Here’s the deal: if you’re not making the best dumbbell workouts and exercises as a part of your fitness routine, it’s this simple: you should be. These movements are timeless and remain fundamental to upper and lower body progress. Dumbbells are typically inexpensive, highly portable and perfect to incorporate into any type of workout. For those who may be unfamiliar with what a dumbbell is, it is a short bar with a weight at either end and dates back to Ancient Greece times.
A classic mindset for using dumbbells is to start with lighter weights and then work your way up. Whether you’re new to fitness or a seasoned vet, here are some tips and exercises to keep in mind when it comes to dumbbells. Let’s remember that we don’t mess around here – we just get things done.
The Best Dumbbell Workouts
The best dumbbell workouts are the ones that are intentional and well-thought out. Dumbbell training is a great way to create variety within your workout or focus on one muscle group.
Select Approrpirate Weight
Decide your goals – endurance, weight loss, strength training, etc. Scale to heavier weights as your repetitions become fewer.
Concentrate on Form
You don’t need to be lifting the heaviest weights in order to be making a difference. Weight puts strain onto the muscles and requires stabilization / muscle resistance. This makes for slow and deliberate movements to help maintain control while you go to work. It is also a great way to focus on the mind-body connection and to make sure that you are getting the most out of each exercise. For example, are you staying true to your form or are you incorporating too much swing or movement from your back? Answer truthfully.
Increase Stabilization and Muscle Activation
It’s quite simple – dumbbells require greater stabilization. For example, when performing a bench press with a smile machine or dumbbells, they are both working similar muscles but a dumbbell press is going to work and challenge stabilization while firing off muscles far more than a smith machine would – even though a smith machine may feel more like your standard chess press.
Dumbbells also force limbs to work unilaterally. If you have a weaker side, there is no way to hide it. It’s a great way to work on those imbalances. With a better focus on form, stabilization and activation, there is more awareness in regards to injury prevention. Dummbells don’t typically cause accidents, people do. By learning and becoming more aware, there is natural understanding and decrease of injuries.
Taking a tumble or an L during a heavy barbell squat or bench press alone could be a massive danger. When training with dummbells and you can feel your arms turning to noodles, get down the right form to drop ‘em next to you – LET. IT. GO. Of course, a spot is always recommended if you are going heavy, but there are more safety precautions that you can take on your own vs. using a barbell.
Options, Options, Options
It is so great how using two weights can bring so much variety to a workout – from full body or specific muscle groups to exactly how to use the weights. Drop sets, rest-pause, pyramids, 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off, etc. This is the time to tailor the ultimate training routine to focus on your goals.
Some days may include a pyramid set of 4 for shoulder raises and another may include drop sets of 5 for goblet squats. The options are endless!
Increased Range of Motion
One of the most effective ways to overload muscles for strength or muscle-building purposes is to increase your range of motion. When bench pressing with a barbell, your arms and shoulders are in a fixed position. With dumbbell presses, you can alter the movement pattern slightly and let the shoulders move more freely. There is external and internal rotation within the shoulder to bring the dumbbells lower / higher to specifically target muscles pain free.
One of the simplest and most common dumbbell exercises is the bicep curl. It works both the bicep and tricep muscles. It is crucial to keep your back straight and upper body controlled. We always want to have heavier weight, but going too heavy can cause injury and a lack of results.
- Begin by standing upright with a dummbell in each hand.
- Each arm shoudl be hanging by your side.
- Keep elbows close to the torso and palms facing outward.
- Don’t move upper arms as you curl weights upward to shoulder level.
- Contract biceps and exhale.
- Return to the starting position.
Rest: 60 seconds
Ah, yet another classic – maximize the potential of free weights with a muscle-building exercise that incorporates the back and shoulders. It is crucial to keep the back straight and knees slightly bent. You want to focus on targeting your lower back, but not overloading it.
- Stand with a dumbbell in each hand
- Keep legs and arms shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent
- Bend at a 45-degree angle
- Brace core and keep back straight
- Keep wrists strong and legs still
- Bring your arm up and pinch shoulder blades together at the top of movement
- Lower the weights back to starting position
Rest: 60 seconds
To focus on the delotids, a lateral raise is a fan-favorite. There is an added emphasis on the outside rotor of the muscle to help with those noticeable shoulders. Keep the motion small and lead with elbows.
- Stand or sit
- Dummbells in each hand
- Back straight and core braced
- Slowly lift dummbells up and out to the side until arms are parallel with the floor
- Incorporate a slight bend at the elbow
- Carefully lower and repeat
Rest: 60 seconds
Grab a bench, yoga ball, or lay on the floor. A dummbell fly is to target the mid-section of the chest. You can switch it up by adding an incline or decline to your starting position to hit the upper and lower sections of the chest.
- Lie back-down on a bench or flat surface
- Hold the dumbbells directly above the chest
- Lower the free weights out to the side as far as you can
- Engage your pec muscles
- Return back to starting position
- Focus on maintaining a slight bend in your elbows and keep back straight
Rest: 60 seconds
We love some good work on the triceps! You can utilize a single or double-handed grip. The most important piece of a tricep extension is to note the position of the elbows. Try to keep arms locked tight into the body.
- Stand upright and hold a single dumbbell in between both hands
- Keep feet shoulder-width apart and core tight
- Fully extend arms and raise dumbbell over head
- Bend arms at the elbows and engage triceps while slowly lowering the dumbbell
- Return to the starting position
Rest: 60 seconds
The glute bridge is a fantastic way to activate the body’s largest muscle group. While this exercise may feel abnormal and a little strange, it is one that you will definitely see at the gym because it poses some great results with strong glutes in return.
- Lie flat on a mat and bend knees
- Keep feet flat on the floor
- Grab a dumbbell that suits your level and place it on top of your lower abs (using both hands to hold it in place)
- Arch hips toward the ceiling
- Keep a diagonal line with body as it goes from shoulders to knee
- Hold at the top
- Lower to starting position
Rest: 60 seconds
Take control of developing total-body strength and building maximum muscle mass with a simple set of dumbbells – how dope is that? Whether you’re looking to shred some fat, increase overall body strength, or build up muscle mass and even level-up cardio at the same time, dummbells are a way to go. A good set of dumbbells can bring so much variety to your workouts and way less hassle than machines or weight plates. The modern dumbbell was invented in the 17th century and has stuck around for this long – there has to be something to it.
Build Muscle & Practise the Best Dumbbell Workouts at The BXNG Club
The BXNG Club (TBC) was created with a belief that fight arts can be an effective and fun platform for overall fitness and health. With that in mind, TBC brought together the top fight and fitness instructors in the industry – from Boxing to Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu, MMA, High Intensity Interval Training-based fitness, Yoga, Spin, and Pilates to create a unique and exhilarating fitness experience based on combat sports. Join our free class today!