Dumbbells are one of the oldest and most effective pieces of fitness equipment there is. Most of the top workout routines you find will include at least a few dumbbell exercises, and they can be used to help you achieve almost any fitness goal.
There is also an extremely large number of potential exercises you can perform, which offers a great deal of versatility in your sessions. However, this can also be quite daunting for newcomers, as it can be difficult to know which exercises are the most effective and how to work them into their routine.
That is why we want to show you what we believe to be the best home dumbbell exercises in 2022. This list will include the top exercises for every part of your body and make it clear what each works. This should make it as easy as possible to plan the perfect workout to help you attain your goals.
What Are The Benefits Of Dumbbell Exercises?
Dumbbells are a great way to add resistance training to your workouts. They are extremely versatile, so can be used for a wide variety of exercises and muscle groups, while the compact size means they are extremely convenient for people training at home or in a location with limited space.
Dumbbells can be used by both men and women and, despite the stereotypes, aren’t just used to build large muscles. The resistance of a dumbbell can also strengthen and tone muscles, assist with the development of lean muscle mass, and even benefit your cardiovascular conditioning.
Dumbbells can also be used with one hand at a time or both simultaneously. This gives you the opportunity to either isolate a particular side of the body or perform larger, compound exercises with better balance than is offered by other types of equipment.
Try These Home Dumbbell Exercises
There are a huge range of exercises that you can do at home with a pair of dumbbells. However, not all of them are equally effective. That means it is important to carefully plan out your routine, to make sure you include the most beneficial movements.
Dumbbells can be used as a way to target a diverse selection of muscles. We will now look at some of the very best dumbbell exercises there are, to ensure you can plan out the perfect workout to maximise your potential.
Dumbbell Chest Press
Sit on the end of a bench with a dumbbell in each hand and rest them on your thighs. Slowly lay back until you are flat on your back and use your knees and momentum to take the weights to your chest.
Move the dumbbells out to the sides, so they are level with your chest, just outside shoulder width, with your palms facing forwards. Contract your pecs and use them to drive the weights up in an arc towards the ceiling, bringing them together over your chest.
Squeeze your pecs as hard as possible and then slowly lower the weights back down, going as far as you can, until there is a deep stretch in your chest and shoulders. Pause here for a second then repeat for the required of reps, making sure to maintain tension in the chest throughout.
This can also be performed on a decline or incline bench with identical form to target all the different parts of the chest.
Lay flat on your back on a bench and hold a dumbbell over your chest with both hands and your arms fully extended. You will support it by placing both hands on the underside of the top weight plate, with your forefingers and thumbs meeting around the bar and forming a diamond shape.
Keeping your arms straight, slowly lower the weight back over your face and keep going until your hands are lower than your head and you feel a deep stretch in your chest. Engage your pecs and use them to lift the weight back to the starting position, without bending your elbows.
Squeeze your pecs as hard as you can at the top for a second, before repeating for the desired number of reps.
Lay flat on your back on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand and press them up over you. The weights should be touching, and your palms should be facing each other. Keep your arms as straight as possible and slowly lower the weights out to your sides until there is a deep stretch in your chest.
Engage the pecs and use them to bring the weights back together in the starting position, keeping your arms as straight as you can. Pause for a second and squeeze the pecs as hard as you can, then slowly lower the weights back down and repeat until you hit your target reps.
Bent Over Dumbbell Row
There are two options you can use to perform bent over dumbbell rows. You can put a knee and a hand on a bench for maximum stability or place a hand on the weight rack if lifting a particularly heavy load. Either way, you will need to bend over until your upper body is parallel with the floor.
Grip a dumbbell with your free hand and let it hang down to the floor, till your arm is fully extended. Engage your lats and use them and your bicep to row the weight up, bending at the elbow. Keep going until your elbow is higher than your back then really squeeze the back muscles for a second.
Slowly lower the weight back down in a controlled manner and repeat until you hit your target reps, then perform the same number again with the other arm.
