Use only one dumbbell to perform each of these effective strength-training exercises. It's possible to find your weak spots by alternating between workouts that focus on each side of the body and others that focus on just one. You'll be able to build muscle more quickly and with less effort, which is great for avoiding injuries.
When you perform an unbalanced move, your body responds by activating your core and other stabilising muscles to help you maintain your equilibrium. Click here if you want details on just one dumbbell workout.
How To Hold A Single Dumbbell?
Even though you're only using a single dumbbell, you can hold it in a variety of positions.
Holding the dumbbell with both hands can be done in a vertical or horizontal orientation. The 'bar' must be long enough for both hands to fit side by side so that the dumbbell can be held in either posture. The dumbbell can be driven through the water with more speed and explosiveness if both hands are used.
When holding a dumbbell with both hands, you are using a foam grip. This restricts the dumbbell's holding options to the horizontal plane. Arthritis, wrist difficulties, and RSI sufferers may have difficulty controlling large foam parts because their fingers would need to be extended wider and gripped more tightly.
One hand holds the dumbbell while the other hand receives it. You can do this with the dumbbell held vertically or horizontally. It's important to let the fingers and forearm muscles relax throughout the lesson, as using the dumbbell requires a lot of effort. Because the legs are frequently also moving, often in the opposite direction, greater coordination is required.
When switching from one hand to the other, it helps if both arms are moving in the same plane (saggital, frontal, transverse). It's not easy to switch the dumbbell from one hand to the other if you're moving your arms in an alternating pattern, such forwards and backwards with a kick to the front. Another possibility is to have a transitional move in which the dumbbell is held in both hands before being passed to the other hand.
You can alternatively hold the dumbbell under your knee, in between your calf and hamstrings, or between your thighs (about halfway up). This is useful for putting more emphasis on workouts that don't require dumbbells and for actively involving core stabilisers. It's also an excellent method to prevent calluses from forming on your fingers and hands from holding onto dumbbells for too long.
One Dumbbell Exercises
Extend one arm out to the side while holding a dumbbell at shoulder height with the palm facing in and the elbow pointing down. Knees should be slightly bent, and your core should be supported, as you stand with feet hip-width apart. Raise the dumbbell directly above your head, palm facing forwards, by rotating your wrist. You can get back to square one by reversing these procedures. Maintain a strong core and pull in your rib cage to avoid putting extra strain on your back.
While sitting on a mat or a bench, grasp the end of a single heavy dumbbell with both hands. Holding your abs in, your back straight, and your elbows slightly bent, slowly drop the weight behind you until you feel a stretch in your lats. Pull the load up by squeezing your back muscles.
Half-Burpee Over Dumbbell
Stand to one side of the dumbbell with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides. Get down into a crouch with your hands on the ground, and then spring your feet back into a plank position.
To perform a push-up, drop to a lower body position, then return to a plank position by extending your elbows. In a standing position, with your feet together, jump laterally over the dumbbell and land gently on the opposite side. Jump directly into the next repetition and keep going, switching sides every so often. Keep your feet close together on the jump and your body compact if speed is your goal.
One Arm Chest Fly
Press one dumbbell straight up towards the ceiling while lying on a mat or bench. Holding your core tight, lower the weight out to the side until your arm is parallel to the ground while keeping your elbow slightly bent. You should spend 30 seconds on each side before returning the weight to the starting position.
One Leg Row
Place your weight on your right leg while holding the dumbbell in your right hand. Keep your chest out and your shoulders back as you lean forwards. While keeping your hips level to the ground, lift your left leg straight behind you.
For this, you'll need to start with the weight dangling below your elbow, bend your elbow, and draw the weight up until your elbow is at the same level as your body. Maintaining your balance on one leg, perform 30 seconds of one-arm rows before switching arms.
Pivot Squat Curl
Stand with your feet further apart than shoulder-width apart and your knees in line with your toes while holding a weight in your right hand. As if at the top of a biceps curl, the dumbbell should be resting on your shoulder.
To do this, lower your left arm and pivot to the left, bringing your left foot back into a squat. Squat down, then twist your body to the front and curl the weight into a biceps curl. When the 30 seconds are up, switch sides.
