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Dumbbell Exercises

The following are details of various exercises that can be performed using dumbbells.

Exercises

Decline dumbbell bench press

Muscles - Pectoralis Major (lower chest), Anterior Deltoids

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand using an overhand grip while sitting at the high end of a decline bench
  • Rest the dumbbells in an upright position on the knees
  • Lie on the flat bench, simultaneously bringing the dumbbells to a position where they are held at the sides of the torso at chest level
  • Raise the dumbbells to a position of straight arm's length (elbows not locked)
  • At this point, the dumbbells are held directly over the chest area, in contact with each other, with palms facing forward
  • Slowly bend the arms and lower the dumbbells until they are at either side of the chest
  • Dumbbells are lowered to a position where a comfortable but maximum stretch is achieved
  • Raise the dumbbells from the sides of the chest to the starting position
Bench Press Bench Press

Incline dumbbell bench press

Muscles - Pectoralis Minor (upper chest), Anterior Deltoids

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand using an overhand grip while sitting at the edge of the incline bench
  • Rest the dumbbells in an upright position on the knees
  • Lie on the incline bench, simultaneously bringing the dumbbells to a position where they are held at the sides of the torso at chest level
  • Raise the dumbbells to a position of straight arms length (elbows not locked)
  • At this point, the dumbbells are held directly over the upper chest, in contact with each other, while the palms are facing forward
  • Slowly bend the arms and lower the dumbbells until they are at either side of the chest
  • Dumbbells are lowered to a position where a comfortable stretch is achieved
  • Raise the dumbbells from the sides of the chest to the starting position
Incline Bench Press Incline Bench Press

Standing dumbbell side laterals

Muscles - Medial Deltoids

  • Stand with back straight, knees slightly bent, and feet slightly less than shoulder-width apart
  • Keep back erect and elbows slightly flexed throughout the entire movement
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand using an overhand grip, with palms facing each other
  • Press dumbbells together approximately 4 to 6 inches in front of the hips
  • Keeping elbows slightly bent, raise the dumbbells laterally, in an arc toward the ceiling until arms are parallel to the floor, and hold briefly
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position
Side Lats Side Lats

Standing dumbbell bent laterals

Muscles - Posterior Deltoids, Medial Deltoids, upper Trapezius

  • Stand with back straight, knees bent, and feet shoulder-width apart
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand using an overhand grip, with palms facing each other
  • Bend at the hips until back is parallel to the floor and arms are hanging down in an extended position (arms perpendicular to the floor)
  • Keeping elbows slightly bent, raise the dumbbells laterally in an arc-like motion until arms are parallel to the floor
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position
Bent Lats Bent Lats

Standing front dumbbell raises (alternate)

Muscles - Anterior deltoids

  • Stand with back straight, knees slightly bent, and feet slightly less than shoulder-width apart
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand using an overhand grip with palms facing downward
  • Let arms hang straight down at the sides, holding the dumbbells approximately 2 to 4 inches from upper thigh level
  • Keeping elbows slightly bent throughout the entire movement, raise the left dumbbell from upper thigh level to eye level, and slowly lower dumbbell to starting position
  • Repeat the movement with the right dumbbell
Front Raise Front Raise

Incline seated dumbbell curls (alternate)

Muscles - Biceps Brachii

  • Lie on an incline bench with back pressed firmly against the padding and feet flat on the floor
  • Hang arms down at the sides, holding a dumbbell in each hand with an underhand grip (palms facing upward)
  • Slowly curl the left dumbbell toward your left shoulder
  • When maximum biceps contraction occurs, slowly lower the dumbbell to the starting position
  • Repeat with the right arm
Curls Curls

Seated one arm triceps extension

Muscles - Triceps Brachii

  • Sit on a flat bench with feet flat on the floor
  • Hold a dumbbell with an overhand grip (palms are facing forward throughout the entire movement)
  • Hold the dumbbell overhead with the arm fully extended
  • Lower the dumbbell until the forearm is parallel to the floor
  • At this point, the dumbbell is positioned behind the neck (end position)
  • Without bouncing the weight at the bottom of the movement, slowly extend the dumbbell to the starting position and repeat the movement until the desired number of repetitions is completed
  • Repeat for the other hand
Tricep Extension Tricep Extension

