Ego will have you believe you need a barbell or full gym to build muscle, but “you can be soaked and have every muscle in your body thoroughly worked with just a pair of medium dumbbells,” says Joel Seedman, PhD, owner of Advanced Human Performance. Seriously, even advanced lifters will be challenged by the following dumbbell workout, created by Seedman.
Dumbbells are arguably the most versatile piece of equipment because you can move with greater fluidity. Unlike the rigid, fixed patterns of machines and barbells, you have the flexibility to change the positioning and angle to mitigate pain from injuries or immobility, and a greater capacity to work unilaterally to address muscle imbalances.
Because of that, “you don’t have to go as heavy to create a strong intramuscular stimulus, which is crucial when training from home,” Seedman adds. Ready to light up your whole body with free weights? This dumbbell workout will challenge your unilateral strength and coordination in ways a barbell never could.
Expert Tip: To up the intensity if you don’t have adjustable dumbbells, add a heavy band, do more reps, slow the movement down to create more time under tension, or hold the contracted position of the exercise.
Directions: Add this dumbbell workout to your weekly regimen once per week; do it twice per week with cardio on opposing days if you need a new program. Complete the exercises in Part 1 for the prescribed number of reps, taking 20 to 30 seconds rest between moves, and 30 to 45 seconds between sets. Once you’ve completed all 3 sets in Part A, rest for 60 to 90 seconds, then complete the triset in Part 2. Complete the exercises for the prescribed number of reps, taking 20 to 30 seconds rest between moves, and 30 to 45 seconds between sets for 3 total sets. Beginners should use 20- to 25-pound dumbbells, intermediate lifters can do 30- to 40-pound dumbbells, and advanced can go 45 pounds and higher.
The Most Effective Dumbbell Workout of All Time
PART 1: DUMBBELL SUPERSET
A. Single-Arm Eccentric Push Press
Stand with feet at shoulder width, holding a dumbbell in right hand with a neutral grip at shoulder height, elbow bent at 90 degrees. Lower into a quarter-squat, then explode up, driving through legs to press the dumbbell overhead. Pause, then slowly lower to start position. Complete 4-5 reps, then switch sides.
B. Single-Leg Renegade Row With Eccentric Isometrics
Get in a plank with dumbbells under each hand. Activate your core and keep hips square as you extend left leg, foot flexed. Slowly row the dumbbell in your right hand toward rib cage; pause, then slowly lower toward the ground without letting it touch, maintaining constant tension. Complete 5-6 reps, then switch sides.
PART 2: DUMBBELL TRISET
A. Single-Leg Squat and Curl
Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells in both hands, elbows bent at 90 degrees with palms facing your face. Shift weight onto your left leg, lifting your right leg behind you, knee bent. Hinge at hips to lower into a single-leg squat. Hold at the bottom, then lower the weights and curl twice before pushing through your heel to rise. Complete 2-3 reps, then switch sides.
B. Dumbbell Squeeze Press
Lie on a bench, holding dumbbells at chest, palms facing each other. Squeeze weights together as hard as you can, then press up. Loop a resistance band under your back and around dumbbells for a greater challenge. Complete 8-10 reps.
C. Single-Leg Bridging Dumbbell Pullover
Line upper back against bench, and bridge hips up, holding dumbbells with palms facing each other. Lift left leg off floor—knee bent, foot flexed, hips level. Lower dumbbells to bench (pullover). Complete 4-5 reps, then switch sides.
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