Best Dumbbell exercises have been the bread and butter of weight training for decades. They’re compact, versatile, cost-effective and can be used just about anywhere to get a full-body workout that’s incredibly efficient.
In this article, we’ll be exploring 30 of the best dumbbell exercises that you can do at home or in your gym. All you need is a set of hex dumbbells and a sturdy workout bench! While some dumbbell exercises may seem elementary, they’re all important parts of a holistic workout plan to build muscle and get lean. So whether it’s chest day or back day, there’s going to be something below for everyone. Enjoy…
The Best Dumbbell Exercises
1. Lat Pulldown
The lat pulldown is one of the most useful compound pulling movements out there because it works the upper back/lats as well as engaging many other big muscles such as your biceps, forearms and shoulders too. When performed correctly, it’s a good lat builder that will help you pack on some serious size. You can perform these in 3 rep ranges to vary things which are quite popular right now – 8-10, 10-12 and 12-15 reps. A good formula is to do 3 sets of each so you get a decent amount of volume without going too heavy too soon.
2. Incline Curl
The incline curl is an isolation exercise for your biceps that targets the long head – the outer bicep head which people tend to have more success with. When performed correctly on a steep incline bench it can be a great move for building bigger biceps as well as developing some arm definition. Be strict with this one and keep those elbows pinned into your sides!
3. Front Raise
The front raise primarily targets the anterior deltoid but it can also help you develop thicker triceps too if performed correctly. This compound move is great for hitting all 3 heads of your shoulders so try and keep those dumbbells as still as possible throughout this one – you’ll notice the difference when you try it with a bit of body! Stand upright holding a dumbbell in each hand by your sides. – Slowly raise the dumbbells in front of your body to around shoulder level then lower back down slowly under control but no further.
4. Lateral Raise
The lateral raise is a great isolation exercise for targeting the posterior deltoid head which helps add some serious roundness and width to this area if done correctly with good form. For best results, keep those elbows pinned in tight throughout this move so that you can get the most from all 3 heads of your shoulder muscles. Be warned though – these are a burner so don’t go too heavy too soon!
5. Chest Flye (Machine)
This is an exercise where you hold 2 separate handles attached to cables before pulling them together at one end into an arc motion behind your body. This works the chest muscles very well but it’s also good for developing scapular retraction strength which can reduce shoulder impingement issues.
6. Bent Over Row (Machine)
The bent-over row is an extremely popular workout move because it targets all 3 heads of the deltoid muscle which gives it an aesthetic appeal as well as having functional benefits too. It’s also a good move for developing good posture so if you’re looking to stand taller and with more confidence, this is an excellent choice.
7. Overhead Triceps Extension
The overhead triceps extension is an effective compound move that targets the triceps muscles on the back of your arms. It also helps improve shoulder stabilization and can help reduce injuries in these areas too. If you’re looking to blow up this area quickly, look no further than this one!
8. Upright Row
Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing in towards your body. Stand nice and upright before slowly raising the weight to chin height using just your shoulder muscles. Keep those elbows fixed at this angle during this movement so that you isolate the deltoid muscles well! Make sure to maintain good form throughout by keeping your head up, back straight and also being careful not to lean forwards when executing this move.
9. Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise
This is a compound exercise where you hold a single dumbbell in one hand while leaning slightly forward from the waist at a 45-degree angle. Keeping your elbow locked at 90 degrees, lower the weight backwards and down to your gluteus (bum) muscles before pushing up and forwards powerfully until it reaches back over your head again. Repeat!
10. Seated Shoulder Press (Machine)
This is an exercise where you push a single dumbbell up over your head using only the muscles of your shoulder. It’s another one that will help improve good posture so if you’re after a slimmer, more confident looking upper body, this is a must!
11. Bent Over Row (Dumbbell)
This is a compound exercise where you pull a single dumbbell upwards until it touches your body at the bottom of the movement. It’s an effective way to target all those pulling muscles including your biceps, lats and forearms for sexy results!
12. Plank Press Up
This compound exercise involves a top half press-up movement where your feet are placed firmly onto the floor with the hands supporting you in a press-up position. Your core muscles will get a great workout from this move if they’re strong enough to keep everything locked into place throughout the entire procedure!
13. Concentration Curl
This is an isolation exercise where you sit on the floor with your back against a weight bench or wall, feet placed firmly onto the ground with one hand holding the dumbbell directly in front of you. The other arm is then bent at 90 degrees and held out to the side for balance before starting the lift. It’s best to do these seated down for full control throughout if you can!
14. Tricep Kickback
This isolation exercise is where you sit on the floor with both legs bent at 90 degrees and feet placed firmly onto the ground with your one arm extended out straight behind you holding a dumbbell for support. The other arm is then brought in towards your body until it gets almost level with that first arm before starting the lift making sure you keep good balance throughout. It’s best to do these seated down for full control if you can!
15. Bent Over Curl
This is a compound exercise where you sit on the floor facing away from a weight bench or wall, legs extended out straight behind you holding one dumbbell between both hands in front of your body. The offside arm is then brought in towards your body until it gets almost level with that first arm before starting the lift making sure you keep good balance throughout as well as keeping the upper torso upright at all times too!
16. Lying, Curl
This is an isolation exercise where you lie face down on a bench or similar then curl one dumbbell upwards towards your shoulder as if starting a bicep curl until the forearm is locked out at right angles to the upper arm before slowly returning that weight downwards to finish completely flat again making sure you squeeze those biceps muscles hard along the way. It’s best to do these flat on your back for full control if you can!
