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3 Basic Dumbbell Lifts for Your Strength Workout

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Though strength training circuit machines have become more sophisticated with advancing technology, dumbbells have been helping serious lifters make gains while remaining mostly the same over the years. While beginners may be more comfortable hopping on a machine than picking up weights, to maximize strength training results you need to incorporate both free weights and machines.

If you mostly concentrate on machines and don’t have much experience with free weights, dumbbells are a great introduction to a new form of strength training that can take your gains to the next level.

Benefits of using dumbbells

When you are ready to move beyond press and row machines, dumbbells have a number of advantages:

1. Commonly found everywhere in a wide range of weight

Even if you are lifting weights in a hotel or the gym in your apartment complex, you’ll likely find at least a few different sizes of dumbbells. At almost every gym, you’ll find a set of dumbbells ranging from around 10 lbs up to 85 lbs or higher. Whether you are brand new or a seasoned lifter, there will be dumbbells that match your ability.

2. Improve stabilizer muscles

Unlike machine-based exercises, which restrict your movement to a specific plane, dumbbells require you to move all the weight yourself. In many dumbbell exercises, you have to hold weight above or in front of you before performing the actual exercise. This means working with dumbbells helps you strengthen your primary muscles as well as the surrounding stabilizer muscles, like your rear delts and hip flexors.

3. Safer than barbells

Even though dumbbells provide all the benefits of lifting with free weights, they aren’t as risky to use as barbells. If you fail on an exercise or feel a sudden pain, you can drop or toss a dumbbell onto the floor harmlessly. On popular barbell exercises like squats or bench press, it’s more difficult to get out from under the bar if something goes wrong.

Now that you know why dumbbells are so helpful, let’s discuss specific dumbbell exercises to add to your workout program.

3 of the best dumbbell exercises for beginners

You can use dumbbells to work every part of your body. These exercises are simple to perform, yet can have a huge impact on your fitness if done consistently.

Split squat

Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet shoulder width apart. With one foot, take a step forward as you would to begin a lunge. With your weight balanced on the heel of your front foot and the toes of your back foot, lower your body towards the ground until your back knee contacts the floor and your front thigh is parallel with the floor. While controlling your body and the weight, use your leg muscles to push your body back to the starting position, stabilizing with your core. Switch legs and repeat for an even workout.

This exercise works almost every muscle in your lower body and helps with core stability. It’s also great for athletes, who often have to jump or explode off of one leg.

Bench press

Lie on a flat bench with your elbows below your body at a 90-degree angle, holding a dumbbell in either hand. Concentrate on generating force from your pec muscles as you push the weight up, bringing the dumbbells together until they are about an inch apart. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting point. For best results, use a weight that is manageable but challenging to finish on the last few reps.

The dumbbell bench press is great for working stabilizer muscles like the rear delts. It’s also easy to perform and much safer than benching with a barbell.

Reverse fly

The reverse fly can be performed standing, sitting, or lying against an incline bench. To perform the standing version, hold two dumbbells and bend over at the waist by hinging at the hip until your body is nearly parallel to the floor. Keep your back straight and lock your core, then slowly move your arms outward, pushing the weight up towards the ceiling until both arms form a nearly straight line with your back. Lower the weight back to the starting position in a controlled way to avoid injury.

The reverse fly will work your delts and shoulders, while also strengthening stabilizer muscles like the trapezius and rhomboids. This exercise is also great for improving your posture, as it helps the muscles that are lengthened and underused when slouching.

These three exercises alone will hit many of the major muscle groups. As you get used to using dumbbells, you can incorporate new moves and mix things up to work different body parts. Remember to start with a lighter weight as you first learn and get comfortable with these movements. Once you get some practice, you can challenge yourself with heavier dumbbells.

How to support your strength training

If you’re going to be lifting weights regularly, it’s important that you give your body the fuel it needs. Make sure you are eating enough, especially if you are strength training to gain size.

You also need to track your protein intake carefully - protein is one of the most important macronutrients for lifters, whether your goal is increased muscle mass or improved strength. With Body Fortress® Super Advanced Isolate Protein, you get highly purified whey protein in a sustained-release formula that continues to help with recovery hours after your first sip.* Our great-tasting protein is available in two delicious flavors, and both come with zero aspartame and gluten.

With a consistent strength training routine that incorporates dumbbells, plus the right diet and protein intake, you’ll find yourself making serious gains in strength, muscle size, and overall fitness.

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