Every workout routine, whether you're an expert or not, should include dumbbell exercises.
I love training with dumbbells, and for those that can only workout at home it can be their only option.
And I'd say...it's a very good option because, as we will see together, you can train all your muscle groups with just a pair of dumbbells.
The only downside is that it may be quite expensive to buy a full set of dumbbells (usually pairs that go from 5 to 50+ pounds), and they require some room that you might not have.
But hey, that's why they made adjustable dumbbells.
The reason why dumbbell exercises are very important is that they force you to train left and right with the same weight.
Imagine doing bicep curls with a barbell...several times you might use your right more than your left and it's difficult to notice it. In fact, usually we are stronger with the right or with the left.
Training with dumbbells makes sure that we apply the same resistance on both sides.
Dumbbell Exercises for Every Muscle Group
As I said, we don't have to buy expensive equipment to workout at home. Home gyms etc. are great (I have a Bowflex and I love it), but the truth is...a couple of dumbbells are all we need to cover the basic exercises.
I am talking to those that need ideas for their home workouts, but clearly this guide is good also for anyone.
For example if you decide your own workout routine, here you're going to find all the exercises that you can do with dumbbells.
Chest, arms, back, legs, shoulders...even abs can all be trained.
If you just have, let's say a pair of Bowflex adjustable dumbbells, you're ready to go.
Dumbbell Leg Exercises
Legs day is what most guys consider the "boring" day. Assuming that is true, let's talk about legs first so that once it's done it's done and we just have the fun part left.
There are five leg exercises that we can do with dumbbells:
- Step Ups
- Calf Raises
- Deadlifts and Stiff Leg Deadlifts
If you notice, except for calf raises they are all compound exercises. Deadlifts is a leg exercise as well as a back exercise.
Dumbbell Chest Exercises
Everything we can do at the gym to train our chest can be done at home with dumbbell exercises.
Press and flys, decline, flat and incline. They cover all the chest exercises.
With dumbbells we can do these exercises to work our pectorals:
- Flat/Incline/Decline Chest Press
- Flat/Incline/Decline Chest Flys
Dumbbell Back Exercises
Dumbbell exercises offer also a variety of solutions for back workout. Initially you may think that all you can do is bent over rows because honestly it's the only pulling movement against gravity.
Well, there's much more that we can do:
- Bent Over One/Two Arm Rows
- Upright Rows
- Stiff Leg Deadlifts
- Bent Over Reverse Fly
The last three dumbbell exercises can be shared with leg workout and shoulder workout.
Upright rows is known mainly as an exercise for trapezius, but it works also the shoulders.
Stiff leg deadlifts, in facts, works both the lower back (lumbar muscles) and hamstrings.
Bent over reverse fly is both a back exercise (rhomboids and upper back muscles) and shoulder exercise (rear deltoids).
Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises
Fortunately, deltoids are one of those muscles that are easy to train when your option is only dumbbell exercises.
Shoulder workouts consist mostly of raises, whether it is front, lateral or bent over.
Here is what we can do with dumbbells to train shoulders:
- Seated Shoulder Press
- Front Raises
- Standing/Seated Lateral Raises
- Bent Over Reverse Fly (aka bent over lateral raises)
- Arnold Press
- Upright Rows
Dumbbell Bicep Exercises
Complete bicep workout is also possible with dumbbell exercises. What you can do at the gym you can do at home as well.
Yes at the gym you have the cable options, but the best way to build real muscle is with free weights.
So, here we go with the list of dumbbell exercises for biceps:
- Standing/Seated Curls
- Standing/Seated Hammer Curls
- Incline Bench Curls
- Concentration Curls
- Preacher Curls
You would need a bench only for the incline curls, for the other exercises you can use a chair or an exercise ball too.
Dumbbell Tricep Exercises
Triceps also offer wide choice of dumbbell exercises. The main movement to work out triceps is the arm extension.
Any movement that involves the extension of the elbow is going to train the triceps:
- Overhead Tricep Extension
- One Arm Tricep Extension
- Tricep Kickback
- Close Grip Dumbbell Press
- Dumbbell French Press
Dumbbell Forearm Exercises
I will talk about forearm workout with dumbbells just for the record, but let me remind you that best results can be achieved with barbells.
It is also true that every barbell exercise can be done with dumbbells, but it's difficult.
You have to imagine that the two dumbbells are connected together like a bar, if you want the exercise to be exactly the same.
I said it's difficult because it's not always feasible to keep your wrists straight like if you were holding a straight bar.
This is the case when you do forearm wrist curls. The freedom of movement that dumbbells allow you takes away some of the effectiveness of the exercise.
To get to the point, two are the exercises to train forearms with dumbbells:
- Seated Forearm Wrist Curls
- Standing Reverse Forearm Curls
Dumbbell Ab Exercises
The main exercises for abs, we all know it, are body crunches and leg raises...
To increase the resistance, many do crunches at the cables, or use the proper ab machines.
The only time we can use dumbbells to do ab exercises is for side bends, unless we want to do crunches on the floor holding a dumbbell (you need to figure out a way to hold down your feet though).
Lateral abs (obliques) can be trained with these two dumbbell exercises:
- One Arm Side Bends
- Alternate Side Bends