September 3, 2014 5:25 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Dumbbell Training 101
by Joe Giandonato, MBA, MS, CSCS


Pat casey77

Pat Casey


Whether you’re looking to simplify or enhance your training, look no further than the dumbbell rack at your local gym.

Coaches and athletes have long lauded for dumbbells their versatility — you can perform a virtually limitless number of exercises with just one pair of dumbbells.

Dumbbells also allow lifters and athletes to execute an exercise with a fuller, more natural range of motion, which may prove beneficialin eliciting greater metabolic stress and muscle damage since range of motion is expanded. Further, dumbbells permit lifters greater latitude in altering the positioning of distal segments, i.e. arms and legs, as opposed to traditional barbell lifts, which reduces joint discomfort, particularly shoulder pain, associated with barbell pressing and squatting movements. Lastly, since both distal segments are not locked in a fixed position with a clenched fist, as is the case with barbell exercises, dumbbells emerge as the safer option, since they can be discarded more easily during an aborted or failed lift.

Literature involving EMG comparing barbell and dumbbell exercises has generated somewhat confounding reports. It has long been theorized that dumbbells can isolate a muscle better, apart from stress imposed on surrounding musculoskeletal architecture, namely non-contracile bony and ligamentous structures, however, barbells¬†allow for heavier loads, thus requiring greater interaction of the central nervous system, as high threshhold motor units are recruited and muscular contraction velocity becomes enhanced, especially during circa maximal lifts. While a blend of barbell and dumbbell exercises within a program is ideal, dumbbells prevail as a safer, more convenient option, especially for those that train alone, travel often (most hotel fitness centers are equipped with dumbbells), and those not specializing in or needing to train the “big three” or Olympic lifts. Dumbbells are also ideal as a deload option or as a change of pace to curtail training related staleness among traditional competitive strength athletes. Dumbbells also appropriate as assistance exercises, particularly those intended to fix muscular imbalances and bring up weak points or simply known as “filling in the gaps”.

Below is a list of dumbbell exercises, which I’ve categorized as power, strength, metabolic conditioning, or hypertrophy / assistance, in no particular order of preference or effectiveness. Also featured below is an actual workout I’ve completed while traveling and only having access to a dumbbell rack from 5 to 50 pound dumbbells in five-pound increments.


Dumbbell Snatch
Dumbbell Clean
Dumbbell Jump Shrug
Dumbbell Goblet Jump Squat
Dumbbell Push Press
Dumbbell Thruster
Dumbbell Circus Clean and Press


Dumbbell RDL
Dumbbell Goblet Squat
Dumbbell Goblet Squat with Pulse
Dumbbell Row
Dumbbell Bench Press
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Dumbbell Reverse Lunge
Dumbbell Forward Lunge
Dumbbell Goblet Duck Walk
Dumbbell Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat
Dumbbell Arm Bar
Dumbbell Turkish Get Up
Dumbbell Renegade Row
Chest Supported Dumbbell Row
Dumbbell Upright Row
Dumbbell Row to Hip

Metabolic Conditioning

Dumbbell Farmers Walks
Dumbbell Suitcase Carries
Dumbbell Waiter’s Carry
Dumbbell Overhead Carry

Hypertrophy / Assistance

Incline Dumbbell Curl
Dumbbell Zottman Curl
Dumbbell Tate Press
Dumbbell Triceps Combo Exercise
Dumbbell Shrug
Dumbbell Lateral Raise
Dumbbell Front Raise
Dumbbell Bent Rear Lateral Raise
Dumbbell Six Way Raise
Dumbbell Fly
Dumbbell Calf Raise
Dumbbell I, Y, T



Day One: Chest, Back, and Shoulders

1A) Chest Supported Dumbbell Row 5 x 12 3333 tempo
1B) Dumbbell Bench Press 5 x 15 3333 tempo

2A) Dumbbell Row to Hip 4 x 10 (each side) 3333 tempo
2B) Dumbbell Incline Bench Press 5 x 12

3A) Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 x 15
3B) Dumbbell Row 3 x 30 (each side)

4) Dumbbell Renegade Row with Push Ups 2 x 10 rows each side, 1 push up between each row, totaling 20 pushups on each set



Day Two: Legs

1A) Dumbbell Goblet Duck Walks 3 x 10 steps each leg
1B) Glute Brigde with feet elevated on hex head of dumbbell to facilitate greater glute contraction 3 x 10 3333 tempo

2) Dummbbell RDL 4 x 12 3333 tempo

3) Dumbbell Goblet Squat 5 x 20

4) Dumbbell Walking Lunge 3 x 10 steps each leg

5) Dumbbell Calf Raise 3 x 30



Day Three: Upper Back and Arms

1A) Incline Dumbbell Curls 3 x 10
1B) Dumbbell Triceps Combo Exercise 3 X 10

2A) Dumbbell Zottman Curl 3 x 15
2B) Dumbbell Neutral Grip Push Ups 3 x 20

3A) Dumbbell I, Y, T 3 x 15 each
3B) Dumbbell Shrug 3 x 20 3333 tempo


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