Work Every Part of Your Body With This Dumbbell Exercise Chart

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Dumbbells are simple, unsung beasts in the exercise world. However, these seemingly basic hunks of iron can provide a killer full-body workout. 

There are literally hundreds of different movements that can be performed with dumbbells. 

Each of these dumbbell exercises works for a different muscle group and leads to improved strength throughout the body.

In this article, we will review 30 awesome dumbbell exercises that you should consider adding to your workout routine.

30 best dumbbell exercises

Also, check out:

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Total Body Dumbbell Exercises

Below, I’ll outline some of the best exercises that work the whole body, not just a few muscle groups. 

These exercises are great for those looking to burn calories and improve their physique through resistance training.

1. Dumbbell RDLs

Romanian deadlifts are a foundational exercise. This movement increases lower body strength, especially in the hamstrings and glutes.

How to Perform:

  • Grasp one dumbbell in each hand and start standing, with your feet about hip-width apart.
  • Bend your knees slightly, and lower the weights until they are about an inch or two from the floor.
  • Then, straighten out your legs and return to standing.
  • Perform 10-15 reps per set, 3 sets per session, 2 times per week.

2. Dumbbell Single Leg RDLs

Much like the standard version, outlined above, the single-leg RDL works the hamstrings and glutes. 

However, because the exercise incorporates single-leg balance, it also encourages abdominal activation, along with other stabilizers. 

How to Perform:

  • Start by standing on your left leg, with one dumbbell in each hand.
  • Keeping your back flat, slowly lower the weights to about 1 or 2 inches from the ground.
  • Next, return to standing by contracting your glutes and hamstrings.
  • Complete 10-15 reps per set, 3 sets per session, and 2 sessions per week.
  • Be sure to perform the move on both sides!

3: Dumbbell Clean and Press

The clean and press are one of the classic Olympic lifts.

This move incorporates total body power and coordination. It can take a long time to fully master the clean and press, so don’t be frustrated if you don’t get it right away! 

How to Perform:

  • Start standing with your feet about hip-width apart, holding one dumbbell in each hand.
  • Bend your knees slightly, keeping your back flat.
  • Quickly, use your legs and arms to power the weights up to your shoulders.
  • Next, press the weights up over your head.
  • Then, reverse the motion and return to the starting position. 
  • Repeat for 10-15 repetitions per set, 3 sets per session, and 2 sessions per week.

4. Dumbbell Single-Arm Snatch

Much like the clean and press, the snatch is an Olympic lift. This exercise emphasizes many leg and shoulder muscles, as well as a few throughout the trunk.

How to Perform:

  • Starting in standing, hold one dumbbell in your left hand.
  • Using your whole body, power the weight up above your head in a single move.
  • Then, carefully return the weight close to the ground.
  • Perform 10-15 reps on both sides, for 3 sets per session, 2 sessions per week.

5. Dumbbell Double Arm Swings

The kettlebell swing is an amazing exercise for virtually every muscle in the body. Luckily, you don’t even have to have a kettlebell to complete this move; a dumbbell works just fine!

How to Perform:

  • Grasp the top of the dumbbell with both hands, keeping your feet about hip-width apart.
  • Using your glutes and hamstrings to power the movement, swing the weight forward.
  • Once you’ve got it to about waist height, allow the weight to swing back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 10-15 repetitions per set, 3 sets per session, and 2 sessions per week.

6. Dumbbell High Pulls

This exercise can be thought of as a “starter” move for the clean and press.

The high pull involves using the back and leg muscles together in order to power the weights up to shoulder height.

How to Perform:

  • Place one dumbbell in each hand and start standing with feet about hip-width apart.
  • Starting with the weights near the floor, stand up explosively, rising up on your toes, as you simultaneously pull the weights up near your shoulders.
  • Then, return the weights to the starting position to finish the rep. 
  • Complete 10-15 reps per set, 3 sets per session, and 2 sessions per week.

Lower Body Dumbbell Exercises

Next, we’ll shift to some moves that focus more on the muscles of the lower body. In general, the legs are the main source of power for most movements we perform. 

Therefore, having strong legs is a key component of overall strength.

7. Dumbbell Front Squats

Squats are an amazing exercise that can help the body in myriad ways. The front squat variation also helps to incorporate some shoulder work, and the nature of this squat kicks your quads into overdrive.

How to Perform:

  • Start standing, holding one dumbbell in each hand.
  • Bend your elbows and place the dumbbells on the front of your shoulders, resting them there, if possible, with your hands supporting them.
  • Squat down as deeply as you can without your back collapsing forward or your heels coming off of the ground.
  • Once you’ve reached the bottom of your range, stand back up to complete the rep.
  • Perform 10-15 reps for 3 sets per session, 2 sessions per week.

