10 Best Dumbbell Exercises For a Full-Body Workout

Myth: You need lots of expensive gym equipment and space to get a proper full body workout in. 

Fact: All you really need is a pair of dumbbells and about double your body length in space to get a fulfilling full body workout in. 

Many people are misled and think that in order to get in better shape and health, you have to purchase an expensive gym membership and go there everyday and use the gyms equipment to make your membership worth it. But in Reality, you can do your own full body workouts, without the need for an expensive monthly gym membership and crazy bug facilities with lots of equipment, right in your own home. All you really need is a pair of dumbbells and a little space to workout in! 

Just remember, it's better to start with lighter weights and work your way up, rather than start with heavier weights and put yourself out of commission, or in the hospital.  Keeping that in mind, here's a list of the top 10 dumbbell exercises for a full body workout, that you can do at home, in the gym, or even at a beach! 

Bench Press

Dumbbells generally offer a greater range of motion, as compared to barebells, allowing you to focus more and build on your pectoral strength. A well executed dumbbell bench press will also workout your triceps and deltoids. A key factor to remember is to squeeze your muscles at the top of the motion. This is to ensure you’re engaging and activating the targeted muscle groups. Here is how to execute a dumbbell bench press. 

  1. Lie back flat on the bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand
  2. Keep each arm bent to the side of each shoulder, palms facing upward
  3. Extend your elbows  and press the weights above your chest
  4. Keep going until your arms are straight above your chest, but don’t touch the weights to one another
  5. Bring the weights back down until your elbows align with your body
  6. Repeat for 8-12 reps, and 3-4 sets (depending on your goal and tolerance) 

Bicep Curls 

Bicep curls are one of the simplest and well known exercises, and also one of the most effective! The exercise works a host of bicep and tricep muscles. While doing the actual exercise and movement, make sure your back and body are straight, and that your elbows are not touching your hips or any part of your body. We’ve all seen ‘that guy’ at the gym, trying to curl much more weight than he can, and so he throws his back out trying to lift the weight. This exercise is about isolated control and good form. To execute a proper dumbbell curl… 

  1. Stand up straight and hold a dumbbell in each hand
  2. Each arm should be hanging by your sides
  3. Keep your elbows close to (but not touching) the torso and your palms facing outward
  4. Don’t move your upper arms as you curl the weights upward, until the weights align with your shoulder level
  5. Contract your biceps and exhale as you go
  6. Return to the starting position
  7. Repeat for 8-12 reps, and 3-4 sets (depending on your goal and tolerance) 

Shoulder Press

While the shoulder press primarily works out two main portions of the deltoids, it also engages and utilizes a handful of other muscles, such as the trapezius (traps), triceps and rotator cuff muscles, and even some of your upper back muscles like the rhomboid major. All of these muscles and groups have to work in conjunction for your shoulder press to be successful. Here’s how you properly execute a shoulder press.

  1. Stand upright holding a pair of dumbbells in either hand
  2. The dumbbells should be more or less even with your ears, your arms should be slightly bent, elbows on a 90 degree angle, and palms facing away from your body 
  3. Press upwards until your elbows are as straight as can be, breath out
  4. Lower your arms and bring the dumbbells back to ear level and elbows to a 90 degree angle
  5. Repeat for 8-12 reps, and 3-4 sets (depending on your goal and tolerance) 

Bent Over Row

This classic muscle building exercise really maximizes your potential with free weights and dumbbells. The bent over row engages and works your back and shoulder muscles. But first, please be advised this exercise is not recommended for beginners, improper form and execution of this exercise can result in serious damage. As mentioned before, it is important to start with lighter weights and work your way up to heavier weights over time. Keep your back straight and knees slightly bent. When you’re ready, perform the following: 

  1. Stand up with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing the body
  2. Keep your legs and arms about shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent
  3. Bend your back no further than a 45-degree angle, bracing your core and keeping your back straight
  4. Lift the weights upward in a straight line, bringing them close to your core
  5. Keep your wrists stiff and don’t move your legs
  6. Your arms should never pass shoulder level as you raise the hand weights
  7. It should feel like your pinching your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement
  8. Lower the weights into the starting position and repeat for 6-10 reps, and 2-3 sets (depending on your goal and tolerance)
  9. Important: Do not change your posture until you’ve completed each set

Lunges with Dumbbells

The lung is a classic, well known and used exercise, which you can upgrade to a full body workout with the addition of some dumbbells. Now, unlike the other exercises, this one may require a bit more room, but it is not necessary. You can always just turn around sooners and pace back and forth. This exercise focuses on your legs, glutes, arms, and even shoulders. We remind you that it is important to stay in control of your movement, speed is not an important factor of dumbbell training, so take your time and focus on posture, form and balance. Here’s how to successfully execute a dumbbell lung. 