17. Wide Row
This isolation exercise is where you sit on a weight bench or similar with legs extended out straight in front of you holding one dumbbell in each hand at either side, arms fully extended upwards towards ceiling gripping handle tightly making sure there are no spaces between shoulders, wrists and elbows as you go. The working arm is then slowly lowered back down to your side, making sure that elbow stays locked into place but you also keep good balance throughout as well as squeezing those back muscles tight at all times too!
18. Tricep Press-Up
This is a compound exercise where you lie face down on the floor with feet resting firmly onto the ground shoulder-width apart holding one dumbbell in both hands at either side of your head. The working arm is then slowly raised up off the ground towards the ceiling before being bent backwards into a right angle to finish standing tall again, squeezing those triceps muscles nice along the way making sure that elbow doesn’t lockout!
19. Bent Over Row
This is a compound exercise where you stand tall with feet hip-width apart holding dumbbells in both hands between your legs. You then bend one leg to lower down into a half squat before starting to pull the weights up towards the waistline squeezing back muscles tight at all times before slowly lowering the weight back down again. The other leg should be kept straight throughout moving it out of the way briefly every now and then if necessary and you can also turn the torso slightly sideways as you lift too for better balance and full control over each rep along the way.
20. Zottman Curl
This is an isolation exercise where you stand tall holding dumbbells in both hands with palms facing inwards towards each other. You then curl weights forwards until halfway when you move them quickly backwards again making sure that wrists are still flat but elbows do lockout allowing you to completely engage back muscles more intensely as well as feeling that burn!
21. Arnold Press
This is an isolation exercise where you stand tall with feet hip-width apart gripping dumbbells by your side. You then use palms-on first pushing them up overhead until nearly straight before rapidly bringing them back down again on the other side, moving arms slightly around shoulders and rotating wrists through it too for better range of movement throughout.
22. Bent Over Flye
This is an isolation exercise where you stand looking forward holding dumbbells in both hands above the head with elbows out wide. You then lower weights down to either side while maintaining good posture ensuring that elbows never bend more than 90 degrees pulling all way down to the waistline squeezing shoulder blades together tightly before bringing the weight back up towards the head one final time at the same steady pace.
23. Bicep Curl
This is an isolation exercise where you stand with feet shoulder-width apart gripping dumbbells by your side. You then go into a standing curl by curling both arms uptight towards shoulders making sure that wrists are still bent slightly backwards throughout the movement and once you reach the top contracted position, slowly begin lowering the weight back down again for 3-4 seconds under control before beginning next rep.
24. Chest Flye
This is an isolation exercise where you lie on a bench holding dumbbells out to either side of your chest with palms facing inwards towards each other so elbows are pointing upwards. You then squeeze weights together keeping arms just short of being locked out as you bring them down to either side until almost reaching the nipple line for great chest expansion with a squeeze. You then lift weights back up to the top contracted position resetting first before going into the next rep.
25. Side Lateral Raise
This is an isolation exercise where you stand looking straight forward gripping dumbbells by your side allowing elbows to bend slightly and hanging freely at the sides of the body. From this position you then raise dumbbells out to shoulder height one at a time with no pause at the top, only stopping when hands are directly out on either side of the body. You then lower your weight under control for 3-4 seconds back down again before beginning the next rep.
26. Seated Bicep Curl
This is an isolation exercise where you sit on the bench with a backrest if available or alternatively lean upright against the wall keeping your feet flat on the floor. You then take hold of dumbbells in both hands and pull them up towards shoulders squeezing biceps tightly for maximum contraction before slowly beginning to lower the weight down again in controlled movement over 3-4 seconds until arms are fully extended but not locked out.
27. Tricep Kickback
This is an isolation exercise where you place one knee and one hand onto the bench while the other foot remains flat on the floor for good stability. With your free hand gripping the dumbbell at hip height, the upper arm should be parallel to the ground with the elbow tucked into the side of the body. You then with your arm fixed in a fixed position, squeeze your triceps tightly and bend it backwards fully contracting the muscle for a maximum benefit before slowly straightening back out again under control until the arm is extended but not locked out in the top contracted position.
28. Bicep Curl
This is an isolation exercise where you take hold of dumbbells with palms facing inwards so that both arms are kept close to your chest throughout the movement. With elbows tucked in at sides of the body and upper arms remaining stationary, curl both weights up towards shoulders squeezing biceps tight. Once peak contraction has been reached you lower weight back down again slowly and under control taking 3-4 seconds to complete one rep fully before going into the next rep.
29. Hammer Curl
This is an isolation exercise where you take hold of dumbbells with palms facing inwards at shoulder height so that both arms are kept close to your body throughout the movement. With elbows tucked into the side of the body and upper arm remaining stationary, curl weights up towards shoulders squeezing biceps tight for maximum contraction before slowly lowering back down again under control taking 3-4 seconds per rep doing this movement.
30. Deltoid Raise
This is an isolation exercise where you stand looking straight forward gripping dumbbells by your side using thumbs of each hand to support weight allowing elbows to bend slightly and hang freely at the sides of the body. From this position you then raise dumbbells out to shoulder height one at a time with no pause at the top, only stopping when hands are directly out on either side of the body. You then lower your weight under control for 3-4 seconds back down again before beginning the next rep.
There are so many benefits to using dumbbells for exercise, which is why it’s important that you know how to use them correctly. The best way to do this is by following the 30 different best dumbbell exercises. Whether your goal is to bulk up, tone your muscles or just stay in shape, these moves will help you get there.
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