The benefits of working out with weights have been proven effective for weight loss, muscle toning and strength building.
For people who may not have access to a gym or aren’t comfortable going into one, the good news is that there are plenty of dumbbell exercises at home you can do!
This post will cover some great examples and why they’re so beneficial.
Table of Contents
- 1 What are Dumbbells?
- 2 Best Dumbbell Workouts and Exercises
- 3 How To Pick The Right Dumbbell Weight For Each Exercise
- 4 FAQs About Dumbbell Exercises
- 5 Are Dumbbells Just for Shoulder Workouts?
- 6 Are Home Workouts Better Than Gym?
- 7 Can You Get a Good Workout With Just Dumbbells?
- 8 How Long Should I Do Dumbbells For?
- 9 Can Dumbbells Lose Weight?
What are Dumbbells?
By definition, a dumbbell is a short bar with a weight at either end. Sometimes they come wrapped in different materials or even feature adjustable dials, but the core concept has been the same for centuries. Speaking of which, the forebearers of these nifty hand weights date as far back as ancient Greece.
You can find dumbbells that weigh as little as 1 pound and as much as 375 pounds. That said, most dumbbells fall within the range of 5-25 pounds. At the nearest gym, the heaviest dumbbell usually weighs in at around 60 pounds. If you’re looking for anything heavier, you should be going to one of those special gyms because you’re a beast.
As classic free weights, dumbbells are typically used for joint-isolation exercises. You’ve seen them. You’ve probably used them. But can you use dumbells for a full-body workout? The odds are, you’re not performing the best dumbbell exercises and workouts. So let’s find out.
Best Dumbbell Workouts and Exercises
You’re no dumbbell, and that’s why you want to make the most out of your weekly fitness routine. Just remember that it’s better to start with lighter weights and work your way up than it is to start with heavier weights and work your way to the hospital. With that in mind, here are some of the best dumbbell exercises for muscle building and more.
When it comes to the rep and set recommendations, we’re primarily sticking with intermediate level suggestions. If you’re just starting workouts with dumbells, reduce accordingly and work your way up.
How To Warm Up
We’re sure you’re excited about diving into the workouts, but first, take a moment to consider your warm-up. All the workouts involve completing supersets with minimal rest, and if you haven’t adequately prepared your body, you’ll find the first couple of rounds far tougher than you need to and won’t get as much from them in terms of strength and size gains. You’ll also increase your risk of injury if you’re using heavy weights with cold muscles.
When warming up, merely jogging on the spot for a few minutes to raise your heart rate won’t do. Each of the workouts is designed to target a specific area of the body, and you need to do the same in your warm-up, so you’re priming the muscles about to be called into action.
You can start with this dynamic stretching routine, which will take mere minutes and will get your whole body moving. Then move on to an even more specific warm-up for the workout you’re going to do. The simplest way to do this is a round of the exercises you have lined up with no weight or a very light set of dumbbells if you have them.
See your doctor before trying this workout if you have any injuries, illnesses or other medical conditions that affect your ability to exercise. Substitute or skip any exercises that cause pain or discomfort. You will need dumbbells in a few sizes and a bench or step (you can use the floor if you don’t have one).
- Warm-up with 5 minutes of light cardio or warm-up versions of each exercise.
- Beginners: Start with no weight or light weights and do one set of 14 to 16 reps of each exercise.
- Experienced exercisers: Do two to three sets of eight to 12 reps with enough weight that you can only complete the desired number of reps.
Deadlifts are challenging to learn to do correctly, but they make an excellent transition into the lower body portion of the workout. Not only does this exercise target the glutes and hamstrings, but it also works the lower back.3 It is a complement to the one-arm row exercise from earlier in the workout.
Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold weights in front of thighs—a tip from the hips and lower weights towards the floor, back flat, and shoulders back. Return to start and repeat.
Keep the shoulders back throughout the entire exercise. It’s tempting to round your back with this move, which puts your lower back at risk for injury.
Get into position with your feet together and hands holding dumbbells shoulder-width apart. Brace your core, so your body is straight from head to heels. Bend your elbows to lower your chest, then press back up powerfully.
You might think press-ups are easy, but they are still a good chest-building move – especially when you factor in the instability of the weights to work your chest, as well as your core, harder.
Lie flat on the floor, holding a dumbbell in each hand above your chest with straight arms. Lower the weights towards your chest, then press them back up powerfully to return to the start.
Lying on the floor puts you in a stable position, so you can attempt to go quite heavy with this move. However, the range of motion is shorter than a bench press, so focus on contracting the chest muscles being targeted.
Here’s another bodyweight exercise that delivers even greater results when you bring a dumbbell into the equation. You definitely would have seen people rock this one at the gym, and while it may make you feel a little strange, there is a method to the madness. The glute bridge activates a key component of the body’s largest muscle group. By squeezing tightly at the top, you help build an area that controls stability and overall strength.
Hammer Curl on One Leg
Hammer curls work the biceps. As a bonus, you can work on your balance by doing them while standing on one leg.
