8 of The Best Dumbbell Exercises
I have listed some of the best dumbbell exercises below, with a selection of my personal favourites, some classics and a few essential exercises you need to do especially if you do not own a barbell and rack
Probably the most accessible of home gym equipment, dumbells are the number 1 go-to choice for resistance training at home. Whilst most of your muscle mass will be built with barbell training, dumbbells will add some much needed variety to your training schedule and they will prove to be invaluable for many isolation exercises.
Benefits of Using Dumbbells
Space Savers/New School Sets
Like most people who have a gym in their homes, be it a small workout space, garage, or spare room, I’m sure you have realized just how much room gym equipment can take up. One of the major benefits of owning a set of adjustable dumbbells is the amount of space a pair can save you. A set of 50lb adjustable dumbbells can replace up to 16 sets of fixed weight dumbbells.
Home sets of dumbbells have come a long way since the metal plates and fixed handles. Most of the new sets have been built with speed in mind and adjustable dumbbells are now nearly as quick to train with as their more expensive counterparts the fixed weight dumbbells you would see in your local gym.
The fast adjustment times and the space-saving designs of the new school sets of dumbbells are proving to be a big pulling factor for many wanting to train at home, you can do full body workouts within a small space in your home eliminating the need for buying fixed weight sets that can cost $1000+
I own a set of the Ironmaster Quick-Lock dumbbells, heavy duty, versatile, and in my opinion, they are the best on the market and because of their compact size they feel pretty close to the natural feel we love from a fixed weight dumbbell, but they are expensive. With Ironmaster you get what you pay for, lifetime guarantees and a dumbbell that hasn’t got any plastic parts like some of the other new sets out there, all metal construction make the Ironmasters very durable.
There are many other fantastic sets of adjustable dumbbells available, you can check out our detailed reviews by clicking on the pictures below.
Dumbbells Allow For Unilateral Training
It’s fairly common to have strength imbalances when barbell training, people who train constantly with barbells may be using the strength of one side of their body more than the other, giving your weaker side an easy workout. Dumbbells eliminate this problem as both sides are forced to do equal amounts of work with the same weight.
Stabilizer muscles also come into play when using dumbbells, because of the unstable nature of dumbbells training, your stabilizer muscles are forced into action.. “your stabiliser muscles have to work hard to keep you steady while you perform the movement. Without realising it you’ll be strengthening your core and other stabiliser muscles, which can help prevent injury,” says PT and Multipower ambassador Ant Nyman. Via coachmag.com
Dumbbell Bench Press
A dumbbell classic, the dumbbell bench press will help you develop the mass and strength of the outer and inner pectoral muscles whilst also targeting the triceps and tops of the shoulders. The benefit of using dumbbells rather than a barbell is that it requires you to use a greater number of muscles compared with the barbell.
Dumbbell presses activate the lower fibres of chest better than the barbell because your hands are free to move across your body. And because of the need to coordinate two separate weights, this forces the stabilizer muscles to assist as well.
The dumbbell bench press does require you to have access to a bench, it is a good idea to chose an adjustable bench for your home gym as this will allow you to perform incline bench presses as well as flat. Incline pressing helps to develop the middle and upper pectorals.
Depending on the versatility of your bench, you will be able to perform this exercise from a multiple of angles from almost flat to almost upright, the higher degree of angle the more you work your deltoid muscles (shoulders).
One of the best exercises for shoulders: this exercise allows you to really emphasise the deltoids with medium to heavy loads, you won’t lift as heavy as you could with a barbell but you do achieve a greater range of motion using the dumbbells, helping you hit the lateral deltoids as well. The exercise is performed by holding one dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height and lifting the dumbbells straight up until they touch at the top. Lower again as far as possible.
Alternated Bicep Curls
One of the most popular dumbbell exercises: they are excellent for adding size and strength to your biceps and for overall arm development. Not only does this exercise stimulate your biceps it also stimulates the forearms as a secondary muscle. You perform the exercise by curling the dumbbells alternately, first one arm then the other, this helps isolate each bicep by concentrating on one bicep at a time.
If you want to make this exercise a little harder I’d recommend using an arm blaster, this helps give you the strictest form with elbows fixed solidly in place, which is really good for lower bicep development.
Another well known and respected classic the tricep kick- back: the kick-back works the whole of the tricep, especially the upper area. A great exercise I normally use to finish a tricep session, giving me that extra pump after some weight dips and skull crushers. High reps low weight works best for me with kick-backs and it’s making sure your upper arms stay still throughout the exercise, this helps by keeping your back and shoulders out of the movement making your triceps do most of the work.
Tip- For extra development twist your hand slightly as you lift the weight, bringing the thumb up, and twist back the other way as you come down, says “Arnie”.
Kneeling One Arm Row
An excellent dumbbell exercise to independently work each side of the back. One arm dumbbell rows will help you develop thickness throughout your entire back. One of the major advantages of the one arm rows is that it isolates your latissimus muscles on each side and because you are using a dumbbell and not a barbell you can actually lift the dumbbell higher and get a more complete contraction. A bench is needed for this exercise to rest your knee and hand.
An easy to perform shoulder exercise that is very effective at targeting the rear region of the shoulder muscles. It is a great movement for adding size and strength to the shoulders specifically the anterior and lateral heads of the deltoid. When performing this exercise make sure you are moving the load by elevating the shoulders at the top of the motion rather than using the biceps or forearms to support the movement.
Not forgetting legs, however much you despise or dread training them, it’s essential to train legs and there are a couple of beneficial dumbbell exercises you can try. Lunges are not always the most popular, and not advisable if you have balance issues, they are however one of the most effective for upper thigh muscle development.
The stationary lunge involves a downward movement in which there is a strong eccentric contraction of the hams, quads and glutes. This ensures that the entire weight of the body falls on the forward leg, developing the front of the thighs and glutes.
Dumbbell squats are becoming increasingly popular for home workouts. One of the main reasons dumbbell squats are popular is that you do not need to own a squat rack or barbell, a dumbbell squat can provide a complete workout of the lower body including your butt.
Are you new to squats? If so, it’s a good idea to practise squatting using only your body weight at first. By using just your body weight you will be able to practise the correct form, once you are happy you are performing the movement correctly you can then move on to using a light set of dumbbells, increasing the weight as your muscles grow and become stronger.
Some effective dumbbell squat variations include goblet squats, dumbbell front squats, dumbbell plié squat, and overhead dumbbell squats. Dumbbells squats are also a safe way to squat as you can release the dumbbells at any time avoiding injury.