When you think of a dumbbell workout, you might only picture endless repetitions of bicep curls. The fact is, however, dumbbells are a diverse piece of equipment that you can use to strengthen many different muscle groups. If your sides and core muscles -- which run from your shoulders to your thighs -- need a little extra love, you can use your dumbbells to strengthen those muscles with a few key exercises.
Perform the side bend exercises. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and grasp a dumbbell in one hand. Place your other hand on your hip. Brace your core muscles as you lean to each side. First, lean toward the side with the dumbbell, move back to standing, and then lean toward the side with your hand on your hip. Continue moving from one side, pausing in the standing position and then leaning toward the other side.
Perform the chest pullover exercise to work the abdominal muscles. Lie on a flat bench or bench press bench and grasp one dumbbell with both hands. You can either grasp each end of the dumbbell with one hand, or grasp the handle of the dumbbell in a hand-over-hand fashion -- it's really up to you. Extend your arms over your head, brace your core and then carefully arc the dumbbell from the over-head position to a position just above your eyes.
Perform side-lying arm rolls to work the obliques, abdominals and shoulders. Lie on the floor with your knees bent, and your feet and shoulders resting on the floor. Place one arm along your the side of your body and rest that palm on the floor. Grasp a dumbbell in the other hand and extend it straight up from your body, so that the arm is perpendicular to your trunk. Keep the dumbbell arm in this position, working to not move it at all as you roll your trunk toward the arm that is resting on the floor. Stop when your shoulders and knees are stacked on top of one another. Pause for a second, and then engage your core muscles to roll back to the starting position.
Grasp a dumbbell in each hand and position your head and shoulders on an exercise ball with your knees at a 90-degree angle and feet resting on the floor. Without any additional movements, this position forces the core muscles of your back and abdominals to work hard to stabilize yourself. Position the dumbbells just above your shoulders and then press them upward as you would in a bench press. With the use of the exercise ball instead of a bench, your trunk has to work a lot harder as you perform the press exercises.
- Start out with one to two sets of 10 to 12 repetitions of each of these exercises. Aim to do these exercises three times a week, and be sure to give yourself at least a day or two of rest each week to allow your muscles to recuperate and generate new muscle tissue.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.