You're trapped in a room with nothing but a bench (multiple angles) and a rack of dumbbells.
What is the best all dumbbell workout?
Do you think you would lose a lot of benefit using an all dumbbell workout, or do you think it could actually make a positive impact on results?
Show off your knowledge to the world!
Prizes: 1st place - 75 in store credit. 2nd place - 50 in store credit. 3rd place - 25 in store credit.
1st Place - DoTheRobot
What Is The Best All Dumbbell Workout?
Have you ever found yourself trapped in a room full of dumbbells and the only other piece of equipment is an adjustable bench? I haven't, but in case this ever happens to you I've got you covered.
A rack of dumbbells includes a large range of weight which means a large range of exercises. With all those exercises, you may wonder what the best all dumbbell workout is. It's this one right here.
Note: It is important to be creative with your workout and change it to fit you. You do not have to follow this one exactly and if you feel uncomfortable doing any exercise you should stop to avoid injury. When you attempt this workout, make sure you find your weight to rep range first. You should start light and don't be cocky thinking you can bench the world (this will only get you hurt).
There is a greater variation of exercises for the upper body when using DBs Opposed to Lower Body.
So let's get started with the Upper Body:
Note: When performing the following two chest exercises you can install different variations of the exercises into the workout - for a more advanced workout you should adjust the bench to an incline or decline when performing to hit the upper and lower area of the chest (ex. Add one warm-up set and two sets in the 6-8 rep range for both incline and decline after performing flat bench sets).
DB Bench Press
Use this exercise first to hit your chest, triceps and shoulders. Mainly focus on using your chest when performing this exercise and if you prefer, try gripping the DBs with palms facing inwards (Hammer Dumbbell Bench Press - for me this isolates the chest more).
Beginning with 2 warm-up sets of 12-16 reps then moving on to 2 sets of 6-8 rep max is a good starting point.
This is the next exercise for your chest and if you're not pumped yet this should get you going. When you get to the top of this exercise really try to squeeze your chest. Your palms should always face in when performing this exercise.
Same SETS and rep range as DB bench press.
Note: When performing any shoulder exercise I strongly caution you to start with a light weight to avoid injury (If you hurt your shoulder you most likely won't be performing many upper body workouts for some time).
DB (Military) Press
Since you have already hit the shoulders doing the DB bench press, a warm-up set with these is great to get you going on your shoulders. Do not throw the DBs in the air with momentum.
To start your shoulders off perform 1-2 warm-up sets of about 10-12 reps with a weight you could do 14-16 with.
DB Side Laterals
Use a smooth and controlled motion with these and do not swing your arms up with momentum (will possibly cause injury and won't help your shoulders). You can also try alternating each arm or doing extra reps with one arm if you have a weak side that's holding you down symmetrically.
Start with 2 sets of about 10-12 reps then 2 sets of 6-8 reps.
DB Front Laterals
Perform these just as you did the side laterals only to your front (follow the same rules).
1 warm-up set of 10-12 reps and 2 sets of about 6-8 reps.
Arnold Dumbbell Press
There back to really hit the shoulders. As cautioned before - Focus on form to prevent injury.
1 warm-up set and 2 sets of about 6-8 reps. Also try to throw in a set of Arnold DB presses. These provide a full range of motion for your shoulders (If you prefer them to the military style DB press then do these instead).
Not much is needed to get your traps pumped. Start this exercise with a light weight (I start with 20's) and do at least 20 reps. I don't really judge this exercise on reps, I recommend doing one weight till you feel it and then pick up the DBs that are 10 pounds heavier.
Try to do a few with your head up and then a few with your head forward or down and really squeeze.
Try to do about four sets with the last set to failure.
Note: Always keep you're upper arms and shoulders still, the only movement that should occur when exercising the triceps is in the elbow moving the forearm up and down or back and forth if you really want to isolate this muscle and get a good tricep workout.
Lying DB Tricep Extension
Make sure you keep your elbows, upper arms and shoulders from moving, only your forearms should move. Perform slowly and smoothly.
Perform 2 warm-up sets of 14-16 reps and 2 sets of 8-10 reps.
Seated Triceps Press
This works the triceps in much of the same way as the previous exercise.
Only perform 2 sets of this exercise at 8-10 reps then move on. You can replace this exercise with a similar standing dumbbell triceps extension (you can also perform this and the lying dumbbell extension with one arm at a time alternating, a heavy weight with both arms has worked best for me and feels more comfortable).
