The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to the 50+ Best Dumbbell Exercises
All signs point to weightlifting if you want to get strong! Whether you're looking to lose fat, build muscle, increase your metabolism, or increase bone density, strength training with weights is a must. We've compiled a list of the best dumbbell exercises so you can get strong at home or in the gym.
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, holding a dumbbell at each shoulder.
- Slowly bend your knees as if you were going to sit in a chair, keeping all the weight in your heels. Don't let your knees move beyond your toes, and don't let the knees roll out or in. Squat down as low as you can, keeping your head and chest lifted, your spine long, and your shoulders relaxed.
- Press through your heels, and slowly straighten your legs to stand up, completing one rep. Make sure to keep your spine neutral. Do not round your back.
- Stand holding a pair of medium-weight dumbbells in each hand, arms at your sides, with your knees slightly bent.
- Keeping your arms straight and knees slightly bent, slowly bend at your hip joint (not your waist), and lower the weights as far as possible without rounding your back, which should remain straight.
- Squeeze your glutes to slowly pull yourself up (don't use your back). This completes one rep.
Deep Squat With Overhead Reach
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and toes pointed slightly outward, holding one heavier dumbbell with both hands.
- Sit back into your squat, bending your knees to 90 degrees while keeping your elbows straight, and raise the weight overhead.
- Lower your arms as you straighten your knees to stand; this completes one rep.
- Stand with feet a little wider than your hips, with toes pointed slightly outward, holding one dumbbell in both hands.
- Sit back to squat, keeping the weight in your heels and your chest lifted. The bottom of the dumbbell should lightly tap the floor.
- Push through your heels to return to standing to complete one rep.
- Stand with your feet wider than shoulder width with toes pointed slightly out. If using a dumbbell, hold it at chest level with both hands. Keeping your back flat, push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor and your elbows touch your knees.
- With your weight focused in your heels, push yourself up to the starting position. This completes one rep.
Dumbbell (Kettlebell) Swing
- Stand with your legs shoulder-width distance apart and toes pointed slightly outward, holding the dumbbell (or a kettlebell if you have it) in both hands.
- Bend the knees slightly, pushing the hips back, lowering the weight between your legs with the forearms pressing against the inner thighs. Keep your chest open with shoulder blades sliding down your back.
- Forcefully squeeze your glutes and drive the heels down to thrust the weight forward as you straighten the legs. All the work is done by the lower body and core in this exercise and your arms will naturally swing forward to around chest height or above the head.
- Allow the weight to fall between your legs, bending the knees, ready for the next rep.
- Stand with your legs just slightly wider than hip-distance apart, arms raised to shoulder height with elbows bent, holding weights by your ears.
- Bend your knees as if you were sitting in a chair, keeping weight on your heels.
- Press the dumbbells overhead as you straighten your knees to return to standing. This counts as one rep.
Squat, Curl, and Press
- Stand with your feet directly under your hips holding a dumbbell in each hand. Sit back into your squat, keeping the weight in your heels, bringing your thighs parallel to the floor without letting your knees go beyond your toes.
- Push through your heels to return to standing while bringing the weights to your shoulders, performing a bicep curl.
- Stabilize your torso and keep your arms moving upward performing an overhead press with the palms facing out.
- Lower your arms back to your side to complete one rep.
Alternating Forward Lunges With Biceps Curl
- Stand tall with your feet hip-width distance apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.
- Step forward with the right foot as you bend the elbows in a biceps curl. Lower your hips until both knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle. Keep the front knee directly above the ankle and lower the left knee to just tap the floor.
- Keep the weight in your heels as you push back to the starting position, completing one rep.
Split Squat With Overhead Press
- Holding the weights at your shoulders with your palms facing out, step backward about three feet with your left foot. Press the weights up to the ceiling.
- Lower the weights to your shoulders as you bend your knees, making 90-degree angles with both legs.
- Straighten both legs as you press the weights back toward the ceiling. This completes one rep.
