Are Dumbbells Double The Weight?

Dumbbells are considered one of the best types of equipment when it comes to weight-lifting. They activate and isolate the muscles, fix all sorts of unbalances, and it’s a much safer option compared to all the fitness equipment out there. However, as a beginner knowing how much you’re lifting using dumbbells can get quite confusing. When I first started working out, I had so many questions on this matter, are dumbbells double the weight? How is weight distributed on a dumbbell? Does a dumbbell have half the weight or the full weight on both sides? 

When it comes to dumbbells, the weight that’s written on both sides refers to the weight of the whole dumbbell. For example, if a dumbbell has 30 lbs written on both sides, it basically means that the entire dumbbell weighs 30 lbs and not double the weight as most beginners think. 

In this article, we’ll talk more in-depth about if dumbbells are double the weight, and how you should count your weight when it comes to dumbbells.

Are Dumbbells Double The Weight?

To answer this question more clearly, let’s imagine a scenario. Let’s say you’re a beginner weightlifter, and so far you’ve only used a barbell and a bunch of training machines so you’re used to the fact that you should count the weight of each plate in order to come up with the total weight that you’re about to lift. However, today, you decided that you want to try on dumbbells, you heard all sorts of great stuff about them and wanted to see for yourself if they’re worth it. You pick a 20 lbs dumbbell and start curling them. After you finish all your repetitions, you look at the weight of the dumbbells and you start having all types of questions. Did I just lift 20 lbs in total? Or did I lift 40 lbs? But wait, I lifted two dumbbells at the same time, does that mean that I lifted 80 lbs? 

I understand that it can get pretty confusing at first and I went through this same confusion when I first got into weight lifting.

Here is the general rule: If a dumbbell has 20 lbs written on each of its sides, it pretty much means that the whole unit weighs 20 lbs. It doesn’t weigh 40 lbs or 10 lbs or 80 lbs. If an exercise requires you to lift two dumbbells that have 20 lbs written on each of their sides at the same time, you’re lifting 20 lbs total on each side and 40 lbs in total for both hands. 

Here is a simple-to-understand illustration that explains how you should weigh dumbbells:

illustration that explains how dumbbells are weighted

The only exception to this rule is if you use adjustable dumbbells. In this case, each number written on each dumbbell plate represents the weight of a single plate and not the entire unit. But you shouldn’t bother yourself with these types of dumbbells because they’re not commonly used in gyms.

If you’re still confused about this matter, let’s analyze 3 different scenarios:

I Lifted a Dumbbell That Has 30 Lbs Written on Each of Its Sides

In this case, you’ve lifted 30 lbs in total. If a dumbbell is marked as 30 lbs, then the entire unit is 30 lbs. It doesn’t matter how many times it’s written or where it’s written. 

I Did Bicep Curls Using Dumbbells That Have 10 kg Written on Each of Its Sides

In this case, You’ve lifted 10 kg in total on each side. So for both of your sides, you’ve lifted 20 kg in total.

I lifted a Barbell That Says 20 kg on Each Side

In this case, because you’re lifting a barbell and not a dumbbell, then you’re lifting 40 kg in total. This means that the rule I mentioned earlier only applies to dumbbells. 

Why Do Dumbbells Have Weight Written on Both Sides?

close-up photo of two heavy dumbbells

I know what you’re thinking, why is this so complicated! Why couldn’t they just write the weight of each side by itself or just stick with one side for the total? Well, the main reason why is because of convenience. Imagine you’re next to a barbell stand, and you decided to use a 20 kg dumbbell. If the weight was written only on one side, then chances are, most of the dumbbells on the stand will be turned over and the weight text will be hidden. And if the weight text on each side represented the weight of that side only, then you’ll have to do a bunch of calculations in your head every time you’re going to lift a dumbbell which is not convenient at all.

The current format of dumbbells is perfect and I promise that with practice, you’re gonna start getting the hang of it. 

Should You Count Both Dumbbells’ Weight or Only One?

person lifting two heavy dumbbells

When it comes to weight lifting, if you’re serious about seeing results and developing during each training session, chances are, you probably want to log your progress. For example, every time you do a bench press, you’ll want to write down the amount of weight that you managed to lift as well as the repetitions that you did. This way, over time, you’ll be able to compare your results and see whether or not you’re progressing and getting stronger. 

When it comes to movements that require using two dumbbells at the same time, you’ll probably also find it a little bit confusing. That’s because you won’t know if you should write down the weight of only one dumbbell or both.

For example, if you did a shoulder press using two dumbbells of 30 lbs (you should now be able to understand that 30 lbs represent the total weight of the entire dumbbell), should you log your workout as lifting 30 lbs or 60 lbs?

The answer to this question should depend on your own personal preference. Personally, I like to log the weight of a single dumbbell just to avoid dividing by 2 every time I check my notebook because it can get quite confusing when you lift 35 or 45 and so on. For the example of the 30 lbs shoulder press using two dumbbells, I’ll log it as a 30 lbs lift. But that’s just a personal preference. If you don’t mind doing the calculations in your head, then you can log it as a 60 lbs lift. 


Hopefully, after you read this detailed article, you won’t have any sort of confusion when it comes to understanding the weight of the dumbbells, why they are made that way, and how you should count them. And as a beginner, you shouldn’t overcomplicate things and just go with what feels right. I promise that with constant practice, not only will you get the hang of it, but you’ll also start seeing some fantastic results especially if you follow the right methods.

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