Tricep (close hand) Push-ups
Resorting to body weight when you have DBs? My favorite exercise for triceps is tricep pushdowns and since there are no machines you need another exercise that hits the tricep. Keep your body even when you perform these and don't go fast like you would for max reps. Slow and steady with good form should give your tricep a good pump.
2 sets of 10-12 reps and 1 set to failure should be good but if you find this too easy then elevate your feet on the bench.
Tricep DB Kickback
These should really hit all the heads of your triceps; it seems as if someone took the movement of a great triceps pose and turned it into an exercise or vice versa. Try to squeeze at the back of the movement and you should really feel this working your triceps.
In my opinion this is this best tricep DB exercise of all and I would recommend it to anyone who hasn't tried it.
Perform 2 warm-up sets of 8-10 reps and 2 sets of 6-8 reps.
Note: When performing Biceps exercises such as curls, do not fling the weight up. Use slow controlled movements and squeeze at the top while keeping your elbows to your sides.
DB Alternate Curls
Biceps are easy to work with curls of any kind but some hit different parts of the bicep depending on form. Make sure to go slow up and down and squeeze at the top. To work your inner bicep more, bring the DB up and out.
To get your forearms more you can start with your knuckles facing out and as you bring the DB up have them face you.
Do 2 warm-up sets of 10-12 reps per arm and then hit some heavy weights and do 3 sets of 6-8 reps or start the light weights and do about 4-6 then add five pounds - ex: lift 5 pounds-4-6 reps, then 10 pounds at 4-6 reps, then 15 pounds etc. etc. and back down the weight once you can't go any higher - ex: 40 pounds 4-6 reps, then 35 pounds 4-6 etc., etc.
DB Alternate Hammer Curls
If you went with the "OR" set then I would follow it up with these.
Using hammer curls. If you performed plain old curls previously then try reverse curls instead of these and you can get your forearms started.
DB Bent Over Concentration Curls
I was unable to find these on BB.com but love these curls. After seeing Arnold doing them in " Pumping Iron" I was inspired to try them. I don't know if that's the correct name but I will try to explain how to do them anyway.
Face the Bench (flat position) and bend over until your back is parallel to the ground. Place opposite of curl hand on bench for balance. With palm facing in, bring weight to chest, squeeze and then bring it back down to start position.
If this is the first time you have done these curls then start with a light weight and find your rep range. Do 1 warm-up set of 8-10 reps per arm, and then 2 heavy sets for 6-8 reps and a final set with same weight of 6-8 reps or max if less.
DB Concentration Curls
If you have it left in you, concentration curls are next. These really form the height of the bicep and you should notice a drop in rep to weight range.
1 warm-up of 10-12 reps, 1 set of 8-10 reps, 1 of 6-8 reps and a final set of 4-6 reps to finish of your biceps.
Note: Should have tapped into a forearm workout with the biceps workout, especially if you did the reverse curls.
DB Wrist Twist
Hold a DB in each hand and bend your elbows slightly. Now twist your wrist to where you go from an underhand grip to an overhand grip and vice versa. You can perform DB wrist curls if you'd like but these should give you a forearm pump.
I would recommend 2 sets with different weight both till failure.
Note: Don't go to heavy when working your lower back. Back injuries are common but with proper exercise you can help prevent them.
One-Arm DB Row
This is a great exercise for developing your middle back and should be incorporated into any back routine along with the following exercise on the list. As with most pulling and pushing exercises you want to make sure you squeeze when performing this exercise; do it right at the top.
Do 2 warm-up sets in the 10-12 rep range and 1 set of about 8-10 and then with a good squeeze add 2 sets of 4-6 to maybe 8 reps.
Bent Over DB Row
This exercise can be performed with palms facing your thighs or facing in. This is a great mass builder that's perfect for your back.
Since this exercise is following one-arm rows perform 1 warm-up set of 10-12 reps then a drop-set with 4-5 different weights.
Note: Before doing any ab workouts you should stretch your hip flexor muscle; this muscle is used when performing many ab exercises and can be strained easily. A hip flexor strain can cause serious pain and prevent exercise and everyday movement even as minor as walking.
No DBs needed to hit your abs just pick a number (mines 300 for now) and do that many ab workouts with little to no rest before your workout and after your workout, you could even throw it in-between once.
For ex. 20 crunches, 20 reverse crunches, 20 super or double crunches, 100 flutter kicks, 100 scissors, 20 crunches to the left, 20 crunches right, 10 leg lifts, 10 V-ups.