Reverse Lunge With Biceps Curl
- Begin with your feet together, holding dumbbells at your sides.
- Step your right foot back into a deep lunge as you bend your elbows, bringing weights to your shoulders for the bicep curl. Make sure your left knee is directly over your ankle, and bend your right knee so it almost touches the floor.
- Focus on your left glute as you step your right foot forward to return to the starting position, lowering weights back to your sides. Repeat, lunging the left foot back. This counts as one rep.
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, and place a dumbbell in each hand. Your closed palms should be facing your body. Your shoulders should be over your pelvis, with knees slightly bent.
- Keeping the dumbbells close to your body, raise them to your shoulders, bending your elbows out to the sides.
- Slowly lower them to the starting position. This counts as one rep.
Overhead Triceps Extensions
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart.
- Hold one dumbbell (go for your heavier weight) with both hands, bending the elbows behind your head.
- Straighten your arms to lift the dumbbell into the air, then slowly bend the arms to lower. This counts as one rep.
- Lean forward and bend both knees, remembering to keep a flat back.
- Extend your arms so they are straight. Lift the dumbbells straight up to chest level, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you do. Be sure to keep your elbows in and pointed upward. Don't arch your back.
- Slowly lower the weights back to the starting position to complete one rep.
- Start in a shallow squat, holding the weight in your right hand.
- Pull your elbow back, squeezing your right shoulder blade toward your spine while you twist to the right. This completes one rep.
- Holding one dumbbell in your left hand with your right hand on your hip, squat, bringing the weight toward the floor.
- Exhale, pull your abs to your spine as you straighten your legs, and pull your elbow behind you, bringing the weight to your chest. Your torso will twist to the left.
- Bend your knees and squat as you return to the starting position to complete a rep.
Lateral Arm Raise
- Stand with your feet hip distance apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand so your palms face in toward the sides of your body.
- Start with the right side first. With control, keep your arm straight (but don't lock that elbow) and as you inhale, raise your right hand up toward the ceiling. You want your palm to be facing down and your arm to be parallel to the floor. Then as you exhale, slowly lower your hand back to your body. You should be able to see your hand in your peripheral vision. Your arm won't be directly out to the side but slightly forward.
- Do the same move with your left arm.
- Then do both your right and left arms at the same time to complete the rep.
Deadlift With Front Row
- Stand upright holding your dumbbells in each hand, arms at your sides, with your knees slightly bent.
- Keeping your arms straight and knees slightly bent, slowly hinge forward, bending at your hips (not your waist), lowering the weights as far as possible without rounding your back, which should remain straight.
- Squeeze your glutes to return to sanding, keeping your back straight. Once you're standing, pull the weights up the front of your body, bringing them to your chin with elbows going wide. Lower the weights to complete one rep.
Bicep Curl and Overhead Press
- Stand with your feet directly under your hips, holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing out. Bend the elbows, bringing the weights to your shoulders, performing a bicep curl.
- Stabilize your torso and keep your arms moving upward, straightening the arms above you, performing an overhead press with the palms facing out.
- Bend the elbows coming back to the end of your bicep curl, then straighten the arms coming back to the starting position to complete one rep.
- Hold one dumbbell at chest height and run in place while lifting your knees high to the level of your waist. Engage your abs as the knee comes up.
- One high knee on each side counts as one rep.
Low to High Woodchop
- Squat, and twist left to hold the dumbbell on the outside of your left leg.
- Exhale, and lift the weight diagonally across your body, ending twisted to the right with the dumbbell above your head. Pivot on your left foot as needed.
- The move is a bit percussive, so focus on the rotation initiating in your torso.
- Control the weight back up to the starting position to complete one rep.
Standing Side Bend
- Stand with your feet a little wider than hip distance apart holding a five- to 10-pound dumbbell over your head. Squeeze your head with your upper arms to fire up your core and protect your neck.
