Dumbbell workout exercises are some of the most versatile and easily adapted exercises available.
To make the pot even sweeter, dumbbells are a crucial component of every respectable gym. Hell…the hotel I stayed at in San Diego last month had a set that went up to 50lbs.
Even that horrible place covered in purple and yellow that almost kicked me out for setting the dumbbells down too loudly has a set that goes up to 80lbs.
Dumbbells are ubiquitous to gyms that are (usually) worth your time and money, so being able to adjust your dumbbell workout exercises to fit the space you have, weights you have access to and your overall goals is a very important skill set to have.
5 Best Dumbbell Workout Exercises
Just like the regular ole barbell back squat is a superior exercise to all other barbell movements, so is the dumbbell squat. If you’re looking to eventually squat 800 pounds don’t expect this movement to get you there, but if you’re looking for a suitable substitution when away from your home gym this is it.
Set up just like you would for a barbell squat (chest up, back flat, feet shoulder width apart or a little wider). The only difference here is that you will hold dumbbells at your side like you’re about to do a farmers carry.
Obviously you won’t be able to go as heavy as you would with a barbell squat, but full range reps with incomplete rest are still going to get you sweating and feeling it.
Personally I like the floor press better than the bench press for a few reasons. A) nobody ever thinks to do them, so if it happens to be National Bench Press Day and there isn’t a bench available all I need to do is steal a bar from some kid doing curls in the only squat rack and set up on the floor where there is some space. B) You don’t need as much weight because the stretch reflex is completely negated by your arms resting on the floor. And C) every bench I’ve encountered has been narrow as hell and incredibly slippery, most of my effort is spent keeping myself centered on the bench.
Ok, how to do it. Grab weights like you would a normal dumbbell bench press and then lie on the floor. Press them like a normal bench press, lower them in control until your upper arm is resting on the floor, rest a split second and then using just your chest and shoulders press the dumbbells back up. DO NOT USE YOUR LOWER BODY TO THROW THE WEIGHTS BACK UP. This defeats the whole purpose and takes away the challenging aspect of this exercise. Be humble and start with lighter weights if you need to.
Again with the upper body pressing that you never see. Do you know why? Because this exercises is incredibly humbling. You’re Average Joe is to insecure to do an exercise where anyone might see him struggling with 95 pounds on the bar. As a dumbbell workout exercise it’s just as hard, if not harder.
You can do this one seated or standing…just kidding…only the injured and old sit down when “exercising”. You will stand.
Grab your dumbbell of choice and either curl them or clean them to your shoulders. This is the start position and you’ll press them from here. This is not a push press so there will be no leg action. Just like the floor press you will be pressing only with your upper body.
The swing is most commonly known as a kettlebell movement, but Alpha Males don’t let what is common get in their way so this is an excellent dumbbell workout exercise as well.
Stand the dumbbell on its end and grab it by the weighted part, not the normal handle. Stand up with it so it’s hanging by your junk and make sure it’s not so heavy that you will lose your grip. Now push your hips back like you would if you were lowering a deadlift and when the weight almost touches the ground reverse direction and violently drive your hips forward by squeezing your glutes. This hip pop is the most important part of the swing and is what causes the weight to fly up to shoulder height. You will not use your arms to pull the weight up.
The snatch is another movement sometimes thought of as strictly a kettlebell movement. You know what I’m going to say about that way of thinking, so here is how you do it as a dumbbell workout exercise.
Place a dumbbell in front of you so the handle is going left-to-right. Lower yourself like you would in a deadlift or as if you were about to do a hang clean (back straight, chest up, hips back). Grab the weight with one hand and violently lift the weight straight up by extending your knees and thrusting your hips forward. As the weight passes the middle of your thigh you will shrug your shoulders to keep the weight moving straight up. After these to actions you should actually be throwing yourself into the air about an inch or two. Keeping your arm straight, the weight will continue to go straight up and you’ll catch it overhead.
If you can’t get the weight up over your head it is too heavy or you are not moving it fast/violently enough.
Check in later in the week to see how to make these and any other dumbbell workout exercises harder…