In my opinion, one of the most underrated and underused areas of the gym is the free weights section. "Free weights" is just a fancy name for dumbbells, and aside from the barbell, they're my favorite piece of equipment in the gym because of their versatility. If a client comes to me wanting to become stronger and build lean muscle, I always incorporate dumbbells into their training program.
While the exact exercises will vary based on experience and goals, I typically include unilateral exercises in training programs (exercises that work one arm or leg at a time) because they help build symmetry on both sides of the body. We all have a a dominant side, and it's important to train the weaker side in order to prevent muscular imbalances.
One of my favorite unilateral exercises for the upper-body strength is the single-arm dumbbell row. This exercise will help transform fat into muscle, strengthen the muscles that stabilize your back, and will have your back muscles feeling sore for days.
Here's how to do it:
- Hold a dumbbell in your right hand — 10 pounds is a good starting point — and place your left knee and left hand on a bench. Your hand should be underneath your shoulder and your knee should be underneath your hip. Your spine and head should be in a neutral position.
- Engage your core, relax your shoulders, and extend your right arm towards the floor. Do not rotate your torso or let your shoulder lower towards the floor.
- On an exhale, pull the dumbbell up with control, driving your elbow towards the ceiling. Do not rotate your torso.
- On an inhale, lower the dumbbell back down to the starting position. This completes one rep.
- Complete three sets of 12 reps on each arm.