Introducing the dumbbells
Introducing the dumbbells. The dumbbell originated in it’s most basic form in ancient Greece. These weights were called halteres. They were usually large and made of stone and had a hole in them which the weights were held by.
The word dumbbell first appeared during the Tudor era in England. At that time, athletes were using hand-held church bells to train their arms and upper bodies. Since the bells were making a lot of noise during training, they decided to remove the clappers rendering the bells “dumb”.
Today they’re one of the most popular pieces of training equipment. Depending on the way dumbbells are used, they can tone and build just about any part of your body depending on the amount of weight used and the way that they’re held.
Being a versatile piece of equipment, there are lots of exercises you can perform with dumbbells, they can be used to train just about every part of your body. A list of the most common exercises include: seated biceps curls, hammer curls, French presses, preacher curls, overhead triceps extensions, triceps kickbacks, flat and incline bench presses, flat and incline chest flyes, lateral raises, seated shoulder presses, front raise, reverse flies, upright rows, shrugs, lunges, half squats, calf raises, and the dumbbell goblet squat, just to name a few.
The way a dumbbell works completely relies on how it’s held and lifted so there are simple safety tips you should be adhered to: always warm up before beginning a workout so you don’t surprise your muscles with the sudden weight, consequently straining them. You should also make sure that you’re using the weight you can handle. You may be of the opinion that heavier is better for results, however, using lesser weight and doing more repetitions is a way to ensure you don’t hurt yourself.
Seated biceps curl
Targeting biceps. Holding onto dumbbells, sit back on an incline bench with both arms hanging down by your sides, your palms facing inward. Slowly curl both dumbbells up to your shoulders while rotating your hands so that at the top of the move your palms facing behind you. Then slowly, slowly the weight to the starting position and repeat. You can also perform this routine alternating your arms.
Targeting biceps. These curls can be performed using one arm at a time or both. Hold a dumbbell with the back of your upper arm resting on the pad of a preacher curl bench. Adjust the seat so that your arm pit is resting near the top of the pad, the back of your upper arm remains on pad throughout the move. Using your biceps, slowly curl the weight up to your shoulder. Hold, squeezing your biceps hard, then slowly lower the weight until your arm is fully extended off the pad and repeat. After a set number of reps, repeat with your other arm.
Targeting biceps. Stand holding dumbbells by your sides and your palms facing each other. Slowly curl 1 of the dumbbells up until your forearm is vertical to the ground — without rotating your hand like you do for biceps curls. Hold, squeezing your biceps, then slowly lower the weight to the starting position and repeat with your other arm. You can also perform this routine curling both arms at once.
A few of the benefits of using dumbbells
DUMBBELLS are more joint-friendly than barbells. For instance, a flat bench dumbbell press compared to a flat bench barbell press. The dumbbell version is more elbow and shoulder friendly because you have natural movements, you can turn or rotate them as you press. If you’ve have shoulder or elbow issues, use dumbbells instead of barbells.
If you have limited space, dumbbells are great for home-training, you can’t go wrong with an adjustable set that allows you to increase weight in increments.
Using dumbbells guarantees that both your limbs do always the same amount of work. If you have a strength imbalance, dumbbell exercises will help. With barbells, 1 limb may have to do more work lifting weight whereas with dumbbells both limbs are forced to push and pull the same amount of weight.
Some exercises are safer when done with dumbbells; for example, if you’re doing dumbbell lunges and lose your balance, you can easily drop the weights. But with a barbell on your back, if you loose your balance you could risk serious injury.
Seated shoulder presses
Targeting shoulders. Sitting on a bench, hold a dumbbell in each hand upright on top of your thighs. Using your knees to help propel them, raise the weights up to your shoulders while rotating your wrists so that the palms of your hands end up facing forward. Now press the dumbbells up over your head. After a brief pause, slowly lower the weights back down to your shoulders and repeat. You can also perform the exercise standing or sitting on a regular flat bench, but if you have lower back problems, a back support is recommended.
Chest flyes Targeting chest.
Lie back on a flat bench holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder level with your palms facing each other. Slowly press the weights straight up over your chest (not over your head) stopping just before your arms lock out. With a slight bend in your elbows and using only your shoulders, lower your arms out to your sides in a wide arc motion until your elbows start to dip pass the bench, you should feel a deep stretch in your chest muscles. Using only your shoulders again, press the dumbbells back up to the starting position making sure to use the same arc motion you used to lower them. Hold the dumbbells above your chest for a second and repeat.
