7 Best Dumbbell Exercises & Workouts

by Matt Wilson
Last Updated: 16/03/2021
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Back in school, while others shrugged their shoulders you were the one kid that was able to raise his hand and give a correct answer.

Now, once again, you want to be the smart kid and know everything there is to know about best dumbbell exercises on the market.

Search no longer because here is the ultimate guide for, not just ordinary dumbbell exercise routines but for the best dumbbell exercises you could try right away

A great advantage that dumbbells bring to the table is that you can have workouts with dumbbells at home.

So, what are the best dumbbell exercises out there? 


In this article, I will cover the best dumbbell exercises you can do if you have.. well, dumbbells. What else did you expect? Are you dumb..bell? 

I will try to cover weight exercises that are beneficial for the full body but also those that trigger only upper arms, lower muscles, chest, shoulder, etc. Also, one arm exercises will be covered.

It is important to know which side of the body is active, when you are holding a dumbbell in one hand, for example. Many people forget about shoulders when they decide to work on their arms. But we will not!

Chest is the one area that has a great portion of muscle potential, waiting to be developed if you are lifting your weights properly.

Precaution Measures 

It is important to rest between sets! Never forget that. Every muscle in your body, even though ready to push or pull stuff when used, can brake at some point, so be careful. 

Best dumbbell exercises are those that can be done with a pair of dumbbells and are responsible for producing the best results over time.

Whether you are doing a bench press, incline bench press, decline bench press, lifting a weight with one hand or choosing to raise the dumbbell over your head with one arm, you try to develop every side of your body equally.

This is important to keep in mind from the start, in order to prevent side-effects of favoritism of one side. Now, let’s go back to the exercise part.  

1. Goblet Squats 

This is my favorite among other dumbbell exercises and is one of the best I will cover. Best dumbbell exercises are easy to do and can help you build strong chest and back muscles.

You want to exercise and feel like a quidditch catcher from the Gryffindor team holding a goblet of fire? You know what you want and I like you already!

Ignore the Harry Potter reference, it is scientifically proven that by doing goblet squats you are increasing your strength and power [1].

To start this exercise, hold a dumbbell with both hands in front of your chest. Your feet should be a little wider than your shoulders, just enough so you could do a squat.

Lower your body and bend your knees (I mean, do a squat) while holding the goblet. You should do 10 repetitions of a goblet squat in 2-3 sets.

Amongst many of its advantages, being beginner friendly for starters, this exercise is targeting arms, calvs, abs, quads, arms and gluteal muscles [2].

If you are a rock climber (or want to become one) this is a practical exercise for hand grip. After few weeks of extensive workout, you might wanna reexamine the intensity of your handshake (you are not a normal handshaker anymore, let face it).

Gym Direct

2. Variations Of Squats

You can do a variation of this exercise by making sure to put your feet shoulder width apart. This will give your dumbbell exercise a sweet twist and create more flexibility of the core.

This exercise is also great when you use the bar with light weights. You can put your hands palms facing the opposite of the bar.

In both weight exercises, your upper body will be activated so make sure you prepare the upper muscles before going into the starting position and repeat this exercise.

3. Farmers Walk (Or Carry.. Or Something)

Ever heard of the Myth of Sisyphus? A greek guy who is pushing the stone to the top of the mountain just to see it fall again so he could do it again and again..

Well, just imagine this Sisyphus is a farmer and is carrying a dumbbell in each hand from one place to another. This is the exercise, like seriously!

While this workout routine, seems rather elementary, it is one of the best when it comes to the ratio between the input and output (in terms of energy and muscle gain)

This dumbbell exercise is the type of exercise you can’t really pinpoint what’s all the fuss about. Starting position is you holding a dumbbell in each hand shoulder with apart and walking around.

As complicated as it sounds, this exercise has simple rules: Walk in a straight line (we must imagine Sisyphus not to be drunk) as fast as you can with breaks after each repetition [3].

Playing With Dumbbells 

Holding dumbbells, shoulder width apart with feet flat on the ground is an exercise in itself (remember the gravity). Bend your knees slightly and you will get another exercise.

Lower the weights on the ground and you will feel the shoulder press on your arms. This is how simple it is to have a different outcome when changing just one variable.

Try holding a dumbbell back just beneath the chest and you will feel the pressure on your shoulders. When you raise the dumbbell or place the dumbbell toward your chest, the same effect will activate shoulders.  

4. Farmers Precautions

Holding a dumbbell in each hand while walking is demanding because you are balancing between the core, legs and your upper body.

Keeping your arms straight you’re putting the pressure on the shoulder muscles. Make sure not to swing the dumbbell too much while walking.

This exercise alone activates harmstings, forearms, triceps, biceps, abs, gluteal muscles and almost all of your body muscles.

5. Dumbbell Bench Press

Bench press is a wonderful workout for developing pectorals, triceps, traps, rhomboids and lats.  

For a starting position, lie on the flat bench, feet shoulder width apart and palms facing each weight when you hold a dumbbell.

When you push the dumbbell over your chest make sure to keep your arms straight. Put the dumbbell into the starting position and repeat the exercise for 9 more reps.

Flat bench with dumbbells is the classic exercise for building a powerful chest. You can do variations of it by changing the position: such as a 45 degree angle bench press or a 30 degree angle bench press.

