Many companies sell adjustable dumbbells as singles rather than the more traditional pair. This begs the question- do you even need 2 adjustable dumbbells for a good workout?
In general, 2 adjustable dumbbells are better than 1 dumbbell. Access to 2 adjustable dumbbells will allow heavier weights to be lifted, shorter workout durations, and an overall better weight lifting experience. This is especially important to achieve muscle-building goals.
Having been in the market for a pair of adjustable dumbbells myself, I was puzzled as to why dumbbells were being sold as singles.
And if you’re currently new to home workouts, I know you’re probably stumped just like me.
So let’s dive right in and dig into the question further.
2 Adjustable Dumbbells AREN’T Needed For Unilateral Exercises.
The first thing to note is that you don’t need 2 adjustable dumbbells to work out.
In fact, 1 adjustable dumbbell alone is sufficient.
If you only have access to 1 dumbbell, you can still perform all the exercises you could have otherwise done with 2 dumbbells.
- Bench press.
- Shoulder press.
- Bent-over row.
- Goblet squat.
- Bicep curl.
- Tricep extension.
- Lateral raise.
- Ab crunch.
These are all highly effective exercises that can be performed with just 1 dumbbell.
They are called unilateral exercises.
Unilateral means they only work one side of the body at a time.
The advantages of unilateral training are:
- Replicate functional movements- such as sports movements and everday activities.
- Cheaper- you don’t need 2 adjustable dumbbells to perform unilateral exercises.
- Require less space- one dumbbell requires less space than two dumbbells.
But the EFFECTIVENESS of a single-dumbbell workout is a completely different question.
That’s because it’s much harder to lift heavy weights with just 1 dumbbell (see below).
So if you want to build muscle through heavy weight lifting, you will need 2 adjustable dumbbells.
Let me explain below.
2 Adjustable Dumbbells ARE Needed For Bilateral Exercises.
When you have 2 adjustable dumbbells, the same exercises mentioned above become bilateral exercises.
This means they work on both sides of the body.
The advantages of bilateral training are:
- More results per unit of time- more muscle contractions are completed per given amount of time when both sides of the body are pushing against resistance
- Better balance- each adjustable dumbbell counterbalances the other in bilateral lifting.
- Easier to perform- increased balance makes the exercise easier to perform.
- Heavier loads- exercises which are easier to perform will also allow you to lift heavier weights.
As you can see, the biggest advantage to using 2 adjustable dumbbells is to lift heavier weights and spend less time working out (for the same results).
Together, these two factors will increase your training efficiency.
Is It OK To Just Use 1 Dumbbell?
In general, working out with 1 dumbbell is better than not using dumbbells at all.
But whether or not single-dumbbell workouts are recommended, will depend on your training goal.
If you are training for general fitness, then 1 dumbbell will suffice for your goals.
That’s because you are unlikely to lift heavy or work your muscles as much as someone who is trying to build a lot of muscle.
In fact, many bodyweight exercises like the pull-up, leg raise, and lunge can be great when accompanied by a single dumbbell.
Additionally, exercises like tricep extensions, bicep curls, and lateral raises are highly effective.
But if you have ambitious goals of building muscle or getting big, it’s better to use 2 dumbbells (for the reasons mentioned above).
By having access to 2 adjustable dumbbells, you’ll be able to hit your muscles with harder and more intense workouts.
Read my other article for 12 of the best dumbbell exercises for hardgainers to build muscle!
Why It’s Better To Lift With 2 Adjustable Dumbbells.
As I explained above, this will depend on your training goals.
If your aim is to simply increase fitness levels, 1 dumbbell is great. And much cheaper.
But if you want to pack on muscle, 2 adjustable dumbbells are recommended.
That being said, it’s not impossible to build muscle with just 1 dumbbell.
In fact, my user poll on Quora reveals that the majority of people agree that you can build muscle with a single dumbbell.
Furthermore, this 2018 study revealed that unilateral exercises are just as good as bilateral exercises for muscle activation.
The best thing to do is to weigh out the pros and cons of using 1 and 2 adjustable dumbbells:
|Pro’s of 1 Dumbbell||Cons of 1 Dumbbell||Pros of 2 Dumbbells||Cons of 2 Dumbbells|
|Cheaper.||Longer workouts.||Easier to lift heavy.||More expensive.|
|Lower footprint.||Hard to lift heavy.||Faster workouts.||Requires more space.|
|Good for general fitness.||Harder to perform.||Efficient training.|
You can see that using 2 dumbbells is generally better than using just the 1.
Go to my other article to find out the 9 heaviest adjustable dumbbells available on the market!
Why Aren’t All Adjsutable Dumbbells Sold In Pairs?!
Dumbbell training is traditionally performed using a pair of dumbbells.
So why do some companies like to sell 1, rather than 2 adjustable dumbbells?
There are two reasons for this.
The first is demand.
Some people simply prefer to buy a single adjustable dumbbell.
These guys are usually casual lifters who are training to make minor improvements in fitness.
In this case, it makes sense to buy one rather than 2 adjustable dumbbells, since the price will be much lower.
Besides, you don’t necessarily need 2 dumbbells for a good workout (as explained above).
2) Sneaky Sales Tactics…
The second reason is, in my opinion, sneaky tactics employed by budget brand companies.
These companies will sell dumbbells as singles rather than pairs, with what seems to be a lower price tag.
But upon closer inspection, the price difference between these and premium dumbbells (which are always sold in pairs) is actually marginal.
A budget single-dumbbell will typically cost around $198.99, which equates to $3.79 per pound (I decided to keep the specific brand anonymous to avoid public shaming!).
Now compare this with the premium Bowflex 52.5 adjustable dumbbell (comes as a pair) which is $399 and equates to $3.80 per pound.
As you can see, the budget brand seems cheap at first.
But the “budget brand” is actually even more expensive than the premium brand, if you buy the pair.
And you are also be missing out on the quality, materials, design, durability, and warranty of the premium brand.
Check out my other article for 15 things to look for when buying adjustable dumbbells.
Today I’ve explained how you don’t necessarily need 2 adjustable dumbbells to have a good workout.
A single dumbbell can be highly effective if you choose the right exercises.
But where possible, it’s always better to have 2 rather than 1 dumbbell.
And this is particularly true if your goal is to gain muscle.
However, if you only intend to improve general fitness, 1 dumbbell will suffice.
Do you think it’s better to work out with 1 or 2 adjustable dumbbells?
Let me know in the comments!
Thanks for reading guys!
(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)