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Urethane vs. Rubber Dumbbells

By Rick Rockwell

Dumbbells are a type of free weight used in weight training. They may be used individually or in pairs, and range in size from 1 pound to over 100 pounds in 2.5- and 5-pound increments. Dumbbells are designed to be lifted with one hand, as opposed to barbells, which are longer and meant to be lifted with both hands. Dumbbells fall into three categories: adjustable -- with screw-on weight plates, selectorized -- with a dial for increasing or reducing weight before it is picked up off the floor -- and fixed-weight. Fixed-weight dumbbells are made from plastic, steel, iron, urethane or rubber.

Urethane Dumbbells

Urethane dumbbells may have a steel core coated in urethane, or a steel core where just the ends are coated in urethane. The weights are maintenance free and won’t damage floors if dropped. Most are manufactured to have flat sides so they don’t roll. Urethane is highly durable, impact resistant and shock absorbing. In addition, urethane has a higher tear strength than rubber, so urethane dumbbells will generally come with a longer warranty period compared to rubber ones. Urethane does not have an odor -- like rubber, and has a non-tacky, smooth feel. Urethane is a man-made compound.

Rubber Dumbbells

Rubber dumbbells are similar to urethane ones in that they may be completely encased in rubber, or just the ends may be coated in rubber. Rubber, or rubber latex, may be natural -- made from the sap of trees -- or produced synthetically. Rubber is flexible, stretchy, and waterproof. The UV rays of the sun can damage rubber weights. Additionally, people who are allergic to latex should not use natural rubber products. Rubber has a distinct odor.

Price and Availability

Prices for urethane weights vary depending on brand and weights purchased. The price range of a 5- to 25-pound weight set starts just under $400 and goes up to $900 while a 5- to 150-pound weight set starts around $12,000 and goes up depending upon brand. Similarly, rubber weight costs vary depending upon brand and weights purchased. A 5- to 25-pound weight set starts around $329. A 55- to 150-pound weight set costs around $3,400.

Choosing the Best Deal for You

Both urethane and rubber have their own benefits, but people who are sensitive to smells or have a latex allergy should avoid rubber. While urethane dumbbells cost more than rubber dumbbells, urethane dumbbells have a longer warranty. Test dumbbells before you make a purchase to make certain the style is best for you.

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