9 Different Ways You Can Hold Dumbbells For a Killer Workout

Change the way you hold a dumbbell and you can instantly make a workout more challenging.

I love making small changes like this because it’s a great way to ask more from your body.

And the more you can push your comfort zone or find new ways to challenge your body… the more opportunity you have to new results.

So here are 8 ways you can hold dumbbells during your next workout.

And keep in mind…

Even though I happen to be doing squats with all of these examples (or for most of them)…

You can use these for most of your exercises like lunges… walking… farmers carry… presses… and so much more…

In fact there are some really cool combos you can do. I’ll highlight some at the bottom of this post.

Let’s get into it.

#1 – Single Dumbbell Across Chest

Holding Single Dumbbell Across Chest
This is my preferred way to squat… lunge… with a dumbbell.


Because it keeps the dumbbell closest to your body so there’s not much offset pull.

You can use a heavier dumbbell when you do this too. This is why I like it because I tend to go heavy… ish.

#2 – Two Dumbbells At Shoulders

Two Dumbbells At Shoulder Height
Two Dumbbells At Shoulder Height Squat
This is a tough way to hold the dumbbells.

I actually love it because it’s pretty close to holding two kettlebells… not as hard… but pretty close.

The reason I love this way to hold the dumbbells is because it really requires arm and shoulder strength.

Not just pure strength but stability which is great to always be working with your shoulders.

One last tip… when you hold it like this… really focus on your bracing (especially core bracing).

#3 – Single Dumbbell At Shoulders

Single Dumbbell At Shoulder Height
Single Dumbbell At Shoulder Height Squat
Practically the same as above… with one difference.

Here you have a pretty big offset because of the uneven weight. This is a great thing because it causes your body to brace hard naturally.

Again… this is similar to holding a kettlebell… but I’ll cover that more in a different post about holding kettlebells correctly.

#4 – In-between Your Legs

Single Dumbbell Between Legs
Single Dumbbell Between Legs Squat

I don’t really use this way to hold the kettlebell that much.

But it’s good when you want to go REALLY REALLY HEAVY.

You’re taking the bracing and stability away from your upper body and pretty much putting it in your legs completely. You still need to hold onto the kettlebell.

One variation I really like is going with a really really heavy dumbbell and standing on two small boxes so you can increase your legs range of motion.

I think that is pretty cool.

But a squat is really the only applicable exercise with this variation of holding the dumbbell.

#5 – Single Suitcase

Single Dumbbell Suitcase Hold
Single Dumbbell Suitcase Hold Squat

I love the suitcase hold.

This is great for squatting… lunging… farmers carry (which are amazing)… and you can even suitcase hold while having from a bar for grip strength.

That is what I really love about the suitcase hold… it works your grip strength and forearm strength… something most women don’t ever work on.

One quick tip… when you hold the dumbbell like this… don’t use a hook grip

A hook grip is when your thumb is goes under the handle. Rather wrap your thumb around the bar. This way you can squeeze the dumbbell and make muscle in your arms for more bracing and strength.

Squeezing like this is also an isometric exercise in it’s own right.

#6 – Double Suitcase

Double Dumbbell Suitcase Hold Squat
Double Dumbbell Suitcase Hold Squat
The double is the same as above…

BUT… it does get a little squirrelly when you squat with two dumbbells. You will have to take a narrower stance so your legs don’t get in the way of the dumbbells.

I like to keep my feet only 4 inches apart.

But if you go really heavy and treat this more like a deadlift rather than a squat… it’s an amazing exercise. I tend to use kettlebells instead of dumbbells but it can work either way.

Let’s Change Things Up!

#7 – Iso Hold

Isometric Dumbbell Hold
Okay… this is kind of strange but I wanted to put it in here.

Most women I see never do exercises like this but it can make a huge difference to your strength and joint strength.

All you’re going to do is take some light dumbbells and hold them out with your elbows bent at 90 degrees.

How long can you hold them before you have to come down?

This is isometric strength training and it’s great for overall strength.

#8 – Floor Presses

Double Dumbbell Floor Press
Alternating Double Dumbbell Floor Press
Double Dumbbell Floor Press
Single Sided Dumbbell Floor Press
Single Dumbbell Floor Press
Single Dumbbell Floor Press

I love doing floor presses.

It’s a good alternative to pushups and it’s challenging.

I am grouping a couple different variations in this #8…

You have a single press… a double press… alternating presses…

It’s just good for shoulder and arm strength. Here’s a cool exercise… press two heavier dumbbells up and hold them there. Don’t just hold them but extend through your shoulders.

This is really good for shoulder stabilization and those small rotator cuff muscles. These are muscles that can always use strengthening.

#9 – Hip Extensions

Dumbbell Hip Extensions
Dumbbell Hip Extensions

The last way to hold a dumbbell is to just plop it on your hips.

Hip extensions are amazing. At the time of writing this post, I’m actually doing heavy hip thrusters with a barbell everyday for 45 days.

It’s a great exercise to do before your deadlift… or to do with some kettlebell swings.

Make sure you push through your heels.

I lifted my toes up in this picture, but if you can, try to keep your feet flat and still push hard through your heels.

Change Up a Workout You Did Last Week

Take two or three of these ways you hold a dumbbell and repeat some workouts.

Change up how you hold your dumbbells and see how the workout changes.

Find a variation that challenges you the most. It’s vital you choose the stuff you’re not good at if you want to make big leaps with your fitness and strength.

And always go as heavy as you can for what the workout prescribes.

If you want to learn more about how to get more from your workouts… and you want workouts where you can put these techniques to good use…

Come join Fit Women’s Weekly.

My program Body Burn Challenges and even Ignite are both great programs for using these dumbbell techniques.

Body Burn Challenges is more of an intermediate program and it will use dumbbells in almost every workout if you want to.

Ignite is my beginner program. You can use dumbbells here, but I suggest you work more on form. Although there are some workouts I use a dumbbell as a way to teach better form.

You can buy a program and own it forever or you can join monthly and get access to every workout program.

The choice is yours but I hope to see you as a member today.

Go try some of these and let me know what you think.

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