Perform 2-3 daily, 3 days a week; for example: Mon/Wed/Friday, or Tues/Thurs/Saturday.
DB Side Bends
Before performing DB side bends, you should stretch out with some oblique twist using some sort of bar. You will be sorry if you over do these so try to stick to lighter weights than what you think you can handle unless you have done these before.
Do 2 sets of 15-20 each side with a weight you could twice as many then do 1 set at about double that weight for 8-10 reps each way (start light and quit or drop the weight if you feel an uncomfortable soreness).
Lower Body's Turn!
Quadriceps & Glutes
Note: The two exercises listed also work other parts of you legs. The second workout will really work your glutes so I made this section quads and glutes.
Everyone knows what squats are ... right? Even if you know what squats are be sure to do them properly. Use good form and this exercise will build you up a nice set of quads.
Perform 1 warm-up set with just your body weight for 10-15 reps next set grab some light DBs and do 8-10 reps, grab 5-10 lbs heavier and do another 8-10.
Continue this weight increase till you can only do a set of 6-8 but perform all sets with a rest of only 30-60 seconds in between (should be 4-6 sets don't do more than 6).
Remember this weight and after you do a few other leg workouts come back and do 1 set of 6-8 and then a drop-set from this weight down.
When you do lunges you can perform them in place or do walking lunges. Make sure not to take to short or to long of steps either, watch your form and this exercise should be a good overall leg workout (for me personally I feel them in my glutes more than my quads).
1 set at body weight then 3-4 sets while increasing the weight of DBs between each set; should be enough for this exercise.
Note: The previous leg exercises should have worked your hamstrings and finishing with this should be enough to give them a good workout with DBs. When performing this exercise you should focus on form and use a weight that you know you can handle to prevent injury.
DB Stiff-Legged Deadlifts
These work your lower back but can really hit your hamstrings when done properly. Focus on form and don't go heavy unless you want an injury.
Start very light (like 10-pound dumbbells) to get used to movement and proper form. Bring the weight up to your rep range of about 14-16 but stop at 10-12 reps for a warm-up. Now you can grab some heavier DBs and do 3-4 sets in the 6-8 rep range (be careful and do not over do it with this exercise, do not go to failure).
DB Calve Raises
You can perform these on DBs as a Calf Raise On A Dumbbell or just put your feet on the floor. I prefer the floor and if you use the floor you can also point your toes inwards and outwards to hit the inner and outer part of your calve.
Do not perform these as fast as you can, focus on going up and feeling your calve muscles squeeze and then down slowly again.
Start with body weight and try 10 with feet forward, 10 facing outward, and 10 facing inward. Now add DBs and perform the same set/reps. You shouldn't have to do more then 4 sets total. I would add this exercise to the beginning of your leg training day and the end of it.
A Good Split
That should do it for the best dumbbell workout; how you choose to do it is something you can decide. It would be best to perform this in a split and to give yourself a rest day in between days that work the same muscle groups.
A Good Split Would Be:
- Monday - Triceps, Chest, And Shoulders - Some of the exercises work all three.
- Tuesday - Legs & Abs
- Wednesday - Back & Biceps
- Thursday - Abs
Repeat that schedule.
Specifically though, if I was trapped in a room I would hopefully not stay there for more than one day (this would mean a full-body workout and most likely performing this workout in one day would leave you sore and sorry. You would probably end up with a good nights sleep on the bench though).
I believe that using dumbbells opposed to barbell exercises could actually be more beneficial to individual muscle growth. When you perform barbell exercises you use more stabilizer muscles.
Dumbbells will better isolate the individual muscle worked. Therefore, if you need to add some size to one arm/leg/shoulder/etc. or just really hit the spot and get a great pump, dumbbells may be your answer.
Dumbbells also provide more variation to your workout. For example, you can only hold a barbell in front of you or behind you and only have limited ways on how you grip the bar. With dumbbells you can put them to your side and even change your grip in motion which provides a greater range of exercises.
I would definitely say dumbbells are better than using a barbell for your upper body, but overall I wouldn't want to go week to week without machines, cables and barbells.
2nd Place - ho_124
No gym is ever a real or good gym unless it has a good rack of dumbbells. The same thing goes with a workout schedule; it's never a really good one unless it incorporates exercises with dumbbells into it. All those big guys you see probably all use dumbbells. There are many overlooked things in bodybuilding, the facts about dumbbells is one of them.