Overhead triceps extension
Targeting triceps, biceps, delts, traps and forearms. Sitting on a bench, or standing, hold a dumbbell with a hammer grip. Slowly lift it high above your head, then, bending only your elbow, lower the weight behind you, hold, then slowly press it back up over your head and repeat. After a set number of reps, repeat with your other arm.
Another way to perform this exercise is, sitting on a bench, or standing, hold a single dumbbell with both hands. While raising the weight over your head, rotate it so that when it’s above you it’s vertical and the top plate is resting comfortably on the palms of your hands, your thumbs hanging onto the handle. Then slowly lower the weight behind your head until your forearms touch your biceps, hold, return to the starting position and repeat.
Targeting chest. Lie back on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand, your palms facing each other. Holding the weights at shoulder level slowly press them straight over head rotating your wrists so the palms of your hands are now facing away from you. Hold, return, then press up again.
IF YOU’RE A BEGINNER, and you’re only concentrating on improving your biceps and triceps, why should you pay for the high cost of a gym. Instead, purchase a pair of dumbbells and start building your arms at home. The first thing to consider, if you want to achieve results is, adjustable dumbbells will best serve your needs. You’ll be able to start with light plates and gradually increase the weight as your strength improves. And with adjustable dumbbells, you can purchase additional plates as you need them. Check around, used plates, and dumbbells for that matter, are readily available and are obviously just a good as new equipment.
Targeting shoulders. Holding dumbbells in each hand; stand, hinging your body from your hips until your chest is almost parallel to the ground, your arms are hanging straight down in front of you. Take a deep breath and raise the dumbbells out to your sides until they’re parallel to the ground — without locking your elbows. Hold, then slowly lower them back to the starting position and repeat. Remember to keep your abs braced and not to arch your back at the top of the move. This can also be done while you are seated.
Targeting shoulders. Stand holding dumbbells at arms length in front of your thighs, your palms facing you. Without swinging your torso, slowly lift 1 dumbbell out in front of you until your arm is slightly above parallel to the ground, keeping a slight bend in your elbow and the palms of your hand facing down. Pause, then slowly lower the weight back down to your thigh. Now lifting the other dumbbell the same way and continue alternating dumbbell raises in this fashion. This can also be done with a single dumbbell held by both your hands.
Targeting shoulders. Stand holding dumbbells by your sides, your palms facing each other. Keeping your torso in a stationary position (no swinging), start raising the weights out to your sides keeping a slight bend in your elbows and your hands slightly tilted forward as if your about to pour water. Continue raising your arms until they’re parallel to the ground, pause for a second then slowly lower the weights back to the starting position and repeat. This can also be done while your seated.
Dumbbell workout tips
SELECT THE RIGHT WEIGHT. This is particularly important if you’ve never done weight training. Never think you can lift more than you can, select weight that you can be comfortable with. Once a workout is no longer challenging, then you can increase the weight.
If you’re looking for a toned lean look, use weights that allow you to do 12-20 reps of any given exercise before you burnout. If your goal is muscle and strength go for heavier weights that limit you to 8-10 reps max.
Focus on technique; correct positioning of your arms, elbows, wrists and legs will prevent injury while ensuring that you reap the full benefit of your workouts.
Perform your dumbbell workout in front of a mirror keeping an eye on technique, making sure you’re form is perfect.
Take it slow. Weight training will strain your muscles, which is good, strain builds greater resistance, stabilization and stronger muscles.
Targeting traps. This is a simple one. Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand, your arms hanging loose by your sides, your palms facing you. Shrug your shoulders as high as you can keeping your arms and dumbbells hanging loose. Squeeze your traps and hold the contraction at the top of the shrug for a second, then relax your shoulders lowering your arms and the weights and repeat. Your arms should remain loose and hanging down at all times, only your shoulders shrug, moving up and down.
Targeting quadriceps, gluteus muscles, hips, hamstrings, calves and inner thighs. Hold a dumbbell with both hands keeping your arms close to your body and elbows tucked in. Your feet should be much wider than shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing outward. Keeping your back straight and abdominals tight, squeeze your glutes and squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Then, pressing through the heels of your feet, stand back up and repeat.