Reverse Grip Dumbbell Row
The reverse grip dumbbell row is a variation of the traditional dumbbell row that switches much of the emphasis to your upper back and traps. You will also be able to use less weight and will be working both sides at the same time.
Grip dumbbells in both hands and bend over until your torso is almost parallel with the floor. Allow the dumbbells to hang so your arms are fully extended, with your palms facing away from you. Now, use your lats to row the weights up, bringing them towards your waist.
Make sure to squeeze the shoulder blades together and engage your traps as you do so. Pause at the top for a second then return to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps.
Begin by gripping a pair of dumbbells on the outsides of your thighs, with your feet around shoulder width apart. Ensure your entire foot remains firmly planted on the ground at all times. Slowly lower your butt to the floor by bending your knees, keeping your back straight and head up at all times.
Carry on until you can’t go any more, at which point your hamstrings should have gone past parallel with the floor. Engage all the muscles in your core, squeeze your glutes, and use everything you have to drive yourself back upwards, making sure to keep your torso and arms fully extended throughout.
Once you reach a completely vertical position, contract your traps and pause for a second, before repeating for the desired number of reps.
Wide Grip Dumbbell Pullover
Lay on your back on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Extend your arms straight out over your head, so they are just slightly lower than in line with your body, with the handles in a vertical position and the weights wider than shoulder width apart.
Engage your lats and use just them to lift the weights towards the ceiling, keeping your arms straight and the weights the same distance apart at all times. When your arms are totally vertical, really squeeze your lats for a sec then return to the starting position and repeat for the required reps.
Stand at the weight rack beside the heaviest pair of dumbbells you can lift and grip one firmly in each hand. Contract the traps as hard as you can and use them to lift the weights up, bringing your shoulders as close to your ears as possible.
Pause for a few seconds and really squeeze the traps, then lower the weights back down slowly. Make sure to maintain the tension throughout the set and repeat until you hit your target reps.
Stand upright and hold a dumbbell in each hand just outside of shoulder width at waist height, with your arms fully extended. Engage your traps and use them and the delts to lift the weights upwards in a straight line, flaring your elbows out to the sides.
Keep going until your elbows are higher than your shoulders, then pause for a second and really squeeze the traps. Lower the weights back down slowly, keeping the traps engaged at all times, and repeat until you have completed the desired number of reps.
Hold a dumbbell at chest height with the heels of your hands on the underside of its top weight and stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Keeping your back straight and heels firmly planted flat on the floor, slowly lower your buttocks towards the ground by bending only at the knees.
Keep going until your thighs are lower than parallel with the floor. Contract your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves, and use them to drive you back up in a fluid motion until you are completely vertical, making sure your back remains straight at all times.
Repeat until you have achieved the desired number of reps.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and let them hang by your sides. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your back completely straight. Move one foot forward a few feet and place it flat on the floor. As your leg is moving, bend both knees to lower you down.
Keep going until you have a 90 degree bend in both knees and the weight on your back foot is supported on your toes. Engage the hamstrings and quads, squeeze the glutes as hard as you can, and use them all to start standing back up. Make sure to focus on your balance at all times.
As you are rising, step through with your back leg and repeat the movement on the opposite side of your body. Continue the process by alternating legs and drive yourself forward with a series of lunges until you hit your target distance or reps, making sure to do the same number on both legs.
Stiff Leg Deadlifts
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Your back and legs should both be completely straight, and your arms fully extended, with the weights resting on your thighs.
Keeping your knees and back completely straight, bend forward at the waist until your torso is parallel with the floor. Engage your glutes and hamstrings and use them to stand back up, lifting the weights with you, while keeping your back and arms straight throughout.
Pause at the top and really squeeze the glutes for a second and then repeat until you hit the target number of reps.
Standing calf raises can be done one leg at a time or with both legs at once. If doing one leg, stand with your toes on the edge of a step, let your heels hang off, and hold a weight in the opposite hand. If doing both legs, stand with your toes on a weight plate and hold dumbbells in both hands.