One mindset a lot of people have that will lead you down the wrong road is that dumbbells won't help you build as much muscle as those bulky looking complicated machines. If you're following this path, let me be the first to tell you that you're 100 percent wrong. As a matter of fact, using only machines would probably lead to a variety of problems and limit your progress. That is something a lot of people think, just because these machines look threatening and they're made by man in the modern day world that they will speed up their progress.
Dumbbells to them look so primitive and ineffective, but one fact is that dumbbells have been around for two thousand years, so I would assume there that they work pretty well. I'm not saying that you should not use machines, I'm just saying that you should incorporate machines and dumbbells into your workout to make it effective.
Some people are probably thinking how am I going to make progress just using dumbbells? Well, let me tell you it's not going to be easy, and it won't be impossible to do either. And let me also say that doing an all dumbbell workout is better than doing just machines.
What Is The Best All Dumbbell Workout?
When using an all dumbbell workout there are a few things you should keep in mind:
1. Compound Movements
All workouts (this is a must) workouts should consist of a large number of compound movements. The reason being is that they are muscle building exercises.
So if you just do isolation exercises, you're not going to be as big as you would like. But don't go crazy on compound movements, there are a few muscle groups where it's hard to use compound movements for them, and it's still OK.
For example biceps, the only way you can really work it effectively is variations of curls, I mean if you did upright rows or a seated row to work your biceps then you wouldn't make as much progress on your biceps.
2. Changing Your Workout
Change your workout every 2 months or so. This will make it so you don't plateau because your muscles get used to your workout too much. Even though you're using dumbbells only and there are fewer exercises to cycle into your program, you still have to do it.
It's also what a lot of dumb people do, just come into the gym every time do regular bench press then regular curls and make no progress because they've been doing that for a year.
Even if it means doing an exercise with dumbbells that looks weird and that you don't like do it, you will be kicking yourself if you don't and plateau.
3. Hit All Parts Of A Certain Body Part
(Something Very Important When Using Only Dumbbells).
If you don't understand what that meant you have to understand that your pectoral (chest muscle) isn't just one muscle that gets worked the same no matter the exercise. Your pectorals believe it or not are separated into the upper, lower, outer and inner pectorals.
You have to hit all of these or else you will not look as good as you would like too, maybe you've already heard someone say "Hey your upper pecs need work." That's the whole reason why you have different exercises and positions on a bench, to work the different parts of a body part.
A good workout will make certain you hit a good amount of a certain body part. However, don't get scared and try to hit every single part of a body part. If you don't concentrate on it with an exercise, it will still get worked but not as much as the part you are concentrating on. So if you didn't have an exercise that concentrated on your lower pectorals then have an exercise that hits it in your next workout program.
Here are the different parts of each body part that are relevant (by this I mean they are worth worrying about. I mean you can't really concentrate on upper and lower rhomboids so there is not point in being concerned about them since they just get worked along with everything else).
It is harder to hit different heads of certain muscles since you don't have bars and certain machines, so that's why it is so important to try to hit all heads of a body part for full development.
Traps - 3 Groups, Upper, Lower, & Middle
Don't worry although this sounds like a lot, the only thing you really have to worry about is your upper traps. Your lower traps can't be isolated, so now you're wondering how do they get worked. Well when you workout your back they get worked with your back, so when you do rows and compound back exercises they will get worked along with them.
Your middle traps aren't something of concern either. A bit of it is worked with your upper traps and the other bit is worked with your lower traps.
Upper traps are what you need to be concerned about; you need to work them even though they are worked a little bit from other exercises. This means you have to devote some time to work them separately from your back, if you don't work your upper traps, then you will look like a goof.
Lats - Upper & Lower Lats
- I wouldn't be too concerned unless your some crazy perfectionist, just use a variety of exercises and you will be fine. Also there isn't much choice when it comes to just dumbbell back exercises so it's really something out of your control.
Bicep - Inner, Outer, Middle, & Lower Sections Of The Bicep
- This is important to getting the muscular arms so many are wanting. You have to make sure you hit all parts of the bicep, so don't just do regular curls all the time or else weak spots will develop on your arms and the shape of your biceps will not be as good.
Triceps - Inner, Middle And Outer Heads
- This is probably the one of the most overlooked body parts. Few people consider working all three heads of the triceps; the fact is that if you want massive and well formed triceps you have to work all three heads.
Shoulders - Posterior, Anterior And Lateral Heads.
