why are they called dumbbells

The word “dumbbell” is a portmanteau of the words ” dumb” and therefore literally means ‘to have no intelligence’. However, this explanation for their name does not appear in any published sources so it seems likely that there are more complex origins behind these intriguing pieces of equipment!

A possible origin The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that the term may be derived from an earlier exercise known as ‘pumping bellows’ which was essentially a form of resistance training. In those early days it involved pumping air into a large wooden bellow with rope handles which would then require two people to hold – one at either end – and work against each other’s weight. One person would act as the weight and push down, whilst the other would pull upwards to keep the bellows pumped up. This is why dumbbells were also known as ‘strength bells’ at that time, with dumb meaning ‘stupid’ or ‘mediocre’ rather than having any association with intelligence! However, this exercise is described in written sources from 1811 onwards so it cannot be said for sure that they are actually the original inspiration for the name of these pieces of gym equipment.

why are they called dumbbells

Alternative possible origins There are various other theories why they may have been given their now-famous name. One story suggests they were first used by Jesuit Monks who found them easy to manage during prayer precise worship sessions at their monasteries. Another theory is that they were first used during the Napoleonic wars by French soldiers who, for reasons of secrecy, had to lift the dumbbells above their heads to avoid being overheard by English spies. Health benefits certainly outweigh any other possible sources behind why are they called dumbbells!

Useful Information About Dumbbells

– The use of dumbbells is beneficial because it allows users to work out the muscles inside their arms through a variety of exercises without having to rely on an outside object such as a machine or bar

– The term ‘dumb’ means ‘stupid’ or ‘mediocre’ rather than having any association with intelligence

– Dumbbells were also known as ‘strength bells’ because the weight would need to be moved by two people working against each other

One popular story linked with why are they called dumbbells concerns an old English game known as tip-cat (similar to modern-day baseball). A cat would be placed on the ground at an appropriate angle (which depended upon how hard you wanted to throw) and then players would take turns striking it with what was essentially a stick. The aim was to knock the cat into the air, and the winner was the player who succeeded in this three times out of five or six strikes. In order to stop players from hitting with their full strength, an iron weight shaped like a dumbbell would be placed on one end of the stick. However, whether the weights used were actually dumbbells is a matter that will likely never be resolved.

why do they call dumbbells dumbbells

A less common account says that dumbbells originate from a type of weapon called a “Mace”. These had thick round ends made from metal and were approximately as tall as a man. The idea behind these weapons was that although they may not have been able to pierce armour, they could knock an armoured knight to the ground with ease by him in his helmet with the mace’s thick end, rendering him dazed and confused.

Therefore a mace must have been pretty heavy, but why would anyone want to attach dumbbells to it? Well, the answer is simple: training! This explanation comes from a number of sources that claim that maces were used as part of physical fitness routines by knights in preparation for battle (prior to jousting). 

Another account claims that dumbbells originate from an old English game known as ‘Turnspit’. In this game, the contestants had to put small pieces of wood into holes at one end of a handle and then they would use their opponent’s handles (which protruded out of the holes) to turn a wheel that turned meat on a spit. The aim of the game was to keep the piece of wood in the hole for as long as possible. Therefore, when people say why are they called dumbbells, this is possibly why – because it makes sense!

However, sources describing this game state that contestants would spin the wheel back and forth with each hand in an effort to gain an advantage over their opponent. This implies these handles were not attached yet at this time (this game may have evolved into something like croquet or jai alai). Also, no evidence has been found to suggest why wooden handles would be included in today’s dumbbell exercises.

dumbbell definition

It seems likely that there are several explanations behind why dumbbells are called dumbbells. The one thing that is true about all of these theories, however, is why are they actually called dumbbells!


 There are various theories on why are they called dumbbells, but no definitive answer can be found. What is certain is that they continue to play an effective part in encouraging muscle toning exercises and aiding fitness today! What do you think the origin of the word “dumbbell” might be? Please leave your comments below!

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