There's always one more thing you can do with dumbbells — but we enlist top 22 dumbbell exercises to hit every muscle at home.
Here are the 22 best dumbbell exercises for you to nail at home (or while travelling)
Ah the good old dumbbells: trained hundreds of famous bodybuilders, prepared hundreds more MMA champions, and even thousand more athletes. Not to forget, the celebrities who appear nice and shredded in movies because of these pesky little weights. Plus, millions more like you and us who crush those morning HIIT workouts with DBs.
But, have you ever wondered what the science behind training with them is? Why are they so popular that almost every gym-lover at least once in their life exercises with dumbbells? Let us explain.
“You’ve that three dimensional freedom that you just cannot afford with a barbell”, says the pro trainer Jeff Cavaliere. DB and kettlebells are possibly the two most versatile tools. Dozens of exercises and workouts, and dozens more variations that you can put into work. What’s more, you extract noticeably more value than the price paid—if you can only imagine how far you can take things using dumbbells.
On top of everything, dumbbell workouts are a lot less intimidating because of their portability. You can take them with you — literally — anywhere to never miss out on your workouts. We’ve even seen videos of underwater dumbbell workouts. Have you any?
So, today, to help you achieve your workout goals, we’re listing the 22 best dumbbell exercises of all time to hit every muscle at home. Plus, we’ll also introduce you to one special pair of dumbbells from Gallant’s inventory to help you become an athlete of everyone’s imagination. Let’s get started.
Our Top 22 Picks of Exercises with Dumbbells at Home
Did you know that dumbbells have actually been around since the dark ages of ancient Greece? No wonder why they’re in-demand. Read on as we enlist our top picks of dumbbell exercises.
- Grab a pair of dumbbells and sit down on a bench or you can do while standing.
- Lift them to your shoulders’ height, abs tight, elbows closer to your ribs and hold so that palms are facing towards you.
- Raise both your arms above your head fully extended, turning out your hands' position so that palms are now in the opposite direction.
- Reverse the pattern and repeat.
Why this exercise: It targets the all three deltoid shoulder muscles — lateral, posterior, and anterior deltoids. That’s best for adding thickness to your round shoulder muscle, stabilizing the joint itself, improving your posture, and helping the pulling muscle get stronger. And do you know why this exercise is called Arnold press? Because it was invented by the legend himself — adding one more reason to ‘why this exercise’.
- Stand straight with feet wider than your shoulders’ width; hold a dumbbell in your both hands vertically in front of your chest.
- Bend your knees down; lower your body in front as low as you can, as you’d do in a squat.
- Then drive back up by thrusting from your hip.
Why this exercise: Increase range of motion in your hips, build stronger quads, reduce potential lower back pain, and develop lower body strength. Regardless of how noob or pro you’re, you can put this exercise into work every day for dramatic gains.
- Grab a pair of dumbbells in your both hands, while bracing your core.
- Walk fast with short steps, from point A to B.
- Repeat and count laps.
Why this exercise: This farmer’s walk looks simple but it's as mighty as any other top dumbbell exercise. Train almost your whole body — forearms, shoulders, upper back, glutes, hamstrings, traps, and quads. Crazy of all, you can boost your mental endurance by counting walking laps and increasing them every day. This will help you in the real world and in the ring, if you’re going big in boxing.
- Stand straight with dumbbells in your both hands; keep your feet hip-width stance. Bend your knees, keeping your head straight, and maintaining your lumbar curve.
- As you’re in this posture, place both dumbbells outside off your feet.
- Driving thrust from your hips, jump off the ground slightly, pulling both dumbbells and doing a front squat.
- Straighten your legs slowly. Go back to the same position.
Why this exercise: To replicate the speedy movement of the Olympian Usain Bolt or endurance like British boxer Amir Khan, you've got to train like them. By introducing dumbbell clean in your workouts, you mainly strengthen your core ability. Powerful core muscles will help you become sporty and rigid as rock.
Flat Dumbbell Fly
- Laydown on a straight bench.
- Hold one dumbbell horizontally in each hand closer to your chest so that palms face inward direction.
- Starting from your chest position, elbows bent and pointing outwards, arch down your arms with weights in your hands, until you feel stretch in your chest.
- From there, lift both arms up to raise the dumbbells above your head. Exhale slowly as you do that.
- Inhale and bring your arms back to the same position.
Why this exercise: A 15-year-old teen was crushed under heavy weights and died while doing bench press. Compared to risking your life with a barbell bench press, dumbbells are much safer to play with. This exercise helps to unlock your chest muscles fibers, and to really grow it. With that, you also train your biceps, triceps, wrists, shoulder muscles, and upper back.
- Hold one dumbbell in each hand and go into the press-up position. (Or you can go with one if you’re just starting out)
- While keeping your core maintained, arch left dumbbell to your abs, and return it back to its original position. Then do the same with your right hand.
