Dumbbell Exercise

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The Best Dumbbell Exercises

If you closely examine all the exercises used by bodybuilders, you will see that without dumbbells it would be impossible to have a complete workout. This alone proves that dumbbells play an important role in Bodybuilding. The dumbbell is perhaps The most popular piece of equipment in the bodybuilder's arsenal.

A highly versatile device, the dumbbell can be used to develop every single joint in the body. This includes the wrist, elbow, shoulder, ankle, knee, hip and spine. It is also involved in many combined exercises for the arms and shoulders, trunk, legs and pelvic girdle. Because of this versatility, you can get a complete workout with dumbbells without having to use a barbell, exercise machines or other forms of resistance.

It must be admitted, however, that a barbell is much more convenient for doing some of the exercises. But the positive barbell features are based on the fact that you work at the level of your weakest arm. When using the dumbbell you can go to the True maximum for the stronger arm. And, you must use the dumbbell to bring the other arm or leg up to par so that you are in balance on both sides of the body.


In addition, when dumbbells are used you can go through a greaser range of motion. Not only is this sometimes more effective for muscle development, bur it also allows for greater supplementary muscle development.

For example, when doing the single-arm overhead dumbbell press, you can pronate the hand and medially rotate the arm to raise it higher. For even greater distance, you can bend sideways using the waist muscles to raise the shoulder of the arm being used in the exercise. This is a great exercise that was frequently used by the early strongmen but is rarely seen today.

Dumbbells are also favored over barbells when a more natural movement pattern is desired. Keep in mind that with a barbell both hands are in contact with the bar and because of this one arm can only rotate as far as the other arm will allow.

For example, when doing dumbbell flyes you can lower the arms well below the bench (when using straight arms). You can also turn the arms several ways (palm up, thumb up, back of palm up) when raising the arms in various directions (toward the head, toward the waist, etc.). In this way you can get total pectoralis major development.

Dumbbells also allow for rotational movements, which cannot be done with the barbell. These include wrist circles (arms held in from or to the sides), arm circles (arms In front and to the side), leg circles (legs in front) and ankle circles in a supine or prone position. You can also do medial and lateral rotation or supination-pronation of the joints. These exercises are rarely used by body-builders and other athletes because they give them very little visible development.

To some extent this is true, but you should understand that such movements develop the muscles in a manner that that conventional straight up and down movements can not do. Because of this, they are excellent for injury prevention and, in addition, for athletes executing all throwing, hitting, pivoting and turning actions of the body and limbs.


Dumbbells are used most effectively for the upper body and especially the arms. Some of the best chest, back and shoulder exercises include dumbbell flyes, lateral arm raises (reverse flyes), front arm raises, presses, prone lateral arm raises, shoulder circles, shrugs, arm circles and pullovers.

The beauty of most of these exercises is that you can turn the hand and arm during execution This allows you to hit particular parts of the muscle. For example turning the arm inward (thumb down) in lateral arm raises to stress the supraspinatus and posterior deltoid. Or you can rotate the arm so the thumb is up to stress the anterior deltoid.

For some individuals, because of their anatomical makeup, some specific movements produce pain or discomfort. However, with the dumbbell they can make adjustments so that the movement feels natural for them. For athletes, being able to turn the hand or arm during execution or being able to move the limb in a particular plane allows them to more accurately duplicate the movements needed in their sport.

The dumbbell is most effective for biceps development. With the dumbbell you can do standing and/or seated biceps curls, reverse bleeps curls, the screw curl and concentration curl. Each exercise has its own specific benefits, as, for example, the screw curl in which you involve the biceps in both of its actions, while the concentration curl is used more for peaking.

The dumbbell also allows you to work the biceps with the arm in different positions. For example, standing with the arms out to the sides or in front and level with the floor. Or you can lie on a high bench with the arms hanging down to place the short head on stretch. You can also stress the biceps in different ways when using different grips, as, for example, the neutral, supinated or pronated.

The dumbbell is not as versatile when working the triceps. The best exercises are the French press (overhead elbow extension) and triceps kickback. However, as in the biceps exercises, you can rotate the arm while doing the elbow extension. This provides for additional muscular development.


If a leg curl and knee extension bench are not available, dumbbells can be used very effectively for these exercises. You can try to find a pair of the old iron or plastic exercise boots or you can strap the dumbbell to your feet for the necessary resistance and execute the exercise in the same manner. To make the knee curl exercise more effective, you can raise the thigh (hip joint extension) after the knee is flexed 90 degrees. When doing these exercises you should work the legs one at a time to avoid hitting yourself.

With the dumbbell on the foot you can also do all hip exercises. For example, hip abduction and adduction can be done standing and raising the leg sideways or lying on the side and raising the leg upward. Hip flexion can be done when lying on the back on a bench and raising the knees from a lowered position. You can do hip joint extension by lying face down and executing in the same way as hip flexion.

For the ankle you can strap a dumb bell to the bottom of the foot and do inversion and eversion. To do this, lie on your side on a bench with the foot to be exercised hanging over the bench. Turn the sole of the foot upward through a full range of motion. Work both sides of each foot.

By placing most of the weight under the ball of the foot, you can do dorsi flexion (toe raises). Sit on a high bench with your shin hanging vertically. Raise the toes as high as possible, lower and repeat.

For the calves (gastrocnemius and so-leus), do heel raises with a board under the ball of the feet. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Heel raises can also be done on one leg at a time.


To work the abdominals and erector spinae, you can do several different exercises. The best for the abdominals are the sit-ups with the dumbbells overhead on extended arms (the advanced version) or held close to the shoulders. For the erector spinae muscles of the lower back do back raises on the, Glute-Ham Developer with the dumbbells held in extended arms overhead or to the side. A variant of this exercise, which is limited in range of motion, is back raises on a bench with the arms extended and each holding a dumbbell.

Dumbbells can also be used in swinging motions and in combination exercises. One of the best is to do long lunges with the arms overhead. As you execute the lunge, swing the arms up and over the head, (with care and complete control of course). This action keeps the trunk vertical so that you can get a great workout of the hip joint muscles. Side lunges can also be done in a similar manner but using only one arm at a time.


Another outstanding feature of dumbbells is that you can use the limbs in an alternating manner, as, for example, in standing biceps curls. Doing the exercise in this manner is less stressful on the spine, develops greater balance and helps create movement rhythm.

As should be obvious, there are many exercises with a wide variety of variants that can be done with dumbbells. Used with care and precision, they can give you total body development more effectively and efficiently than any other type of exercise equipment.

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