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Best Basic Dumbbell Exercises for Beginners

By Richard McKay November 20, 2022 0 comments

Thanks to a global pandemic and extensive lockdown measures, an increasing number of people are seeking methods for staying fit from home. Dumbbell exercises can play a huge role in that approach as dumbbells are a great, and inexpensive investment for any household.

They can be stored out of the way, easily, and you can do dumbbell exercises to get your entire body into shape. 

Why Strength Training Matters

dumbbell exercise

Make no mistake; strength training has been shown to be one of the most important things you can do for your body. If the pandemic has given us anything, it has been greater insight into the human body and what makes the difference between resilience and frailty. 

And the results resoundingly show that a slab of muscle on your body is protective against virtually every type of illness and severity of illness. 

While women have struggled to get into strength training in the past out of a fear of becoming “bulky,” it is worth noting that it takes a tremendous amount of weightlifting and supplementation to create extremely large muscles on women. 

In short, women don’t have to worry that doing dumbbell exercises and building a nice layer of muscle will make them look masculine. 

On the contrary, the benefits for women in the health and beauty arena when it comes to strength training are myriad. 

Of course, the benefits for men are just as strong. 

Support Strength Training

Woman Holding Black Dumbbell

Once you’ve decided to get into strength training and invest in dumbbells to activate and build the muscles on your whole body, it is important to also support your strength training. 

Be sure that you give your muscles rest after you stress them out. Resting your muscles is equally important to stressing them out as this is the critical part of recovery and building muscle. 

So take at least one day off in between using the same set of muscles. Also be sure you support your muscles with adequate protein and hydration. Drink plenty of water and eat lean meats, nuts, seeds, and other high protein foods like Greek yogurt, at every meal. 

And of course, get plenty of sleep as this is the time of day when your body does its best rest and recovery. 

Build these simple practices into your daily life along with dumbbell exercises, and not only will you look better and feel better, but studies show you will likely live a longer, healthier life as well. 

Dumbbell Exercises for Each Part of Your Body

Woman Training, Doing Exercise and Weight Training at Home

If you’re just getting started, the general rule is that dumbbells for women should begin with a set of two 5kg dumbbells, and men should start with a set of two 10kg weights. You can invest in a range of different weights and build your way up. 

Just be mindful that you should be able to do 2 or 3 sets of 10 – 12 repetitions of each of the exercises below with a slow, steady range of motion without feeling exhausted at the end. 

The goal is strength training, not beating yourself up. 

Delts – Dumbbell Raise

The dumbbell raise is perhaps the best exercise for your deltoid as it reaches every single one of your deltoid muscles. 

It is a fairly common exercise, so you have likely seen it before at the gym or even on television when it comes to shoulder exercises.

To perform the dumbbell raise, hold one dumbbell in each hand, with your arms at your sides and with your back straight and your knees slightly bent. 

Now, with one arm extended, elbows slightly bent, slowly raise the dumbbell straight out in front of you, up to shoulder height. Then slowly lower it. Repeat with the other arm. 

Do these exercises once a week.

Upper Back – Dumbbell Row

Because so many of us spend so much of our time sitting and hunched over, dumbbell rows are a great way to build muscles in our upper backs. 

This exercise is also great for activating other muscle groups thanks to the position you hold and the range of motion you get. You will be targeting your chest, your core, your glutes, and your lower back and triceps as well as improving upon your upper back muscles. 

To perform this exercise, stand with your feet hip width apart and bend over at a 90-degree angle so your back is lined up with the floor, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your arms extended in front of you. 

Now, slowly lift your dumbbells to your chest and then slowly lower them back to full extension. 

Do this exercise once a week. 

Triceps – Dumbbell Tricep Kickback

Since you’re already targeting your triceps with dumbbell rows, you can add the tricep kickback into your routine on the same day. 

The tricep kickback is great for building arm and upper body strength, which will make both flexibility and balance training easier in your daily life. 

To perform this exercise, stand next to a bench or flat surface about knee high. Bend forward, placing your left knee on the bench and holding a dumbbell in your right hand. Balancing yourself on the bench with your left hand, bend your right elbow and pull the dumbbell from the front of your body to the back of your body in a rowing motion. 

Repeat with the other side of your body. 

Do this exercise once a week. 

Biceps – Dumbbell Curl

Bicep curls are great not only for your bicep muscles but also for your shoulders and your core, helping you become more stable and secure in your body as you move through your daily activities. 

Do perform this exercise, simply stand with your back straight and your knees slightly bent, hold a dumbbell in each hand. 

Then, curl both dumbbells toward your body slowly and then lower them, resisting the urge to simply drop your arms. 

Do this exercise once a week. 

Pecs – Dumbbell Flyes

Often, we see people doing dumbbell flyes on a bench, but the best way to perform this exercise is lying flat on a hard floor so you don’t make the mistake of hyperextending your muscles and causing yourself injury. 

The dumbbell flye is performed by lying on a hard surface, flat on your back, with a dumbbell in each hand. 

Hold the dumbbells directly above your chest, with your arms fully extended and your palms facing each other. 

Then, slowly bend your elbows until they touch the ground and slowly raise them again. 

Do this exercise once a week. 


Abs/Core - High Plank with Dumbbell Pull-Through

For the very ambitious, the high plank with dumbbell pull-through is a great strenght training exercise for your entire core. 

Start in the plank position with a dumbbell off to either side of you; next, rotate your torso by reaching for the weight on the opposite side of your body and pull it under your body to the other side, and then return it. 

Now repeat with the other side. 

Do this exercise once a week with your other core exercises. 

Glutes – Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

A simple, easy exercise to perform that will improve your glutes, the Romanian deadlift is likely one you have seen time and again in different variations. 

To perform this exercise, place a dumbbell on either side of your body as you stand straight up. 

Then, bend your knees fully to reach the ground and lift one dumbbell in each hand, coming to a fully erect standing position. 

Focus on the muscles in your butt as you lift, placing all of your energy there. 

Do this exercise once a week. 

Legs – Dumbbell Step Up

Another simple exercise and great for ensuring you never skip leg day, the dumbbell step up simply requires you have a bench to step up onto, or you can even do the squat version of this exercise if you don’t have a bench. 

The dumbbell step up will provide you not only with leg strength but also with improved balance and range of motion as you move throughout your day. 

To perform this exercise, stand straight up with a dumbbell in each hand and slowly step up onto a bench that is no higher than knee height for you. 

Alternatively, you can hold a dumbbell in each hand and step out, taking one full squat step forward and then back. 

Be sure to do an equal number of step ups or step outs with each leg. 

Do this exercise once a week. 

You May Also Be Interested In

Again, strength training is one of the most important things you can do for your health and longevity, and dumbbell exercises are a great way to work strength training into your lifestyle. 

Just 20 minutes a day, three or four days a week, can change your life. 

If you enjoyed this article, you may also be interested in our piece on dumbbell racks and our article on HIIT workouts at home

Stay healthy!

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