The 30 Best Dumbbell Exercises of All Time

Whether you’re stuck indoors or making the most of a hotel gym (maybe even your own home gym), there’s no denying the impact of dumbbell exercises. They’re incredibly versatile, allowing you to target the full body or work specific parts. Go light to ramp up the intensity of a HIIT circuit. Go heavy to maximize hypertrophy, working through supersets or time under tension. They can take the place of barbells and kettlebells and help you reach your goals, be it weight loss, mass, endurance, or just a more athletic-looking body.


The Best Dumbbell Circuits—and the Kickass Workout Playlists to Go With Them

Not sure how many reps to go with? Use our rep range guide. We highlight the benefits for using high reps (15+), low reps (5 or less), and moderate reps (8-12) depending on your goals. Check out our favorite 30 dumbbell exercises below. Work them into your workouts and start seeing results.

If you’re in the market for adjustable dumbbells, try Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells or NordicTrack Adjustable Dumbbell Set.


The 7 Best Adjustable Dumbbells You Can Buy

To get you inspired, here are some of our top dumbbell-only workouts:

The 10 Best At-Home Workouts
15-minute Workout for Busy Guys
10 Workouts You Can Do With Just 2 Dumbbells

1. Goblet Squat

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hold a heavy dumbbell by its end with both hands at chest, to start. Squat as low as you can, keeping back flat and chest up. At the bottom of the squat, drive through heels to return to start. That’s 1 rep. Repeat.

Pro tip: You can also try sumo squats, tempo squats, and jump squats (light weight)

James Michelfelder

2. Stepup

Stand perpendicular to a bench or other elevated surface that’ll put your thigh parallel to the floor when you step on it, to start. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and step up onto the bench, leaving your trailing leg hanging of. Drive through your front heel to stand. Pause briefly, then slowly lower to starting position. That’s 1 rep. Repeat.

Pro tip: You can also stand parallel to the bench and perform lateral stepups

Beth Bischoff

3. Turkish Getup

Lie faceup on the ground holding a dumbbell in your left hand with arm extended, eyes on the weight, left knee bent with foot planted, to start. Keep your right leg straight out on the ground. Then, pushing off your left foot, roll onto your right hip and come up onto your right elbow. Push up onto your right hand, and bring your back off the ground. Next, thread your right leg back into a kneeling position. Your arm should still be locked out. From this kneeling position, take a deep breath, tighten your core, and lunge forward to a standing position. Reverse the process to come back down to the starting position. That’s 1 rep. Repeat. 

James Mithelfender

4. Pullover

Lie on your back on the floor and hold a dumbbell by its ends overhead with both hands, to start. Press the weight over your chest, then reach back over your head, bending your elbows slightly. Continue until you feel a stretch in your lats, then pull the dumbbell back over your chest. Take a deep breath every time you lower the dumbbell behind you. That’s 1 rep. Repeat.

Beth Bischoff

5. Walking Lunge

Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing one another, to start. Step forward with one leg and lower your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor and your front thigh is parallel to the floor. That’s 1 rep. Step forward with your rear leg to perform the next rep. Repeat.

Beth Bischoff

6. Lateral Lunge

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing one another, to start. Step laterally to one side, bending this knee to come into a lunge as you lower the dumbbells toward the ground. Drive through your foot to return to the starting position. That’s 1 rep. Repeat, then switch sides. 

James Mithelfender

7. Lunge to Overhead Press

Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding two dumbbells at shoulder level with palms facing each other, to start. Step forward into a lunge, lowering your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor and your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Push off your front foot to come back to the starting position, then press the weights overhead. That’s 1 rep. Repeat.

Beth Bischoff

8. Tate Press

Lie back on a bench or flat, sturdy surface with dumbbells in each hand, arms extended over your chest and palms facing your feet, to start. Point your elbows out and bend them to lower the weights almost to your chest, so they make L shapes. Extend your elbows to return to starting position. That’s 1 rep. Repeat.

Beth Bischoff

9. Floor Press

Lie on the floor, holding dumbbells at your chest, to start. Slowly lower your upper body to the floor, then extend your arms so dumbbells are in a bench press position. Lower elbows to the floor, making sure to keep tension in your lats so upper arms are at 45 degrees to your torso. When elbows touch the floor, extend arms to the starting position. That’s 1 rep.

Beth Bischoff

10. Arnold Press

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, a soft bend in your knees, holding dumbbells in front of your forehead, elbows at 90 degrees and palms facing you. Slowly open your arms wide so elbows are still at right angles but hands are now facing out, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you perform a military press (shown). Reverse the pattern. That’s 1 rep. Repeat. 

James Michelfelder

11. Squat to Press

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding the dumbbells at shoulder level, to start. Squat as low as you can without losing the arch in your lower back. Come back up and press the weights overhead.

Beth Bischoff

12. Seated Military Press

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart (or slightly narrower), and hold dumbbells at your sides, to start. Explosively heave the dumbbells up to your shoulders—a motion called a clean—or simply bring them slowly to shoulder level. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and stabilize your core as you press the weights overhead and slightly backward so they’re vertically aligned with the back of your head. Hold at the top for a moment, then lower back to your shoulders. That’s 1 rep. Repeat. 

