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Vulcan Pro Rubber Hex Dumbbells – Pretty Good!

Vulcan Strength Pro Hex Rubber-Coated Dumbbell Review

You probably wouldn’t think that there was a whole that could be done to improve upon the rubber hex dumbbell short of just lowering the cost, right? That is to say, assuming that you select a reputable brand (one that permanently affixes the heads to the handles) they are a very affordable and durable dumbbell without much in the way of issues or complaints. The head shape is user-friendly, weight accuracy is better than cast iron, the ergonomic handles aren’t amazing but they are acceptable, and most importantly, the price is right.

Of course rubber-coated hex dumbbells aren’t perfect by any means. The partially knurled, chrome-plated handle leaves a little to be desired in the grip department, and the bulkiness of the heavier units is a bit excessive, and maybe even slightly unwieldy. Considering that the alternatives include either adjustable dumbbells or the unreasonably priced commercial units, these issues seem minor and totally worth overlooking.

Be that as it may, some companies are still trying improve upon this dumbbell design. About a year ago Rep Fitness released a version of the rubber hex dumbbell that replaced the old ergonomic handle with a straight knurled handle, making it feel a bit more like a commercial dumbbell. Is it an improvement? Many think so, but I think the handle diameter needs to be tuned a bit on the middle-weight units before this can be considered a great product. Prices are reasonable on them though, and that’s a plus.

Straight, knurled handles on rubber hex dumbbells, by Rep Fitness

Enter Vulcan Pro Hex Dumbbells

Vulcan recently attacked both the handles and the overall size and shape of the units when designing their new Pro Hex Dumbbells. After testing these out I’ve come to the conclusion that the Pros are officially the new, premium version of the hex dumbbell. What’s different?

First, the handle is no longer chrome-plated steel with a partial knurl, it’s now covered in a highly tactile, vulcanized rubber coating. Even though it may be hard to imagine (it was for me), this rubber coating is grippier and less slick than the ergonomic handles on other hex dumbbells, and infinitely more comfortable to the hands (and callouses.) These handles are still ergonomic, the rubber still has a knurl texture to it, but it doesn’t feel anything like metal and it won’t rust. It’s surprisingly great.

Vulcanized rubber handle with tactile grip of the new Vulcan Pro Hex Dumbbells

Second, Vulcan managed to make the Pro Hex Dumbbells more compact. Now clearly this doesn’t matter on the smaller units, but there is a noticeable difference in size even halfway through the set; just look at my Vulcan 45’s next to standard 45’s below. By the time you get to 100-pound dumbbells, the size difference is 30%! This compactness is not just easier to handle, but it takes up less of that precious space in your gym.

Vulcan Hex Dumbbells are more compact than standard hex dumbbells

So it may seem like there isn’t much that can be done to improve the rubber hex dumbbell, but it turns out that there is. It gets even better though, because these new Vulcans are still just as affordable as the classic rubber hex dumbbells. Read on!

Vulcan Pro Rubber Hex Dumbbells Specs & Features

  • Vulcanized rubber handles with highly tactile knurled surface replace steel handles.
    • Rubber will never loosen, peel, or detach from handles.
    • Grippier surface than chrome-plated steel.
    • Holds chalk better than chrome-plated steel.
    • No exposed metal means no oxidation issues.
    • Handles are still ergonomic and comfortable.
  • Accurate to within 1% of state weight.
  • No discernible odor, which is a nice change from most rubber products.
  • Up to 30% smaller than standard rubber hex dumbbells (30% at 100-lbs).
  • Heads will never depart or come loose from the handles.
  • Premium rubber compound is low-odor, and less costly than urethane.
  • Suitable for home gyms or commercial facilities.
  • Lifetime warranty for both private and commercial use.

