- For other meanings, see dumbbell (disambiguation).
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 range in weight from a few ounces to many pounds. The bells were flourished in various ways. Obviously, this would have a made racket, so the athletes would take out the clappers (the thing inside the bell which hits the sides of the bell and makes the noise) so they could practice quietly; hence the name "dumb", as in "no sound", and "bell" – dumbell. 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.
By the early 19th Century, the familiar shape of the dumbbell, with two equal weights attached to a handle, had appeared. There are currently two main types of 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 dumbell 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 coated with rubber for safety. Cheaper versions consist of a rigid plastic shell that is filled with concrete.