- Bend sideways to the right, squeezing your waist on the right side. Keep your neck as neutral as possible, looking forward, not down.
- Pull the left ribs down to return to standing upright. This focuses the work on the left obliques. Switch sides, and bend to the left to complete one rep.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips with your knees soft. Hold the dumbbell overhead with both hands.
- Keeping your abs pulled to the spine, circle the weight around your head starting to the left. Your ribs can move slightly, but your pelvis should stay still. One circle completes one rep.
Bent-Over Reverse Fly
- Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand with the knees slightly bent. Keeping your back flat, bend forward at the hip joint.
- Exhale and lift both arms to the side, maintaining a slight bend in the elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Then, with control, lower the dumbbells back toward the ground. This completes one rep.
- Stand on your left leg, and lift your right knee up until it is level with your hip. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, raise your arms out to the side until your upper arms are parallel to the ground. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees.
- Maintaining a strong sense of balance, rotate your upper arms forward to bring your fists to the floor, then rotate the upper arm backward to bring the fists up. Do not lower or raise your upper arms; keep them parallel to the floor. This completes one rep.
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Bend your elbows behind you, keeping your upper arms even with your back.
- Bend your knees to come into a half squat while creasing at your hips so your spine is almost parallel to the floor. Keep your spine neutral with the pelvis and head forming one long line.
- As you exhale, simultaneously extend your right arm straight out in front of you and the left arm straight behind you. Rotate both wrists so your front palm is down and your back palm is up.
- With control, return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. This completes one rep.
Single-Leg Deadlift With Row
- Stand up straight and hold two dumbbells with palms facing each other.
- Lift your left foot up a bit and balance on your right leg. Keeping your back neutral, lean your entire torso forward while raising your left leg, which should stay in line with your body.
- Holding this position, perform a row by bending your elbows back so that the dumbbells meet the sides of your chest while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Lower weights back toward the floor.
- With your back straight, return upright, coming to your starting position, to complete one rep.
Sumo Squat Side Bends
- Start in a wide stance with your toes pointed out; hold a dumbbell just above your head with elbows wide to sides.
- Bend your knees over your toes, coming into a squat with your thighs almost parallel to the floor.
- Keep low in your sumo squat as you alternate side bending to the left and right. This counts as one rep.
Sumo Squat With Bicep Curls
- Hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands with your arms straight and your palms facing away from you. Step your feet apart so there's about 20 inches between your heels. Point your toes out slightly.
- When you're ready, bend your knees and elbows at the same time. Keep your shoulders over your hips, and lower down so your weight is back in your heels. Then straighten your legs and arms. This is one rep.
Dumbbell Sumo Squat
- Stand with your feet wide, toes pointing out, holding both dumbbells in front of the chest. Bend your knees, lowering your hips deeply, so your thighs are parallel with the floor. Make sure to keep your weight back in your heels.
- Rise back up, straightening the legs completely and squeezing the glutes at the top of the movement to get the most from the exercise.
- This completes one rep.
Sumo Squat With Side-Arm Raises
- Stand with legs wide and toes pointed outward slightly. Hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands with your arms straight and your palms facing down.
- Bend your knees until your knees are over your ankles while raising your arms to just below shoulder height. Arms should be in line with your legs — you should see the weights in your peripheral vision.
- Straighten your legs and lower your arms simultaneously to complete the rep.
- Holding the weight in your right hand, stand with your feet and knees together.
- Take a large step with your left foot to the left side, lunging toward the floor.
- Make sure your left knee does not extend past your toes, and keep your right leg relatively straight.
- Push off through your left foot, emphasizing the weight in the heel, to return to the start to complete one rep.
Side Lunge With Bicep Curl
- Holding a pair of dumbbells, stand with your feet and knees together. Perform a bicep curl by bending your elbows to bring the weights to your shoulders.
- Lower your arms toward the floor as you take a large step to the left with your left foot, lunging toward the floor. Make sure your left knee does not extend past your toes and keep your right leg relatively straight.
