You can work a wide variety of muscles with dumbbells, creating easy and effective bodybuilding or cardio workouts, depending on your goals. Varying your movements slightly lets you start with five basic dumbbell exercises and turn them into more.
Use more weight and perform the repetitions of each exercise slowly as you lift the weights up and down for bodybuilding. Lift as much weight as you can, and perform five reps per set. Take a one-minute break before starting the next the set. Do three sets of an exercise if you are a beginner before changing to a new exercise. Take a short break after your third set to recover.
Use less weight and perform more repetitions at a faster pace to raise your heart for cardio workouts. Use about 50 percent of the maximum amount of weight you can lift and do reps for 60 seconds. Take a 30-second break, then switch to a different exercise. Take a longer break every 10 minutes or so.
One of the most common dumbbell exercises is the biceps curl. Start with your hands down at your sides, holding the dumbbells with your palms facing forward. Slowly lift the weights up to your shoulders by bending at the elbow, hold for two seconds, and then lower them. To vary your curls, raise the weights across your body, instead of straight up.
Presses are easy to do, and they work your chest and arms. You can perform these standing, on your back, or on a bench that is inclined about 45 degrees. Start with the dumbbells raised, near your shoulders, with your arms bent. Your palms should face forward. Raise your arms, bringing the dumbbells close together, as you straighten your arms. Hold for two seconds, then lower.
To work your legs, hold the dumbbells up above your shoulders, with your elbows in. Hold each dumbbell with your palm facing your ear, as if the dumbbells are telephone receivers and you are making a phone call. With your feet slightly apart, lower yourself slowly, keeping a straight torso, as you move your buttocks backward. Hold this position for two seconds, then raise yourself using your legs, not your back muscles, to avoid an injury. Perform half squats with your arms down at your sides and a slightly lower bend downward. Take a step forward from this position, and lower yourself to create lunges.
Rows and kickbacks are similar exercises, varying the basic movement to work two different muscles. For both exercises, start with your knee on a chair or bench, holding onto the back of the chair or bench with one hand and holding the dumbbell in the other. If you have your left knee on the bench, balance yourself with your left hand. For rows, which work the biceps and chest, hold the dumbbell straight down, then lift it up and down, moving from near the floor toward your chest. Keep your palms facing your hips, as you bend your arms and raise the dumbbells to do this exercise.
For kickbacks, raise the weight toward your chest as you do for a row, and then straighten your arm backward using your triceps. Bring the weight back to your chest, keeping it raised, and continue to straighten and bend your arm.
To work your triceps, located on the backs of your upper arms, perform extensions. Start with the dumbbell behind your head, between your shoulder blades. Your palm should face your back. Raise the weight straight up, turning you forearm and hand forward as you straighten your arm. Finish with your arm straight in the air and your palm forward. You can alternate each arm, or perform the exercise with both hands at once.