The dumbbell comes in all shapes and sizes; from the gym bunny’s favourite 1kg rubber-coated number to a behemoth of a 110kg+ iron-cast circus dumbbell. The core of the event is always the same – lift the dumbbell from the floor to overhead. The exact rules vary from competition to competition, but they usually allow a two-handed “clean” to shoulder height but require the overhead press to be one-handed.
In strongman competitions the dumbbell can be used as a max-weight event, with competitors taking it in turns to lift ever-increasing weights. Alternatively it can be a timed event – either for maximum repetitions or as part of a medley.
While you may be familiar with a dumbbell from your local gym, strongman dumbells are often very different beasts. In particular, circus dumbbells or inch dumbells (named after Thomas Inch) have a very thick handle – often compared to the size of a can of Coke. This can make the lift a lot more difficult, as it is much harder to grip.
Vytautas Lalas holds the official dumbbell world record having lifted 120kg overhead. However, unofficially this record has been easily surpassed with the likes of Big Z having posted training videos doing the same weight for 6 repetitions.
At the Arnold Strongman Classic in 2012 Mike Jenkins claimed a world record for repetitions of a 116kg dumbbell in 90 seconds with a score of 6.