- As you push off through your left foot to return to standing, perform a bicep curl. This completes the rep.
Side Lunge to Curtsy Squat
- Holding a dumbbell at your chest, step your left leg wide to the left, coming into a lateral lunge, bending your left knee. Keep your chest lifted and your weight in your left heel.
- Push off with your left foot, and cross the left leg behind your right, coming into a curtsy, bending both knees. This completes one rep.
Reverse Lunge and Press
- Stand with your feet together, holding the weights at your shoulders with your palms facing out.
- Step your left foot back into a lunge, making 90-degree angles with your front and back knee.
- Push off your left foot, bringing your left knee forward so it is even with your left hip, while raising your arms above your head. Do this motion with control.
- Without touching the floor with your left foot, step back into the lunge to start your second rep.
- Holding a 10-pound dumbbell in your right hand, stand on your left leg with your right foot lifted.
- Keeping your back flat, bend your left knee while bending forward at your hips to lightly touch the dumbbell to the ground. Keep your right knee bent and your right leg close to your body.
- Push through your left heel and return to the starting position to complete one rep.
- Stand holding weights in both hands just above your shoulders, with bent elbows and bring your right knee to the ground.
- Bring your left knee down so you are kneeling.
- Lift your right foot up and place it in front of you. Bring the left foot forward as you stand up. This completes one rep.
Push-Up and Rotate
- Begin in a plank position with your feet in line with your hips and your hands each holding a dumbbell.
- Lower your body toward the floor, then push through your arms, returning to plank.
- Twist to the left, reaching your left arm, dumbbell in hand, to the ceiling without letting your pelvis raise or lower.
- Return to plank position, bringing your hand back to the floor. Do another push-up and twist to the right. This completes one rep.
Plank Dumbbell Row
- Start in a plank position with your legs wider than hip-width distance; the wider stance makes you more stable. Hold onto your dumbbells, keeping your wrist locked to protect the joint.
- With your core tight and your glutes engaged, exhale, stabilizing your torso as you lift your right elbow to row; feel your right scapula sliding toward your spine as you bend your elbow up toward the ceiling.
- Keeping your neck long and energized, return the weight to the ground to complete the rep.
Plank and Straight-Arm Kickback
- Start in a plank position holding a dumbbell in each hand. Open your feet wider than hip width for a stronger base of support.
- Lift your left arm behind you as high as you can. Bring the left arm back into plank to complete one rep.
Side Plank With Weight
- Start in a side plank on your left side, holding a dumbbell in your right hand with your right arm parallel to the floor.
- Exhale and pull your abs toward your spine to stabilize your torso as your raise your right arm to the ceiling. Do not let your hand travel behind your shoulder. Lower the weight back to the starting position to complete one rep. Squeeze your inner thighs together for added stability.
- If you feel wobbly in this position, split your legs, bringing your right foot forward.
- Start on your knees. If this hurts your knees, fold up a mat or towel and kneel on that for a little cushioning. Your thighs should be parallel.
- Hold a five- to eight-pound dumbbell with both hands in front of your chest.
- Take a breath in, and as you exhale, lean back, squeezing your glutes, and use your abs to keep your spine straight.
- As you inhale, return your torso back to the starting position, to complete the rep.
Weighted Donkey Kick
- Start on all fours, and place a weight in the crease of your right knee.
- Keeping your right knee bent at a 90-degree angle, lift your right leg up until you feel your right glute engage. Flex your foot, and slowly pulse the foot toward the ceiling by squeezing your glute. Do not move the torso at all — the motion is just in the hip joint.
Seated Russian Twist
- Holding a dumbbell in both hands, sit on the ground with your knees bent and your heels about a foot from your butt.
- Lean slightly back without rounding your spine at all. It is really important, and difficult, to keep your back straight.
- Pull your navel to your spine, and twist slowly to the left, bringing the weight to your left side. The movement is not large and comes from the ribs rotating, not from your arms swinging.
