Best Dumbbell Exercises You Need to Do!

Want to know the best exercises to complete when you have a set of dumbbells, to achieve greater results, faster? Read on to see the best exercises that you need to know about.

Man Lifting Dumbbells from Rack

Whether working out at home or traveling, dumbbells are perhaps the single best piece of kit at giving you the greatest amount of exercise options without sacrificing muscle building potential.

In this article we take a look at some of the best dumbbell exercises that you need to know about, so read on, to see which exercises we feel you should be performing.

1. Dumbbell Bench Press

Dumbbell Bench Press

 One of the best exercises you can do for your chest the dumbbell bench press is a fantastic exercise to work your chest and triceps, although as the name suggests, you will also need a bench.

If you have a moveable bench which can assume a decline or incline position, you will be able to target the lower or upper chest more emphatically, if not, don’t worry, the standard dumbbell bench press works just fine.
If you don’t have a bench, but still want to work your chest, try a floor press, where you lay on the floor, instead of a bench, it can still be very effective.

2. One-Arm Dumbbell Row

One Arm Dumbell Row

A unilateral back exercise, the one-arm dumbbell row is one of the best exercises to target the lats and grow a bigger, stronger back. With a flat bench you can kneel as you row the weight back and work your lat muscles or you can even do this move standing, and bent at a slight angle, to still target the back muscles.

3. Lateral Raise

Lateral Raise

A great way to humble yourself with smaller weights, the lateral raise is a great way to build your shoulders and target your delts. You can do this move standing or seated (although standing is preferred) and with the correct form, you will start to see great improvements in your shoulders.

4. Dumbbell Chest Flye

Dumbell Chest Flye

The Dumbbell chest fly is another chance to work your chest although this time you can also take your triceps out of the equation, and solely focus on the pectoral muscles.

When multiple muscles are being worked the smaller muscle will often fail first, limiting what can be achieved. The chest fly exercise stops that from happening, ensuring the chest muscles are worked until they fail. Just like the standard dumbbell bench press, the chest fly can also be completed on an incline or decline and if necessary, on the floor, without a bench.

5. Stationary Lunge

Stationary Lunge Dumbbell

The stationary lunge is an easy to perform exercise that works the majority of the muscles in the lower body, including the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. As a unilateral exercise, the stationary lunge can be used to improve muscular imbalances and to build core strength and with the right amount of weight, you can support muscle growth and muscular endurance.

The stationary lunge is one of the hardest, yet most rewarding exercises you can do.

6. Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat

Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat with Dumbbells

If you were looking for a way to make the lunge harder, you’ve just found it. Universally loved and loathed in equal measure, the rear foot elevated split squat takes the benefits felt on the traditional lunge and enhances them to a new level. With an intense level of muscle activation, the rear foot elevated split squat is a fantastic exercise to have in your arsenal and still works the entire lower body.  

7. French Curl

French Curl

Although there are other options available for working the triceps the technique can sometimes be tricky, however, the French curl is much easier to do and is a fantastic way of training the triceps and stimulating muscle growth. Although we prefer a seated French curl the move can be done seated or standing, and all you need to make them successful is a heavy weight, making them a perfect dumbbell exercise.

8. Alternated Biceps Curl

Alternated Biceps Curl

If you’re going to build muscle and improve your physique, you can’t forget about the biceps, and an alternating bicep curl is one of the best moves you can do.

Isolating the bicep muscle and slowing the movement down to stimulate muscle growth, the alternating bicep curl is one of the best bicep exercises you can do with a pair of dumbbells and is another exercise that you should include in your workouts.

9. Goblet Squat

Goblet Squat

You may not have a squat bar but that doesn’t mean you can skip leg day. With a heavy dumbbell and the right position, goblet squats are a great squat variation that you can compete at home.

As a compound exercise, working your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and core, the goblet squat will provide very similar benefits to a barbell squat.

10. Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Giving you the ability to strengthen your shoulders and build your muscles, the shoulder press is another compound exercise that also works other muscles in the body (especially when standing).

A powerful shoulder exercise, the shoulder press can be done seated or standing and has a wide range of variations available, including single-arm presses or the Arnold press.

How to Program

Now that you have your list of the moves that you should be performing, let’s look at some of the best methods available to help you get more out of your workout.

The good thing about dumbbells is they can be used in a very small space, making them perfect for quick exercise routines and time-phased programs, or they can form part of a higher intensity muscle-building program, either way, there are a few different methods that could help you to fast-track your progress.


Supersets are a simple way of increasing the intensity of your routine and saving time in the process.

Completed by doing two moves back to back (with no rest in between) a superset can either be alternating body parts, such as shoulders then legs, or it could focus on the same body part twice in a row, such as squats then lunges.

The important thing to remember is that there is no rest in between the two moves, you only rest after the second exercise has been completed.

Drop Sets

If you have enough dumbbells (you only need 3 pairs) drop sets are a great muscle building technique and a fantastic way to supercharge a workout.

They’re also pretty simple to complete.

Starting with the heaviest weight complete your set (10 reps is common), before moving immediately to the next set with a lighter weight and then the next set with the lightest weight. Similar to a superset, you shouldn’t take any rest in-between and by the time you hit your final set, on the lightest weight, you should be feeling pretty cooked.


A dumbbell complex involves a series of 5-8 exercises completed one after the other and including a range of full-body exercises, for a set number of reps. The idea behind a complex is that you should be sufficiently challenged throughout and you do not put down the weight until the last exercise has been completed. 

The exercises normally transition from one another and it’s common to keep the same rep range for each exercise. When building a complex you should go with the weight of your weakest lift to ensure that the weight is manageable throughout.


Circuits are a common way of training and another format that focuses on speed and intensity.

Whether it’s a timed circuit or one that follows a particular order, circuits are a good way of performing a lot of different exercises in a challenging manner and a good option for anyone looking to improve their fitness and conditioning.

Final Thoughts

Dumbbells are some of the best pieces of exercise kit you can ever own and whether you need them when traveling or to build your home gym, dumbbells are adaptable and they can do it all.

Almost every single exercise can be performed with a pair of dumbbells and unless you’re specifically looking for powerlifting or Olympic lifting workouts, dumbbells will have you covered.

Even if you are training for something as specific as powerlifting, dumbbells still have their place and could supplement any exercise program.

The main thing however, is how they’re used.

Dumbbells can contribute to a great all-round workout, whether you’re trying to strip away fat or build muscle, and with the right pair, the right mindset, and the right exercises to complete, you can soon start to take your fitness to a whole new level.

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