30 Best Dumbbell Exercises to Build Muscles
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Considered this your cheat sheet to dumbbell exercises and workout.
As a personal trainer dumbbells are one of my favorite exercise equipment in my toolbox.
With a pair of dumbbells, you can create a full-body workout routine in any tight compact space.
Their versatility and ease of use make them the perfect exercise tool for home workouts.
So whether you’re looking to build muscles, strength, burn fat, and lose weight dumbbell exercises are great options.
To help you make the best out of your dumbbell workouts, I put together a list of 25 dumbbell exercises.
The ultimate list of dumbbell exercises and workouts you can do anywhere at home or the gym.
Dumbbell exercises are perfect for at-home workouts for women or new moms who can’t find the time to make it to a gym to exercise.
But here is the good news. There is absolutely no need for a gym with a simple pair of dumbbells.
Just go down the list and find an exercise for the specific body parts or muscle groups you want to target.
30 Best Dumbbell Exercises
1. Bench Press
With a dumbbell in each hand, lie down on a flat bench and bring the dumbbells even with your chest. With palms facing your feet, press up to the ceiling and then return. Repeat.
Why You Need It: If you’re looking to define your chest, triceps, and shoulders and get stronger at movements like the push-up, there are few exercises as practical as the dumbbell bench press.
2. Incline Press
After setting up an incline bench, grab two dumbbells and sit down. Bring them up to your chest and turn your palms to face your feet. Press up to the ceiling and then slowly lower back to the start.
Why You Need It: The incline angle makes your shoulders work harder than flat bench variants – it’s better for targeting this area.
3. Chest Fly
Take dumbbells and rest them on your chest while lying flat on a bench.
Press the dumbbells to the ceiling, stopping just short of full lockout. Keep the dumbbells just apart, holding the dumbbells with your palms facing each other.
Lower the dumbbells to your sides until just even with your chest. Bring them back together and squeeze your chest. Repeat.
4. Bent-Over Row
Stand with two dumbbells, with feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your back flat, bend at the waist until your upper body is parallel with the ground.
Row the dumbbells up until about even with your tummy. Then, slowly return to the start and repeat.
Why You Need It: This dumbbell workout is a back, bicep, and forearm exercise. Plus, it forces your core to work overtime -making it a smart choice for working those abs too!
5. Upright Row
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Holding dumbbells just in front of you with palms facing your legs, drive your elbows directly out to your sides.
At the same time, bring the dumbbells upwards in a straight line until even with your shoulders. Return and repeat.
6. Lateral Raise
Grab two dumbbells and stand upright. Rest the dumbbells at your sides with your palms facing your thighs.
Brace your abs. Raise each dumbbell directly out to your sides until the dumbbell is at shoulder height. Slowly return to the start. Repeat until fatigued.
7. Front Raise
With two dumbbells, stand upright with hands in front of you and palms facing your thighs.
Brace your abdominal muscles. Lift the dumbbells to your front until they are at shoulder height. Slowly lower back to the start and repeat.
For a slight variation, try this exercise in an alternating fashion, raising and lowering one dumbbell at a time.
8. Renegade Row
This movement is a challenge, testing both your core and back strength.
Set two dumbbells down about shoulder-width apart, so your palms face each other. Put your body in a pushup position with your hands on the dumbbell handles, elbows locked, and a flat back.
With your non-dominant hand, row the dumbbell upwards until your hand is even with your torso. Slowly return and perform the same with your opposite hand.
Performing an even number of repetitions.
Stand perpendicular to a bench. Grab a dumbbell and hold it with your hands on each side of the dumbbell. Squat down and rest your upper back on the bench. Your head should be off of the bench side opposite your feet.
With feet flat, push your hips upwards to form an ‘L’ shape between your upper body and knees. Press the dumbbell upwards over your chest until your elbows are almost straight.
Keeping your arms straight, lower the dumbbell back over your head until your elbows are almost even with your ears. Push your elbows up towards your chest while keeping your arms straight until the dumbbell is above your chest.
10. Overhead Press
Often called a shoulder press, this movement is perfect for strong triceps and shoulders. Perform seated or standing.
Sit on an upright bench and place the dumbbells on your legs, just above your knees. One at a time, push your knee towards your shoulder to help bring the dumbbell to the starting position. Switch sides and repeat.
Once ready with palms facing to your front, press the dumbbells overhead until your elbows are almost locked. Slowly lower them until they touch your shoulders. Repeat.
11. One-Arm Row
With your left foot forward, take one dumbbell with your right hand while facing your chest toward your left foot.
Bend your front knee slightly and rest your left forearm on your leg, just above your knee. With your back straight, row the dumbbell upward towards your stomach until the dumbbell is even with your torso.
Return the dumbbell to the starting position. Repeat with the opposite arm.
12. Reverse Chest Fly
While the classic fly works your chest muscles, this reverse variation engages your shoulder and back muscles.
Holding dumbbells in your hands, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly while pushing your glutes backward. Let your dumbbell dangle in front of you with your palms facing in. Pull your arms out to your shoulder level, squeezing your shoulder blades. Slowly return to the start and repeat.
13. Triceps Kickback
Hold one dumbbell in one hand. With a flat back, bend at the waist until your back is at a 45-degree angle to the ground.
Forming a 90-degree angle with your elbow, row the dumbbell upwards until your elbow is at torso height.
Maintaining this angle, straighten your elbow, so the dumbbell pushes behind you. Squeeze your tricep muscle hard. Return and repeat. Then, switch arms.
14. Biceps Curl
Grab two dumbbells. Stand upright with feet shoulder-width apart and dumbbells at your sides.
