woman's hand holding a dumbbell close up

Why Are Dumbbells So Expensive?

Finding the motivation to work out might seem difficult, but the real challenge lies in where and how you go about it.

Gyms are not for everyone; they can be a relatively high monthly expense, and they are also public, which means you get to watch all those body-builders grunt around on the machines while you’re just trying to train.

For a lot of people, that aspect is a major turn-off. And gyms are also not the most sanitary place to train. Equipment is often soaked and stained with sweat. Mats are grimy. It’s not always the best option.

Working out at home seems like a great alternative. If you have enough space, and you don’t need a lot, you can do most of the things that you can do in a gym. This can eliminate cost and improve accessibility. The issues with this lie in expenses.

A major part of any gym, whether it’s Retro Fitness or the floor next to your bed, is dumbbells. You can work out your entire body with a good set of dumbbells. But dumbbells are often incredibly expensive, with a complete set often costing several hundred dollars.

The reasons behind this exorbitant amount are often lost on consumers, so I’m going to try to shed some light on it.

The Price Formula

Dumbbells are made of steel, which will never come cheap. On top of that, they are often produced in foreign countries, namely China, so high shipping expenses are tacked on. Plus, depending on your country, certain taxes or tariffs make these products even more expensive.

Another reason behind the cost is related purely to business economics. The higher the demand, the higher the price.

Due to a variety of reasons, the companies that manufacture and sell dumbbells have found that dumbbells are always in high demand. Because people are willing to pay the price, that price becomes higher.

A possible method to get around this is to purchase used equipment. I always check out eBay or Facebook before I buy something new; you never know what gear you might find that people are desperate to get rid of.

You could stumble across very lightly or never-used dumbbells at a low price. Garage sells can help here as well, but the results of garage sale shopping are a little less certain.

Another aspect that factors into the price is the extensive durability of dumbbells. When buying a set of dumbbells, rarely will a consumer ever have to purchase another whole set. These things are sturdy and definitely long-lasting.

Plus, in this area, we (as well as the manufacturer) know that there won’t be any technological updates that will make your 20-year old set of dumbbells irrelevant.

Dumbbells are not iPhones. You’re only buying once, which means consumers are generally more willing to shell out more cash, something the manufacturer knows and obviously exploits.

Which Ones To Choose?

I’m going to explore certain alternative or cheaper methods to dumbbells, but first it is important to point out that sometimes the expense is worth it. A few hundred dollars for a solid set of dumbbells will last a lifetime.

Within that realm is the Bowflex adjustable dumbbell, which is especially expensive, about $300 for a set. The great thing about these weights is that they are adjustable; you end up saving a ton of space, without sacrificing performance.

There have been plenty of adjustable dumbbells on the market; I have a set of Block weights at my house. They work, but they’re big and clunky, where the Bowflex weights are shaped like your average dumbbell. This is an instance where, if you can afford it, it might be worth it to splurge.

A cheaper option which can be found on Amazon are the AmazonBasics neoprene dumbbell sets. These aren’t quite as good as your regular steel dumbbells, but they can still get the job done.

The problem for these lies in weight; you’ll be hard-pressed to find a set of neoprene dumbbells above 20 pounds.

You certainly don’t need to go higher, and depending on the kinds of workouts you plan on performing, you may not have to, but if your intent is to gain muscle weight, you’re going to want to use heavier weights.

Some of the better neoprene sets can also get up there in price, some nearing $200. At that point, you’re better off just buying a full set of regular dumbbells instead.

Alternatives

You can always improvise a bit and build your own dumbbells. Of course, this option is not available to everyone, but it is possible, especially with Youtube as your instructor.

Really, the best money-saver method is to engross yourself in calisthenics instead of weights. Calisthenics are also known as body-weight training, and involve activities based off a series of core exercises; pushups, pullups, planks, and sit ups.

For under $100 on Amazon, you can get a Power Tower, which is essentially a pullup bar mounted on a free-standing dip bar.

The setup can easily fit in a corner somewhere, as it doesn’t take up that much space, plus you get the benefits of longevity. I purchased the Stamina Power Tower off Amazon over 5 years ago and have been using it since; best $100 I ever spent.

And you don’t even need to go that far. It certainly helps, but even the monkey bars at a local park are enough of a pullup bar that your expense for body-weight training can be $0.

With a little googling, and the help of one book on calisthenics, I can perform full body workouts at my leisure.

Calisthenics do get a bit of a bad rap, as it is often thought that the results of calisthenics workouts don’t compare to those of weight-training.

That is partially true. Calisthenics won’t help you gain a ton of weight. But you will get stronger and leaner.

Additionally, the exercises you perform in calisthenics are based off of natural bodily movements where the motions involved in weight lifting are unnatural in that they are more linear. 

This strengthens the muscles that are in everyday use, while also strengthening stabilizing muscles across your body – calisthenics are healthier, safer, and provide you with more usable strength (plus higher odds of a six-pack).

To Sum It Up

Regardless of if you decide to drop the money on dumbbells, a gym membership, a pullup bar, or maybe all 3, modern society has granted us all options.

Having the opportunity to get strong without needing to spend hundreds on dumbbells is potentially huge and should definitely be looked into before you throw your hands up and hand over your credit card.

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Article by:

Daniel DeMoss

I’m a personal trainer based in Denver (Matrix Gym) and a true fitness nerd. If I’m not training clients or working out at my home gym, I’m probably skiing, cycling or hiking with my dog Rufus.  

Get in touch: [email protected]