Top 16 Dumbbell Exercises

If you are reading this right now, there is a good chance that you have been educating yourself via reading multiple articles that will help you reach your goal. Most likely, you have seen a hundred different ways to get the results you are looking for. The moment someone tells you their way is the “right way” or “only way”, run! The truth is that there are many paths to reach your goal. The real question is, which one do you enjoy the most, and will get you there the quickest?

I have been training for nearly 20 years consistently. During those 20 years, I have done many types of training: Weight Training, Karate, Judo, Sprinting, Plyometrics, Distance Running, Football Drills, etc. When all is said and done, my favorite type of training has always been either Weight Training or Karate. One thing that I have noticed in every Dojo is different, whereas every dumbbell feels familiar. With this being the case, I am constantly hitting the weights. Though I still sprinkle in the different types of workouts, I build my training around my Primary Training Interest. You may or may not share the same level of interest with Weight Training as I do. Either way, the importance of weight training is undeniable!

Weight training will increase lean muscle, increase metabolism, increase bone density, increase sense of well-being, increase vitality, decrease fat just to name a few benefits. Would you agree that these are good? I’m pretty sure you do! So what is one of the best ways to accomplish all of this in a minimal amount of space? Again, as usual there are a multitude of options. However, one of my favorites is Weight Training with dumbbells.

Dumbbells offer an excellent form of resistance, take up little space, and can be used for a monstrous number of exercises. In fact, there are so many possible exercises. What I want to do is break that huge number down to the most effective ones. Sure variations are great, but let’s cut to the chase and narrow down the scope a bit for fast and noticeable results. I struggled with the “number” of best exercises with dumbbells, but landed on SIXTEEN. There are TONS more and unlimited possibilities in training reps, sets, pace, etc., but these 16 exercises are perfect for Full Body Development in a Minimal Space with Minimal Equipment.

All you need are a Set of Dumbbells, a Dumbbell Rack (to keep them orderly) and an Adjustable Bench. There are a lot of possibilities out there, but the best ones can provide you the following features and use these your advantage:

– Workbench Capacity: 600 lbs.

– Workbench Functionality: Multiple Settings (decline, flat, incline, upright)

– Workbench Future Functionality: A variety of Attachments are available to expand later

– Dumbbell Rack: Holds 6-8 Sets of Dumbbells depending on Size of Dumbbells

I worked out with and trained multiple clients achieving great results with this minimalist configuration: Adjustable Bench/Dumbbells.

Okay, time to get into how to build the body you have always wanted with the Top 16 Dumbbell Exercises. Though full-body movements are fine, building and sculpting the physique you want with these following movements are necessary.


Let’s start with Carving an awe inspiring Chest of Granite! The first two of the 16 exercises are for the chest:

1. The Dumbbell Bench Press. Exercise number one is a crowd pleaser. This is a true classic and the base compound movement to build a solid chest. The chest are hammered with this tired and true movement that has shaped bodies for decades. Using the Multi Bench, you can also do a number of variations of this basic movement. A Decline Bench Press helps to “shelf up” the chest bringing out the sharper underline of the chest. An Incline variation helps fill out the Upper Chest. This movement with these variations builds solid mass in the full chest.

2. The Dumbbell Chest Fly. This exercise is awesome for putting extra emphasis on slashing up the chest. A lighter weight is used for this in comparison to the Press; however, Incline and Decline variations are also beneficial for full Pectoral development. The combination of Bench Press and Fly movements with variations of Incline, Flat and decline will result in great chest.


One of the best ways to improve the V-Shape of your physique is by adding width and shape to your shoulders. This also makes the arms look that much more impressive. The area where the arm meets the shoulder just looks incredible when you take the time to develop the delts as needed. The shoulders are so important in physique development that I have dedicated 5 out of the 16 exercises to them. So what exercises are best for this development? Here are the following:

3. Dumbbell Shoulder Press. This movement is a popular compound movement that engages the entire shoulder. Variations such as the Arnold Press are a way to add some spice to the movement for additional results. However you look at it though, a solid compound movement where you’re lifting serious weight is a great way to pack on lean mass. (Compound Movement: A lift involving movement in 2 or more joints. Example: Shoulder Press active joints are the shoulders and elbows)

4. Dumbbell Upright Row. This exercise is also a compound movement. You can move considerable weight and spark large muscle gains with the Upright Row. Also hit during this exercise are the Trap muscles. That being said, check out number 5.

5. Dumbbell Shrugs. This is more of a Trap focused movement. You know how powerful a strong set of traps looks. Upright rows and Shrugs are the quickest way to get them. Traps are great but you want to put a large amount of focus on the “shoulder caps.” This is where 6 and 7 come into play.

6. Dumbbell Front Raises. With the Front Raise you can do them simultaneously or in alternating fashion. The key here is to do them! This movement adds roundness and fullness to the front side of your shoulder. Though the front side of the shoulder needs work it is imperative to focus on the outer and rear portions to develop a full shoulder. 7 and 7-A will help you with that.

7. Dumbbell Side Raises. This is a basic movement putting all possible emphasis on the outer portion of the shoulder. When done consistently and with intensity you will see width and roundness added to your shoulders. What does that mean? A better V-Shape.