- This is very important in developing good shoulders. This is something that you don't want to screw up on. I see too many people just doing side lateral raises thinking the whole shoulder gets hit. Well with shoulders ... it's different, a lot different. If you only do side lateral raises the front and back deltoids will hardly get worked.
This isn't the same for something like the biceps. If you just do regular curls it might be harder to tell but if you only do side lateral raises then it will be easy to notice the front and back shoulders lacking.
- This is also important; you HAVE to hit both because if you work the top wrists your bottom won't even get worked a bit. So if you only work the top wrists your forearms will look deformed and screwed up.
Chest - Divided Into Four Groups, Upper, Lower, Inner And Outer
- This is kind of like the biceps, if you only work your upper pectorals, then it won't be as easy to tell something is wrong with your pectorals but it will still be noticeable. To prevent this you have to work all parts of the pectoral. The two main things you should be concerned about are the upper and lower pectorals, the outer and inner aren't as important, but it is still important to work them.
Abs - Upper & Lower Abs
- This is a must to work upper and lower abs, one thing you got to ask yourself is do I want four abs showing with just two little hardly noticeable bumps below them? I'm guessing no, to get a six pack that almost all guys want, you have to work the lower and upper abs.
Quads - Outer head, Inner Head And Upper Heads (Is Actually Two Smaller Heads)
- The quad is one of the most visible body parts. If you get into a bathing suit or are in a competition then it's important to develop your quads fully. You have to train your quads correctly or else your legs will look like a total joke.
Hamstrings - Four Heads
- Isolating the four heads of the hamstring isn't that important to know as much as the quads. There are basically three or maybe even just two exercises you should always do to ensure your hamstrings are developed fully. I will list them later on.
Calves - The Inner, Middle And Outer Heads
- A lot of people, or I should say most people just train the main calf area that hits mostly the middle and a bit of the inner and outer calves.
- Hitting the inner and outer calves isn't important, just putting your feet in a regular stance will be good.
Now that you read all that stuff above you probably want to know some exercises to put in a workout. Well here they are with all the different body part heads they hit. Remember there are probably some I miss so don't be afraid to use them.
Because there are no machines or barbells, we are limited because tricep pushdowns and extension variations with barbells is huge.
- I'm assuming you can do it if you have two benches or two chairs or something.
- Dips are your best friend for your triceps when it comes to development. They hit all three heads of the tricep and it is a compound movement. You should try to do the tricep concentration variation of the dip.
This is almost the exact same as the dip but your body is parallel instead of slightly leaning forward which concentrates on your triceps a lot. Put a weight between your feet for added resistance if you want.
Seated Dumbbell Tricep Press
- This is where you sit down, take a dumbbell with two hands and lower behind your head then extend. It can also be done lying down on a bench.
- This is another great exercise since it works all three heads of the tricep. Your elbows shouldn't move in this exercise
Dumbbell Bench Press
- Can also be done on an incline and decline but it won't do much to affect your triceps.
- This is a great exercise for hitting two of the heads of the tricep. It also helps with your stabilizer muscles, which is good. It is also a compound exercise which is another positive of the dumbbell bench press.
Skull Crushers With Two Dumbbells
- Basically the same thing as seated dumbbell tricep press but using two dumbbells.
- This is another exercise that hits all heads of the triceps. Your elbows shouldn't move in this exercise
One Arm Tricep Extensions (Your Other Hand Should Be Stabilizing Your Arm)
- This is a good exercise for isolating the triceps. It doesn't hit all the heads of the tricep so make sure that you implement it with all your exercises.
Tricep Kickbacks (Using Both Arms Or Just Concentrating One)
- This is a popular exercise that isolates the tricep well. However I don't like it and don't use it because it is painful if I get a full extension.
This might also be a problem with other people too. For some it might be using too much weight, but for others it's probably that it just puts too much stress on the elbow.
Biceps are easy to do with free weights since the only way to really work the bicep good is by doing curling motions. You also don't need machines for working the biceps well.
One hard thing to do is work the outer biceps since you don't have a barbell and it's easiest to do with a barbell.
Standard Alternating Curl
I'm assuming you know how to do this if not, then you need to read a lot. This can also be done curling both at the same time and sitting down on a bench which takes a lot of stress off the back, this is good for me since I have back problems.
Hits the middle bicep and good for overall and middle bicep development.
Hammer Curl (Can Be Done Sitting On A Bench As Well)
- Hits the wrists more, but it basically works the overall and middle bicep more.
