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Dumbbell Workouts & Routines: Top 5 Dumbbell Exercises


Posted by Adrian K under Weight Training (Strength Training), Fitness & Training on 13 May 2013 at 11:00 PM

Focusing on exercises with free weights such as dumbbells and barbells in your workout routine is one of the best ways to strengthen your body whilst also building muscle size and definition and burning fat.

Why Dumbbell Workouts Are Better For You

Training with free weights means that your body will need to use more muscles to stabilise itself and the weights that you are lifting, meaning greater gains in strength in your core and stabilising muscles as well as the prime movers and more work done and calories burnt overall compared to training with machines. 

Barbells can often in be high demand in gyms, so lets take a look at some of the dumbbell alternatives. There are a number of dumbbell exercises to pick from which can be confusing to new gym goers. The best moves to focus on, are those which provide the greatest overall benefit in terms of strength, muscles exercises and work done. This will always be compound moves - multi joint movements that activate several muscles groups and usually have a large range of motion.

Top 5 Dumbbell Workouts & Exercises - The best exercise to give you results in the shortest time frame

Dumbbell use during workouts

1. Dumbbell Farmers Walk 

The farmers walk is an exercise you might not have heard of before if you are a beginner. A farmers walk involves picking up a heavy object (in this case two dumbbells), and walking a set distance with it before setting it down again. As you start to use heavy weights you will really need to engage your core muscles, it is also awesome for working your legs, glutes, traps and arms - as well as your grip strength. 

2. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

The romanian deadlift is better than a full deadlift when working with dumbbells in my opinion, simply because of the awkwardness of achieving a good tight position at the floor with dumbbells compared to a barbell (perform full deadlifts with a bar). If you have never done them before, you do need to be very careful with form - the key is to utilise a good hip hinge with a tightly braced core rather than a bending your back which will mostly likely lead to injury. 

Here's a good instructional video:

weight lifter using dumbbells

3. Dumbbell
 - Bench or overhead

Bench - All in one exercise that when done properly will primarily target your chest, front deltoids and triceps, but also your core and even traps and glutes as you get to heavier weights and you need to keep your whole body tight. This is a movement that every one should be doing and has great aesthetic
benefits for both men and women.

Overhead - Another multi joint move targetting the front, side and rear deltoids in your shoulders, your triceps, and your core. These can be done either standing for more core activation or seated, where it is easier to lift more weight and focus more on the shoulders.

4. Dumbbell One Legged Squats

It can be difficult to load your legs sufficiently for squats with dumbbells, and even if you do have access to heavier dumbbells, grip is likely to be the limiting factor before your leg strength. This is why one legged squats can be very useful when training with dumbbells - you can place more load on each leg by training it seperately from the other. Hold the dumbbells at your sides, place one leg behind you on a bench, and squat down with the other.

5. Dumbbell One arm Rows

These are superior to the bicep curls you will often see most people on the gym floor performing, and this is because they will hit your lats, upper back and traps as well as your biceps. Keep your core tight and don't cheat the weight up to properly work out your back.

Honourable Mention:

I was very tempted to include dumbbell clean and presses and dumbbell snatches in this list, and they were only ommitted because their technical nature means that they are trickier to pick up, and might not be suitable for quite a few people initially. 

These two full body exercises are fantastic for adding explosiveness and power into your training, and will transfer very well to athletic performance. If you have the time to master them, they can be the most effective dumbbell exercises of them all.

  • Encourage

    encouraged this.



    This is awesome. Well done! The Romanian looks a good variation on my usual barbell dead lifts. Like the photos showing a full range of movement too. Often I see personal trainers showing newbies a powerlifting routine and heavy weights with minimal stretch and it really bugs me

    Adrian K and Heather J encouraged this.


    Thanks Daniel. I see it too and it really bugs me. Squats rarely to parallel, let alone below. Half range shoulder press and bench press. If you want to be an athlete, train full ROM to maintain flexibility!

    Daniel H and Heather J encouraged this.


    You said it mate. Full depth squats!! Ass to the grass etc etc The other day I saw a personal trainer and this guy doing squats. I noticed his hunched back and couldn't help but jump in and recommend he starts doing some front squats, and to practise squatting infront of a mirror with his toes 4-6 inches from the wall and to really stick his ass out. I showed him a couple and how it forces you to arch your back and stick your ass out or you bang your head on the wall. He had a little chuckle, I told him to practise 20 a day and his form will be perfect in no time. His trainer looked real pissed. I carried on my merry way

    encouraged this.


    I had a similar experience with a guy who I saw front and back squatting with awful posture and technique, with his PT. Feet were right next to each other, knees caving in, back was still relatively flat but there was no depth whatsoever and he was inclined really far forwards due to his foot positioning. I waited until I saw him again without his PT and told him to go and look up a few sites and vids to educate himself a bit - I didn't have the time to coach him properly.

    encouraged this.


    The internet is a library everyone should utilise. It puzzles me everyday how people lack general knowledge about things they can easily google

    Heather J and Kylee C encouraged this.


    Dumb bells can be picked up cheap at a 2nd hand store too! Good investment and they don't take up any space.

    Daniel H and Heather J encouraged this.


    Thanks Adrian, I usually avoid the free weight section at gym, aways busy, and can be intimidating. I have never known what exercises to do, or how to execute them safely, hence the need for machine weights. These exercises look relatively simple though.


    Where is dumbbel fly for chest,and deltoid's?!....They is great too!


    incorporated dumbbell workouts into my exercise routine and really seeing the benefits. I do at least one dumbbell workout during each gym session - 4 sets of 25


    I know that dumbbell workouts are very effective. I tried squats with dumbbells but never with one leg so that’ll be my next mission!

    Adrian K encouraged this.


    My favorite of the dumbbell workouts is the Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift =)

    Adrian K encouraged this.


    Only recently started with my dumbbell workouts but feel as if I have noticed improvements in my strength already so will definitely be taking a couple of these on board!

    Sally D encouraged this.


    Dumbbell workouts are definitely one for the boys!


    why do you say that @sallster? There's no reason for men or women to train any differently.

    Karen L encouraged this.


    I guess it was all the pictures of blokes.


    That is a good point Sally!!


    Fair point, but not chosen intentionally at all - just to demonstrate the exercises as best as possible, unfortunately those that I found all happened to have guys in them, I didn't even think about it. All of the exercises suggested have just as much value for women as they do for men.

    Jane H encouraged this.


    Knew you wouldn't have done it intentionally Adrian, but it does make you think about search engines and the like, and how they prioritise and even vet results on your behalf.


    brilliant post, I hate it when people dont lift weights or have poor form. I wouldnt bother if I didnt do it properly. since lifting weights my body has never ever been in better shape and I feel amazing.

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