Dumbbells do not get enough credit when it comes to strength training. People often see dumbbells as merely an intro to weight and strength training, swapping them out for barbells and other weight machines as they get stronger and are looking to progress.
However, keeping dumbbells in the rotation as part of your training can offer benefits that other forms of weight training cannot.
There are lots of “pros” when it comes to dumbbell training, one of the biggest being that dumbbells allow you to perform unilateral loading exercises, working each side of the body separately. This form of training ensures you have more control and allows you to focus more intensely on each movement.
Dumbbells can also help to offset and resolve any muscular imbalances you may have. By using dumbbells, you are forcing your body to work unilaterally, which means you can isolate your right or left side at one time.
For example, if one side is significantly weaker than the other, take time to work on that side with a weight that it can handle until you feel it getting stronger and both sides are more equal.
The benefits do not stop there either. Dumbbells offer a greater range of motion and movement across different muscle planes when performing a wide range of exercises, and this is one of the most effective ways to challenge and build muscle.
Think of a Bench Press, where you cannot move the barbell through your chest, while dumbbells may be lowered past that same point easily.
And finally, by adding dumbbell exercises into your workout you will be required to recruit and activate not just the targeted muscles, but also the supporting muscles in order to stabilize the weight.
This makes dumbbells a fantastic tool for accessory lifting, endurance-style training, and muscle building.
How to use dumbbells to reach your goals
Dumbbells can be used no matter what your training goal is. They are effective at toning and strengthening your muscles, gaining muscle mass, as well as for weight loss and general fitness.
Resistance training is a very effective way to burn calories while also building a great physique. Including a dumbbell routine into your training plan will allow you to improve your body composition (i.e., lose fat as well as build muscle) while also reducing those numbers on the scale.
Of course, you will need to train consistently over weeks and months combined with eating a healthy diet while burning more calories than you are consuming.
Dumbbells can help you avoid the stress that moving heavier loads places on your joints during training sessions (as compared to training with barbells).
As an additional perk, your stabilizer muscles will also get stronger compared to barbell or machine training, since you’re forced to stabilize two freely moving objects in your hands.
One of the main benefits of a dumbbell is the fact that it is a great tool to train muscle groups in isolation. While you can perform many compound exercises with your dumbbells, they also really help with developing those muscle groups that tend to lag behind.
For example, the bicep and trapezius muscles -- there’s a reason why the Bicep Curl is typically done with a dumbbell.
Including dumbbell training in your routine is not only a great way to add variety to your training, but you will also be preserving and improving muscle and movement function.
Because of the freedom of movement that using dumbbells allows, you can train many effective exercises with minimal coaching required.
If you are new to using dumbbells, it can often be difficult to work out which weight to choose. Each exercise will use different muscle groups and may require a different set of weights, so selecting which weight you need can turn into a trial and error process.
But generally, weights should be chosen based on movement, execution, and your goal. When in doubt, choose the lighter weight.
When incorporating dumbbells into your workout, you need to ensure that you use proper form when you lift a weight off the rack or floor.
When you lift a dumbbell, always make sure you bend from your knees and hips while engaging your core and keeping your spine straight, your lower back will thank you for it.
As a rule, never sacrifice movement quality for quantity (i.e. more reps or more weight).
Both matter for you to achieve the best results, so give quality and quantity equal attention.
Watch yourself in the mirror or take a video of yourself to identify any errors you may be making. This will help you to get the most from your workout and lessen the risk of injury.
Ready to train with dumbbells?
No tool will provide results unless it is used consistently. The dumbbell provides a good challenge for trainees of any level.
At the same time, it has a low entry threshold for beginners to start training easily and consistently.
The dumbbell will get you fit in no time, and more importantly, keep you fit for life, if you let it.