- Can be done with one knee on floor while you put your elbow on your opposite leg on the inner thigh or on a bench resting your elbow on your inner thigh.
- Great for isolating the biceps well, especially if you tend to cheat and use your back.
Inner Bicep Curl
- A lot probably haven't heard of this one but you start with dumbbells at your side. Then you curl up and out so that at the finish position your arms are diagonal of the front of your body. At the end of the curl your arms should be in line with your lateral deltoid and can also be done on a bench.
- Works the inner bicep and is a good exercise to concentrate on it.
Incline Inner Bicep Curl
- Put the bench on incline and lie on it. Start with dumbbells at arms length then curl the dumbbells up and out keeping your wrists in line with your lateral deltoids. Then lower using same path.
- This is my favorite exercise for isolating the inner biceps.
Standing One-Arm Dumbbell Curl Over Incline Bench
- This is the only way with dumbbells to isolate the lower biceps. Use one arm at a time.
This is also easy since you basically only use free weights to work your shoulders.
Palms Back Lateral Dumbbell Raise
Almost same thing as lateral raise, except when you raise your arms, your palms face down.
This hits the lateral deltoids more directly.
- Can be done on the floor or a bench.
- This is another exercise that isolates the rear deltoids.
Seated Rear Deltoid Row
- Sit on a bench holding dumbbells at arms length and lean forward a little bit. Row the dumbbells back by bending your elbows so that the dumbbells are near your legs.
- Compound movement that works your rear deltoid.
- Many variations, sitting, standing, using one arm only.
- The best way to isolate the lateral deltoids.
Shoulder Dumbbell Press
Can also be done sitting down, standing up or with one arm.
Great compound movement that hits the front and lateral deltoids. One of the best movements for working the shoulders.
- Another compound movement that hits the front deltoids but isn't as concentrated on them.
- Many variations, sitting standing, on an incline bench, lying chest down on a bench and using one dumbbell. The basic movement is starting with dumbbells at your side. Then you raise them straight in front of you until they form a 90-degree angle with your body.
- You can also do raises so that you go all the way so your arm is straight up instead of in front of you.
- Best exercises for isolating the front deltoids.
This is another easy body part to do with dumbbells only. There are a variety of movements that hits all parts of the chest.
Dumbbell Bench Press (Incline, Decline And Flat)
- This is a compound movement which is awesome.
- Probably the best movement for your pectorals, at almost every gym you can see guys building their chest muscles this way. It also helps build up stabilizer muscles which is another plus.
- A bench on an incline will hit the upper pectorals while on a decline will hit the lower pectorals. KNOW THIS ... IT IS IMPORTANT!
Pec Flyes (Can Be Done On Incline, Decline And Flat Bench)
- A very good isolation for the pectorals.
- It hits the inner and outer pectorals on a flat bench.
- On an incline it works more the upper pectorals.
- On a decline it hits the lower pectorals.
Dips - Pectoral Variation
- An amazing compound exercise for the pectorals. If you want amazingly shaped pectorals this is the exercise
- For the pectoral variation you have to lean forward a bit throughout the whole motion
- Works the lower pectorals and will give the lower pecs a great shape. You can hold a dumbbell between your feet for added resistance.
Straight Arm Dumbbell Pull Over (Done On A Bench, Can Also Be Done With Bent Arms & Two Dumbbells)
- A good compound movement that also works the rib cage. It works the general area of the pectoral
This is a hard one to do, because a lot of machines isolate groups of back muscles. However it is still possible to build a good back with just dumbbells.
One Arm Dumbbell Row
- Ultimate dumbbell back builder. It is a compound movement that hits a lot of the major back muscles including the rhomboids and lats.
- Try not to use your arms, pull with your back. This is important since it is hard to do back exercises with just dumbbells. The important thing is the back muscle not the bicep.
Bent Over Dumbbell Rows
- Can be done with palms facing towards you, palms facing away from you and palms facing the sides which is like a hammer curl grip.
- Another amazing compound back builder.
- If it hurts your back or stresses it too much, then don't bend over so much.
Incline Bench Rows
- You've probably never heard this but you lie on an incline bench with your chest on the bench. The incline shouldn't be too steep, just a little bit. Hold two dumbbells at arms length; have them facing you, away from you or sideways and row them upwards.
- Another good compound back builder which can also be done on a flat bench but the dumbbells may touch the ground so elevate the bench.
- Takes a lot of stress off your lower back.
- The best and only way to isolate the rhomboids and other middle back muscles.