Maintain a lofty, proud stance with your arms at your sides. You can do a side lunge by stepping your right foot out. You're bending your right knee, keeping your left one straight, and bringing your hips back. With a push off the right foot, bring the feet back together and return to the starting position. Do the same on the left side, and keep switching for another minute.
Side Lunge With A Triceps Extension
Take a huge step to the left, bending your knee into a side lunge, and hold a moderate to heavy dumbbell in your right hand. One's right leg needs to be held in a straight position. As you lunge forwards, stretch your right triceps by extending your arm out to the side. After a 30-second rest, repeat the lowering and raising of the arm. Turn around and do it again.
Single Arm Clean And Press
Place a heavy object in your right hand and stand with feet slightly wider than hip distance apart. Squat down such that the weight almost touches the floor, and then "catch" it on your shoulder as you stand up. Raise the weight above your head from this position.
Sit-Up To Press
Hold a dumbbell at your chest while lying faceup with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Raise your head, shoulders, and upper body off the ground, and sit up straight as you press the dumbbell overhead. You can get back to square one by reversing these procedures.
Press the weight above while sitting as upright as possible, with your chest near to your quadriceps.
Stand To Kneel Lunge With Dumbbell
One should stand on a cushioned surface and push a dumbbell straight overhead, retaining it in one's right hand throughout the entire exercise.
Drop both knees to the floor and take a backwards step (the dumbbell is still pressed overhead). Slowly and steadily get back on your feet. If at all possible, maintain a constant weight. When the 30 seconds are up, switch sides.
Keep a dumbbell at your side with the palm pointing inward. Lunge forwards with one leg and bend both knees to lower your body to the ground.
While standing, your legs should be together and your knees should "kiss" the ground. Keep going forwards, hopping from leg to leg. You should not lean or twist when you lunge, either towards or away from the weight.
Stand with your feet outside of shoulder-width apart and your toes turned out slightly, holding a dumbbell in both hands in front of you. Holding your shoulders back, lower yourself by bending your knees and dropping your glutes straight down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Press down on your heels to go in reverse and return to the beginning. Squeeze your glutes and slightly push your hips forwards as you stand to target those muscles even more.
Triceps Extension With Kicks
Hold a single dumbbell with both hands and step back with your right foot such that your toe is touching the ground. Take the load off your head by bending your elbows and bringing them behind you. As you straighten the arms, squeeze the triceps and kick the right leg up as though you're going to touch your toe with the weight.
Tips For Dumbbell Training
There are several things to remember if you want to get the most out of your dumbbell training and reduce your chance of injury if you decide to make it a regular part of your workout routine.
Lift With Your Legs
It's important to remember to lift with your legs, not your back, while picking up dumbbells from the floor, no matter how heavy they are. You don't want to hurt your back or yourself in any other way by just taking up your dumbbells, and this holds true even if they're only three pounds. When picking up the dumbbells, make a move that resembles a squat as much as possible.
Watch Your Posture And Form
Using dumbbells incorrectly is another way to hurt yourself while working out. You should take the time to watch some demonstration videos for various exercises if you want to incorporate dumbbell exercises into your at-home workout regimen. This will help you grasp the right posture and form required to complete the exercise safely and effectively.
If you have a gym membership, you should ask for a quick tutorial on how to do some of the most basic dumbbell exercises with good form to avoid significant injury. You should try practising your dumbbell exercises in front of a full-length mirror to ensure proper form.
Know Your Limits
Last but not least, remember that size isn't necessarily a plus. When lifting weights, it's best to begin with lighter weights and gradually work your way up to heavier ones.
It's healthy to push yourself, but you should be aware of your boundaries. Injuries are inevitable if you try to lift weights that are too heavy for your muscles.
In regards to building muscle, the adage "no pain, no gain" is misleading. Though you must challenge yourself if you want to grow stronger, you should avoid hurting yourself in the process. If you aren't sure if you can lift the heavier weight, stick with the lighter pair of dumbbells until you can.