  1. Stand upright and hold a dumbbell in each hand
  2. Hang your arms at either side with your palms facing inward and your feet a little less than shoulder-width apart
  3. Take a long step forward with your leg of choice, bending at the knee until your thigh is parallel to the ground
  4. Land on the heel and inhale as you descend
  5. The rear leg should be bent at the knee and balanced on the toes
  6. Return to the starting position as you exhale
  7. Swap legs and repeat for a full rep, repeat for 10-12 reps, and 3-4 sets (depending on your goal and tolerance)

Lateral Raises

This is another great exercise that targets your deltoids and other upper back muscles. Lateral raises is a bodybuilder favourite and has been since the beginning of the sport. This exercise is key to building well rounded boulder-like shoulders. Keep your motions small and careful, here is how to properly and safely execute a lateral raise. 

  1. Assume the standing or seated position
  2. Hold a dumbbell at each side, palms facing inward
  3. Your back should be straight and your core braced
  4. Slowly lift the hand weights out to your sides until your arms are parallel with the floor, all the while, your elbows should be slightly bent
  5. Carefully lower and repeat for 6-10 reps, and 2-3 sets (depending on your goal and tolerance)

Glute Bridge 

This is a great bodyweight exercise that delivers even better results when you incorporate a dumbbell into the exercise. If you’ve been to a gym before, chances are you have seen others doing this exercise before. The glute bridge activates a key component of your body's largest muscle group, your core, and also your glutes (given the name). When you squeeze tightly at the top of the motion, you’re building stability and overall strength, throw in a dumbbell and you’re working with even more horsepower! Here’s how to successfully execute a glute bridge. 

  1. Lie back-down flat on a mat and bend your knees
  2. Keep your feet flat on the floor and position them so that your feet are underneath your knees
  3. Grab a relatively heavy (20 pounds or so) dumbbell and place it on top of your lower abs, holding it in place with both hands
  4. Arch your hips toward the ceiling, flexing your abs and glutes along the way
  5. Form a diagonal line with your body that goes from your shoulders to your knees
  6. Hold at the top for three seconds
  7. Lower to the starting position
  8. Repeat for 8-12 reps, and 3-4 sets (depending on your goal and tolerance)

Tricep Extensions 

Let’s continue your full body dumbbell workout with a gym staple, that targets your triceps. For this exercise you can use either a double, or single handed grip, the biggest thing to remember is to focus on the positioning and form of your elbows. Keep your arms locked tight and close to your body throughout the movement, as this will not only better focus on your triceps, but also help you avoid injury. Here’s how to do a successful tricep extension. 

  1. Stand upright and hold a single dumbbell in both hands
  2. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and your core tight
  3. Fully extend your arms and raise the dumbbell over your head, palms facing upward
  4. You’re now in the starting position
  5. Bend your arms at the elbows and engage your triceps as you slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head
  6. Push back up your arms, until fully extended
  7. Repeat for 8-10 reps, and 2-3 sets (depending on your goal and tolerance)

Calf Raises

Now it’s time to focus on building your lower body some more. Your calves play a big but undermined role in mobility and stability, so it’s worth at least trying some dumbbell exercises that target your calves and lower leg muscle groups. Not to mention, stronger and well defined calves are eye candy, everyone appreciates. Here’s how to successfully execute a calf raise. 

  1. Stand upright and hold a dumbbell in each hand
  2. Keep your feet approximately shoulder-width apart
  3. Hang your arms below your shoulders and keep them straight
  4. Lift both feet until you’re standing on your toes
  5. You should feel the tension in your lower legs
  6. Return to normal standing position and repeat for 10-12+ reps, and 3-4 sets (depending on your goal and tolerance)

Russian Twist

Otherwise known as an oblique twist, this core exercise targets the rectus abdominis muscles, you can also use a medicine ball or kettlebells to perform this exercise. Extend the dumbbell as far as you comfortably can. Try to increase the range of motion as you progress, this will recruit more muscle fibers and help you burn more fat. Here’s how to properly perform a russian twist. 

  1. Assume the seated position, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor
  2. Grab a dumbbell with both hands and hold it in front of your chest
  3. Keep your spine straight and your abs tight
  4. Lean back slightly and lift your feet a few inches
  5. Slowly twist your torso to the left as you bring the dumbbell toward the left side of your body
  6. Return to the neutral position and then twist to the right, once again moving the dumbbell in tandem with your motion
  7. Return to the centre and repeat for 15-20 reps, and 3-4 sets (depending on your goal and tolerance)

That’s it for our list of the 10 best  dumbbell exercises for a full body workout. Which one do you enjoy doing the most? Or should we say, which one gives you, your favourite gains? As many are during the time of a global pandemic and quarantine, if you’re unable to goto the gym and but still want to workout and stay in shape, or maybe you have body and health goals you want to achieve by the summer. Whatever the cause may be, it’s very beneficial to own a pair of adjustable dumbbells so you can workout from home. So get yours today! Click Here.