Stiff-Legged Dumbbell Deadlifts
- Rated as one of the best muscle building compound movements.
- It hits the lower back and hamstrings with just a little bit of the calves.
- Some say it's essential for a good lower back.
- Do not do them if you have back problems, other than that they aren't bad for your back.
- This involves the legs bending and it's kind of like a squat motion.
- Is also one of the best compound movements out there.
- The only thing is that it doesn't concentrate on the lower back as much.
- Great way to isolate your lower back; hold a dumbbell to make it harder. This is great since you can't really do good mornings since you need a barbell and using dumbbells to do good mornings would just be like deadlifts.
- This is an underestimated exercise. Just hold a dumbbell in your arms to make it harder.
Straight forward, isn't easy to do or hard to do.
Dumbbell Shrugs With Dumbbells At Sides
- Isolates the traps and is a good movement for the upper traps.
Dumbbell Shrugs With Dumbbells In Front
- Holding the dumbbells in different positions will hit the trap muscle differently. It is good to have variation.
- Works the upper traps.
Standing Dumbbell Upright Row
- Great compound movement that hits the upper traps.
- Doesn't concentrate on them as much but is still a good exercise.
Abs & Obliques
This is easy since most ab and oblique exercises don't require machines.
- I'm assuming the bench can go on decline and it has things for your feet.
- One of the best exercise for working the upper abs. Most people have to use weight to make it harder.
- Wedge your feet under something heavy, then hold a dumbbell behind your head and it will be hard. Don't overload on the weight or you can injure abs easier on this one.
- The sit up concentrates on the upper abs.
- Don't let your back touch the floor at any time and don't wait at the top long.
- Exercise for the upper abs. Hold a heavier dumbbell while doing these. Hold it behind your head or use your arms to hold it straight up because if you just hold it against your chest it won't do much.
- Put legs up on a bench for a different variation.
- It's hard to explain this one so here's a website that does explain it online
- Great exercise that works both upper and lower abs.
Decline Reverse Crunch
- Awesome movement for the lower abs. Hold a light dumbbell between your legs and you will be surprised how hard it is.
Flat Leg Bench Pull In
- Another exercise that concentrates on the lower abs. Holding a dumbbell between your legs will make it harder.
Flat Bench Lying Leg Raise
- An exercise for the lower abs which is similar to the exercise above but harder. Place a lighter dumbbell on this exercise.
Leg Raises Between Two Objects
- Since we have no elevated chin up bar its hard. I'm assuming you can do it between two chairs or two elevated objects.
- This is the hardest of the leg raises since your lower abs have to stable themselves at the same time. Holding a light dumbbell will make it hard for the average person.
- You can just raise your knees if it's too hard.
Seated Flat Bench Leg Pull-In
- This is another movement good for the lower abs. Putting a dumbbell here will make it harder.
- This is a great movement that concentrates on the oblique. It will take some time to get the hang of it and become more stable.
Dumbbell Side Bend
- Probably the most popular exercise for the obliques. Using a heavier dumbbell is necessary since the movement is so short.
Seated Barbell/Dumbbell Twist
- A movement where you twist at your waist from left to right.
- For this one which is usually done with a barbell, take a dumbbell and hold it close to your chest. Twist only at your waist.
Oblique Sit Ups & Crunches
- Exercise that concentrates on the obliques more than the upper abs. Use a weight for more resistance.
Simple and straight forward. It isn't the hardest to do but it also isn't the easiest.
Palms-Down Dumbbell Wrist Curl Over A Bench
- Best exercise with dumbbells for upper wrists.
- Can be done one arm at a time or on your knee.
Palms-up Dumbbell Wrist Curl Over A Bench
- Best exercise for your lower wrists. Can also be done one arm at a time or on your knee.
Behind The Back Dumbbell Wrist Curls
- It isn't as effective with dumbbells but it is still a good movement for the lower wrists.
Standing Dumbbell Reverse Curl
- Movement for the upper wrists but doesn't concentrate on them as much. Can be done alternating, at the same time or sitting down.
- Can be done.
- Great exercise that works both top and bottom forearms.
Quads & Hamstrings
Very hard to do. There are no machines or barbells or power racks which are so useful when training the legs. It is even harder than doing back.
- Holding dumbbells behind your body, at the sides or in front of your body.
- The squat is essential for good legs. That's why you should have any form of squatting in an all dumbbell workout.
