Should You Hold Both Dumbbells?

Bicep curls are an excellent way to add definition to your arms but using both dumbbells simultaneously can seem like an exhausting ordeal and maybe enough to scare any would-be fitness fan away. Specific lifting techniques are crucial to know to avoid injury and fatigue.

It is best practice to hold both dumbbells while doing alternating bicep curls. As the active arm performs the curl, the inactive dumbbell stabilizes the body and acts as a counterweight to the action of the curl, helping reduce over-compensation and fatigue through the course of a set.

There are situations where only one dumbbell is available, and plenty of exercises are designed to be done with a single weight. Special considerations need to be made to reduce the risk of injury when using one dumbbell, as there is no counterweight to the curling arm. Care should be taken not to over-train one side at the expense of the other. 

Why Should You Hold Both Dumbbells For Bicep Curls?

There are two main types of bicep curl – the standard curl, where both arms are worked in tandem, and the alternating curl, where one arm is worked at a time. There are certain benefits to working both arms at once, but starting with an alternating technique is good when new to this type of lifting.

Alternating bicep curls are performed by people of all skill levels and come with many benefits over the standard, two-handed curls. A drawback to alternating bicep curls is that the overall time doing each set effectively doubles as each arm is worked separately. Making the extra time for these curls is worth it.

Holding Both Dumbbells Provides Stabilization

When performing an alternating bicep curl, the inactive arm is held down as a counterweight to the active arm. This extra stabilization reduces swaying and leaning, allowing the active dumbbell to make a more considered curl that effectively works those muscle groups. Leaning and awkwardly moving your core or off-hand can lead to unnecessary strain and ineffective curls.

Alternating Curls Increase Each Biceps’s Time Under Tension

Time under tension is the term used when measuring how long each muscle spends contracting when performing a task. Alternating between each bicep and allowing the inactive dumbbell to act as stabilization means each curl can be concentrated on individually and completed correctly.

The overall duration of each set is extended, which in turn means each bicep spends more time under tension. The longer a muscle spends under tension, the better it is at forming new muscle. Each bicep will still have time to rest between sets which increases muscle gain even further.

Alternating Bicep Curls Improve Concentration And Technique

Focusing on one arm at a time when doing bicep curls allows for greater concentration on improving technique, form, and effectiveness of the exercise. Alternating bicep curls also reduce over-compensation from the more muscular arm, breaking concertation and leading to problems. Doing curls simultaneously can introduce bad habits, poor form, and ineffective techniques when done haphazardly.

Lift More Weight By Holding Both Dumbbells

The added stabilization provided by the inactive dumbbell makes the lifting done by the active arm more effective. The counterweight provides more leverage against the heavier weight than if the passive hand was empty. The added focus provided by concentrating on one arm enables the lifting of heavier loads before fatigue hits.

Hold Both Dumbbells To Reduce Fatigue

Alternating between biceps will allow the inactive arm to rest while the other works. There is still some tension in the muscles of the stationary arm. Still, the extra rest provided enables the muscle to process lactic acid better and reduce the amount of lactic acid buildup throughout the training. The session is more extended, but there is more downtime too.

The Correct Way To Hold Both Dumbbells During Bicep Curls

The most common use for dumbbells is the bicep curl. The exercise works on the two ‘muscle heads’ of the bicep by extending and contracting the ‘short head’ and ‘long head’ areas of the muscle. These muscles are used every time someone wants to pick something up or pull something, so they are vital muscles in everyday life.

Training the biceps is relatively easy and requires very little equipment – two dumbbells of equal weight is a great starting point. Doing curls with both arms at the same time is a viable strategy, but using an alternating bicep curl technique is suggested for those new to lifting. As with any exercise, the fundamentals need to be adhered to in order to reduce the risk of injury and maximize gains.

The Correct Technique For Bicep Curls With Two Dumbbells

Picking up a pair of dumbbells and flexing away seems like an easy way to bigger arms, but there are serious considerations to be made before trying this. Preparation is key to most endeavors, and exercising is no exception. The starting point of any set of exercises is to make sure you are warmed up and well hydrated. From there, bicep curls can be done in a standing position or seated:

  1. Make sure your head is facing forward with your neck straight.
  2. Ensure your back is upright over your pelvis.
  3. Grasp a dumbbell with each hand and bring them down to the starting position at your sides, palms facing forward.
  4. Roll your shoulders back into a position that puffs your chest out slightly.
  5. Initiate the bicep curl with your weak arm first to gauge your strength.
  6. Counterbalance the curl with the weight of the opposing dumbbell.
  7. Repeat for the desired number of reps and rest.
  8. Switch to the alternate arm and repeat until the desired set is complete.

Although this covers the basic form of this exercise, many variations target the biceps in different ways. There are many ways to incorporate both dumbbells into an exercise routine as they are such versatile pieces of equipment.

Many Exercises Require You To Hold Both Dumbbells

Biceps curls are the main reason people get two dumbbells, but there are a lot of different exercises that need both weights in conjunction. The standard, two-handed bicep curl and its variations are the most obvious, but dumbbells can also train many other muscle groups.

These techniques mainly target upper body muscles like arms, back, shoulders and core. Lower body and full-body workouts work well with dumbbells, too – try adding dumbbells to squats, lunges, push-ups, and cardio sessions for an extra dimension to these straightforward exercises.


Using both dumbbells when doing bicep curls is helpful as it provides a balance to the active weight, helping with core stability and reducing unnecessary stress. Working one arm at a time allows for better form, concentration, and focus, increasing gains. Each arm can lift more weight over a session as fatigue is reduced thanks to resting each alternating arm. If you have both dumbbells – use them.


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