It is important to keep your back straight in each position and rest between sets. Doing 10 reps per set is an optimal amount if you start with lighter weights.

Make sure to always keep your feet flat on the floor. You can put one hand on the bench palms facing the floor and lift one arm as a warm up before the exercise.  

6. Dumbbell Scaption

Muscles used in this type of exercise include back and shoulder muscles. Stand with a straight back while holding a dumbbell in each arm. You should keep your palms facing forward [4]. 

Raise your arms up and try to keep them completely straight. You should be feeling a strong stretch across your shoulders, when you do, get back to the starting position.

You should decide the number of sets and reps based on your strength and weight of the dumbbells. 

If you are just beginning doing 5 sets with 5 reps in each should be enough for the first couple of workout sessions.

7. Lateral Dumbbell Raises

Doing a dumbbell lateral raise might be similar to a dumbbell scaption or a shoulder press but there are a couple of differences. Lateral raise puts more pressure on the rotator cuff due to the long arm lever. 

Lateral dumbbell raises is one of the best weight exercises for shoulder muscles. 

You should start with standing with your back straight while holding a dumbbell in each arm. Try to brace your core and slowly lift the dumbbells to the side while keeping your back straight. 

You should end in a position where your arms are parallel with the floor and your elbows are slightly bent. Then, slowly lower the dumbbells until you get back to the starting position.

Your goal with this exercise should be to do at least 10 reps while maintaining the perfect form. If the weight of the dumbbells is unmanageable for you try to use the one that is. 

Don’t add excessive weight in order to impress people! Keep your form correct, and do the exercise right if you want to get the full benefit from it.


Can I Build Muscle With Just Dumbbells?

Short answer: Yes, you can. Long answer: It depends on the muscle group you want to build and in what period of time.

Using dumbbells are great for lower back, shoulder muscles and arms. If you are doing a flat bench or a dumbbell bench, you can develop your upper back as well. 

There are many dumbbell exercises that you can do at home. 

Are Dumbbells A Good Workout?

Great thing about dumbbell exercise is that you don’t need to be a gym member and actually leave your home during a covid -19 pandemic. 

Being stuck at home, dumbbell workouts could be just the thing that can lift your spirit and help you develop that powerful muscles you always wanted.

Workout with dumbbells at home is easy if you have enough space for weight  exercises and are able to move around.

There are many dumbbell exercises, in some you need a pair of dumbbells and a bench and you are good to go. For some, you only need one dumbbell which means it’s quite an affordable exercise and yet it gives you so many benefits.

Doing dumbbell exercises are great for working on your chest and left and right sides of your body.

Do Squats With Dumbbells Work?

Let’s get one thing straight: Squats are great for lower body as a body resistance exercise. Adding a dumbbell in each hand while in a starting position for a squat means you are serious about developing your lower body.

As I said earlier when I mentioned goblet squats, hold a dumbbell in front of your upper body. Then, when you do a squat, lower the dumbbells as well.

Lift your body up and lower the dumbbell or weights back up in the starting position. Repeat this exercise for a couple of weeks and you will see the results showing themselves on your whole body.

There is a range of motion that you can try when it comes to your hands or knees. You can move your knees slightly forward to achieve more pressure on the legs.

Your back needs to be straight and your shoulders parallel to the ground. You can put dumbbells behind your head to activate upper back muscles.

What Should You Not Do With Dumbbells?

First of all you definitely shouldn’t throw them at people! 

Now, as far as exercising with dumbbells goes there are a number of mistakes that people make that can have a negative impact on your body and the general effectiveness of the weight exercises that you are doing.

The most common mistake that people make is to do cardio before a workout with dumbbells. They deplete their energy levels, which leads them to rushing through the rest of the workout. So, don’t do that! 

It’s better to do just a couple of reps correctly than to do more of them improperly! Don’t rush through your workout.

Common Mistakes

Before working with weights it’s extremely important to stretch beforehand. Stretching lowers the risk of injury and is a great way to get your blood flowing and improve your flexibility before a workout.

Keep in mind not to let your elbows flail out when you are doing triceps extensions. It makes the exercise easier but it wont give you the best long term results.

While doing overhead presses you shouldn’t arch your lower back! Instead you should be focused on engaging your core and keeping your spine straight as an arrow to get the most benefits out of the exercise and to decrease the risk of injury.

More Mistakes

Another common mistake is to move your head when doing squats. Definitely don’t do that! Keep your head straight (the best way to do this is to focus on something that’s right in front of you).

And the last thing would be not to try and rob a liquor store with dumbbells. Trust me, it does not work.

The Bottom Line

By doing dumbbell exercises you are developing your muscles in a fast and affordable fashion.

Lower the weight if you are a beginner in order to do enough reps the correct way. If you are doing cardio and weight lifting exercises back-to-back ensure not to deplete your energy during cardio.

Try to keep the proper form without rushing through your exercise routine!

Among many weight exercises, squats, bench press, scation, walk and lateral raises are the best for developing your chest, shoulders, each arm, upper and your full body in general.

You can use a couple of dumbbells or a single dumbbell back and forth until you achieve the number of reps you planned for the day.


  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22344061/ 
  2. https://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/leg
  3. https://www.menshealth.com/uk/fitness/a735438/dumbbell-farmers-walk/ 
  4. https://www.menshealth.com/uk/fitness/a752913/dumbbell-scaption/ 
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