Step foot into any commercial gym and you'll see them. Depending on their age, you'll see rows and rows of grey, black, or rubber matte - maybe a little rust color to add character.
The untrained eye could easily mistake them for big hammers, but you know that what we're describing is your typical set of dumbbells sitting on top of the racks.
Usually nestled under a big mirror, dumbbells always have a home in any serious gym - commercial or home gym.
It goes without saying that if you have any interest in fitness and you have access to them, you need to incorporate dumbbell training into your program.
Dumbbells are one of the oldest and most versatile pieces of fitness equipment available, and they can provide a great workout for every muscle group.
In this article, we'll discuss what dumbbell training is, the benefits of dumbbell training, and why it's so important. We'll also provide a list of the best exercises to target each muscle group.
What is Dumbbell Training?
Dumbbell training involves one type of fitness equipment: the dumbbell. This is a handheld weight that is quickly recognized by its characteristic shape and design: a handle that has an equal amount of weight on each end.
To say dumbbells are versatile would be an understatement. Dumbbells can be manipulated in every plane of motion to ensure you activate major and secondary muscle groups. There's a lot you can do with dumbbell alone and with other equipment.
You can combine dumbbells with different pieces of fitness equipment such as a flat, incline or decline bench. For an intense challenge, you can put greater emphasis on the eccentric (lowering) portion of your lifts by wrapping a resistance band around the dumbbell and holding the other end of the band with your foot.
Dumbbells tend to be a first choice for beginners and a staple for veteran lifters alike because of how easily they can be used in fitness programs.
The Importance of Dumbbell Training
Given that you can choose from barbells, kettlebells, cable machines, and resistance bands, why are dumbbells, in particular, so important?
Outside of convenience and cost, dumbbell training is important for beginners. When you first start lifting, you are probably going to feel awkward. Your body will be learning how to work with itself to accomplish the task at hand: lifting the weights correctly.
After a few months of consistent work, you'll see giant leaps in your progress and weightlifting will feel more natural to you. Dumbbells play an important role in this as they help both sides and halves of your body learn how to cooperate and act on their own.
Dumbbells demand that each side of the body pull its own weight. A barbell, on the other hand, can mask and enable strength imbalances and overcompensation issues. This is important for both those who are new to weightlifting and experienced lifters who are experiencing imbalances and overcompensation issues.
Benefits of Dumbbell Training
Dumbbells offer a number of advantages over other types of weightlifting equipment. Here are some of the benefits of dumbbell training:
Great for Any Goal
One of the best things about dumbbells is that they can be used for any fitness goal, whether you're trying to gain muscle, lose fat, or train for a sport.
While there has been a spike in fitness prices due to supply-chain issues, a good set of dumbbells is still relatively inexpensive.
It's important to compare the cost of a dumbbell set to what you'd pay each month for a gym membership. Often, you're able to recoup the cost of the gym membership within a year of purchasing the dumbbells.
Dumbbells are convenient for a few reasons: First, you don't have to travel to the gym to get a great workout in - you can do it right at home.
Second, you're saving yourself the frustration and stress of battling traffic in order to get to the gym. Additionally, you don't have to worry about waiting for equipment to open up or dealing with crowds.
Finally, they take up minimal space in a room. For example, if you purchase adjustable dumbbells, you'll need the same amount of space a small end table takes up.
Best Exercises for Dumbbell Training
Now that we've talked the benefits of dumbbell training, let's go over some of the best exercises for each muscle group.
The exercises that we'll cover can all be performed on one side at a time. This ties into what we talked about earlier as one-sided exercises strengthen neuromuscular connections, reduce or eliminate strength imbalances, and help to correct overcompensation issues.
If you incorporate any of the following exercises into your routine, try doing one or two of them with only one side. You'll see a huge difference.
Shoulders: We recommend the shoulder press as this compound movement is one of the most effective exercises for targeting the shoulders. You can do this exercise seated or standing.
Chest: The classic dumbbell bench press is one of the best exercises for targeting the chest muscles. You can do this exercise lying down on a bench with an incline or decline to target different sections of the pecs.
Back: The bent over dumbbell row is an excellent exercise for targeting the back muscles. We recommend you do this exercise without holding on to a bench as you see many people do as this can increase your risk for a hernia.
Biceps: The dumbbell curl is a great exercise for targeting the biceps. You can do this exercise seated or standing. For variation, try doing them with an alternating grip or using a supinated grip.
Triceps: The overhead dumbbell triceps extension is a classic triceps builder. You can do this exercise holding one large dumbbell or two smaller dumbbells in each hand.
Quadriceps: The dumbbell lunge is an excellent exercise for targeting the leg muscles, specifically the quads and glutes.
Hamstrings: If you're going after your hamstrings, you can't go wrong with Romanian deadlifts. This is a fantastic hamstring builder for both muscle and strength.
Core: The dumbbell Russian twist is an excellent way to target your core muscles. This exercise can be done with or without weight. Burn out with weight and then do another set immediately after using your bodyweight.
Get Started with Dumbbell Training
Ready to get started with dumbbell training but you don't have a program? We love dumbbell training and include them in our military workout programs. We have a workout for every goal, whether you are preparing for a selection course, building muscle, or shredding fat.
Best of all, you can easily switch out a bodyweight or barbell-variation of an exercise for a dumbbell-based exercise.