One Or Two Dumbbells? Which One Should You Choose?

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Written By Philethia Thomas

You want to buy dumbbells but you’re unsure as to whether you should opt for one dumbbell or two. Or maybe you’re a broke college student who’s confused between investing your limited money behind a heavy dumbbell or two light dumbbells. Either way, we can help you with your dilemmas. 

So, should you choose one or two dumbbells? 

Generally, between one or two dumbbells you should go for two dumbbells. By using a set of dumbbells you can do various exercises. Single dumbbells are often not useful as you cannot incorporate them into all of your exercises. But two dumbbells take up a lot of space compared to a single dumbbell. 

Intrigued by what you’re seeing? Well then, let’s dive into the depths of this matter as this is only the tip of the iceberg! 

Should You Opt for One Or Two Dumbbells? 

It’s always best to opt for a set of two dumbbells over a single dumbbell even if the set is lighter. Of course, it may vary casewise which has been further dealt with in the scenarios.  

The benefit of a set of dumbbells is that you will be able to do a whole range of different exercises. The limitation of a single dumbbell is that you’ll have to restrict yourself to only a  few particular exercises. 

But you might be able to save some space which might be a win for you. This is if you live in a tiny apartment. Choosing one dumbbell means limiting your options to facing difficulty in arms flexing.

Exercises performed using just one dumbbell are called unilateral exercises. While exercises performed using two dumbbells are called bilateral exercises 

For example, you might get away with using one heavy dumbbell for a few alternating exercises. But you won’t be able to do so for other exercises like the alternate dumbbell bench press.

However, there are certainly benefits to using just one heavy dumbbell like that of overhead tricep extensions whereas the two dumbbell variation isn’t recommended for beginners

Should You Opt for One Or Two Dumbbells

Best Scenarios of Using One or Two Dumbbells

Generally, there are different usages of one or two dumbbells. Some of the more important ones have been mentioned below:- 

For Fixing Imbalances

The biggest utility of single dumbbell exercises is their use to fix muscle and strength imbalances. 

This can be done by doing more repetitions and sets using your weaker hand. The imbalances can be of two types. They are:

Strength wise

In terms of strength, you should focus on lower reps with heavier loads and just a few sets over the course of a week. This can be done by single arm bicep curls and farmers’ walks.

Hypertrophy wise

Hypertrophy wise you can opt for single-arm dumbbell curls and single arm tricep extensions. As opposed to strength training you’d have to opt for higher reps per set. This can generally be 12 to 15 reps per set and around three to four sets per set. It is particularly useful for bicep curls and tricep extensions to help balance the strength or hypertrophy of both hands.

Alternating Curls

Generally, it’s going to depend on your goal. Do you want more hypertrophy? Or do you want to save time? There are benefits to both that we’ll go into further here. 

In the case of dumbbell alternate curls, you’re technically using one dumbbell at a time. 

The upside to alternating curls is that you’ll be able to lift more weight per arm. You can also use just one dumbbell and alternate it. The thing about the simultaneous or regular bicep curls is that they’ll allow you to target both muscles at once.

Performance time is usually adjusted with one dumbbell. You have to ensure that you can keep from developing forearm pain in this context. 

Apart from this, of course, you’d save more time doing the regular bicep curl variation. This might be helpful when you want to gain muscle but don’t have much time.

Overall, both have their benefits but hypertrophy wise you might incline towards the alternating curls. However, you must be very careful of your form if you’re literally using just one dumbbell. 

And, why is that? 

Well, using one dumbbell for both arms can cause a risk of injury. This is especially true for higher weight levels. So, it’s generally not preferred at all. 

Tricep Extensions

The general form of the tricep extension uses a single dumbbell. But there’s also a double-handed tricep extension variation. This when performed on a bench becomes dumbbell skull crushers. This is primarily for professionals because of the inherent instability of the exercise.

The double tricep extension is generally not recommended if both the dumbbells are heavy. Also called the wrist curl, You need to start with a lighter load for this exercise. 

Front Raise

The general form of the single dumbbell front raise is that it’s similar to that of plate raises. Single dumbbell front raises utilize grabbing one dumbbell and raising it up and down. You just grab onto the handle instead of the sides of a plate-like that of a barbell.

The regular form utilizes alternating movements between two dumbbells. 

The problem with the single-arm variant is similar to that of the plate variant too in that it places the shoulder in an internally rotated position. This can place your shoulders at the risk of injury. So one must be super careful if they are to use the single dumbbell variation

Dumbbell press

The dumbbell bench press has the alternating and the regular variant where you press both together.

Unfortunately in this exercise, you have to only opt for the regular variation. The main reason why two dumbbells are better because of its various result oriented benefits. This is to ascertain the benefits of dumbbell bench presses

As per fitness experts such as Greg Doucette and Sean Nalewanyj the alternating form is a mere gimmick and a waste of your time. There really isn’t any specific benefit to the exercise and you’re better off using the regular variant.

Different Options for Different Budgets: What Should You Pick?

The thing is that dumbbells are generally sold on the basis of weight. If you’re on a tight budget and are a beginner then it’s generally good to opt for a set of 5-kilogram dumbbells. 

Anything that isn’t rusty or has sharp edges should work fine. A 5 kg dumbbell might set you back around $15 on Amazon

Select a weight in correspondence to your fitness level.Are single hand overhead tricep extensions are included in your routine? If yes and you’re a beginner then you should exercise with 5 kilograms at max while starting.

The best option would be to buy adjustable dumbbells. You might have to splurge more money behind a pair than that of a regular set. It unfortunately will still have the same weight as the highest weight option of an adjustable pair. 

This can be handy if you’re anyone who hasn’t reached the advanced stage where your strength gains range from negligible to minimal.

A pair of adjustable dumbbells might set you back 200$

Group of friends doing pushups with dumbbells in gym gym

Recommendations from the Expert 

A set of two lightweight dumbbells is always better for the beginner. Ideally, get one that’s light in weight. 

Always keep in mind that form is everything when it comes to exercise. It’s always better to lift slightly lighter when you don’t have access to resources than to lift heavier. Ego lifting might be a major problem for you if you’re a beginner.

If you cave in to the urge of ego lifting then you might not be able to flesh out all the benefits of the exercise. That too with the risk of added injury.

Make sure that you don’t have any prior tendon issues or muscular issues related to health, and if you do then make sure that you consult with a physician.

Overall, it’s still best to take into the factors of

  •  Your fitness levels
  • Your goals with the set of the dumbbells(or the single dumbbell)
  • Your budget 

After accounting for these please do further research on the topic as well as that of other exercises. Also, assuming that you have access to one then do consult with your gym trainer before making the final decision. A gym bro or just someone who’s into fitness and is good at it should work too! 

FAQs

Is one dumbbell enough?

Generally it will depend on your goals but if nothing else is available then one dumbbell it is. However it is still recommended to buy two dumbbells 

Do you need two dumbbells?

A: You don’t need two dumbbells per se but it is preferable to use two dumbbells. This is because of the greater variety of exercises available to you on hand.  

Do you use two dumbbells at once?

A:  It depends on the exercise. Most exercises that use dumbbells will have variants where you use simultaneous movements and variants where you’ll have alternative movements. It’s always good to do more research and ask your trainer what’s best for you in terms of your fitness goals. 

Conclusion

That’s all on should you opt for one or two dumbbells? I hope you’re clear now regarding the whole situation.

If you’re a beginner then opt for a set of lighter dumbbells. If you want to fix your strength or muscle imbalances in your arms and their various muscle groups, then opt for a single dumbbell.

Happy lifting!

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