Contract your calf or calves and slowly raise yourself up onto your tiptoes. Pause for a second and really squeeze, then slowly lower yourself back down, lowering your heels as far as they can go.
You should feel a deep stretch, and then pause for another second before continuing and repeating for the desired number of reps. If performing the single leg variety, make sure to do the same number of reps on both legs.
Dumbbell Front Raise
Sit or stand with a dumbbell in each hand and arms hanging down, fully extended, palms facing backwards. If sitting, the weights will hang at your sides, while if you’re standing, they’ll rest on your thighs. Engage your delts and use them to raise the weights, keeping your arms straight at all times.
When your arms are parallel with the floor, tilt your wrists so your thumbs lower and your little fingers raise. Pause for a second and really squeeze the delts, then slowly lower the weights back down and repeat until you have completed your target number of reps.
Sit on a bench with the back in an upright position and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Raise them to your shoulders, using your knees and thighs for assistance if necessary, until they are positioned just outside your shoulders with your palms facing forwards.
Engage your delts and triceps to use them to press the weights upwards towards the ceiling, using an arcing motion that brings them together above your head. As your arms near full extension, tilt your wrists to supinate the muscles, until your little fingers are as high as they can go.
Contract the delts as hard as possible for a second then slowly lower the weights back to the starting position and repeat until you have done the necessary number of reps.
Stand with a dumbbell in each hand, with your arms at full extension so the weights hang by your waist. Keep your back and arms straight, engage your delts, then use only them to lift the weights up and out to the sides, until you are in a crucifix position, with your arms parallel with the ground.
Tilt your hands, so your little fingers rise and your thumbs lower, and squeeze the delts as hard as you can for a second. While still keeping the arms straight, slowly lower the weights back to the starting position then repeat for the desired number of reps.
Bent Over Raise
Take a dumbbell in each hand and either sit on the end of a bench or stand with a solid base, then bend over until your upper body is almost parallel with the floor. Allow the weights to hang down towards the floor with your arms perfectly vertical, at full extension.
The weights should be touching with your palms facing each other. If you are seated, place your feet far enough forward that the weights can come together under your hamstrings. Engage your rear delts and, keeping your arms as straight as you can, use them to raise the weights out to your sides.
Go until your arms are parallel with the ground and really squeeze the delts, then return to the starting position and repeat until you hit the target number of reps.
Stand with a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height, with your palms facing you, as if you were at the top of a bicep curl. Engage your delts and use them to drive the weights straight up. Twist your hands as they rise and keep going till your arms are fully extended and palms face away from you.
Tilt your wrists to raise your little fingers and lower your thumbs to achieve maximum tension. Squeeze the delts as hard as possible for a second, then lower the weights back to the starting position, again twisting your wrists as you go, and repeat until you hit your target number of reps.
Dumbbell Skull Crusher
Lay on your back on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Lift them straight up over your chest, making sure to keep your arms straight, and slightly lean them back towards your head. With your upper arms remaining totally still, bend your elbows and slowly lower the weights toward your head.
Try to lower the weights until they are either in line with your head or as low as your range of motion will allow. You should feel a deep stretch in both triceps. Contract your triceps and use only them to straighten your elbows, still making sure not to move your upper arms.
When your arms are completely straight, they should still be at a slight angle and have all the tension on the triceps. Pause for a second and squeeze the triceps as hard as you can, then repeat until you hit your target reps.
Begin by either bending over or placing one knee on a bench. Try to get your torso parallel to the floor and support your weight on one hand. In your free hand, take a dumbbell and row it up, so your elbow is higher than your back, while your forearm remains vertical and pointed at the floor.
With your upper arm remaining still, contract your tricep to straighten your elbow and raise the weight. When your arm is fully extended, pause for a second and really squeeze the tricep, then slowly return to the starting position.
Repeat until you hit your target reps, then perform the same again with the other arm. If doing the exercise while standing, you can work both arms at the same time, although this is often slightly less effective.
Stand with a straight back and raise a dumbbell onto your shoulder. Place the palms of both hands on the underside of the top weight of the dumbbell, with your thumbs and forefingers forming a diamond around the bar.