8. Dumbbell Pistol Squats

Be warned: pistol squats are very advanced. This exercise is difficult for many people, and it might take you a while before you can properly complete a pistol squat. 

Therefore, you may have to forgo the dumbbell on this movement for quite some time until you become comfortable with the exercise.

How to Perform:

  • Hold one dumbbell in your left hand and balance on your left leg.
  • Lift the dumbbell up to shoulder height, balancing the weight there.
  • Keeping your right leg straight out in front of you, bend your left knee and sit down toward the ground.
  • Once you’ve reached the bottom of your range, stand back up to complete the rep.
  • Perform 10-15 reps per set, 3 sets per session, 2 times per week.
  • Make sure you complete this exercise on both sides as well.

9. Dumbell Split Squats

Split squats, also known as Bulgarian squats, are another tricky exercise to master. This move requires a fair bit of balance and strength. So, don’t be discouraged if you don’t master it on your first try!

How to Perform:

  • Hold a dumbbell underneath your chin with both hands.
  • Extend your right leg behind you, placing your right toes on a bench or other elevated surface.
  • Slowly, squat down until your right knee comes close to the floor.
  • Once you’ve reached the bottom of your range, stand back up to complete the rep.
  • Perform 10-15 reps per side, per set, for 3 sets per session, 2 sessions per week.

10. Dumbbell Side Lunges

Side lunges are great for emphasizing the inner and outer thigh muscles. These muscles are known as the adductors and abductors respectively.

If you’ve never done these before, prepare to be very sore the next day!

How to Perform:

  • Hold one dumbbell in each hand, and start standing.
  • Step your right leg out to the side, going into a wide stance.
  • As you do so, lunge down toward your right leg.
  • Once you’ve gone as low as you can, stand back up, simultaneously bringing your right leg back to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the left side.
  • Complete 10-15 reps per set, 3 sets per session, and 2 sessions per week.

11. Dumbbell Step-Up Plus Lunge

Step-ups are great on their own, as are lunges. When you combine the two, you really get a special exercise.

How to Perform:

  • Starting in standing, hold one dumbbell in each hand.
  • Step up onto a stair or other firm, elevated surface with your right leg.
  • Once you’ve risen to the top, lower your left leg back to the ground.
  • Next, step your right leg backward, performing a lunge on your left leg.
  • Complete this pattern for 10-15 reps on both sides per set, 3 sets per session, and 2 sessions per week.

12. Dumbbell GHDs

The glute-hamstring device (GHD) is a great machine for developing strength and endurance in this area of the body. 

One thing to be careful of in this exercise is that the movement should come from the glutes and hamstrings exclusively, NOT the back.

How to Perform:

  • Hold one dumbbell with both hands. You can hold them in whatever way is comfortable for you.
  • Make sure that you are effectively secured into the device, with your feet hooked into the pads.
  • Using your glutes and hamstrings, lift your trunk upward.
  • Once you’ve reached a point where the ground is parallel with your trunk, slowly lower back down to complete the rep. 
  • Perform 10-15 reps per set, 3 sets per session, and 2 sessions per week.

Upper Body Dumbbell Exercises

Moving on, let’s take a look at some of the greatest dumbbell exercises for the upper body!

13. Dumbbell Bench Press From Floor

Bench pressing is a key movement that works the pecs, shoulders, and triceps. When it’s performed with dumbbells, the abs are often involved as well (at least to some degree).

How to Perform:

  • Grab a dumbbell with each hand and lay down on the floor.
  • Keep your knees bent, with your feet flat on the floor. 
  • Press the dumbbells up toward the ceiling.
  • Once you’ve reached the top of your range, slowly lower the weights back down to complete the rep.
  • Perform 10-15 reps per set, 3 sets per session, and 2 sessions per week.

14. Dumbbell Single-Arm Bench Press

Bench pressing with one arm, instead of two, provides a few different benefits. 

First off, it can increase abdominal muscle activation. Secondly, it can help to identify whether one side is weaker than the other. 

By addressing these issues, you can increase your overall bench pressing strength.

How to Perform:

  • Lie down on a flat bench, with one dumbbell in each hand.
  • Press the right arm up toward the ceiling, leaving the left arm down by your side.
  • Then, return the right hand to the starting position, and push the left arm to the ceiling.
  • Repeat for 10-15 reps per side, per set, for 3 sets per session, and 2 sessions per week.

