Dumbell Exercises for
Every Major Muscle Group

Dumbell exercises are popular with recreational gym users right through to elite athletes. They can be used exclusively to form a wide variety of strength training programs, or they can be used to compliment a program that uses resistance machines, barbells or resistance bands for example.

Dumbells are often favored over weights machines and when performed correctly they are equally as safe. Dumbell exercises incorporate stabilizing muscles helping to develop a balanced posture and perhaps reducing the risk of over-use injuries. They also allow you to work through a potentially greater range of movement than resistance machines.


General Guidelines For Dumbell Exercises

Dumbell exercises are extremely safe when performed correctly. The following guidelines are not only for your safety, they are important to maintain the quality of the workout helping you achieve the results you set out to.

1. Complete a warm up
Perform 5-10 minutes of light aerobic exercise followed by stretching exercises to all major muscle groups.

2. Start with a light weight
Correct form is essential in order to avoid injury and get the most from these dumbbell exercises. Start with a low weight and only increase the resistance is proper technique can be maintained.

3. Use a spotter
Ideally you should have someone 'spot' each of the dumbell exercises you perform. Spotting involves carefully watching the lifts and being ready to intervene should the lifter require help. This is particularly important when sets are completed to exhaustion or failure.

4. Avoid dropping dumbells
It may be tempting to drop or throw the dumbells to the floor once an exercise has been completed rather than lowering under control. However, whilst you are holding the weights your muscles are under considerable tension and suddenly dropping them will release this tension rapidly (like firing an elastic band) increasing the risk of muscle tears. Some dumbell exercises permit relatively heavy weights to be used that are awkward to lower safely. In this a case spotter should assist the lifter.

5. Designing a program
The dumbell exercises you select, the amount of weight you use and the number of sets and repetitions you complete depends on your training outcome. Dumbell exercises can be used to develop maximal strength, strength endurance, explosive power or increased muscle mass. For sample weight training programs that focus on different elements of strength see the strength training section

You can now see animated diagrams for all these dumbbell exercises by clicking here...



Chest Dumbell Exercises

Flat Dumbell Press
Works the pectorals, triceps and the anterior deltoid (front of shoulder).
1. Lying flat on a bench, hold the weights directly above your chest, arms extended and palms facing towards your feet.
2. Lower the weights to your chest under control.
3. Press the dumbells back up to the starting position and repeat.
4. Avoid locking your elbows. This keeps the tension in your pectoral muscles and prevents joint damage.

Incline Dumbell Press
A variation of the flat press, this exercise works the upper pectorals, triceps and the anterior deltoid.
1. Adjust the bench to an incline of 30 to 45 degrees.
2. Perform a dumbell press as described above.

Flat Flies
1. Lying flat on a bench, hold the weights directly above your chest. Palms facing towards each other.
2. Bend your elbows slightly and maintain this flexion for the rest of the exercise.
3. Open your arms in an arc lowering the weights. Your elbows should remain 'locked' in a slightly bent position. Imagine opening your arms to give someone a hug and you won't go far wrong!
4. When your upper arms are parallel to the floor, use the same movement to return the weights to the starting position and repeat.

Incline Flies
1. Adjust the bench to an incline of 30 to 45 degrees.
2. Perform the exercise described above.

Seated Shoulder Press
Works all 3 heads of the deltoid (shoulder) muscle.
1. Sit upright on the end of the bench with the dumbells extended directly above your head. Make sure your back is not rounded. Adjust the bench so it forms an upright chair to support your back if necessary.
2. Lower the weights slowly and under control to your shoulders.
3. When your arms are bent to 90 degrees, press the dumbells back up without locking your elbows and repeat.

Lateral Raises
Most dumbell exercises are superior to the machine equivelent. This one is no exception. Out of all the dumbell exercises described this is also the one that is invariably performed badly. If you keep good form you cannot lift a heavy weight.
1. Stand upright, knees slightly bent and shoulder width apart, holding the dumbells at your sides.
2. Bend you elbows slightly and raise the dumbells out to the side. Keep you elbows slightly bent as you do this.
3. When your arms are parallel to the floor, slowly lower the weights back down and repeat.
4. If you catch yourself arching your back, dipping your knees or bringing your shoulders back use a lighter weight.

Reverse Flies
Works the posterior (rear) deltoid. The exercise is performed as its name suggests. It's simply a chest fly in reverse.
1. Sit on the edge of a bench, feet flat on the floor and knees bent at right angles. Bend right over so your chest is almost resting on your thighs.
2. Hold 2 dumbells next to your feet and bend your arms slightly. Open your arms out in an arc keeping your elbows bent.
3. When your arms are parallel to the floor slowly lower the weights back to the ground with the same motion.
4. You can and should only use a light weight for this exercise. If you find it places too much strain on your lower back try this variation...

Adjust the bench as though you are about to perform an incline dumbell press. Lie face down and let your arms hang down so your knuckles brush the floor. From here perform the movement described above.

Front Raises
Isolates the anterior (front) deltoids.
1. Stand upright, knees slightly bent and shoulder width apart. Hold the dumbells at against your thighs. Your palms should be towards your body.
2. Starting with your weaker side and keeping your arm straight, raise the weight directly in front of you.
3. When your arm is parallel to the ground lower the weight slowly back to the starting position. Repeat with the other arm.
4. Avoid the tendency to arch your lower back on the last few repetitions. You will be able to handle more weight on the concentric phase (lifting the weight up) of this exercise. Make sure you can lower (eccentric phase) the dumbell under control before you progress to a higher weight




Back Dumbell Exercises

Dead Lifts
Works the lower back and hamstrings. Be very careful with this exercise. If you have a history of back pain leave this one alone.
1. Stand upright, feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold 2 dumbells against your thighs.
2. Use your lower back to lower the weights down your leg. Your back must remain flat, the lower back arched inwards slightly. Do not round it. Keep your head up, right throughout the movement.
3. Only lower the weights as far as is comfortable even if that's only as far as your knees.
4. Stand upright using your lower back, maintaining a flat back and bent knees and keeping your head up.

Single Arm Row
1. Stand upright with the bench next to your left leg. Bend your left leg and rest it on the bench. Bend from your lower back and support yourself by placing your left hand on the bench. Your upper body should be parallel to the ground.
2. Hold the weight in your right hand and let it hang down so it's just off the floor. Your palm should be facing towards the bench.
3. Keeping your elbow tucked into your side raise the weight up to your midsection.
4. Slowly lower the weight to the start position and repeat. After the desired number of repetitions repeat for the other arm.

Lying Bent Over Row
This is the same movement as the single arm row except you can work both arms at once whilst supporting your back.
1. Set the bench to a 30-45 degree incline.
2. Lie face down. Holding 2 dumbells let your arms hang down so your knuckles brush the floor. Your palms should be facing towards your feet.
3. Pull the dumbells up towards your chest and to the sides of the bench.
4. Slowly lower the weights back down and repeat.


Trapezius Dumbell Exercises

Upright Row
1. Stand upright, feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold 2 dumbells against your thighs.
2. Keeping the weights close to your body, raise the dumbells up to your chin.
3. Hold for a count of 2 and slowly lower to the start position and repeat.

Shrugs
1. Stand upright, feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold 2 dumbells against your thighs.
2. Keeping your arms straight 'shrug' your shoulders as high as they will go and hold for a count of 2.
3. Relax and repeat.
4. Do not roll your shoulders backwards as you shrug up. This can cause damage to your rotator cuff muscles over time.


Biceps Dumbell Exercises

Decline Seated Bicep Curls
1. Adjust the bench to a 45 degree incline.
2. In this 'declined' seated position hold a dumbell in either hand at your sides. Your arms should be fully extended.
3. Keep your elbows close to your body and curl the weight up.
4. Slowly lower the weight and repeat.

Hammer curls
1. Stand upright with a dumbell in either hand at your sides.
2. Turn your palms inward so they are facing your body. Your palms should be facingeach other right throughout the exercise.
3. Curl the weights up slowly keeping your elbows locked at your sides. There should be no movement from shoulder.
4. You can perform this exercise one or two arms at a time.

Preacher Curls
1. Set the bench so the back rest is at approximately 45 degrees.
2. Stand behind the bench. Holding a dumbell rest the back of your upper arm on the back rest, your arm fully extended.
3. Keeping the back of your upper arm firmly against the back rest curl the weight up towards your face.
4. As you complete the curl you will notice the movement becomes easier. Slowly lower the weight until your arm is not quite fully extended and repeat for the desired number of reps before switching arms.

Concentration Curls
Some dumbell exercises are difficult to describe on paper but eay when you see it. This is one of them (images for all dumbell exercises are on their way). For now let's give it a shot...
1. Sit on the very edge of the bench with your feet flat on the floor and about 2 feet apart.
2. Holding a dumbell in your right hand place your right elbow on the inside of your right thigh, just above your knee. Support your back by placing your left hand on your left knee. Your right palm should be facing towards your left ankle.
3. From here use only your biceps to curl the weight up towards your face. Do not swing back as you lift the weight.
4. Slowly lower the weight and repeat for the desired number of reps before switching to your left arm.




Triceps Dumbell Exercises

Overhead Triceps Extension
1. Stand upright, feet shoulder width apart with a dumbell in your right hand.
2. Hold the weight directly above your head with your right arm fully extended. Clasp your right elbow with your left hand. Your left forearm should be infront of your face.
3. Slowly let your right elbow fold so that the weight is lowered behind your head. From this position extend your arm back to the starting position. Repeat for the desired number of reps and then switch arms.

French Press
1. Lie flat on a bench with a dumbell in either hand. Hold the weights directly above your chest with palms facing each other. The weights should be just about touching each other.
2. Keeping your shoulders locked, let your elbows fold so the weights are lowered down to either side of your head.
3. Extend both your arms back to the start position and repeat.
4. Make sure there is no shoulder movement on this exercise. The movement should come purely from your elbows.

Kickbacks
1. Stand upright with the bench next to your left leg. Bend your left leg and rest it on the bench. Bend from your lower back and support yourself by placing your left hand on the bench. Your upper body should be parallel to the ground.
2. Hold the weight in your right hand and raise your elbow so your upper arm is parallel to the ground. Your elbow should also be bent at right angles. Think of holding a pool cue ready to make a shot. In fact the movement is exactly the same...
3. Extend your elbow so now your entire arm is parallel to the ground.
4. Slowly return the weight to the start position and repeat for the desired number of reps before switching arms.


Leg Dumbell Exercises

Half Squats
One of the best dumbell exercises for working the entire lower body. Works the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and lower back.
1. Holding a dumbell in either hand at your sides, stand upright with your feet shoulder width apart.
2. Bend from the knees until your thighs are almost parallel to the ground.
3. It is essential that you keep your back flat (not rounded), lower back slightly arched inwards and your head up.
4. Return to an upright position and repeat.

Lunges
1. Holding a dumbell in either hand at your sides, stand upright with your feet slightly less than shoulder width apart.
2. Step forward about 2 feet with your right foot. As you plant your right foot bend your right knee to about 90 degrees. Your left knee will bend automatically and should just touch the floor.
3. Push off with your right foot to return to the starting position.
4. You can alternate legs or perform all the reps on one leg at a time.


Calf Dumbell Exercises

Single Leg Calf Raise
1. Set the back rest if the bench to an upright position. Holding a dumbell in your right hand at your side, stand upright and place your left hand on the top of the bench for support.
2. Stand on just your right leg. Rest your left foot on your right calf muscle.
3. Stand up on the tip of right toe using the bench to balance yourself. Be sure not to push yourself up with your hand, that defeats the object!
4. Slowly lower your self to the ground and repeat.

Seated Calf Press
1. Sit on the edge of the bench, feet flat on the floor about 12 inches apart.
2. Rest a dumbell on either thigh while you keep hold of them.
3. While staying seated raise heels by just using your toes... in effect you are standing on your tip toes while staying seated.
4. Lower your heels to the ground and repeat.

Remember... you can get animated images
for all these dumbell exercises by clicking here




How To Put These Dumbell Exercises To Best Use

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