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How To Workout With Only Dumbbells

The 19 Most Productive Dumbbell Exercises

For most people, particularly those working out at home, the single best piece of equipment you can own is a set of adjustable dumbbells. They are fairly inexpensive, considering that with proper care, they can last a lifetime as well as very portable.

You can pickup a used pair fairly cheaply at a second-hand sports store or buy an adjustable set such as those from Ironmaster.  For most people, a set ranging from 20 to 80 pounds will suffice.

Previously discussed, the advantages of dumbbells over barbells, machines and even kettlebells were covered, but suffice to say there are some massively effective movements which should become staples in your routine. 

Add These 19 Dumbbell Exercises To Your Routine!

Racked Dumbbell Front Squat

This exercise can perfectly emulate the stress of a barbell front squat without the wrist and forearm strain. Holding a set of dumbbells on top of your shoulders while dropping down into a full squat also gives all of your supporting core muscles a fantastic workout.

Dumbbell Squat

Performing the dumbbell squat with a pair of dumbbells held outside your thighs in either hand can emulate closely what you would get with a trap bar deadlift and very close to a barbell hack squat as well, putting all the stress on the quadriceps, while working your lower back and grip at the same time.

Semi-Sumo Dumbbell Squat

This is an exercise that can be done safely while holding a substantial amount of weight. It is performed while holding the end of a heavy dumbbell in between both hands, between one's legs with a stance just wider than shoulder width, targeting the entire lower body.

Dumbbell Bulgarian Squat

Jeff Cavaliere of ATHLEAN-X fame has referred to this as one of the best exercises for building mass on the thighs. Another massive fan of the rear foot elevated split squat is trainer Mike Boyle. I personally believe it has a lot of carryover for any athletic activities involving powerful quads.

Dumbbell Single Stiff-Leg Deadlift

Perhaps the safest of all deadlifts, do not underestimate the effectiveness of the SSDL on your hamstrings, glutes and low back! It also delivers benefits in terms of proprioception and balance.

Dumbbell Curl-to-Press

One of the best staples in a full body routine, the dumbbell curl-to-press is a very productive movement. All one might need to add for a "mini workout" to this is some push-ups and rows or chins.

Dumbbell Thrusters

Similar to the dumbbell curl-to-press, thrusters are a great way to improve metabolic fitness. Combing it with something like tire flips and push-ups would be another very productive conditioning routine.

Turkish Getup

Possibly one of the best core exercises is the Turkish get-up. Also a great staple for anyone who does any sort of grappling or MMA. It takes some getting used to, so the best way to learn this is to break it down in segments and you will get the hang of it very quickly.

Dumbbell Swings

You don't need a kettlebell to get the fast-twitch muscle fiber benefits of kettlebell swings. These can be done just as easily with a dumbbell, giving you total body conditioning and a stronger posterior chain. Many have just used this as a singular exercise in a fat loss program with great results, as well as improved their postural issues.

One-Arm Dumbbell Snatch

Often we think of dumbbells when we think of isolation exercises and barbells when thinking of explosive movements, but this need not necessarily be the case. A one-arm dumbbell snatch is such an example of a great way to develop explosive power with a dumbbell.

Double Dumbbell Snatch

Similar to a one-arm snatch in terms of building explosive power, the double dumbbell snatch will work the same muscles with an added emphasis on the posterior chain.

One-Arm Dumbbell Clean & Press

Great for developing the forearms, biceps, brachialis, glutes, core stability and upper back, the one-arm dumbbell clean & press is a fantastic low impact, safe way to build explosive power. 

High Plank Dumbbell Rows

One of my own personal staples, this is one of the best rowing movements you can do. It is very challenging and will bring massive benefits in terms of core stability and upper back muscular development. Also one of the best movements to superset or include in a circuit with your favourite type of push-ups.

One-Arm Dumbbell Rows

Much safer than barbell rows and many would even argue better for building mass in the upper back, one-arm dumbbell rows is by far one of the most common exercises you will see performed in any gym. There are many ways you can vary the stress as well, rowing with the elbow back or out, kneeling on a bench or leaning against something, rowing in an up and down pattern to target the very upper back or rowing in a backwards/downwards path to target the lower lat muscles.

Dumbbell Floor Press

Many perform this as a supplementary lift for triceps and lockout strength on the bench press, but the dumbbell floor press can be a standalone staple to replace all presses. If you are one with shoulder issues, it might even be a better option than the bench press.

Standing One-Arm Dumbbell Press

Everyone should do single arm, single leg training, and one of the top unilateral movements you can do is the standing one-arm dumbbell press. It is a great way to build your shoulders and triceps and, you guessed it - core strength and stability.

Dumbbell Glute Bridge

A great companion exercise to dumbbell swings, this is done with holding a heavy dumbbell across the very top of the thighs, while bridging upwards using your glutes.

Cross Bench Dumbbell Pullovers

If you are looking for what could be the single most underrated exercise, pullovers could well be it. They work both chest and back muscles as well as serratus anterior, triceps and shoulders, and also increase thoracic mobility. They are also a very good exercise to superset with military press and dips because of their benefit to thoracic mobility.

Goblet Cossack Squat

Scorch your quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors, glute max/med/min, core and low back with this movement that combines a goblet squat with the Cossack squat. One thing many neglect is training lateral movement, something which helps improve performance and reduce injury.