- Holding the dumbbells behind the back is like hack squatting without a barbell. It will be awkward using dumbbells at first but you have to get used to it.
- Squats work mostly the quads, glutes, hamstrings and a bit of the calves.
- You have to go all the way down making sure your knees don't pass your feet or else you will have knee problems. Going all the way down will ensure your upper quads will get hit and your hamstrings will get some work. If you don't go all the way down then your upper quads will lack something that will make your legs look like a joke over time.
- Doing it with a close foot stance with feet facing forward will work the outer quads more but it will be harder to hold the dumbbells.
- Doing it with a wider stance with feet pointing diagonally will work more of the inner quads. This is good since it's easier to hold the dumbbells.
- Hold dumbbells at your sides and step up on a bench alternating legs.
- Works the quads, hamstrings well.
- Work the stabilizer muscles which is a good addition.
- These are a good exercise for working the hamstring. It also works the quads.
- Performing it so that you lunge in a diagonal line to the side will work more of the inner parts of the leg.
- Make sure you knee doesn't pass your toe or else you will have knee problems.
- Amazing compound movement that hits the hamstrings as well as the lower back.
- Another great compound movement that hits the quads and hamstrings.
Olympic Lifts & Cleans
- These are compound movements that work the hamstrings and quads as well as a bunch of different muscle groups.
- The only problem is that using dumbbells is harder than using a barbell.
- Also these aren't really mass builders for the legs.
These are also hard to do since you lose the standing machine calve raises and the seated calve raises. All calve raises should be performed so that the foot is elevated on something while the heel dips down. For example doing calve raises on a piece of wood.
One-Legged Calve Raises
- Hold a dumbbell and perform with one leg.
- Great movement to concentrate on the calves.
Dumbbell Seated One-Leg Calf Raise
- Harder to do, but it still works the calf well.
Standing Dumbbell Calf Raise
- This is another exercise that isolates the calves.
- You have to balance yourself and it might take some time to get used to it.
Standing Rocking Calve Raise
- Can be done with dumbbells although it's harder without a barbell.
- You have to be balanced and it might take time to get used to.
The Actual Workout
- One thing to keep in mind is to work the main muscle rather than the surrounding ones. By this I mean for biceps work the main muscle more than you work the inner and outer parts. So in this workout it doesn't have inner and outer biceps concentration exercise so put some in your next workout.
- Change your workout every 1-2 months to stop your muscles from adapting to the workout resulting in a plateau.
- Change your rep range to stop getting a plateau. So instead of doing the same old ten reps do 6-to-12.
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Do you think you would lose a lot of benefit using an all dumbbell workout, or do you think it could actually make a positive impact on results?
To some extent you lose benefit using an all dumbbell workout. Maybe if you try it for just one or two workout programs then it will be alright. But if you do it for the rest of your life it could affect your gains since you don't have barbells and machines to work the muscle more effectively.
Basically without barbells and machines you lose half or even more of the exercises you can do. The best workout would incorporate machines, barbells and dumbbells together.
Also when using a barbell sometimes you might use one arm more than another. For example: On the bench press you might use your right arm more than your left arm because it's weaker and sometimes you might not know.
With dumbbells your right arm doesn't cheat and help your left arm. Each arm does its own work. If you want to concentrate on a body part with dumbbells it's a lot harder since you have to concentrate on stabilizing the weight.
Again let's use the bench press as an example. With a barbell you can concentrate on using your pecs because the weight is somewhat more stabilized. But with dumbbells it's harder to concentrate on them since your trying to stabilize at the same time.
There are a few benefits to using dumbbells though. First of all it uses more of the stabilizer muscles. For example on the dumbbell bench press, you have to balance each dumbbell instead of using a barbell where you just have to concentrate on balancing one thing. That's the reason why you have to use less weight on dumbbell bench press than regular bench press. I mean a lot less weight.
Another benefit of using dumbbells is the ability to spot yourself. By this I mean if you're doing curls and you finish with your right arm but your left arm is failing, then you can drop the weight in your right arm and help your left arm. You can't do this when you're using barbells or machines.
Another benefit that is linked to this is that you don't need a spotter. For example if you're doing squats or bench press with a regular barbell, then you would need a spotter. This isn't the case with dumbbells; all you have to do if you're at failure is drop them at your sides. It's also easy to do drop sets with dumbbells.
This is a technique where you keep lowering the weight after you reach failure or are short of it. With a barbell this would almost be impossible, but with dumbbells you just drop the dumbbells your doing and go to a lower weight.