Hold weights in both hands and palms face in. Lift the right foot off the ground, holding that position (if you can!). Now, curl the weights up towards the shoulders, palms still facing in, squeezing the biceps. Lower and repeat.
Another great movement that targets your deltoids, the lateral raise, has been a favourite amongst bodybuilders since the dawn of the sport. With an added emphasis on the outside rotor of the muscle, this exercise is key to those hulking shoulders you’ve been searching for. Maintaining proper form is key to this effective full body dumbbell workout. Keep your motions small and careful, and try to lead with your elbows as you go.
The lunge is a classic full body dumbbell workout. Make sure you have plenty of room and prepare to work plenty of muscle groups (legs, glutes, etc.). Once again, try and remain controlled throughout the movement. Speed is not an issue on this dumbbell exercise, so take your time, keep your balance and squeeze at the top of the exercise.
Lunges work multiple muscle groups, which means you work your body with fewer exercises, thus saving time and getting more out of your workout. If they hurt your knees, try one of these alternatives to lunges.
No total body workout is complete without working the triceps, the area at the back of the arms. You can move one arm at a time or with both arms, which adds core work. Just make sure you bend the knees and brace the abs to support your lower back.
Hold a weight in each hand. Bend at the waist, keeping the back flat and the abs engaged. Pull the elbows up to the torso. Holding that position, straighten the arms and squeeze the triceps muscles. Lower and repeat.
The next big upper-body muscle group is in the back. The one-arm row works the lats, the big muscles on either side of your back. As a bonus, you’ll also get plenty of biceps work with this move.
Place the left foot on a step or platform and rest the left hand or forearm on the upper thigh. Hold a weight in the right hand. Tip forward, keeping the back flat and the abs in, and hang the weight down towards the floor. Bend the elbow and pull it up in a rowing motion until it is level with the torso or just above it. At the top of the movement, squeeze the back. Lower; do all reps before switching sides.
Squats are probably one of the most important exercises in any strength routine, especially a total body workout. This functional exercise helps you work on all the muscles you use each day to sit, stand, and walk.4
Hold weights in each hand and stand with feet about hip distance apart. Bend the knees and lower into a squat, knees behind the toes and squatting as low as you can. Push back to start and repeat.
Let’s cap off the best dumbbell workouts with this gym staple, which targets the triceps. For this movement, you can utilize a double or single-handed grip. However, the biggest thing to note is the position of your elbows. Try to keep your arms locked in tight to your body throughout the movement, as this will better target the triceps and help you avoid injury.
How To Pick The Right Dumbbell Weight For Each Exercise
If you’re at home and have one set of dumbbells, this decision will be easy – just hope that it’s roughly the right amount of weight. However, picking the right one can be tricky if you select weights available or adjustable ones. These are workouts with long sets and little rest, plus a strict tempo that ratchets the difficulty. It’s easy to pick a dumbbell that’s fine in round one but feels way too heavy to complete your sets towards the end of the workout.
Generally, you want a weight that means the final few reps of each set feel hard and have a few reps in reserve. So if the target rep total is 10, you want a weight that allows you to complete 13-14 reps if pushed. Given that you are doing supersets in this workout, it’s best to err on the side of caution and use the lighter weight if you’re deciding between two. And maybe keep another set to hand if you can, so you can switch in later rounds of the workout if required.
Always consider the second move in the superset too. If you’re looking to switch between exercises quickly with no rest, it’s useful to use the same weight, so if the second move is something like a flye where you know you’ll struggle with a bigger weight, it might be worth using a slightly lighter one for the first exercise. Or just switch weights rapidly if you trust yourself not to sneak in a bonus rest.
The benefits of working out with weights have been proven effective for weight loss, muscle toning and strength building. For people who may not have access to a gym or aren’t comfortable going into one, the good news is that there are plenty of dumbbell exercises at home you can do! We’ve compiled some helpful information about what kind of workouts you can do with just your own body weight.
If you’re looking for more tips on how best to use these workout tools to get all the possible health benefits they offer, check it out here!
FAQs About Dumbbell Exercises
While a number of dumbbell exercises do indeed work the shoulder muscles, there are additional dumbbell workouts that target the pectorals, biceps, legs, glutes, and even calves.
However, the good news is you can still get a good workout at home and build muscle at the same time by investing in basic fitness equipment like dumbbells. ... They’re versatile, extremely effective in building strength and can be used in many different types of workouts.
Working out at home can be just as effective. While a gym provides a dedicated space, home workouts offer more flexibility and can be more efficient. It all depends on how you use your time and equipment to maximize your effort. It’s convenient.
Not only are dumbbells the most readily available and easily scalable weights on the gym floor, but they allow for unilateral training by design. So you can level out any pesky muscle imbalances as they arise.
Regardless of your gender or age, lifting weights is a great way to increase your resting heart rate, lower body fat, improve balance and motor coordination, and enhance joint stability. For a total body workout, lifting weights for 20 minutes to 30 minutes three days a week is recommended.
Dumbbells are a great way to burn calories and build muscle, putting you in a great position to lose weight. With the muscle-building properties that they offer in a workout, you’ll be able to burn calories not just during the session but long after as well.