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Building strength doesn’t always need to be complicated or involve fancy gym machines; a simple full-body dumbbell workout can target all your major muscle groups just as effectively.

“Using a set of dumbbells for a full-body workout provides extra opportunities to challenge your body and combine movements (like a squat to a press) that will add a cardiovascular component to increase efficiency, difficulty, and calorie burn,” says Izzi Lynn, instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp and host of our Movement of the Month Club focusing on dumbbells.

“Having a set of weights makes it a lot easier to work the entire body in a short period of time.”

With the six dumbbell exercises below, you can activate your core, build power in your lower body, and strengthen your upper body, ensuring a balanced full-body dumbbell workout that improves both strength and conditioning.

Join the movement

If you’re following along with our July 2024 Movement of the Month Club, these are the moves for week 2. You’ll do one dumbbell exercise each day, Monday through Saturday, really taking the time to get your form down. (But you can do this workout anytime!)

Then on Sunday, you’ll do the full workout:

  • Hammer curl for 30 seconds.
  • Reverse lunge for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat.
  • Rest for 30 seconds.
  • Arnold press for 30 seconds.
  • Front-loaded squat for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat.
  • Rest for 30 seconds.
  • Close-grip press for 60 seconds.
  • Skull crusher for 60 seconds.
  • Repeat.
  • Rest for 60 seconds.
  • Repeat the whole circuit once more.

Here’s your full-body dumbbell workout

1. Hammer Curl

What’s the difference between this move and standard biceps curls? Hammer curls target the brachialis muscle that lies beneath the biceps, promoting more balanced arm development and enhancing wrist stability.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your legs.
  2. Curl the weights as you keep your palms facing each other, lifting them toward your shoulders.
  3. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for 60 seconds.

2. Reverse Lunge

Want a lunge variation that’s friendlier to your knees? Reverse lunges strengthen the legs and glutes while reducing stress on the knees (compared to forward lunges). They improve balance and coordination and can help correct muscle imbalances.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.
  2. Take a step back with your right foot, and lower your hips so that your left thigh is parallel to the floor with the left knee directly over your ankle.
  3. Press into your left heel to return to standing.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.
  5. Continue alternating legs for 60 seconds.

3. Arnold Press

Named after bodybuilding legend Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Arnold press works multiple angles of the shoulder muscles—the front, middle, and rear deltoids—promoting balanced upper-body strength and mobility.

  1. Start seated or standing, holding a pair of dumbbells in front of you at chest level with palms facing your body.
  2. As you press the dumbbells overhead, rotate your hands so that your palms face forward at the top of the movement.
  3. Reverse the motion, bringing the dumbbells back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for 60 seconds.

4. Front-Loaded Squat

After mastering body-weight squats, your next variation should be front squats. They emphasize the quads and core, providing a comprehensive lower-body workout that enhances posture and stability by keeping the weight in front of your body.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell with both hands at your shoulders.
  2. Push your hips back and down as if sitting in a chair, keeping the dumbbells in place.
  3. Lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  4. Press through your heels to return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for 60 seconds.

5. Closed-Grip Press

Change your grip to change muscle activation. By keeping the dumbbells close together and focusing on a narrow pressing motion, you emphasize the triceps and the sternal (inner) part of the pectoralis major.

  1. Lie on the floor with a dumbbell in each hand. Bring the dumbbells together directly above your chest, with palms facing each other and arms fully extended. Keep the dumbbells touching throughout the exercise.
  2. Slowly lower the dumbbells down toward the chest while keeping them close together. Your elbows should move slightly down and toward your torso, rather than out to the sides.
  3. Push the dumbbells up by extending your arms, focusing on contracting your chest as you lift.
  4. Repeat for 60 seconds.

6. Skull Crusher

Skull crushers are highly effective for isolating and building the triceps muscles. Regularly incorporating them into your workouts can also aid in improving your performance in other pressing movements, such as bench press and shoulder press.

  1. Lie on the floor with your back flat and feet planted on the ground. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing each other, arms fully extended above your chest.
  2. Slowly bend one elbow to lower the weight toward your ear. Keep your upper arm stationary and perpendicular to your body throughout the movement; only your forearm should move.
  3. Extend your elbow, raising the weight back up to the starting position using the strength of your triceps.
  4. Repeat with the other arm, alternating for 60 seconds.

 

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