I wonder how to add more weight to a dumbbell.
Adding more plates of fewer weight or fewer plates of higher weight?

With bigger plates the diameter grows and so will the minimum distance the dumbbells will have to your body.
With more plates on the handle however the center of the handle itself will be farther away from the body - eg. when placing the plates on the shoulders while doing front squats - and it might be harder to balance the dumbbell as the weight is farther away from the center as well.

I already bought rubberized cast iron plates, not those concrete filled plastic plates, as reviews on amazon complained about the overall size of the latter.

Do I have to worry about this at all when buying weights for my dumbbells?

As per request I drew a diagram:

dumbbell distance

Imagine this to be the resting position of the dumbbell on the shoulder when doing a front squat, viewed from the front. The brown line below the dumbbell resembles the shoulder, the brown block is the hand. The plates are on the shoulder, the handle itself goes down behind the back.
With only one plate the hand is closer to the shoulder (red line), this also affects the angle of the elbow. However the hand is farther away from the head (blue line).
With the three smaller plates the hand is higher up, but the dumbbell can be held closer to the head.

  • I think maybe a little diagram would help us understand the problem you're having with "the diameter grows and so will the minimum distance the dumbbells will have to your body". I can't picture what you're talking about.
    – user4644
    Dec 25, 2012 at 20:26
  • 1
    @Kate Done, I hope this makes it more clear.
    – Baarn
    Dec 25, 2012 at 21:50
  • Ah, yes, your problem is clear now... but I don't know the solution :( My foray into dumbbells was short-lived.
    – user4644
    Dec 25, 2012 at 22:37

3 Answers 3


Specific to a Dumbbell front squat where your resting the end on top of your shoulder, a bigger diameter weight would be more comfortable. On the other hand, doing dumbbell deadlifts, having smaller diameter weights would force you to reach lower down, adding a new difficulty level to the exercise. Overall, you typically buy weights in increasing sizes - 2.5 lbs up to 25 lbs for dumbbells...and add weight as needed. If you're in the rubberized 'quality' level there shouldn't be a problem. Typically a person adjusts to what equipment they have, the best thing to do is just workout, lift heavy.


There's a couple things to consider: length of the grip, and the exercise being performed. The dumbbell handles I have don't have a lot of hand room. For me, using wider plates will change the way I perform the exercises.

As a point of reference, most gyms have fixed dumbbell heads. Those heads usually don't get any thicker than if you had nothing more than 5kg or 10lb plates on the bar.

Some exercises, like dumbbell rows would be adversely affected because you can't pull the dumbbell as close to your chest if you had 10kg or 25lb plates on the handles. Other exercises, like the DB bench press would hardly be affected at all.

For my purposes, all the plates I put on my dumbbell handles are 5kg and below (yes, I'm American and I lift metric).


The answer is no. As long as you aren't adding a 10 pound plate to the right side of the bar and a 2.5 pound weight on the left, center of balance should not be affected. Also, if I understand your set up correctly, you should not be able to add more pates than there is bar space... Therefore the center of the handle should always be the same distance from your body as in your example. I am trying to think of examples where weight-plate circumference would affect your range of motion. If we look at standing, palm forward bicep-curls, I might could see where this is a problem. My solution for this would be to sit on a bench, sit wide-legged, lean forward slightly, place my elbow of the arm I am working on the inside of the same knee (right elbow to right inside, left to left) and do isolation curls. This way your bicep is still being worked but it moves your arm in such a way that the range of motion from the increased plate size should not be a factor. Maybe pictures of the equipment would help?

  • 1
    I prefer to do exercises standing instead of sitting, but this is personal preference. I added a picture to the question.
    – Baarn
    Dec 26, 2012 at 14:25

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