Over 20 Dumbbell Exercises Complete with Animated Diagrams

Dumbbell exercises form an integral part of most strength training programs. They can be used to develop the various different elements of strength such as maximal strength, hypertrophy or muscle mass, explosive power and strength endurance.

Why Free Weights?

Free weights such as dumbbells activate smaller stabilizing muscle groups to control the exercise. Resistance machines on the other hand, tend to work muscle groups in very strict planes of movement. The downside of this very strict movement is that while some muscle groups will become significantly stronger, other, smaller muscles are neglected.

The other advantage dumbbell exercises have over machines is that they fit around your body so the movement can be performed correctly. Although resistance machines can be adjusted, such as the seat height for example, the movement pattern is still largely governed by how the machine is built.

Athletes typically favor dumbbell exercises over machines as they can replicate sport-specific movements more accurately. They also know that they will develop a more balanced physique and structure if most of their routine employs free weight exercises.

Exercises By Muscle Group

The dumbbell exercises below have been divided into the major muscle groups of the body. There are literally an unlimited number of routines you can put together with just a handful of these exercises. The first step is to determine an outcome - general fitness, increased muscle mass, strength endurance, improved athletic performance for example. Not only will this dictate which dumbbell exercises you select it will also dictate the weight and number of sets and repetitions you choose.

For sample weight training programs that focus on different elements of strength see the main strength training section.


Chest Dumbbell Exercises


Flat Chest Presses

  1. Lying flat on bench, hold the dumbbells directly above chest, arms extended.

  2. Lower dumbbells to chest in a controlled manner.

  3. Press dumbbells back to starting position and repeat.

  4. Avoid locking elbows
Flat chest press


Incline Chest Presses

  1. Adjust bench to an incline of 30 to 45 degrees.

  2. Repeat as above.
Incline chest press

Flat Chest Flies

  1. Lying flat on bench, hold dumbbells directly above chest.

  2. Bend elbows slightly and maintain throughout the exercise.

  3. Open arms to sides. Elbows should remain 'locked' in a slightly flexed position.

  4. When upper arms are parallel to floor, return the weights to the starting position and repeat.


Flat chest fly


Incline Chest Flies

  1. Adjust bench to an incline of 30 to 45 degrees.

  2. Repeat as above.
Inlcine chest flies

Shoulder Dumbbell Exercises


Seated Shoulder Presses

  1. Sit upright on bench with dumbbells over head. Make sure back is flat.

  2. Lower dumbbells slowly to shoulders.

  3. When arms are at 90 degrees, press the dumbbells back up and repeat.
Seated shoulder press

Lateral Raises

  1. Stand upright, knees slightly bent, shoulder width apart, holding dumbbells at sides.

  2. Bend elbows slightly and raise the dumbbells out to sides. Keep elbows slightly bent throughout.

  3. When arms are parallel to floor, slowly lower back and repeat.
Lateral raises

Reverse Flies

  1. Sit on edge of bench, feet flat on the floor. Bend over so chest is almost resting on thighs.

  2. Hold dumbbells next to feet and bend arms slightly. Open arms out keeping elbows bent.

  3. When arms are parallel to floor, slowly lower dumbbells back.
Reverse flies

Front Raises

  1. Stand upright, knees slightly bent, shoulder width apart. Palms should be towards thighs.

  2. Raise one dumbbell directly in front of you.

  3. When arm is parallel to ground lower dumbbell slowly back. Repeat with the other arm.
Front raises

Back Dumbbell Exercises


Dead Lifts

  1. Stand upright, feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent.

  2. Bend lower back and knees to lower the weights down your legs. Back must remain flat, lower back should be arched inwards slightly. Keep head up throughout exercise.