One arm dumbbell rows (alternate)

Muscles - Latissimus Dorsi, Biceps, Brachialis, Trapezius (mid)

  • Hold a dumbbell with the right hand, using an overhand grip (palm facing the body)
  • Rest the left knee on a flat bench. Right leg should be flexed with the foot flat on the floor
  • Bend forward at the hips and stabilize the body with a straightened left arm
  • At this point, the torso should be nearly parallel to the floor
  • The dumbbell in the right hand is held at full arm's length
  • Keeping the elbow close to the torso, pull the dumbbell upward in a straight vertical line, allowing it to lightly touch the rib cage
  • Slowly lower the dumbbell to the starting position, and repeat the movement until the desired number of repetitions is completed
  • Repeat for the left hand
Row Row

Lunges with dumbbells

Muscles - Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Gluteal muscles

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand with an underhand grip (palms facing the torso)
  • Hold the dumbbells at the sides of the body with arms fully extended (palms facing your torso)
  • Step forward with the lead leg, keeping the back erect
  • Bend the knee of lead leg until it has reached a 90 degree angle
  • At this point, the knee of the back leg should be approximately 2 to 3 inches from the floor
  • When fully lowered, push forcefully with the lead leg and return to the starting position
  • Repeat the exercise with your other leg, and continue to alternate until the desired number of repetitions is completed
  • Remember that a shorter lead step allows more emphasis to be placed on the quadriceps muscles and a larger step places more emphasis on the gluteal and hamstring muscles
Lung Lung

Standing one leg heel raises

Muscles - Soleus & Gastrocnemius

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand with an underhand grip (palms facing the torso)
  • Stand with back erect, knees slightly bent
  • Balance on one leg
  • Raise the heel off the ground to balance on the ball of the foot
  • Slowly lower the heel to the ground
  • Repeat the exercise with the other leg
Calf Raise  

Squats

Muscles - Rectus Femoris

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand with an underhand grip (palms facing the torso)
  • Stand with back erect, knees slightly bent, and feet shoulder width apart
  • Arms fully extend at the side of the body
  • Lower the body until the thighs are parallel with the ground
  • Straighten the legs to return to the start position
Squat Squat

Wrist Curls

Muscles - Forearm flexors

  • Hold a dumbbell with an underhand grip (palm facing upward)
  • Sit on the end of a bench, feet flat on the floor
  • Allow the forearm to lie on the thigh with the wrist and hand hanging over the end of the knee
  • Allow the dumbbell to be lowered until it is rolled into the fingers
  • Using the forearm muscles raise the dumbbell by flexing the fingers and curling the wrist
  • Lower the weight to the start position
  • Repeat for required number of repetitions
  • Repeat with the other hand
Wrist Curl Wrist Curl

Wrist Extensions

Muscles - Forearm flexors

  • Hold a dumbbell with an overhand grip (palm facing downward)
  • Sit on the end of a bench, feet flat on the floor
  • Allow the forearm to lie on the thigh with the wrist and hand hanging over the end of the knee
  • Allow the dumbbell to be lowered until it is rolled into the fingers
  • Using the forearm muscles raise the dumbbell by curling the wrist
  • Lower the weight to the start position
  • Repeat for required number of repetitions
  • Repeat with the other hand
Wrist Extension Wrist Extension

Associated References

The following references provide additional information on this topic:

  • CHUI, E. (1950) The effect of systematic weight training on athletic power. Research Quarterly. American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, 21 (3), p. 188-194
  • BAECHLE, T. R., and EARLE, R. W. (2012). Weight training: steps to success. Human Kinetics
  • CAPEN, E. K. (1950). The effect of systematic weight training on power, strength, and endurance. Research Quarterly. American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, 21 (2), p. 83-93

Page Reference

The reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (1997) Dumbbell Exercises [WWW] Available from: http://www.brianmac.co.uk/dumexer.htm [Accessed

Associated Pages

The following Sports Coach pages should be read in conjunction with this page: