Many fitness enthusiasts use dumbbells and weights as part of their exercise workouts. These can be used to target key areas of the body for toning and strength training. We’re going to take a look at a few basic dumbbell exercises as well as specific workouts you can do for achieving different results.
Basic Dumbbell Exercises
These are a few standard workouts that target major muscle groups. Remember to choose a weight that you are comfortable with and never try to lift more than what your body can handle to reduce injury.
Bench press– This exercise targets the chest, triceps and shoulders. You do need a flat bench in order to do these. While lying on your back lift two dumbbells with your palms facing away towards your feet and bring to the level of your chest. Taking in a deep breath as you lift your arms straight up just before your elbows reach the point of becoming locked. Briefly hold this position then lowers your arms back to chest level while slowly breathing out.
Biceps Curls – This workout mainly targets the biceps but can be combined with several combination workouts for other areas as well. For this exercise you will start with arms down at your sides holding the weights with palms facing each other. Lift each arm holding it with your palms facing out and bring towards your shoulder, bending your elbow. You can perform this exercise by lifting both dumbbells at the same time or alternating between each arm. You can also perform this workout using a single larger weight and alternating it between hands.
Shoulder Press – This provides a great upper body exercise for working your shoulders, triceps and your back when done while standing. Hold two dumbbells with your hands, palms facing outward (in front) at shoulder level. Raise the weights up extending your arms, hold for a brief pause then return at shoulder level. It’s important to avoid jerking your back during this exercise to help you lift the weights up as this can lead to injury. You can also do this exercise while sitting on a flat bench or one with a back support.
Kneeling One Arm Row – This workout helps strengthen lower back muscles while also utilizing the rear deltoid muscles. For this exercise you will need to have your knee and hand on a flat bench. Take a dumbbell with the other hand then lift it up moving ONLY your arm while breathing out. Hold it for a short period then lower your arm as you take a breath in. Alternate between each hand. This exercise can also be done with just one hand on the bench with both feet flat on the ground.
Lateral Raise – The focus of this exercise is to target the shoulder muscles. For this exercise you will take some weight in each hand and hold them in front of you, palms facing inward. Lift your arms at your sides, bringing the weights to the level of your shoulders or parallel with the floor. Hold briefly then lower your arms back to the starting position. You can also do this workout while sitting.
Strength Training Dumbbell Exercises
It’s possible to get a complete workout using just free weights. We’ve listed a few beginner and intermediate exercises that target certain areas of the body for an easy yet effective workout. Remember to use weights you are comfortable with lifting. As you progress you can increase the amount of weight or the number of repetitions to continue building muscle.
Side Bend – Standing straight hold some weight with your left hand and place your other hand holding your waist. While taking a deep breath in bend at the waist to your right making sure to keep your back straight, and hold this position shortly. Then exhale as you straighten back up to the beginning position. Alternate each side with this movement at the end of each repetition.
Concentration Curls – This exercise is done in the sitting position so you will need access to a flat bench. While sitting with legs spread equally apart and feet flat on the floor take a dumbbell in one hand, holding it between your legs with your palm facing inwards toward the other leg. The back of your arm needs to be against the inner part of the thigh and fully extended without the weight touching the floor. While breathing out, lift the dumbbell until it reaches your shoulder. Hold the position for a brief pause then lower it back down to the beginning position as you breathe in. Alternate arms after each repetition making sure not to jerk your upper body during the workout.
Toe Raise – Take a dumbbell in each hand while standing with your arms at your sides and palms facing inward. Push with your toes to lift your heels up and hold for a short pause then lower your feet back flat on the ground. You can maximize the effects of this workout by placing a strong board that is 2-3 inches thick underneath the ball of your foot.
Pectoral (Chest Muscles)
Chest Flyes – You will need a flat bench for this workout. For a lying fly you will lie on your back with weight in each hand. For the starting position you will hold the weights at the height of your body with your elbows slightly bent. Raise the weights with your arms almost fully extended above you just until before they lock. Palms should be facing inward toward each other with dumbbells side by side. Hold this position for a brief pause then lowers your arms back to the starting position. This workout can also be done while laying at an incline of 15 degrees on an adjustable bench.
Glutes and Quadriceps
Stationary Lunge – This exercise actually targets various muscle groups in the legs and lower body including the glutes, quadriceps and calves. While standing straight you will have one foot in front of you and one behind you with your arms at your sides. Hold some weight in each hand with palms facing inward toward each other. While keeping your back straight lower yourself until your knees are at a 90 degree angle and so that your front knee does not bend past your toe. Hold position for a brief pause then come back up.
Bent Over Row – Holding weight in each hand with your palms facing inward toward each other, bend over at the waist while keeping your back straight and knees slightly bent. Only your arms should be moving for this workout. Raise the dumbbells to your sides keeping your elbows close to your body until your upper arms are almost parallel to the floor. Squeeze the back muscles as you hold this position for a brief pause then lower your arms back to the starting position.
Triceps Extension – Stand with feet at shoulder-width apart and hold the weight using both hands. Raise it over your head until both arms are fully extended, holding one end of the weight with your palms (the weight should be in vertical position over your head). With your upper arms close to your head bring the dumbbell behind you in a semicircle bending your arms until your forearms are touching your biceps. Focus on using the triceps to lift the dumbbell back over your head. This workout can also be done using just one arm, alternating both arms after each repetition.
Advanced Dumbbell Workouts
These are some strength training exercises that are suitable for the more experienced trainers using larger weights and more repetitions.
Dumbbell Lateral Lunge – Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides with palms facing inward while standing with feet spread shoulder-width apart. While keeping the left knee over the ankle and the right leg straight, you are going to lunge to the left. Bring right hand with the dumbbell to your shoulder then raise it above you towards the ceiling as you lower your torso to the left. Hold position for a brief pause then return back to starting position. Be sure to keep your back straight throughout this exercise and alternate sides.
Lying Lateral Raise – You will need a high flat bench for this. You will be lying face down on the bench with your arms below your chest holding a dumbbell in each hand. Your arms should be slightly bent and palms facing towards your torso. As you breathe out raise your arms to your sides until both arms are nearly parallel to the ground and your elbows are at shoulder-level. Hold the position for a brief pause then lower them back to the beginning position as you breathe in. If you don’t have a high flat bench, this can also be done on an adjustable bench at a 15 degree incline using one or both arms.
Push Up Plank Row– For this exercise hex-shaped dumbbells work best as they won’t roll. Place two on the ground while holding them. Arms should be placed shoulder-width apart and palms facing inward toward each other. Raise up one dumbbell to your chest. Return to the standard push up position and perform one push up then repeat movement with the opposite side to complete one repetition.
Weighted Leg Raises – For this exercise you will need to be lying on your back on a flat bench. Place a weight between your feet and lie down on your back, holding the sides of the bench with your hands. Raise your legs up while holding the dumbbell securely until your legs are perpendicular to the floor. Hold position for a brief pause then lowers your feet back down while keeping your legs extended.