights. 6 years ago, I picked up Olympic weightlifting and CrossFit. Weightlifting is a unique sport because it's just you against the bar. There are no teammates to help you out; it's all on you. 

I'm also passionate about helping other women achieve their fitness goals. That's why I started my blog and write some products reviews. I want to show other women that they can do anything they set their mind to!

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