7-A. Variation of the Side Raise. Simply bend forward at the waist and pull the movement towards the back, a.k.a. the Rear Fly. This is the best way to isolate the Rear Delt. This area is SO OFTEN neglected, but it really gives the shoulder the ultimate look! (Why not have 17 exercises making this exercise 8 instead of listing this Variation as 7-A you ask?) Good Question! Moving on.


Training chest and biceps may create an imbalanced physique and injure yourself. Working on balancing your body will result in a better look and stronger body. So what do you do for your back?

8. Dumbbell Row. As the Bench Press is to the Chest, the Row is to the Back! You thought you were done with those types of questions once you took the SAT or ACT right? Well it’s back! The point is the Row is tried and true. It is one of the greatest exercises for Back Development both for lats and rhomboid muscles. Single Arm or Double Arm Rows are both possible. You can do variations with elbows in or out. You can adjust your hand position (which way your palms are facing). All of these variations will keep the row interesting and stimulate extreme muscle growth. Whatever you do, for your physiques shape, keep rowing!


9. Dumbbell Bicep Curls. This is possibly the most popular exercise among men. It’s surely right up there with Bench Press. Anyway it is good at bringing out the peak of the bicep. You can do Standing or Seated Variations. You can also do them in Alternating fashion or Simultaneously. However you decide to do them, you will increase the size of your biceps considerably if you do them a couple times a week with good form.

10. Hammer Curls. This is a version of the Bicep curl that allows you to move more weight meaning more mass gain. Also involved in this exercise neglected in others is the Brachioradialis. What’s that you ask? It is part of the forearm. This exercise is great for bicep mass and adds size to the forearm as well.

Though everyone loves training Biceps, it’s the Triceps that make up the majority of the size in the upper arm! So let’s get to the Triceps.

11. Skull Crushers / Lying Triceps Extensions. You can do a number of variations with one or two dumbbells. Adjusting the angle of the bench can also change the strength curve of the movement as well. Whether you are using a flat bench with One Dumbbell or Declined Bench with Two Dumbbells or another variation, this exercise with shred up the old horseshoe triceps!

12. Triceps Kickback. This movement is often done with one arm at a time, though you can do both at the same time if you like. You will be hard pressed to find an exercise that generates more burn in the triceps than the kickback. Like the old Denorex commercial said, “The tingle tells me it’s working.” Get to kicking and start the burn!

That’s the entire upper body blasted, results galore! Want to take it to the next level? You can reach that next level by Increasing your Testosterone and Growth Hormone Levels naturally? How do you do that? You train your wheels with intensity! How do you do that with this equipment combo?


13. Squats. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and sit down, then stand up, and repeat! It’s that simple. This compound leg movement with increase Quadriceps, Glutes and Hamstring Mass. It will also stimulate an increase naturally in your Testosterone and Growth Hormone levels. The result is a more Ripped Body fr Head to Toe! You can do variations in stance, depth, open area without bench, or squat to the bench. Here the most important thing to do is SQUAT!

14. Lunges. For leg and glute development, it is a close competition between Squats and Lunges as to which is the best. Both are great and worth doing in your leg workout. What I can tell you is that if I don’t do one for a few weeks, when I bring it back into the workout it blasts my legs. For that reason I suggest Lunges AND Squats. As for the lunges you can do variations such as: Standing, Walking, Forward, Angled, et cetera.

15. Step-Ups. Here is a great exercise that takes your leg training to A New Level LITERALLY! The Step-Up done properly may be the best Glute Developer. Men may not worry about shaping their glutes as much as ladies do. Ask a woman though and I bet you she tells you, “WE SHOULD!”

16. Calf Raises. Pick up a Dumbbell or Two and get to Raising. Single or double leg variations are both great. Depending on balancing I ssues you can hold one or two dumbbells and work your way down to just bodyweight for a drop set thoroughly burning them out.

So there you have it, a COMPLETE BODY SHRED! Every body part worked with minimal equipment in minimal space. Now…

… Oh wait, the ABS…


You may have noticed there are No ABS Specific Exercises on this list. The reason is your Abs get a lot of work through ALL of the other exercises in this list. Doing all the other exercises and eating clean will bring out that 6-pack! Abs start in the kitchen, and not just in the gym. Not happy with that explanation? FINE! Drop on the floor and do some crunches, some leg raises or some woodchoppers with a dumbbell! Problem solved!

Ok, now there you have it! These exercises done on a regular basis with intensity will get you results. Do you have the initiative to get started? More importantly do you have the follow through to stick with it? Most importantly, do you have the Cajones to bring the intensity each and every workout for serious results!!? I believe you do… Prove me right!!

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Ian Lauer is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. His background in personal training made him an expert in providing countless of valuable advice and a proud member of Team Powertec. Powertec is the pioneer and leader in the area of strength equipment. Headquartered in Los Angeles, CA, Powertec produces a full line of strength equipment for home and light commercial purposes. Our brand is highly sought after by the educated buyer looking for weight capacity maximization without sacrificing safety, customization of their Workbench home gyms through extensive accessory modularization, and commercial gym quality at home gym prices.

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