The Vulcan Pro Hex Dumbbells are infinitely more comfortable in the hands than any other variant of the rubber hex dumbbell, of which I have pretty much all of them to compare the Vulcan’s to; the cheap CAPs, the premium York & Rogue units, straight handled Reps, and the usual steel ergonomic handles. The Vulcan Pros feel fantastic. They do not irritate my calluses like knurled steel handles do and they truly are grippier than the decorative chrome plated steel found on just about all other variations.

The Garage Gyms hodgepodge of hex dumbbells from Rogue, CAP, York, Rep, and Vulcan.

Hodgepodge of hex dumbbells from Rogue Fitness, CAP, York, Rep Fitness, and Vulcan Strength.

Sets Only?

As it stands, Vulcan’s Pro Hex Dumbbells are only sold in sets, not pairs. Obviously this is no good if you tend to only used three or four pair of dumbbells in your workouts, or if you were hoping to test drive a pair before committing to a full set, but it is what it is.

Vulcan Pro Rubber Hex Dumbbells

The good news is that the sets are priced really well. The basic set of Pros that contains all dumbbell pairs from 5-lbs to 50-lbs sells for $647 before shipping, which is only roughly $70 more than the same set of basic hex dumbbells from Vulcan. Matter of fact, the Vulcan Pros are actually $13 less than Rogue’s set of standard hex dumbbells; as in, no rubber handles. In other words, pairs may not be an option, but the price point on sets is fantastic.

Vulcan Pros Compared to other Commercial Dumbbells?

There are definitely much fancier, more expensive dumbbells out there for commercial and institutional gyms, but not everyone has the equipment buying power of Lifetime Fitness or Gold’s Gym. Who wouldn’t prefer to own custom branded, urethane dumbbells in their gym rather than the hex dumbbells that are more commonly associated with home gyms? Sadly this just isn’t in the cards for everyone.

American Barbell Series IV Urethane Commercial Dumbbells

If you were to purchase all dumbbells from 5-lbs to 100-lbs, Vulcan’s Pro set would cost you about $2440 before shipping and custom branding, or $1.16 per pound. Not bad at all right? Compare that to some of the premium commercial dumbbell options:

As you can see, there is a reason why folks prefer the Iron Grip and American Barbell (GP) dumbbells found at the commercial gyms; they cost anywhere from twice as much cash to five times as much cash. Hell they better be nicer than hex dumbbells for that kind of cash, right? Well they are, but that doesn’t make them a necessity or even a good buy for you.

Examples of commercial dumbbells from the likes of Iron Grip, Ivanko, and Intek - love them I's

On the flip side, if you have a couple million to spend on equipment, then by all means load up on Rogue Urethane or American Barbell dumbbells for your gym. When spending $4000 on each Hammer Strength machine and $5000 on each treadmill, and when buying tens of thousands of pounds of Olympic weight plates, springing for premium dumbbells seems like nothing.

Smaller gyms and CrossFit boxes can’t be spending $6000-$10,000 or more on a single set of dumbbells though. That’s a enormous waste of funds when $2500 will get you the same amount of weight and just as good of a warranty. Saving even $3500 is equivalent to nearly four Concept2 Rowers for your gym, or a half dozen R3 power racks, or a couple thousand pounds of plates; not to mention what saving $10,000 would get you.

Now there is one drawback to Vulcan’s Pro Hex Dumbbells, and that is that as of right now there are no units beyond 100-pounds. This isn’t a major issue for some smaller gyms and CrossFit boxes, but mega and iron gyms will definitely require heavier pairs. If you want all your dumbbells to be of the same brand and model, the Vulcans aren’t going to cut it.

Vulcan Pro Hex Dumbbell Review – Summary

I am sad that these aren’t sold in pairs. These are the most comfortable dumbbells I’ve ever trained with and I would love to replace certain frequently-used pairs and even finish off my nearly complete collection, but I’m just too deeply invested already to start over with sets. Many of you will be in the same position; unable to incorporate these into your collection.

That said, for those who still need and are able to buy full sets, the Vulcan Pros are a great option. The pricing is better than many basic hex dumbbells and obviously better than other commercial brands, and the comfort level and durability of these dumbbells far exceeds the basic hex units. I highly recommend the Vulcan Pros for your garage gym or institution.