15. Dumbbell Lat Pullover

This move is great for the lats. In fact, this is one of the easiest ways to build up the lats when you can’t perform pullups.

How to Perform:

  • Hold one dumbbell in both hands while lying flat on your back on a bench.
  • Lift the weight over your head, allowing it to fall down toward the ground.
  • Once you feel a stretch in your lats and pecs, reverse the motion and pull the weight back up to above your chest.
  • Repeat this motion for 10-15 reps per set, 3 sets per session, 2 sessions per week.

6. Dumbell Bent-Over Reverse Fly

The rhomboids are a key exercise for shoulder health. This move is terrific for those who work at a desk and assume a flexed posture throughout the day.

How to Perform:

  • Hold one dumbbell in each hand (err on the side of going lighter on this one).
  • Bend over at the waist, keeping your back flat.
  • Separate your hands apart from one another, lifting the dumbbells up to shoulder height.
  • Once you’ve reached the top of your motion, slowly lower the weights back down to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 10-15 reps per set, 3 sets per session, and 2 sessions per week.

17. Dumbbell Incline Bench Row

For some people, this exercise can be quite uncomfortable. If you find that you can’t effectively perform this exercise, don’t sweat it! 

There are tons of variations that work the same muscles and which may be more comfortable for you.

How to Perform

  • Lay on your chest on a bench that is propped up to about 45 degrees.
  • Hold one dumbbell in each hand.
  • Bend your elbows and pinch your shoulder blades together as you pull the weights up toward your chest.
  • Return the weights to the starting position and complete this motion for 10-15 reps per set, 3 sets per session, and 2 sessions per week.

18. Dumbbell Bent-over Row

Rows are a foundational movement in resistance training. This exercise works the biceps and back to a high degree. 

This option is a nice alternative to the previous exercise for those who find the other position too uncomfortable. 

How to Perform:

  • Start standing, with one dumbbell in each hand.
  • Bend forward at your waist, keeping your back flat. 
  • Pull both weights up toward your chest by bending your elbows and pinching your shoulder blades together.
  • Return the weights to the starting position to complete the rep.
  • Perform 10-15 reps per set, 3 sets per session, and 2 sessions per week.

19. Dumbbell Upright Rows

Upright rows can cause shoulder discomfort in some individuals. If you experience some pain with this movement, it’s ok to substitute bent-over rows or some other back/bicep/shoulder exercise in its place.

How to Perform:

  • Hold one dumbbell in each hand while standing.
  • Pull the dumbbells up towards your chin, leading with your elbows.
  • At the top of the movement, your elbows should be high in the air with the dumbbells near your chin/chest area.
  • Return the dumbbells to the starting position to complete the movement. 
  • Perform 10-15 reps per set, for 3 sets per session, 2 sessions per week.

20. Dumbbell-Supported Bent-over Reverse Fly

Previously, we discussed the bent-over reverse fly. This variation adds some support for those with back pain or core instability. If you had trouble with the standard bent-over reverse fly, try this version!

How to Perform:

  • Grab one dumbbell in each hand.
  • On a slightly inclined bench, lean your chest and trunk on the bench surface.
  • Pull your hands apart, keeping your shoulders at roughly 90 degrees. As you do this, pull your shoulder blades together.
  • Once you’ve reached the top of your range, return to the starting position to complete the rep. 
  • Perform 10-15 reps per set, 3 sets per session, and 2 sessions per week.

21. Dumbbell Seated Single Arm Lateral Raise

The deltoids are known as the “shoulder pad” muscles. Developing these muscles is easy with lateral raises!

How to Perform:

  • Sit on a bench with a dumbbell in your right hand. You’ll want to choose a lighter weight for this move.
  • Keeping your elbow straight, raise the weight out to your side, stopping when you reach shoulder height.
  • Next, slowly lower the weight back down to the starting position to complete the rep.
  • Complete 10-15 reps per set, 3 sets per session, and 2 sessions per week.

22. Dumbbell Alternating Shoulder Press

Overhead presses are a critical piece of every successful training program. This move works the deltoids, traps, triceps, and various other muscles all at once.

How to Perform:

  • In standing, hold a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Position the weights on your shoulders, with your palms facing one another. Press the dumbbell in your right hand toward the ceiling. Next, return this weight to your right shoulder as you simultaneously press the left dumbbell up. 
  • Continue to alternate in this pattern until you have completed 10-15 reps on both arms, for 3 sets per session, 2 sessions per week.

23. Dumbbell Unsupported Preacher Curls

Preacher curls were one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s favorite bicep exercises. This makes sense, as the move puts tons of stress through the biceps and it can significantly improve strength in this part of the body.