  3. Stand upright using lower back and legs, maintaining flat back and keeping your head up.
Dead lifts

Single Arm Row

  1. Stand upright next to bench. Place one knee and hand on bench. Upper body should be parallel to floor.

  2. Hold one dumbbell with arm extended.

  3. Raise dumbbell up to your midsection keeping back still throughout movement.

  4. Slowly lower dumbbell to start position and repeat. After desired number of reps repeat for other arm.

Single arm rows

Lying Bent Over Rows

  1. Lie face down on a flat or slightly inclined bench. Hold two dumbbells and let arms hang down.

  2. Pull dumbbells up towards chest.

  3. Slowly lower dumbbells back down and repeat.
Bent over rows

Trapezius Dumbbell Exercises


Upright Rows

  1. Stand upright, feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent. 

  2. Keeping dumbbells close to body, raise them to chin.

  3. Hold for a count of 2 and slowly lower to start position and repeat. 
Upright rows

Shrugs

  1. Stand upright, feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent.

  2. Keeping arms straight 'shrug' shoulders as high as possible and hold for a count of 3.

  3. Relax and repeat.

  4. Do not roll shoulders backwards as you shrug up.
Shrugs

Biceps Dumbbell Exercises


Decline Seated Bicep Curls

  1. Adjust bench to a 45 degree incline.

  2. Hold dumbbells at sides. Arms should be fully extended.

  3. Keep elbows close to body and curl weight up by bending elblows.

  4. Slowly lower dumbbells and repeat. 
Decline seated curls

Hammer curls

  1. Stand upright with dumbells at sides.

  2. Turn palms inward so they face body. 

  3. Curl dumbbells up slowly keeping your elbows close to sides. 
Hammer curls

Preacher Curls

  1. Set bench so back rest is approx 45 degrees.

  2. Stand behind the bench. Holding dumbbell rest back of upper arm on back rest, arm fully extended.

  3. Keep back of upper arm against back rest and curl dumbbell up towards face.

  4. Slowly lower dumbbell until arm is not quite fully extended and repeat for desired number of reps before switching arms.


Preacher curls

Concentration Curls

  1. Sit on edge of bench with feet flat on the floor.

  2. Holding dumbbell place elbow on inside of thigh, just above knee.

  3. Curl dumbbell up towards your face. Do not swing back as you lift the weight.

  4. Slowly lower the weight and repeat for desired number of reps before switching arms.


Concentration curls

Triceps Dumbbell Exercises


Overhead Triceps Extensions

  1. Stand upright, feet shoulder width apart.

  2. Hold dumbbell directly above head with arm fully extended. Clasp elbow with free hand for support.

  3. Slowly let elbow fold so dumbbell is lowered behind head.

  4. Extend arm back to starting position. Repeat for the desired number of reps and switch arms.

Overhead triceps extension

French Presses

  1. Lie flat on bench. Hold dumbbells directly above chest with palms facing each other. Dumbbells should be just about touching each other.

  2. Keeping your shoulders locked, let your elbows fold so dumbbells are lowered down to either side of head.

  3. Extend both your arms back to start position and repeat.
French presses

Triceps Kickbacks

  1. Stand upright next to bench. Place one arm and leg on bench. Upper body should be parallel to ground.

  2. Holding dumbbell raise elbow so upper arm is parallel to ground. Elbow should be bent at right angles.

  3. Extend elbow so entire arm is parallel to ground.

  4. Slowly return to start position and repeat for desired number of reps before changing arms.


Tricep kickbacks

Leg Dumbbell Exercises

Half Squats

  1. Holding dumbbells at sides, stand upright with your feet shoulder width apart.

  2. Bend from knees until thighs are almost parallel to the ground (avoid letting knees turn inwards).

  3. Keep back flat, lower back slightly arched inwards and head up.

  4. Return to upright position and repeat.
Dumbbell squats

Dumbbell Lunges

  1. Holding dumbbells at sides, stand upright with feet slightly less than shoulder width apart.

  2. Step forward about 2 feet with one foot and bend knee to about 90 degrees. As you plant your foot bend trailing knee so it nearly touches floor. 

  3. Push off with front foot to return to starting position.

  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps and change legs.

Dumbbell lunges

Calf Dumbbell Exercises

Single Leg Calf Presses

  1. Set the back rest to upright position. Holding dumbbell in one hand at side, place other hand on top of bench for support.

  2. Stand on one foot on edge of bench frame.

  3. Stand up on tip toe using free hand to balance yourself. Do not to push yourself up with your hand.

  4. Slowly lower yourself to the ground and repeat for desired number of reps before changing legs.

Seated Calf Raises

  1. Sit on the edge of the bench, feet flat on the floor about 12 inches apart. 

  2. Rest dumbells on thighs while keeping hold of them.

  3. While staying seated raise heels by just using toes.

  4. Lower your heels to the ground and repeat.
Calf raises