It’s also worth noting that if you only own a few pairs of dumbbells so far, buying a full set wouldn’t result in much of a loss on those existing pairs if you sold them on Craigslist. I’ve offloaded numerous pairs over the years for close to $1 per pound without much issue. You could easily do the same.

Have you had the opportunity to try Vulcan’s Pro Hex Dumbbells? Did you like the handles as much as I did? Leave a comment and let us know, and please share this article.

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • alanliev78 November 29, 2017, 6:27 pm

    Very important to own hight qualities Dumbells ! The points of importance are in first 1) A GOOD COMFORT FOR FOREARM…
    2) Good grip 3)Good balance ….for accuracy its important but no sacralized this point… if you alternate each Dumbell of each pair between series (left/right/left/right …) you minimize difference of total work of each side of your body ….sorry for my crappy english writting

  • Forrest December 7, 2017, 1:12 pm

    So I saw they have lifetime warranty and will never peel. What about wear in general on the handle/grip? I would think that rubber would wear down after time until there is no rubber left.

    • jburgeson December 7, 2017, 3:45 pm

      Well my experience so far has been that the grip prevents the handle from slipping in the hands, so without that friction I don’t see them wearing through. Also the texture isn’t like that cheap rubber you’d see on say those cable attachments with rubber grips. It’s much thicker and nicer than that.

      Of course I don’t know what they’ll look like in five years, 10 years, 20 years, etc, but I don’t have any reason to be concerned yet. They certainly don’t feel cheap.

  • T February 15, 2018, 8:07 pm

    I’m currently using Rogue DB-15 SS version but was disappointed to find out they have zinc collars (should have paid more attention when I purchased). The space savings are nice for a garage gym but I sometimes avoid dumbbell work in favor of kettlebells, suspension trainer, bands, etc. just because I don’t feel like loading them. Loading to 80 lbs plus can also be pretty uncomfortable setting up for incline bench.

    Considering switching to these. I have 2-15 lb pairs of CAPs for my wife to use, and I’d probably keep those. Wondering what sizes you would recommend if you weren’t going to buy a full set.

    Another option I considered was to pick up heavier pairs of Vulcans. Let’s say 50 or 75-100 lbs and snag a pair of Titan (yes, Titan) loadable dumbbells for the in between weights (20-60ish). What would you do if you had it all to do over again?

    • jburgeson February 15, 2018, 8:46 pm

      I don’t envy anyone being in the dumbbell market; they are so expensive. Your situation is so common though… Loadable makes more sense; cheaper, takes up less space, etc; but then they don’t get used because it’s a hassle.

      If I had no dumbbells (knowing what I know now) I would seriously evaluate how much I could throw at a set and probably just get it over with. I would probably (and consider what I do with this site when I say this) price out some Watsons or other custom brand first, then when I realized I’d be insane to spend that much I’d buy these Vulcans in a set. I like the rubber handle more than I ever thought I could so I’d do the full set, but if I was indifferent about the handles I’d at least buy Rogue’s or Vulcan’s other set.. or just any that you know has the permanently affixed handle. I think I have four pair now that are twisting cause they are from box store (early days, thank you lol).

      I guess to put this all another way… I actually use dumbbells, so if my set disappeared into the wind I would replace the pairs, not buy adjustable dumbbells. It’s just convenient, and because I actually have a good place for the dumbbell rack that wouldn’t be good for much else, it’s not really wasting space. Brand is whatever so long as they’re solid and within your price range, but end of the day I’d personally likely end up with these Vulcans if I had it to do again. Truth be told I thought about replacing all mine with Vulcans anyway, but that’s just not a very good use of my funds.