- Inhale through center, and rotate to the right. This completes one rep.
V-Sit With Single-Arm Chest Fly
- Begin sitting with your heels planted about two feet from your butt, holding the weights at chest level with a slight bend in your elbows. Lean back a few inches, pulling your abs toward your spine to keep your spine long and straight.
- The left arm remains still, as you open your right arm to the side, making sure the weight doesn't go beyond your shoulder.
- Bring your right arm back to center to complete one rep.
Dumbbell Crossover Punch
- Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground, about two feet from your butt. Hold weights, five- to eight-pound dumbbells, in both hands at your chest with your elbows on the floor.
- Keeping your hands at your chest, roll up to a sitting position. Twist your ribs to the left as you "punch" your right hand to the outside of the left knee.
- Bring the right hand back to your chest as you untwist, bringing your torso back to the center, and roll down to the ground.
- Repeat the sit-up, twisting to the right side to complete one rep.
Overhead Reach With Leg Lower
- Lie on your back with your arms reaching toward the ceiling, holding one weight with both hands. With the sole of your left foot on the mat, bring your right toes toward the ceiling.
- Exhale and lower your arms and leg toward the floor, keeping your lower back touching the mat.
- Inhale and return to starting position to complete one rep.
- Grab a set of dumbbells, and start by lying on your back with the knees bent.
- With one dumbbell in each hand, raise your arms so they are above your chest, making sure your elbows are straight but not locked.
- Slowly lower both arms toward your head, bending your elbows to 90 degrees as the dumbbells reach the mat. Aim to lower your dumbbells so they are on either side of your head, elbows bent and pressing in toward your head.
- Lift your arms back to starting position. This is one rep.
Lying Chest Fly
- Lie on your back with your hips and knees both at 90-degree angles. Using your low abs, press your lower back into the mat. Raise your arms toward the ceiling, palms facing each other, keeping the elbow joint slightly bent.
- Keeping your torso stable, open your arms out to the sides until your elbows are about two inches from the floor.
- Raise your arms back to the ceiling, bringing the weights together over your chest. This counts as one rep.
Lying Overhead Reach
- Lie on your back with your hips and knees both at 90-degree angles, using your low abs to press your lower back into the mat. Holding five- to eight-pound dumbbells, raise your arms toward the ceiling, keeping the elbow joint slightly bent.
- Reach your arms overhead, tapping the dumbbells on the floor above your head. Do not let your back arch away from the floor as you lower the weights.
- Raise your arms back to the starting position to complete one rep.
- Lie on your back with a three- to five-pound dumbbell in each hand. Raise your arms straight up above your chest, with a slight bend at each elbow. Raise your legs up to tabletop, with knees and hips bent to 90-degree angles.
- Inhale and open your arms to your side, with a slight bend at each elbow. Exhale as you bring your arms back up to starting position.
- Once your arms are back straight, lift your upper back and curl up toward your legs, pushing your weights toward your shins. As you curl up, stretch your legs out in front of you.
- Uncurl your spine slowly as you lower your upper body to the floor while bending your knees back to 90-degree angles.
- Once your head is back on the floor, release your arms to back out by your side, making sure not to let your upper arms touch the floor. This is one rep.
Bridge With Chest Press
- Start on your back with your knees bent and your feet hip-distance apart. Hold weights by your chest.
- Squeeze your glutes as you push your pelvis toward the ceiling, coming into a bridge. Keep your ribs aligned with your pelvis.
- Holding the bridge, press the weights to the ceiling directly above your shoulders.
- Lower the weights to complete the rep.
Single-Arm Chest Press
- Lie on your back with your heels about a foot away from your butt. Hold a dumbbell in your left hand and bring both hands to the ceiling.
- Bend your left elbow, lowering your upper arm to floor. Exhale and straighten your elbow, pressing the weight back to the ceiling to complete a rep.