Press the weight into the air until it is above and just slightly behind your head, with your arms at full extension. Try to squeeze your elbows together, so your upper arms are parallel throughout.
Keeping your upper arms stationary, bend at the elbows to lower the dumbbell down behind you, going until you feel a deep stretch and can’t go any further. Engage the triceps and use them to straighten your elbows and drive the weight back up.
Pause at the top for a second and really squeeze the triceps, then repeat until you achieve your target number of reps.
Take a dumbbell in each hand and hold them at your sides, with your arms fully extended and palms facing your body. Keeping your upper arms perfectly still, contract the biceps and use them to raise the weights and begin rotating your wrists, so your palms turn to face you.
At the top of the rep, the dumbbells should be at your shoulders and your palms will be facing you. Now squeeze the biceps as hard as possible for a second, before lowering the weights back down in a slow, controlled manner, twisting your wrists so your palms go back to facing your body.
Continue until your arms are almost fully extended then immediately begin the next rep, to maintain constant tension, and keep going until you hit your target number of reps.
Stand or sit with a straight back and hold a dumbbell in each hand with your at arms full extension by your sides and palms facing your body. Engage your biceps and use them to curl the weights up to your shoulders, making sure only your forearms are moving, and your palms stay facing your body.
When you reach the top, pause for a second and really squeeze the biceps, then slowly return to the starting position and repeat until you hit your target reps.
Sit on the end of a bench or stand, then bend over and put one hand on a knee for support. With your free hand, grip a dumbbell and hold your arm so your lower tricep rests just near the inside of your thigh, but doesn’t touch it.
Engage your bicep and contract it as hard as possible to curl the weight towards your chest. When you can’t go any further, supinate by twisting your wrist, so your little finger rises and your thumb falls, to achieve maximum tension.
Pause for a second and really squeeze, then slowly lower the weight back down to just shy of the starting position and immediately repeat the movement. Continue until you hit the target reps then match that number on the other arm.
Sit on the end of a bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Rest the backs of your forearms on your thighs and allow your hands to hang down over your knees. Contract your forearms and use them to flex your wrists and curl the dumbbells as high as possible.
When you reach the peak, squeeze your forearms as hard as you can for a second, before lowering the weights back down and completing the desired number of reps.
Reverse Wrist Curls
Reverse wrist curls are performed almost identically to regular wrist curls. The only difference is you rest the front of your forearms on your thighs, and it is your palms that will be hanging over your knees.
Tips To Get Started With Home Dumbbell Exercises
When you first start training with dumbbells, make sure to start slow and build up to using heavier weights. This will not only reduce the risk of injury but will also offer a more effective workout, as you will be able to perform the exercises with the correct form.
You will, however, want to closely monitor your progress, so you know when it is time to increase the weight, to ensure you don’t plateau. You will need to monitor each area individually, as muscles don’t all progress at the same speed.
Before each session, you should always make sure you perform a few light sets with the muscles you will be training. This will warm them up and help prevent injury.
The ideal weight for the dumbbell set you purchase is also important and should depend on your physical strength and performance.
When planning your routine, you should carefully structure it to ensure it is sufficiently strenuous to promote growth and make sure you have exercises to train all the different muscles. Make sure to plan in rest days, so you don’t train the same muscle two days in a row, as this will prevent growth.
Dumbbells are one of the very best pieces of fitness equipment you can buy. No matter what your experience is, or your goals may be, there will be dumbbell exercises available to help you get to where you need to go.
This article will hopefully have given you everything you need to plan the perfect workout routine to help you smash your targets. There now shouldn’t be anything left stopping you from adding dumbbell exercises to your routine and making the most of the benefits they offer for yourself.
Dr. Ahmed Zayed holds a bachelor’s degree in medicine from Alexandria university and is a practicing plastic surgeon. He’s our expert on all things nutrition, medicine, rehabilitation, and flexibility. Dr.Ahmed has been a medical content writer for more than 11 years and his work reached top publications such as the HuffingtonPost