Why this exercise: This does wonders because it requires full body engagement. Power your back, strengthen your abs, and build a great resistance against trunk rotation. That’s not it. With rowing or pulling, you hammer shoulders, triceps, and biceps, too. Plus, if you're guilty of being lazy, its one set lasts as low as 30 seconds, which makes your workouts less intimidating.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand; slightly bend down your knees. Keep your core tight, your hips hinged, back flat, and your head straight.
- Start rowing both weights up to your chest and bring them back to the same position.
Why this exercise: You strengthen your back muscles — rotator cuffs, rhomboids, and traps. That can help you while running and deadlifting. Best of all, you’ll develop a handsome looking posture and get rid of a slummy and shabby body that looks like a sloth walking.
- Place your left knee on a flat bench along with your left hand.
- Lean in forward keeping your back straight.
- Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, bending your elbow, and bringing it closer to your chest.
- Straighten your elbow backwards, engaging your triceps and abs.
- Repeat and do the same with the other hand to complete the set.
Why this exercise: Do you want those sleek looking triceps you see while scrolling your Instagram? Those shredded triceps are massively beneficial for training your upper body for strength, stability, and coordination. Add dumbbell kickbacks in your workouts to achieve that.
- Stand straight feet shoulder-width apart, holding one dumbbell in each hand at chest’s height by bending your elbows.
- Punch upward with your right hand until the dumbbell passes your chin, rotating the torso. Just like you’d do in a fight. (Pro tip: don’t hit your chin)
- Then do the same with your other hand.
Why this exercise: By the looks of it, you’re probably smart enough to guess what it would be for: Land Aj-style powerful punches to knockout in seconds. Uppercut is a destructive training for building upper-body strength, speeding your hip motion, and boosting force in your punches while driving from hips. As a bonus, you’ll also up your cardio game because you can only imagine how fast your heart will pump.
10. One Arm Swing
- Stand straight, feet wider than shoulder-width, and hold a dumbbell in your left hand in between your legs.
- Stance in a squat position, and as soon as you do that, lean in forward, keeping your back flat.
- Now, drive a hip thrust and using your arm as a guide, swing the dumbbell in front of you.
- Keep the momentum and do the same with your right hand to complete sets.
Why this exercise: One arm swing is primarily done with kettlebells, but if you don’t have one around, you can still do it with a DB. This exercise mainly targets your posterior chain muscles. Plus, you’ll also power your grip strength, shoulders muscles, and upper back scapular region.
11. Dumbbell Bench Press
- Start by laying down on a flat bench with one dumbbell in each hand.
- Bring them over your chest as you lay down, elbows bent, and arms fled almost 45 degrees to your torso.
- Lower down both arms so you feel the stretch in your chest. Then push up your arms, squeezing your chest as hard as you can, until your arms are fully extended.
Why this exercise: With this exercise in your routine, you develop your upper body mass and strength. “If dumbbell bench press is not a staple in your push workouts, then you're really missing out on a lot of potential benefits...” says the fitness coach Scott Herman. That's true because dumbbells give more flexibility and stretch in your chest than barbells. Plus, you don't need a spotter.
12. Two-Armed Dumbbell Stiff Legged Deadlift
- Hold one dumbbell in each hand, slightly bend down your knees, and start lowering down only through your waist. You’ll feel stretch in your hamstrings.
- Keeping your back flat, go as far as you can, then return back to the starting position.
(Make sure the grip is strong so you dumbbells don't land on your feet)
Why this exercise: This is so far one of the killer glutes and hamstrings exercises you can do at home. Power your hamstring and glutes muscle fibers, increase their flexibility, and also develop a great mind-and-muscle coordination.
13. Dumbbell Shoulder Press
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand, standing, and feet shoulder-width apart.
- Bring DBs over your shoulders’ height so that your upper arm is parallel to the ground, forming a 90 degree angle with lower arm. That’s your starting position.
- Push up weights above your head until your arms are fully extended.
- Then slowly bring back weights to your starting position.
(Pro tip: always keep your core braced)
Why this exercise: By incorporating this exercise in your workouts, you’ll mainly develop size, power, and strength in your shoulder muscles, triceps, and biceps. What’s the benefit of doing it while standing is that you’ll also hammer your core. But, if you want, you can do the exact same movements while sitting on a bench that has back support.
14. Dumbbell Upright Row
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand so that palms face your body, while standing upright, feet wider than shoulders’ width.
- Pull up using your elbow and shoulder muscles, while keeping DBs closer to your body, until your elbows are parallel to your shoulders’ height.
- Return back slowly and repeat.
Why this exercise: Upright row targets traps, rhomboids, delts, and biceps. Get rid of muscle asymmetries that might have developed while lifting weights. Balance and increase your muscles’ range of motion. Plus, develop muscle strength and hypertrophy in a healthy way.
