HEX DUMBBELLS are the kind where the bell ends are shaped like hexagons. Though less common than their round counterparts, they offer some unique advantages and, we think, may be the better choice for guys who do their training at home.
5 Reasons To Train With Hex Dumbbells
1. They Don’t Roll.
Shaving the corners off a rock to make a wheel was a brilliant idea. But sometimes, as in the case of lifting weights, putting the corners back on is useful too. The chief benefit of the hex dumbbell design is that the weights will stay put. If you rest them on the floor between sets, they won’t roll away from you or onto your toes, which makes them good for both convenience and safety (especially if your home gym has an uneven floor).
The hex shape also allows you to stack several dumbbells easily, which can save space.
2. They’re good for chest exercises.
The ability to remain stable on the floor makes hex dumbbells ideal for pushups (or renegade rows, if you like to do the two moves in combination). They won’t roll or slip from under your hands, and the slight elevation they provide allows you to go a little deeper on the descent, activating more of your pec muscles. In fact, used in this way, hex dumbbells act as mini-paralletes—the handles gymnasts use to work on parallel-bar exercises—providing a more wrist-friendly option than traditional pushups on the floor (that is, your wrists can stay neutral rather than bent backward).
Hex dumbbells also lend themselves to squeeze presses. Lie back on a bench and press the flat sides of the dumbbells together, squeezing your pecs. Now do chest presses as normal, but keep the weights pressed into each other the whole time. The squeeze press emphasizes the pecs’ contraction in their most shortened position, providing a different stimulus than other dumbbell chest presses (which stress the muscles more when the pecs are stretched).
Read more: Best Adjustable Dumbbells
Bonus points: Attach elastic exercise bands to the dumbbells and the other ends to sturdy objects on each side of your bench, so that the bands are trying to pull the dumbbells away from each other throughout your set. You’ll have to work even harder to keep the weights held together.
3. They’re usually cheaper.
Many brands of round dumbbells have their weights coated in urethane, which makes them extra durable. This is great for a commercial gym where they’ll get a lot of use, but the price is typically higher, making them less appropriate for home gym users. Another common design for round dumbbells is where individual plates are bolted together on the handle. The extra material and labor is reflected in their cost as well.
Hex dumbbells are often coated in rubber, or are made from solid cast iron, so they’re less expensive. Last we checked, rubber hexes can be up to half the price (a pair of urethane-coated 20 pounders goes for $155 on Rogue.com, while two of their hex 20s is only $75). You can get a set of 10 pairs of hex dumbbells ranging from five to 75 pounds for under $2300 from Living Fit on the Men’s Health Shop.
If you want a wide range of weight increments for your gym, you’ll definitely save money with hex dumbbells, as they offer smaller poundages (2.5 lbs, 5 lb, 7.5 lbs, etc.) than other models of dumbbells. If you do a lot of rehab/prehab work (like dumbbell external rotations), or isolation exercises that require lighter weights (e.g., lateral raises), hex dumbbells can provide the smaller loading and gradual weight jumps you need to progress.
As they’re usually coated in rubber, hex dumbbells can prevent damage to both your floor and the weights themselves should you drop them. They won’t chip. If your gym is exposed to the elements, or gets particularly humid in the summer, rubber hexes won’t rust, either.
5. They’re more comfortable.
The hex dumbbell’s shape makes performing various exercises a touch easier and more ergonomic. Flat edges allow the weights to rest on your shoulders better during front squats, and they’re easier to grip for goblet squats, or dumbbell woodchops (a core movement). Hold a light hex dumbbell by one end, pinching it between your fingers, for a grip and forearm workout. Play all the angles to make your workouts more fun and creative.
Sean Hyson, CSCS is a prolific fitness writer and the author of Men’s Heath’s Encyclopedia of Muscle.