Easy Dumbbell Exercises

By Jill Gardiner , last updated December 29, 2011

You don’t need expensive gym memberships or huge, hulking home exercise machines to get in shape in the new year; with a few easy dumbbell exercises you can get that strong, lean body you’ve always wanted for a minimal investment of both time and space. There is virtually no muscle group you can’t tone with this versatile fitness favorite, and the freedom of using dumbbells actually allows you to perform a greater range of movements so you can work more muscles in more ways. These easy exercises can be performed anywhere, anytime and you can adjust the degree of difficulty by increasing either the weight or the amount of reps.

Biceps

Start with a traditional bicep curl: stand with a dumbbell in each hand, arms at your sides and palms facing inwards. Lift the dumbbells to the outsides of your shoulders, rotating out and back to the shoulder in one smooth movement, then return to your starting position. Hammer curls are a variation on bicep curls; start in the same position but lift the dumbbells directly up in front of you and to your shoulders keeping your elbows tucked in, then return to start.

Triceps

To target your triceps, try a one or two-armed extension. For a two-armed extension, start in a standing position and grasp a dumbbell in both hands over your head with arms fully extended. Bend your elbows so the weight goes behind your head, then return to the start. For a one-armed extension, hold the dumbbell in one hand and start with the weight behind and to the side of your head, arm bent at a ninety-degree angle. Straighten your arm so the weight is above you, keeping your upper arm steady, then lower again.

Forearms

To get your forearms lean and strong, try a few variations on the wrist curl. Start in a sitting position with legs shoulder-width apart and wrists resting on your knees. With a dumbbell in each hand, palm facing up, lift your hands up while keeping wrists steady, hold, then return to your starting position. Try the same thing but face your palms towards the floor instead. Keep your arms steady throughout the exercise.

Chest

To work your chest with dumbbells, you’ll need a bench of some sort for chest presses and flies. To do a press, lie on the bench and extend your arms above you. Lower weights to your chest without locking elbows, then return to start. Start in the same position for flies but instead of lowering straight down, lower out and to the side while keeping arms extended, then return to start. If your bench is adjustable, try 30 to 45-degree angles for variations on both exercises.

Shoulders

Strengthen shoulders with lateral raises and shoulder presses. For a lateral raise, stand with arms at sides and a dumbbell in each hand. Raise arms out until they’re even with shoulders, then lower to start. For presses, extend arms up above your head with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing forward. Lower weights to shoulders while keeping back straight. For variations, try this exercise seated or turn palms inward.

Legs

Squats and lunges with dumbbells will work your legs. For lunges, start with a dumbbell in each hand, arms at sides and palms facing inwards. Move one foot behind and bend down so that both legs form ninety-degree angles, being careful not to extend front knee past the toes of your foot. Return to starting position. For squats, hold a dumbbell in both hands with arms relaxed in front of you , squat down and then return to start.

Back

To strengthen your back, try a bent-over row. Bend at the waist with a dumbbell in each hand, arms extended towards the floor. With knees slightly bent, pull the weights toward your shoulders, hold, and then lower again.

Abs

Adding dumbbells to your crunches will get your tummy lean and flat in no time. Lie on your bench with feet firmly on the floor and hold one dumbbell at your chest. Raise your shoulders off the bench, hold, then return to start.

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