Bend both elbows, pushing the dumbbells up towards your shoulders. Keep your upper arm vertical. While doing so, rotate your palms to face the ceiling as your biceps contract.
Slowly lower the dumbbells until they rest at your sides.
15. Alternate Biceps Curl
Grab a dumbbell in each hand. Stand upright with feet shoulder-width apart and dumbbells at your sides.
Starting with your non-dominant hand, bend your elbow and push the dumbbell upward towards your shoulder. As you do so, rotate your hand so your palm faces the ceiling as your bicep muscle contracts.
Lower the dumbbell to the original position and repeat on the opposite side in an alternating fashion.
16. Hammer Curls
Grab two dumbbells. Rest them at your side while standing upright with palms facing in.
Bend your elbows, pushing the dumbbells toward your shoulders. Maintaining the same hand position, slowly return to the starting position. Repeat until biceps and forearms are fatigued.
Note, alternating arms is an option here.
17. Bulgarian Squat
Stand perpendicular to a bench. With two dumbbells in your hands, push your right foot back and rest on the edge of the bench closest to you. Enter a lunge position beginning with your left foot.
Keeping your torso upright, bend the left knee while pushing your right knee to the ground. Just before touching your right knee, drive through your left foot, straightening your knee. Repeat and perform with the opposite leg.
With two dumbbells, stand upright with feet flat and shoulder-width apart. Brace your core muscles and sit down and back. Bend your knees into a squat position until your thighs are parallel with the ground.
Drive through your feet, pushing your hips forward by contracting your glutes until you’re standing straight. That’s one rep. Repeat until legs are fatigued.
19. Forward Lunge
Stand with feet together, holding two dumbbells. Take a moderate step forward with your left leg. Once your foot touches the ground, brace your core, and bend your front knee. Drop your left knee down until just above the ground. Maintain upright torso posture.
Drive through your left foot, straightening your left knee. Bring your right foot up to even with your left foot. You should be standing in the starting position. Switch sides and repeat in an alternating fashion.
20. Split Squat
This exercise is similar to the lunge but performed stationary. Stand upright with two dumbbells. Step forward or back with your left or right foot.
In a lunge position, bend your front knee and sink your back knee toward the ground until just above. Press through your front leg until your knee is straight. Once straightened, repeat the initial movement, moving your body up and down.
Once the first leg is fatigued, switch sides and repeat.
21. Side Lunge
Stand upright with two dumbbells. With your body tight, step your left foot out towards your left.
Now, bend your left knee while keeping your right leg straight and your torso upright. The dumbbells should naturally swing so your right hand is straight down between your legs.
Drive through your left foot and return to the start position. Switch sides and repeat.
22. Farmers’ Walk
Establish a lane to walk, about 30-50 feet if possible. Grab heavier than usual dumbbells that you can hold for around 30 seconds.
From a standing position, keep the dumbbells straight at your sides and tighten your body. Walk for the duration of the lane or until your grip gives out. Repeat as desired.
23. Toe Raise
Face your body away from and perpendicular to a bench. Place one moderately heavy dumbbell in front of you, standing upright.
Sit on the edge of the bench and place your feet on the side of the dumbbell handles. Press your feet together on the sides of the handle and lift the dumbbell off the ground.
Once raised, flex your toes toward your chest and then flex your calf muscles to push your toes away from you. Repeat as desired.
Grab two, moderately heavy dumbbells and place them in front of you. Bend your knees slightly and maintain a straight and rigid lower back.
Drive through your feet and push your hips forward while squeezing your glutes. Once fully upright, slowly return to the starting position and repeat.
25. One-Arm Swing
Grab a dumbbell. Spread your legs apart until shoulder-width. Take the dumbbell between your legs and slightly bend your knees while pushing your glutes backward. Your hamstrings and glutes should feel stretched.
Explosively push your hips forward, contracting your glutes and swinging the dumbbell upwards until around face height.
With control, allow the dumbbell to swing down between your legs while pushing your glutes back. That’s one rep. Using momentum, repeat this movement, and continue with the opposite hand.
26. One-Arm Dumbbell Snatch
Stand slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Grab a dumbbell and place it directly between your legs on the ground. Lower your hips and take the dumbbell with your non-dominant hand.
Explosively squat upwards. As you do, pull the dumbbell up toward your shoulder, beginning with your elbow. Once your elbow is at face height, pull the top of your hand towards the ceiling, straightening your elbow.
Catch the dumbbell at the top. Using your other hand, assist the dumbbell back down to the starting position. That’s one rep. Repeat and continue on the other hand.
27. Russian Twist
Sit upright with your knees bent. Hold a lighter weight with both hands close to your chest. Decline your torso about halfway.
Twist your upper body to one side using your abdominal muscles. Twist back to the center and repeat on the other side.
Lie faceup with your knees bend. Hold a lighter weight horizontally in both hands close to your chest.
Start to lower your torso with your weight and pause at the bottom. Return and repeat.
29. Calf Raises
Stand straight holding a pair of dumbbells in each hand by your side. Place your feet on a weight plate but keep your heels touching the ground.
Tightening your calves, raise your heels so they’ll be off the floor. Return to the start position and repeat.
30. Goblet Squat
Goblet squat primarily works the quads, thighs, and glutes. As secondary, it also works your midsection, lats, and arms.
Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart. Take a squat stance but with your toes point outward and heels inward. Hold your weight in front of your chest and feel the load on your heels.
Squat down as far as you can or until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Pause and return to the start. Do 12-15 reps for 2-3 sets.
Clearly, the catalog of dumbbell exercises is extensive. Amazingly, these exercises are only to name a few!
Through using these exercises and challenging yourself, you might find just how beneficial dumbbell workouts really can be!