Targeting deltoids. Stand holding a pair of dumbbells by your sides, the palms of your hands facing your thighs. Pull the dumbbells up along the sides of your torso toward your armpits with your elbows pointing out to the sides. Hold for a moment then lower the weights back down and repeat. Pull with your elbows, not your biceps. Keep your back straight and your elbows slightly bent.
Targeting triceps. Lie on a flat bench holding 2 dumbbells over your head. Don’t lock your elbows and keep your feet flat on the floor. Keeping the dumbbells close together to maintain stability and the movement of your upper arms to a minimum, slowly lower the weights in a semi-circular motion until they almost touch your upper chest. Hold, then using your triceps, press the weights back up through the same semi-circular motion and repeat.
Dumbbells can provide the 2 types of overload that lead to muscle growth: mechanic and metabolic. Mechanic overload is the result of damage caused by muscle contractions, which stimulates the repair process and leads to an increase in muscle size. Metabolic overload occurs when a muscle is worked to fatigue which leads to the adaptation of muscle cells being able to store more glycogen which can cause muscles to increase in size. Heavy dumbbells can generate mechanical overload, while moderate-weight dumbbells combined with high reps to fatigue can produce a metabolic overload. Due to their size and the fact they can be held in each hand, dumbbells can be used in a variety of different movement patterns to develop strength; they allow the user to focus on 1 arm or 1 leg at a time, which is 1 way to initiate strength gains when using a heavy overload.
Targeting biceps. Sit down on a flat bench with a dumbbell in front of you between your legs, the back of your upper lifting arm against your inner thigh. While holding your upper lifting arm stationary, curl the weight forward while contracting your biceps. Only your forearms moves. Curl the weight until your biceps are fully contracted and the dumbbell’s at shoulder level. Hold the contracted position for a moment squeezing your biceps, then slowly return it to starting position and repeat.
Targeting triceps. Stand, bending forward with a light dumbbell in 1 hand, your other forearm braced on your upper leg for support. Or, kneel with 1 leg on a bench and 1 hand braced on the bench for support. In both cases your weight-bearing upper arm should be parallel to the ground. Keeping your elbow tight to your side and curling only your forearm, slowly raise the dumbbell up behind you until the full length of your arm is extended and parallel to the ground. Hold, then return your forearm to the starting position and repeat. After a set number of reps, perform a set with your other arm.
Targeting quadriceps. Stand with a shoulder width stance holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing you. Maintaining a straight back with your head up at all times (looking down may throw you off balance), slowly lower yourself by bending your knees until your thighs are parallel, your lower legs are perpendicular, to the ground. If your knees reach pass your toes you’re placing undue stress on them. Raise yourself back up by pushing with the heels of your feet, and repeat. Be cautious with the amount of weight you use; in case of doubt, use less rather than more.
Alternating 1 arm press
Targeting shoulders. The alternating dumbbell press is similar to the regular press; the only difference being, your pressing up only 1 dumbbell up at a time, alternating your arms. This can be done standing or seated with a neutral or pronated grip. Start by holding a dumbbell in 1 hand with your arm fully extended at your side. (Use your other arm to hold onto something — if you need — for balance.) Slowly lift the weight until your upper arm is parallel to the ground, your forearm perpendicular to the ground. Then slowly press the weight up until your arm is fully extended. Hold, then slowly lower it until upper arm is parallel to the ground again, repeat, then switch arms.
Questions have been raised about the effectiveness of building muscles with light weights due to the myth that lightweights will only tone your muscles. Research has concluded that lifting lighter weights with more repetitions is more effective than heavy weights with low reps when you exercise to fatigue.
Dumbbells are free weights which take more muscle and joint coordination to use than machines. Lightweights give you greater control while lifting which can help prevent muscle pulls and strains. Working your muscles to fatigue may take longer with lighter weights, but results in a higher rate of calorie expenditure than a heavy weight training session.
Determining what constitutes as a lightweight is dependent on how many reps it takes you to fatigue. With light weights, 15 to 20 repetitions should cause muscle fatigue for muscle growth and strength. If you can easily perform 20 repetitions or more, then the weight is too light and if you can’t perform at least 15 repetitions, they’re too heavy.
Strength training with light weights to failure can have the same effect on muscle growth as a heavyweight. Also, training with light weights and high repetitions improves muscle endurance.