15. Dumbbell Step Ups
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, and place your left foot on a small height bench or a box, forming a 90 degree angle with your knee.
- While holding your right leg straight on the ground, chest out and shoulders back, push on your left foot to raise your body over the platform.
- Step back, repeat, and change legs in reps.
Why this exercise: Do you want to learn a fail-proof secret to develop killer lower body muscles and strength? Step-ups maximise the power in your hamstrings, glutes, and quad muscles. On top of that, because it’s an unilateral leg exercise, you’ll develop insane body balance and coordination. Great if you’re a runner, boxer, or a deadlifter.
16. Dumbbell Scaption
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and lift them up at your sides.
- Lift, keeping your arms straight, until you start to feel stretch around your shoulders.
- Return back slowly and repeat.
Why this exercise: “Standing dumbbell scaption is a great exercise to help strengthen and stabilize the muscles of your shoulders”, says the Lean TV coach, Brad Gouthro. Include DB scaption in your routine to protect your shoulder joints and also the ligaments from hurting during intense exercises or fights.
17. Dumbbell Lunge
- Grab a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, standing with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Perform a forward lunge with your left leg so that your knee has almost 90 degree bend. And your right leg almost touches the ground.
- Push on the toes of your left leg and step back.
- Repeat and change sides to complete sets.
(Don't put pressure on your knees while pushing back to standing position — always use your toe)
Why this exercise: Put mass and strengthen your core, legs, and glutes. Plus, as you perform this exercise consistently, you'll develop a good balance and shape-up your body.
18. One Leg Dumbbell Deadlift
- Stand straight while holding a dumbbell in each hand so that palms face your body.
- Lift your one leg up backwards slowly, as you do that, slightly bend the other leg and keep it locked there.
- Then learn forward lowering DBs to the floor through your arms.
- Once you reach your max stretch, get back to your starting position.
- Change legs and repeat.
Why this exercise: As a hip-hinge movement, it strengthens your core, legs, and back. The best part, because it requires full-body coordination, you simultaneously improve the balance of your body by targeting your knees, elbows, and ankles.
19. Cross Body Hammer Curl
- Grab a pair of dumbbells in your hands, stand straight feet shoulder-width apart.
- As the name suggests, curl one weight at a time to your chest level.
Why this exercise: Hammer curls are for boosting endurance in muscles, and enhancing power and stability in wrists and grips. Plus, the biggest benefit is you'll be strengthening your shoulders and sizing your biceps.
20. Hollow Body Skull Crusher
- Lay down with your back on the ground while holding a pair of dumbbells in your hands.
- Bring both dumbbells over your shoulders by bending your elbows.
- Press your back on the ground, tighten your abs, raise your legs up at least an inch, and keep them suspended in the air the whole time.
- Then raise your both arms up in the air until fully extended, lifting weights up.
- Slowly bring down weights, keeping control, and repeat.
(Have a strong grip so DBs don't land on your face)
Why this exercise: Do you love those crunchy-aesthetic triceps on Instagram? Well, this is the best dumbbell exercise for triceps to develop those killer looks. But, we don't just go after looks, right?. The head of the fitness BXR London, Olu Adepitan, emphasizes that nicely-developed triceps not only look good but they also aid you in performances, when landing a punch or throwing a ball.
21. Single Dumbbell Shoulder Raise
- Standing straight, hold a dumbbell with your both hands and let it hang in front of you, between your legs.
- Lift it above your shoulder's height, and bring it back slowly.
Why this exercise: Two things: develop strength in your shoulders and size your upper chest. Great for tuning your upper body and enhancing shoulder mobility.
22. Dumbbell Lateral Raise
- Stand up right, feet shoulder-width apart, holding a pair of dumbbells in your hands by your sides.
- Slightly bend your elbows, and lift them at your sides until they're parallel to the ground.
- Come back while taking control of the weights.
(We suggest starting from low-weights and work your way all the way up)
Why this exercise: Stabilize, tone, and develop your shoulders and upper body with this one of the best dumbbell exercises. Might feel hard in the start, but once you master it, it will turn out to be the best investment of your time and effort.
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"I smile in the gym because every rep that I take, I get one more step closer to standing on the stage as a champion", says Mr. Universe.
As Gallant, everyone will tell you that "champions are not born, they're made". And to become a champion, you've got to think like one. Shape-up your vision before your body. Visualise your tomorrows before every rep. Experience the joy before you even achieve your goals. That's how champions think. That's how it works. And that's how you'll become what you've always dreamed of.
We hope our list of the best dumbbell exercises have been fruitful. Share your gains with Gallant at Instagram. We might feature you in our next brand stories. If you love overcoming challenges and hitting as hard as you can, you’re part of the Gallant Squad.