Some people–including some people I admire greatly, like Dave Draper, author of Brother Iron, Sister Steel–love the atmosphere of the big box gym and rely on it to a certain extent for motivation and the greatest potential enjoyment of their strength training.
I’m not one of those people. I like to lift alone. For me, training is one of the few chances in my busy day that I have where I can truly feel like I have some solitude. It’s my greatest chance to spend some time in the moment and quit worrying about yesterday or tomorrow.
So I started putting together a home gym. I don’t need a whole lot. I’ve currently got a barbell, a thick bar, a dip station, some kettlebells, and a whole bunch of plates. If you’re at all like me and you’re in the process of putting any sort of home or garage gym together, I’m going to keep writing this series about acquiring equipment.
Today the focus is on used dumbbells.
There are a lot of things that you shouldn’t buy second-hand: underwear, syringes, pacemakers, important stuff like that. But dumbbells are not on that list. It is an iron object that you lift in various patterns. The end. If you are looking for lovely, aesthetically-pleasing dumbbells, you are lifting for different reasons than I am and I don’t have a whole lot of advice beyond: “Go to a chain store and buy some shiny weights.”
Why used? Because it’s cheap. But it’s also easier than you might think, and that can be a big deal for busy people. The Internet has made it a lot simpler to find cheap gym equipment, although a lot of people know this, so you’ll rarely be the only one searching.
But you’re in luck, because people love to buy exercise equipment and then never use it. The turnover is constant, so you can usually find something.
Here are the resources I’ve had the most luck with:
Local classified ads
I live in Salt Lake. I use the KSL classified ads almost exclusively. I’ll talk about Craiglist in a moment–I want to make it clear that I have had much better luck on the online classified ad that the local news-sites run. I think this is because most people think of Craiglist first.
So, a quick Google search for “classified ads and your city” should give you a good starting point. Most people I have contacted have been more than willing to let me come look at the dumbbells before buying. Can’t beat that.
Like I said, my luck hasn’t been as good. A lot of businesses run ads on Craiglist, so many of the listing you will find for used weights can turn out to be commercials for places selling new weights.
Not always, but often. But it’s hard to throw a rock without hitting some guy who will tell you he found a screaming deal on used weights on Craiglist, so if you are willing to check frequently, you may very well prove my experience wrong.
Ebay is an auction site where you sellers can post an item. It is essentially classified ads with a time limit and an auction format. Many of the sellers also offer a “buy it now” option where, if you are willing to pay their price you can stop the auction and win the item. But then you have shipping to consider. In my searches so far, buying used dumbbells on eBay would normally not get me a better deal than I could find in person in my own town.
This is also a potential issue with Amazon. You can find a lot of sellers with used equipment, but prices that look like deep discounts can often be erased by the shipping costs.
But you never know. Try it and find out for yourself before giving up.
I have bought all of my used kettlebells and barbells second hand at Play It Again Sports. Nearly every town is going to have a store that sells second-hand gym equipment, even it turns out to be the local thrift store or a pawn shop.
So far I have found that used stores charge a higher price/pound than stores online. Once again, the illusion of a discount can be exposed by a different valuation on the poundage.
Another potential downside with used stores is that if brand is important to you, you may never see the brand you want pass through there.
The best way
Besides the classifieds online, I have had the greatest success with listening and asking the people I know–relatives, friends, co-workers–if they have any dumbbells they want to get rid of.
Remember, just about everyone gets bitten by the exercise bug and then they quit after a month. If you feel bad about buying the equipment that you know they should be using, simply offer to let them come over and use it with you whenever they want. Most will not take you up on it, but if they do, there are worse things than helping someone out with the fitness needs.
Chances are, you know someone who has some used dumbbells for sale that they would offload for some quick cash. Or you know someone who knows someone.
My home gym is my favorite place on earth. If it sounds like something you’d enjoy, these are some great places to start the hunt. And the humble dumbbell is usually pretty cheap when compared to kettlebell prices.