      • T February 15, 2018, 9:35 pm

        I think I’ve settled on that. To me, the Vulcan pros are the equivalent of their absolute KBs or Alpha bumpers. Total game changer that just elevates them above the general competition. Planning to get rid of my bulky KB rack and add those to my mass storage which should make room for the dumbbell rack. Thinking maybe 25-50 by 5s and then 60-100 by tens if they ever sell in pairs. I don’t generally bust out the 2.5s very often with my loadable Dumbbells once I get past 50. Any thoughts on which pairs to pick up if not buying a full set?

        • jburgeson February 15, 2018, 10:20 pm

          I have actually done what you’re suggesting. 5-50 in 5’s, 60+ in 10’s. I only press and row the big ones so 10 lb increments have never been much of an issue.

  • jordan May 16, 2018, 1:00 pm

    General question about Vulcan products…

    So, I’m kind of sold on a set of 5-100 Vulcan Pro Hex dumbbells. They look amazing. You mentioned using their safety squat bar as an alternative to some of the competition (Elite FTS, Rogue, etc.).

    Thinking about the “Made in the U.S.” vs “Made in China” thing, I guess I’m wondering where to draw the line. Barbells….we (e.g. my projection onto other folks) seem to prefer U.S. made barbells. Plates? We all know that just about everything except Hi-Temps come from China (and we’re good that with that). Where do we draw the line? I guess looking at the Vulcan SSB or Multi-Grip bar (like Rogues MG-3)…..it seems like those are Made in China and the quality leaves something to be desired. Can you comment on your SSB? I’m guessing you’re doing some testing before a full review. Understable.

    Just sort of rambling. The new Vulcan Flat Foot Based rack looks good for the price. Would like to see one up close to inspect the welds if its a made in china rack. I guess I consider the Vulcan Flat Foot rack less of a good deal if its imported compared to a R-3 or RML-390F.

    Maybe the general point to my question is…..how good is the imported Vulcan stuff you have? Which products are made here in the U.S. that you know of? They seem like a solid company, so I don’t mean to impose judgement on any of their products.

    • jburgeson May 16, 2018, 5:25 pm

      There is not a short answer to this question unfortunately.

      The easiest way to put this is to try to not think of “made in China” as a horrible thing by default. Companies like Titan and (to a lesser extent FS and AF and the like) give Chinese equipment a bad name. Using pig iron to make power racks for almost no money in China is certainly an option, and one that many take advantage of, but it’s not as though Asia can’t produce a Rogue rack if someone were willing to pay for it. We know this because Vulcan uses China, as does Hammer Strength, Life Fitness, Precor, and many other huge equipment manufacturers – companies that would never have their quality questioned. American Barbell runs their own multi-acre facility in China. Not very American, huh? I half kid, but we know American Barbell produces incredible barbells and perfectly fine bumpers.

      I have yet to have an issue with any Vulcan product – imported or not. Not everything they sell is super innovate or feature-rich (like the SSB – it’s just basic, but it works and it’s cheap), but I don’t fear them like I do Titan. You know actually, Vulcan used to sell American-made racks that matched (even exceeded) Rogue’s racks, but since Vulcan didn’t have the facility to produce the racks themselves, the lowest retail price they could ask was still more than Rogue. As you can imagine they never sold racks. I can’t say I blame them for going overseas, and I’m happy with the fact that they basically went HQ in China rather than the Titan route. The high road means less sales (Titan truly is destroying the rack industry), but it was a good move on Vulcan’s part. The Flat Footed rack, for instance, sold out immediately because it was high quality but still less than Rogue. Basically people could afford to move past Titan and get some safety and durability along with their savings.

      I still didn’t keep that very brief, but just kinda base your assessment of “made in China” on the retailer in question. We know FS has huge margins on cheap stuff, so expect mediocre equipment. GetRx has some equipment that costs 40% of what Rogue would charge – big red flag. And Titan – well I don’t have to tell you about them. And remember, most of Rogue’s catalog is imported. It doesn’t mean bad, it means look twice.

      • jordan May 17, 2018, 8:27 am

        All great points! Thanks for taking the time to write that out.

