Turns out there is a lot you can do with a set of dumbbells.
Looking for a convenient full-body workout you can do at home?
Or at the gym…
Or anywhere else you can take a set of dumbbells.
Dumbbells are incredibly versatile, space-saving, and easy to use.
Unfortunately, they tend to dwell in the dusty corner of a closet — long forgotten.
Time to dust them off!
Dumbbells are not just for arms.
When I started out with free weights, I used dumbbells for my upper body work (arms to be exact).
I didn’t really know what to do with them.
I knew about bicep curls and shoulder presses….
…so that’s what I did.
I have since learned more.
You can get a full-body workout using dumbbells.
These wonderful little (sometimes big) hand-held weights are just waiting for you to get creative.
Aside from your arms, you can work your legs, glutes, abs, shoulders, and back and you can work them well.
Getting creative with a set of dumbells can involve placement, but you also have a fantastic opportunity to identify and address asymmetry within the body.
Dumbells can help you find out if one side of the body is performing better than the other. Pay attention to exercises where you lift, press, or pull both dumbbells and look out for differences in each side of the body. Does one side struggle more or work at a slower speed?
Dumbells are great for unilateral exercises (working one side in isolation of the other — think single arm or single leg moves).
You can also address your core stability.
Dumbbell exercises can be used to create additional instability to challenge your core.
Using any free weight will challenge your core stability more because you lack additional support from the seating arrangement and cabling, found on resistance machines. Your core has to support you more as you work through the range of motion on each exercise.
We can ramp up this instability further, by using body positioning such as balancing, dynamic (movement) exercises, and elongating the body.
Exercises that challenge stability also work the stabilizing muscles of the body — these are the muscles that “catch you” when you nearly fall or provide resistance (push against the pull you are doing).
I will say at this point — if you are just starting out with weights, learn the basics first.
Learn form without the weights. Take time to do this because it can save you from injuries.
Bodyweight training is awesome.
It is not a waste of time.
My favorite dumbbell exercises
This is not one routine (wow! If it was). These are my favorites that I pick and choose from to create my workouts.
I like to do a full-body workout with a good day of rest in between each session, but a split routine works better for people who like to work out every day (working out different muscle groups on consecutive days).
All of these exercises can be found on YouTube (please ensure they are from reputable trainers)
- Dumbbell squat to overhead press
- Dumbbell reverse lunge with bicep curl
- Donkey kicks (dumbbell in the crease of the knee)
- Dumbbell fire hydrants
- Glute bridge with a chest press
- Bulgarian split squat with a bicep curl
- Single-arm weighted sit up (roll-up)
- Double arm weighted sit up (roll-up)
- Dumbell front raises
- Dumbell lateral raises
- Dumbell plank rows
- Floor laying chest flys
- Floor laying chest press
- Walking overhead hold (dumbells)
- Dumbell weighted step-ups
- Single-arm weighted tricep press
- Side lunge with dumbbell twists
- Russian twists with a dumbbell
It turns out, dumbbells are awesome.
They don’t take up too much space and they are inexpensive. They are convenient.
It is worth having more than one set.
You are stronger in some parts of your body than in other parts, so having a selection of weights is a great idea. You don’t need to buy a full range of weights, just a lighter and slightly heavier set will do. You are probably going to want to progress at some point too, so having the slightly heavier set is a great idea.
The other alternative is to buy a set that you can adapt by adding plates as you progress.
If you do have a set that is gathering dust somewhere, why not dig them out and give some of these moves a try?
Always be sure to check with your GP or health care professional before starting a new exercise or nutrition program and seek support from an exercise professional to ensure you are exercising correctly.