Beth Bischoff

13. High Pull

Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding two dumbbells in front of your body with palms facing you, to start. Bend your knees and hinge at your hips so the weights hang just above your knees. Explosively extend your hips as if jumping and pull the weights up to shoulder level with elbows wide apart, as in an upright row. That’s 1 rep. Repeat.

Beth Bischoff

14. Romanian Deadlift

Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding two dumbbells in front of your body with palms facing you, to start. Keeping your lower back in its natural arch, bend hips back, your torso forward, and lower yourself until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. You may bend at the knees. Reverse the movement to return to the starting position, squeezing your glutes at the top. That’s 1 rep. Repeat.

Beth Bischoff

15. Thruster

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart with dumbbells in the front-rack position, to start. Keeping weights near shoulders, lower into a squat, then explosively stand to rise, activating glutes, pressing hips forward, and locking out knees; use the momentum to help drive the weights overhead, palms facing each other. Immediately reverse the motion, lowering weights to front-rack position and transitioning into a squat. That’s 1 rep. Repeat.

Pete Thompson

16. Bulgarian Split Squat

Stand lunge-length in front of a bench with a dumbbell in each hand and rest the top of your left foot on the bench behind you, to start. Lower your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor and your front thigh is parallel to the floor, then drive through your front foot to return to start. That’s 1 rep. Repeat. 

James Michelfelder

17. Strict Curl

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms extended straight down with dumbbells at your sides, palms facing one another, and your back against a wall, to start. Perform alternating curls by rotating your forearms and flexing the elbows. Squeeze your biceps at the top, then lower back to the start position. That’s 1 rep. Alternate sides.

Prostock-studio / Shutterstock

18. Wrist Curl

Hold a dumbbell in each hand and sit on a bench, box, or chair, resting your forearms on your thighs, allowing your wrists to bend back over your knees so the weights hang down, to start. Curl the dumbbells up by just flexing your wrists. That’s 1 rep. Repeat.

Beth Bischoff

19. Hammer Curl

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart (or slightly narrower) with arms extended at sides, dumbbells hanging at either side of your body, palms facing one another, to start. Maintain this neutral grip as you curl the dumbbells straight up, pause and squeeze your biceps at the top, then lower back down. That’s 1 rep. Repeat. 

Beth Bischoff

20. Renegade Row

Begin in a pushup position, holding dumbbells on the floor in a neutral grip, to start. Perform a pushup on the dumbbells, then immediately perform a one-arm, neutral-grip row. Repeat the pushup and row on the other side. That’s 1 rep. Repeat. 
 

James Michelfelder

21. Bentover Row

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hinge forward at the hips, arms extended with dumbbells hanging straight down, to start. Row the weights up to your torso, keeping elbows tucked in line with your body. Reverse motion to return to start. That’s 1 rep. Repeat. 

Beth Bischoff

22. Reverse Flye

Stand with feet hip-width apart and hinge at your hips, arms extended with palms facing one other, to start. Raise your arms out to your sides, creating 90-degree angles, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top. Pause, then reverse the motion. That’s 1 rep. Repeat. 

Beth Bischoff

23. Overhead Triceps Extension

Sit on a bench holding one dumbbell with both hands by one of its bell ends, to start. Press the weight straight over your head. Keeping your upper arms vertical, bend your elbows and lower the dumbbell behind your head until you feel a stretch on the triceps. Extend your elbows to return to start. That’s 1 rep. Repeat. 

James Michelfelder

24. Side Plank With Lateral Raise

Lie on your left side, resting your left forearm on the floor for support, holding a dumbbell in your right hand, to start. Raise your hips up so your body forms a straight line and brace your core—your weight should be on your left forearm and the edge of your left foot. Raise the weight in your right hand until your arm is parallel to the floor. Lower to the start position. That’s 1 rep. Complete all reps on one side, then switch.

Beth Bischoff

25. Woodchop

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees bent so thighs are parallel to the floor, maintaining a flat back, holding a dumbbell in both hands, to start. Bring the weight to the outside of one thigh. Twist your torso to the opposite side, as you lift the weight across your body with straight arms and come to stand. Your eyes should follow the dumbbell, which will end up above your opposite side’s shoulder (shown). Reverse the motion to return to the starting position. Move slowly, using your core. That’s 1 rep. Repeat. 

Justin Steele for Men’s Journal

Whether you’re stuck indoors or making the most of a hotel gym (maybe even your own home gym), there’s no denying the impact of dumbbell exercises. They’re incredibly versatile, allowing you to target the full body or work specific parts. Go light to ramp up the intensity of a HIIT circuit. Go heavy to maximize hypertrophy, working through supersets or time under tension. They can take the place of barbells and kettlebells and help you reach your goals, be it weight loss, mass, endurance, or just a more athletic-looking body. […]Read More

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