A dumbbell workout can be the greatest thing to hit your fitness routine since, well since you started the thing. Dumbbells have several advantages over resistance bands or barbell weight equipment. Sure, you can any of those pieces of equipment to gain strength, increase muscle size, or lose fat. Dumbbells however, offer advantages the others just can’t compete with.
First, dumbbells require your muscles to completely control the weight from every angle. This is great from a development standpoint because it recruits more muscle mass for a given exercise. That is but one reason dumbbell workouts can help you provide that edge you’ve been looking for in the gym or have you losing body fat faster than ever.
Second, that increased control requirement translates into your developing more functional strength. That the kind of strength that translates into everyday activities, weather that is on the athletic field, or when your wife asks you to move the dresser.
Third, dumbbells allow you to really up the intensity you can get from every set. Part of that flows from the increased control requirement, but wait, there’s more! With dumbbells you can get those last few reps immediately after the point of muscular failure on exercise where it would be impossible with a barbell. This is true when you are working out without a workout partner and safety is an issue. The bench press is a great example of this.
With a barbell, especially if you have the weights locked on with collars, those last reps could be dangerous if you reach the point of absolute failure. While that danger can offer the ultimate motivation to complete that one last rep, sometimes that extra motivation can’t overcome muscular fatigue that can leave you with a heavily laden bar on your chest, screaming for help that is often too far away to hear. If you were only using dumbbells you could just drop them and start your rest period between sets, rather that roll the bar down to your stomach, flattening your internal organs like a steamroller tin the process.
Forth, dumbbells allow a greater range of motion. That means you can work the muscle even more effectively, generating better results from both a strength and muscular development perspective.
Here are some great dumbbell exercises. You can use them to create dumbbell workouts that will make your muscles grow larger like never before.
Dumbbell bench presses – The kind daddy of upper body dumbbell exercises. There is no better overall front, upper body movement you can do that the dumbbell bench press. To change exactly which muscles you are working, just change the angle. The incline dumbbell bench press is fantastic for upper chest development, an area where many bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts are lacking. That exercise will also hit your front delts and triceps with a vengeance.
Be careful to avoid the major mistake made by people that do this movement; they don’t lower the dumbbells far enough. If you were doing inclines with a barbell, you would lower the weight until the bar touched your upper chest. Obviously there is no bar with dumbbells, so the tendency many lifters fall prey to is not lowering the weight as far. Don’t do that! Instead, you should lower it farther, really getting a great stretch out of your pectorals. Be careful not to tear anything, but that extra extension can pay big dividends for your chest.
Dumbbell deadlifts – Dumbbell deadlifts are like two exercises in one. Regular deadlifts are fantastic for developing the back, traps, forearms and yes, the legs, dumbbell deadlifts do them one better in terms of leg development.
When you use dumbbells for deadlifting, you can keep the weights closer to even with your body’s center of mass. This aids in balance and increases the load on your legs. The down side is that it probably lessens the effectiveness of the exercise as a back movement since the lats aren’t required to the same extent as they are when the weight is farther our in front of your center. On the plus side, as I noted earlier, it increased the stress on your legs, maximizing this as a leg developing superstar.
Overhead presses – Another great dumbbell exercise that is tops for developing the shoulders and triceps. As with the bench press, you can really switch things up by changing the angles you use when performing this exercise. One other aspect to using dumbbells for overhead presses behind the neck is that you can’t drop the bar on the back of your neck. This can possibly cause a major neck an spinal injury, although if you’ve ever done this with relatively heavy weights, you’ll be amazed at the resilience of the human body.
Bent rows – Bent rows are kind of like the bench presses poor, backward cousin, but they sure are great for developing the lats, rear delts and traps. The only thing I don’t like about them is because you have to do one side of the body at a time, it takes twice as long to get things done. I’m all about getting in the maximum effectiveness in a workout while taking up the minimum amount of time, so this goes against my philosophy, but it is a great addition to your workout nonetheless.
Dumbbell upright rows – Talk about a fantastic shoulder and trap movement! Doing upright rows (correctly) with dumbbells is more difficult than using a bar, but you get a great all around shoulder and trap exercise that can have you looking like an NFL strong safety in less time than you’d think.
Dumbbell power cleans – Okay, I’m saving the best for last. This is one of the most important all around exercises you can do with dumbbells. It hits many of your major muscle groups, including the quads, hamstrings, glutes, traps, forearms, lats, and lower back. Those that you miss with dumbbell power cleans you can hit pick up with the bench press. In fact you can get in a pretty damn effective workout with just those two exercises and hit just about all the major muscle groups pretty well.
You can combine these with several varieties of tricep extensions and curls with dumbbells. You have and almost endless number of variations of upper arm exercise allowed if you use dumbbells. An advantage to using dumbbells for curls is that it allows you to rotate your wrist as you do the curl, increasing the effectiveness and promoting more development, faster.
Here is a great dumbbell workout using these exercises:
Dumbbell Power Cleans –
1 x 10
3 x 6
Dumbbell Deadlifts 3 x 6
Dumbbell Bench Press –
1 x 15
1 x 10
3 x 6
Overhead Press – 3 x 8
This should take no more than 35 minutes, adding in 10 minutes on a bike or treadmill for warming up should still have you out of the gym, workout complete, in less than 45 minutes. Depending on your age, how much sleep you get, your nutrition, and some genetic factors you can do this workout anywhere from once a week to every 4th day. Do not do it any less than every 4 days or you’ll risk over training, and killing your progress. Keep the intensity up by doing those one or two extra reps after total failure on the sets of 6 reps. Don’t go quite to failure on the sets for 15 and 10 reps. Those sets are more to get the muscles for the hell that is coming.
You can break this up into 2 separate workouts, doing the deadlifts and power cleans on day one, then taking a day of rest and doing the press exercises on the third day. Just make sure you take four days of rest in between the like days. For example, if you hit the deadlifts and power cleans on Monday, don’t do them again until Friday. This can help, especially at the beginning, where you aren’t yet physically fit enough to get maximum intensity for the entire 16 set workout.
Dumbbell workouts; the way to make it happen. Use this one to get the results you’ve been looking for.
Can’t get bigger biceps, no matter what you try? If seems like you’ve tried everything to get your biceps to grow but not much is happening, check out the post on building bigger biceps