Each of these exercises is a great way to build muscle, and all you need is a single dumbbell. By alternating exercises that target each side of the body, you may pinpoint your areas of weakness. For information on the many ways to hold a single dumbbell, please click here. Keep your abdominal muscles engaged and your rib cage pulled in to reduce the stress on your back. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Begin in a squat position, then twist your upper body towards the front as you biceps curl the weight. Exercise for 30 seconds with one arm raised, then switch. Perform a triceps extension and a side lunge. Triceps tight, right leg kicked up as if weight were to be touched to toe. If you want to avoid hurting your back, pick up the dumbbells with your legs instead.
The weight is irrelevant, even if it's just three pounds. It's important to keep in mind that bigger isn't always better when it comes to bulking up.
- Each of these exercises for building muscle can be done with just one dumbbell.
- By alternating between exercises that target each side of the body and others that target only one, you may zero in on your specific areas of weakness.
- When you try to pull off a move that throws off your balance, your body will respond by firing up your core and other stabilising muscles to assist you keep your footing.
- Only one dumbbell is required, however there are many ways to hold it.
- The dumbbell can be held in either a vertical or horizontal position with both hands.
- The 'bar' must be long enough for both hands to fit side by side so that the dumbbell can be gripped in either stance.
- Use a foam grip on a dumbbell if you hold it with both hands.
- This limits your options for holding the dumbbell to the horizontal plane.
- The dumbbell is held in one hand while the other hand is on the receiving end.
- Your dumbbell can be held in either a vertical or horizontal position.
- When changing hands, it's easier if both arms are travelling in the same direction (saggital, frontal, transverse).
- If you're moving the dumbbell in an alternate pattern, such forth and backwards with a kick to the front, it can be difficult to make the transition from one hand to the other.
- A transitional technique in which the dumbbell is held in both hands before being passed to the other hand is another option.
- The dumbbell can be held under the knee, between the calf and hamstrings, or in the thigh gap (about halfway up).
- This is helpful for actively involving core stabilisers and putting more emphasis on exercises that don't require dumbbells.
- It's also a great way to protect your hands and fingers from getting calluses when lifting heavy weights.
- Raise the dumbbell straight up, palm facing ahead.
- Simply reversing these steps will put you back where you started.
- Keep your abs tight and your rib cage in to protect your back from unnecessary stress.
- Start by holding the end of a single heavy dumbbell with both hands while sitting on a mat or bench.
- Squeeze your back muscles and pull the weight up.
- Keep your feet hip-width apart and your arms by your sides as you stand to one side of the dumbbell.
- Crouch down with your hands on the floor, and then explode back up into a plank.
- A push-up is accomplished by lowering one's torso, then extending one's elbows to return to a plank posture.
- Jump laterally over the dumbbell and land softly on the other side, starting in a standing stance with your feet together.
- While laying on a mat or bench, press one dumbbell straight up to the ceiling.
- Stand on your right foot and grasp the dumbbell in your right hand.
- When you can stand on one leg for 30 seconds without losing your balance, switch to one-arm rows.
- With a weight in your right hand, stand with your feet wider apart than shoulder-width apart and your knees in line with your toes.
- A dumbbell should rest on your shoulder at the height of a biceps curl.
- In order to accomplish this, you should stoop down with your left foot and pivot to the left, bringing your left arm down to your side.
- To perform a biceps curl, squat down, then twist your body so that your forearms face forwards.
- After 30 seconds, you must exchange sides.
- To do the side lunge, keep your arms by your sides and your body tall and proud.
- To perform a side lunge, simply step out to the right.
- Switch to the left side and repeat for another minute.
- Triceps Extension Side Lunge
- Holding a moderate to heavy dumbbell in your right hand, take a large step to the left, bending your knee into a side lunge.
- One's right leg needs to be held in a straight position.
- One-Armed Press and Clean
- Standing with feet somewhat wider than hip distance apart, hold a heavy object in your right hand.
- You can "catch" the weight on your shoulder if you squat down until it's almost touching the floor, then stand up.
- Lay on your back with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor, and hold a dumbbell at your chest.
- Simply reversing these steps will put you back where you started.