        I agree that “made in china” isn’t the best metric for quality. Certainly they can product high quality products. I guess I am lost on power racks. I have yet to see a power rack as high of quality as Rogue’s. That doesn’t mean that they don’t exist….I just don’t know about them. Everything else (even beyond Titan which is clearly not in the conversation regarding quality) still can’t match Rogue’s welds. Maybe I’m nit picking by looking at one feature out of many; however, it just seems as though no one has come close. I have checked out Fringe Sport’s stuff in person (I know you’re in central Tx also). Their racks are imported (which is fine!), but they don’t look as good as Rogue’s. I saw some pictures of the Vulcan welds (can’t recall where from…maybe Instagram), and those didn’t look quite as clean either.

        You know…at this point, I am not even in the rack market anymore. I have a Rogue R-3 and I’m over it. I am in the market for dumbbells (all imported), specialty bars (domestic and imported with varying degrees of quality), other strength related equipment such as adjustable benches (domestic and imported), more barbells (domestic and imported), etc.

        Lots to learn. I’ll be tuned in! At the end of the day, I love what I have and I’m just trying to add quality items to my home gym (damned the cost to some degree). For a specialty bar, I wouldn’t mind paying a little extra money if the quality SEEMED to be a step up and it was made here in the U.S. A good example is the Kabuki Strength Transformer bar. I believe they are $599. I’d happily buy one. I’m not really into any snobbery (not insisting you are either). Cheap gear is fine if that’s all someone can afford; however, I am grateful that I don’t have to buy based on price alone.

        Not sure if there is much of a benefit from this post, but I appreciate the back and forth. And especially your reviews! This review put these dumbbells on the map for me, and I will happily buy a 5-100 lb set once funds are allocated.

  • JuRiel December 8, 2018, 12:26 pm

    I bought the 5-50 on black Friday in addition to the previous 60 lb dumbbells I bought this summer. My wife wasn’t sure about them until she used them for her first workout and she loves the feel of the handles and how they look. She wished that Vulcan offered the half pound option like Rep does in the straight handle hex dumbbells (12.5, 17.5, 22.5). Regardless, these are some awesome dumbbells. They all were within the 1% variance but none were spot on. I’d reccomend these to anyone that wants some solid dbs without spending a ton of money

  • Jim Grossman June 3, 2020, 11:16 am

    Hello and thanks for all the insights. Really useful. I’m have vulcan pro hex dumbbellls (up to 50 pounds) and Vulcan Alpha plates. I like them but they are both made in China. Not to be too anal, but i’m looking for an American-made alternative that is comparable. Any ideas? Thank you.

    • jburgeson June 3, 2020, 1:42 pm

      Sorry, no such thing really. Dumbbells and weight/bumper plates are made in China – Rogue, Vulcan, Rep Fitness, American Barbell, etc… all imported. Even commercial manufacturers like Free Motion, Cybex, Hammer Strength, Life Fitness, etc don’t actually make dumbbells, bars, or plates. They source them through other equipment manufacturers like GP Ind/American Barbell.

      You can buy American-made, crumb-rubber bumper plates – like the HI-Temps, but they aren’t comparable or even similar. Crumb rubber is very bouncy, and more likely to deteriorate with use over time.

  • pMichael January 29, 2021, 3:41 pm

    Any idea what the difference is between the Elite and the Pro Vulcan Rubber Hex Dumbbells?
    The handles look different in the photos but the descriptions are the same.

    • jburgeson January 30, 2021, 10:22 am

      I’ve seen images of the newer Pros. They don’t have a seamless head like the old version. Word is they feel better in the hands, but they do not look very good. The heads look very… unrefined.

  • Chiouy August 10, 2021, 6:54 am

    Any insight on the Vulcan Elite Rubber Round DBs? The pricing is great for round rubber… but the picture of that rough texture make it look really cheap.

    • jburgeson August 10, 2021, 9:30 am

      I’ve seen them. They are structurally indestructible, but they are indeed ugly and cheap looking with that seam.

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