How to Perform:

  • Position a bench so that it is inclined at roughly 45 degrees parallel.
  • Place your chest on the bench and allow the weights to hang down toward the ground.
  • Next, curl the weights up, using only your biceps.
  • Return the weights to the starting position to complete the rep.
  • Perform 10-15 reps per set, 3 sets per session, and 2 sessions per week.

24. Dumbbell Seated Bicep Curls

This move is another biceps crusher. The seated bicep curl forces you to engage the deep fibers of your biceps so that you can get a great pump, every time.

How to Perform:

  • Position a bench so that the back is slightly reclined.
  • Sit on the bench and lean back so that your spine is fully supported.
  • Allow the weights to hang down by your sides.
  • Perform a bicep curl with both arms at once, then return the weights to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 10-15 reps per set, 3 sets per session, and 2 sessions per week.

25. Dumbbell Skull Crushers

As wicked as this exercise sounds, it’s fairly safe. This is especially true when performed with dumbbells and a spotter nearby. Your triceps will really feel this one!

How to Perform:

  • Lie down on your back on a flat bench.
  • Push the weights up toward the ceiling by performing a bench press.
  • Next, allow your elbows to bend so that the weights lower down toward your head.
  • Once you’ve reached the bottom of your range, straighten your arms back out to complete the rep.
  • Perform 10-15 reps per set, 3 sets per session, and 2 sessions per week.

Abdominal Dumbbell Exercises

Last but not least, we have some dumbbell moves that will tear up your core muscles. Many of these exercises use the core in a functional way, which means that you’ll also work many other muscles along the way!

26. Dumbbell Pushup Position Rows

This move is awesome, especially at the end of a tough workout. The pushup position row will challenge your shoulders, triceps, biceps, and, most of all, your core.

How to Perform:

  • Place two dumbbells on the floor, spaced out equally.
  • Assume a pushup position, with your hands on the weights.
  • Next, pull the right weight up toward your chest by performing a row.
  • Then, return this weight to the ground and repeat on the left side.
  • Complete 10-15 reps per side, per set, for 3 sets per session, for 2 sessions per week.

27. Dumbbell Overhead Lateral Bends

Your obliques have never felt anything like this! The overhead lateral bend is an amazing move to really get those oblique muscles working, along with the lats and various other muscles.

How to Perform

  • Grasp one dumbbell with both hands.
  • Push the weight up above your head, keeping your elbows straight.
  • Moving only your trunk, bend down as far as you can toward the left.
  • Then, return to standing straight, and tip toward your right.
  • Continue to repeat this pattern until you have completed 10-15 reps per side, per set, for 3 sets per session, for 2 sessions a week.

28. Dumbbell Abdominal Twists

Ever since this exercise appeared in one of the Rocky movies, it’s become a favorite of exercisers around the world. The abdominal (Russian) twist works the obliques and a few other core muscles.

How to Perform:

  • Hold one dumbbell with both hands.
  • Sit on the floor and lean back, lifting your feet off of the floor.
  • At this point, you should be holding a dumbbell and balancing only on your buttocks.
  • Keeping your spine straight, twist to your right.
  • Then, return to the starting position and twist to the left.
  • Repeat this pattern for 10-15 reps on both sides, per set, for 3 sets per session, for 2 sessions per week.

29. Dumbbell Windmills

Be careful before you go full tilt on windmills. This exercise can put some serious strain on the low back, so make sure you are limbered up and loose before attempting this exercise.

How to Perform:

  • Grab a dumbbell in your right hand. Push the weight up toward the ceiling, fully extending your right arm.
  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width, knees slightly bent.
  • Bend down toward your left side as you simultaneously twist slightly toward your right side.
  • The weight should stay above your head, in your extended right arm the whole time.
  • Then, return to the starting position to complete the rep.
  • Complete 10-15 reps per side, per set, for 3 sets per session, 2 times per week. 

30. Dumbbell Wood Chops

Wood chops are great for athletes whose sports require rotation. For instance, golfers, tennis players, and many others can benefit from this move. It’s an awesome exercise for building core power and strength.

How to Perform:

  • Grab one dumbbell with both hands.
  • Twist toward your right and bend your knees so that you can bring the weight close to your right foot.
  • Next, twist toward your left as you simultaneously push the weight toward the ceiling. 
  • Repeat for 10-15 reps per side, per set, for 3 sets per session, and 2 sessions per week.

The Bottom Line On Dumbbell Exercises

These dumbbell exercises will help you get stronger and more powerful. Best of all, dumbbell workouts require very little equipment and very little space. Try some of these moves out and see what you think!

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