- Sitting as tall as you can, with your chest close to your quadriceps, press the weight above.
- One should stand on a cushioned surface and press a dumbbell straight overhead, keeping it in one's right hand throughout the entire workout. This movement progresses to a kneeling lunge.
- Be patient as you slowly and steadily regain your footing.
- If you can, try not to let your weight fluctuate.
- After 30 seconds, you must exchange sides.
- Carry-On Lunge
- Hold a dumbbell with the palm facing in towards your body.
- One foot should be positioned forwards in a lunge position, and the other pair of knees should be bent to bring the torso down to the floor.
- Proceed forwards while hopping from one leg to the other.
- Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes turned out.
- You can go back to square one by pressing down on your heels.
- Flexion of the Hips and Kicks for Triceps Extension
- One dumbbell in each hand; right foot back till the toe touches the floor; stride forwards.
- Guidelines for Dumbbell Exercises
- If you want to get the most out of your dumbbell training and limit your risk of injury, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- To avoid straining your back, always pick up dumbbells from the floor using your legs, not your back, no matter how heavy they are.
- Even if your dumbbells only weigh three pounds, you still need to be careful not to injure your back or other body parts when lifting them.
- Try to mimic a squatting motion as closely as you can when picking up the dumbbells.
- One more common way to damage yourself while working out is through misusing dumbbells.
- If you want to add dumbbell exercises to your at-home training routine, it is highly recommended that you view some instructional videos for various exercises.
- By doing so, you will be better able to understand and adopt the correct position and form for the exercise.
- If you have a gym membership, you should probably get a quick lesson on proper form for some of the simplest dumbbell exercises.
- You can check your form by practising your dumbbell lifts in front of a full-length mirror.
- Recognize Your Boundaries
- One final point: don't assume that bigger is better.
- Starting with a lesser weight and working up to a heavier one is the recommended approach when lifting weights.
- It's good for you to challenge yourself, but you should know where you stand.
- If you attempt to lift weights that are beyond the capabilities of your muscles, you will sustain an injury.
- The cliché "no pain, no gain" is incorrect when applied to the goal of increasing muscular mass.
- If you want to improve your strength, you need to push yourself, but you shouldn't do anything that could cause you physical harm.
- If you're not confident in your strength, use the lighter dumbbells until you're ready to move up.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dumbbell
Whether you’re using one or two at a time, dumbbells allow for both greater range of motion (ROM) and more freedom of movement than an equivalent barbell exercise. Let’s use the barbell and dumbbell variations of the bench press to illustrate these points.
With a barbell, your ROM is limited to the point where the bar is touching your chest at the bottom of the lift. With dumbbells, you’re able to bring your hands lower at the bottom simply because there’s no bar stopping you at chest level. The obvious benefit of greater ROM is increased joint mobility.
Many individuals and athletes have limited mobility in joints like the shoulders, elbows, and wrists, so dumbbells can offer a more movement-friendly motion and help restore that mobility. As for freedom of movement, your hands are in a fixed position when using a barbell; you’re not able to rotate your wrists or change the orientation of your hands in any way during a set.
Dumbbells, however, allow you to freely move your hands independently and rotate your wrists at any point during the movement. This is a key benefit if you have injuries that act up when you lift with a barbell. In addition, you may find that because dumbbells allow your arms and legs to find their own best paths, you don’t experience the same joint pain you get from barbell lifts. So injury prevention, rehabilitation, and all-around more joint-friendly strength training are all more possible with dumbbell work than with a barbell.
ROM and freedom of movement can also be huge for helping you build more muscle than barbell exercises. Another key benefit of using dumbbells is the muscular balance from side to side (left to right). For example, when doing a barbell exercise, your dominant arm can compensate for the weaker arm. This may help you get the weight up, but it will only exacerbate any imbalances you have and could eventually lead to injury.
Also, each side carries its weight with dumbbells, so the stronger arm can’t make up for the weaker one. This comes into play even when doing bilateral dumbbell exercises (both arms lifting the weights simultaneously), though unilateral exercises can be used to isolate each side further, particularly the weaker ones. Dumbbell training is a great way to identify a lagging side and immediately begin to correct it.
