Dumbbells are an incredible fitness tool, because with just a few pounds you can strengthen and tone muscles from head to toe with just a few moves. Compared with other weights, dumbbells might actually provide you with a better workout because they force your muscles to engage even more for you to maintain balance and instability.
Your schedule is already packed. When it comes to working out, you want to be as efficient and effective as possible. A study in the “Journal of Sports Science” in 2011 found that when the chest press is performed with a dumbbell, instead of a barbell or a Smith machine, greater muscular activity is produced in the shoulders and chest muscles. When selecting dumbbells, choose a weight where you reach muscle fatigue by 10 to 12 repetitions. Aim to do two sets of each exercise.
Strengthening your upper body doesn’t have to equal adding bulk. A few toning moves can build lean muscle mass that will improve everything from throwing a ball in the office softball tournament to rocking a strapless dress at an upcoming wedding. The main muscles in your upper body are your chest, shoulders, triceps, biceps and back. Examples of dumbbells exercises for your upper body include front raises, bicep curls, triceps kickbacks, bent-over rows and bench press.
A sleek pair of legs never goes out of style. The major muscles in your legs are your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. Fortunately, several dumbbell moves work as multitaskers and target all these muscles simultaneously. The traditional squat engages all these muscles plus a few more muscles in your core. Another effective lower body move is the dumbbell lunge. If you want to target your calf muscles individually, try the standing dumbbell calf raise.
To get a strong, flat stomach, you need to do more than crunches. This staple move only works one of the four muscles in your abdomen, your rectus abdominis. Other abdominal muscles are your transverse abdominis and internal and external obliques. To target your rectus abdominis and obliques, do crunches on an incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand. You want to lie so your head is at the foot of the bench and your legs are up at the top. Extend arms straight up and out from your chest, forming a straight line from your shoulders to your wrist. Engage your core and raise your torso up from the bench three to five inches, return to the start and repeat. For other dumbbell ab moves, grab a stability ball and do dumbbell flyes, overhead triceps extensions and dumbbell presses.
- Journal of Sports Science: A Comparison of Muscle Activity and 1-Rm Strength of Three Chest-Press Exercises with Different Stability Requirements
- ExRx.net: Exercise and Muscle Dictionary
- ExRx.net: Dumbbell Squat
- ExRx.net: Dumbbell Lunge
- BodyBuilding.com: Standing Calf Raises
- ExRx.net: Dumbbell Push Crunch
- The American Council on Exercise: Ab Exercises
Fitzalan Gorman has more than 10 years of academic and commercial experience in research and writing. She has written speeches and text for CEOs, company presidents and leaders of major nonprofit organizations. Gorman has published for professional cycling teams and various health and fitness websites. She has a Master of Arts from Virginia Tech in political science and is a NASM certified personal trainer.