Standing calf raise
Targeting calves. Stand upright holding dumbbells by your sides. Place the balls of your feet on a sturdy surface that’s about 2 or 3 inches above the ground, your heels will be hanging down. With your toes pointed straight ahead, all parts of your calfs will be hit equally; with your toes pointed inward, emphasis will be on your calfs outer head; and with your toes pointed outward, emphasis will be on your calfs inner head. Slowly raise your heels off the ground by flexing your calves. Hold yourself in a tip-toe position for a second, then slowly lower your heels back to the ground and repeat. This exercise can also be done lifting 1 foot at a time.
Targeting buttocks. Squat and grab a pair of dumbbells on the floor in front of your feet using an overhand grip. Raise your hips a little straighten your back and lean backward so that your torso is upright. As you stand back up pull the dumbbells up across the front of your body. Then, pushing your butt backward, flex your hips and knees and lower the dumbbells back down and repeat. To improve mechanical leverage, keep the dumbbells close to your body/
Bent over row
Targeting the back in general. Holding a dumbbell in 1 hand, kneel on a bench with 1 knee and support your body by bracing with 1 arm on the pad. Slowly lift the dumbbell up to the side of your waist pulling with your elbow and not with your biceps. Hold for a moment, lower and repeat, then switch arms. Keep your torso near horizontal and your elbow tucked in at all times and don’t rotate your torso as you pull the weight up. Bent over rows can also be performed standing with a dumbbell in each hand lifting both at the same time.
Safe dumbbell workouts
IF YOUR AIM IS TO SCULPT MUSCLES and burn fat then the dumbbell workout is an appropriate and effective choice. Dumbbells are an easy and inexpensive way to strengthen muscles and tone your body and aid in fat loss with a comfortable range of motion that’s great for developing shoulder stability and improving overall fitness. However, safety is a primary concern. To get the full benefit of dumbbell workouts, it’s essential to learn how to use dumbbells safely.
Warming up before lifting weight reduces your risk of injury by boosting blood flow to the muscles so that they can work better; cardio and stretching will do the trick.
Start by choosing a weight that you can lift for at least 10 to 12 repetitions. Lifting heavy weight at initial stage is 1 of the most common causes of muscle strain and sprains.
Make sure you maintain good posture while lifting weights. Keep your spine erect and avoid hunching shoulders. Different exercises require different movements, learn the proper way to do each exercise before you start using dumbbells.
Targeting quadriceps and glutes. Standing tall, holding dumbbells by your sides, lunge forward a couple feet lowering your body down so that your forward thigh is parallel to the ground, all the while keeping your torso upright and maintaining good balance; the knee of your back leg should almost touch the ground. Using the heel of your forward foot, push yourself back up and either repeat with your other leg or continue a set with the same leg before switching to your other leg.
Targeting triceps, biceps and forearms. Lay down on a bench holding 2 dumbbells at arms length above your chest. Locking your shoulders, slowly lower your forearms bending only your elbows until the weights are down by your ears. Hold, then slowly return the weights overhead. Only your triceps are doing the work, your upper arms should remain vertical and not move.
Targeting traps and deltoids. Stand with dumbbells in each hand resting on your thighs, the palms of your hands facing you and slightly less than shoulder-width apart. As you slowly pull the weights up, keep your back straight, your elbows higher than your forearms and the dumbbells close to your body until they almost touch your chin. Pause at the top of the move then slowly lower the weights back down and repeat. Be careful with how much weight you use, too much will lead to bad form which can cause shoulder injury.
Seated wrist curl
Targeting forearms. Sitting on the edge of the flat bench, your legs shoulder width apart, hold a pair of dumbbells with your forearms resting on your thighs and the palms of the hands either facing up or down, your wrists are hanging over the edge of your knees. Your forearms should remain stationary, only your wrists move as you slowly curl them up and down.
With goblets squats, the weight is held in front of you as a counterbalance, which helps you master proper squat form. Holding a weight in front of your body is much more difficult than squatting with weight on your back. Goblet squats build full-body strength engaging your core, leg and shoulders. Goblet squats target quadriceps, gluts, upper back, arms, shoulders and core muscles, increasing strength and muscular development. From a standing position cradle the head of a dumbbell close to your chest with both hands. Looking straight ahead with your shoulders back, your spine straight, and your feet wider then shoulder width, lower your body into a full squat with your hamstrings touching your calves, or until your back starts to round. As you go down, push your knees forward keeping all your weight on your heels. Pause briefly before you return to the starting position, and repeat.