In addition, using dumbbells develops unilateral strength, which can help bring up your weaker side [usually your non-dominant side]. This will be beneficial overall and translate into you being able to move more weight on a similar movement when you load up a barbell. For example, dumbbell bench presses can make your barbell bench press stronger. Dumbbells also accommodate countless isolation (single-joint) movements, like chest flyes, lateral raises for the delts, and triceps kickbacks.
These moves can’t be made with a barbell, so if maximum muscle growth is your goal, you can’t train exclusively with a bar. These exercises often get bashed for not being “functional,” but even non-physique-focused lifters should make some use of them. They’re highly effective for targeting specific muscles and can play a role in overall performance and injury resistance.
There are two basic types of dumbbells: fixed-weight dumbbells and adjustable dumbbells. Fixed-weight dumbbells are the kind you see in commercial gyms, usually ranging (in pairs) from five-pound weights up to 100+ pounds and typically in five-pound increments. The weights are fixed to the bar and cannot be adjusted. Adjustable dumbbells allow you to change load quickly by sliding weight plates on and off the handle and clamping it or by pulling a pin or turning a dial that locks and releases the plates.
They, too, typically range from five to 100+ pounds, in increments of five pounds. Adjustable dumbbells tend to be a little more rickety than the fixed-weight kind (you better make sure the weight is secured, or it can fall off the handle during use) and can be a bit awkward to use (heavyweight often means lots of plates that make for a long dumbbell that can be hard to move around your body), but they’re cost-effective, space-efficient, and a solid choice for a home gym.
(A full set of fixed-weight dumbbells is expensive and takes up a lot of room.) Welcome to the great free-weight debate—the ongoing argument over which classic and widely used training tool is best, the barbell or dumbbell. For hundreds of years, people have been trying to pick the winner by analyzing each tool’s every possible feature and benefit.
Which is more functional? Which should you use in your training? And when would you choose one over the other? The truth is, there are no one-word answers here. Both the barbell and dumbbell are amazing implements that can bring value to your training, and you should use both, if possible. But to provide the ultimate guidance, we’ve enlisted the help of some reputable fitness experts to break down when, why, and how to use barbells and dumbbells to reach your goals.
Dumbbells don’t allow you to use the same kind of crushing weight that barbells do, and they’re (arguably) less awkward to use. They also mostly lend themselves to less risky exercises. But that doesn’t mean dumbbell exercises are injury-proof. With improper form, you can hurt yourself just as easily on a dumbbell press, curl, or triceps extension as you can with the barbell version. Thinking that dumbbells are an inherently safer implement to use in your program can be a mistake.
For instance, it’s not uncommon to pull or tear a pec by pushing the range of motion on dumbbell chest presses or fly too far. And simply setting up for those exercises—rocking back onto the bench to get into position or rocking back to a seated position at the end of a set—can be tricky. With that said, the barbell needs to be treated with more respect, generally speaking. Any athlete and individual must earn the right to train with a barbell.
Exercises like the squat, deadlift, military press, bench press, snatch, and clean requires a solid baseline of strength and skill in moving properly. Before an individual can perform basic barbell lifts, look at a foundation of strength built through callisthenics, resistance-band work, sled work, dumbbells, and kettlebells.
The barbell is simply a more unforgiving implement. With no room to adjust your hand/arm position during a set, the path of your range of motion is very limited. If your shoulders, knees, or lower back aren’t agreeable to it, you can get hurt. This is why there are far more back injuries from back squats and deadlifts than there are from the dumbbell versions of those lifts.
The one-arm dumbbell row is a good addition to any dumbbell workout. This movement targets the upper and lower back, shoulders, biceps, and hips while improving core stability. 1 Five different joint actions take place in this compound exercise. Beginners can use light weights as they build strength.
Work Your Entire Upper Body with One Dumbbell. All you need is one dumbbell and 20 minutes. You'll perform 10 reps of the single-arm chest press every minute on the minute for 10 minutes straight. Then you'll follow the same protocol for single-arm supported rows.