If you’re looking to level up your workout, consider the dumbbell. Dumbbell exercises provide a great full-body workout in a compact space.
Yes, we said great workout — not just a few decent arm exercises. Read on to de-zombify that workout routine with 30 killer new dumbbell exercises.
1. Dumbbell Romanian deadlift
This deadlift variety is sure to please the hamstrings (or punish them).
Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes facing forward, and dumbbells at your sides. Shift your hips back and slightly bend your knees as you lower the dumbbells toward the floor (keep them angled on the outside of your legs).
Maintain a neutral spine while lowering the weight just until you feel a good stretch in your hamstrings. Come back up to standing, making sure to contract those glutes and hamstrings on the way up. That’s one!
2. Dumbbell single-leg Romanian deadlift
This one is tougher than it looks but worth the effort.
Starting with feet hip-width apart and dumbbells at your sides, place your weight on one foot and bend slightly at the knee. Lean forward, lifting your opposite foot straight up into the air behind you.
As you come forward, move the dumbbells from your sides directly over your planted foot. Return to a standing position by lowering your back leg as you come up. The dumbbells should return to the sides of your thighs.
3. Dumbbell hang clean and press
Don’t take this one to the laundromat!
Get down in a squat position and hold a dumbbell in each hand outside your ankles, palms facing your feet. With vertical shins and a neutral spine, move upward to a standing position while pulling the dumbbells up.
Forcefully drive the dumbbells up toward your shoulders, using your hips and legs. As you come in for the catch, squat slightly to bring the weight to your shoulders with a neutral grip (palms facing your body).
Explode the dumbbells off your shoulders overhead. Lower the dumbbells back down.
4. Single-arm dumbbell snatch
Stand in a wide squat stance, holding a dumbbell in your right hand in front of your knees. Drive the dumbbell up, keeping it close to your body, and thrust it up with your hips. When the dumbbell reaches chest height, fully extend your legs.
Squat back down so your body is under the dumbbell. Drive the dumbbell up overhead into full lockout position. This should be one quick movement. Think explosively!
5. Russian dumbbell swing
The playground’s got nothing on these.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding one end of a dumbbell with both hands in front of you. Hike the dumbbell back between your legs, then thrust your hips forward to move the dumbbell up and out to about shoulder height.
Though it is called a swing, this exercise is all in the hips and glutes.
6. Dumbbell high pull
Time to get up on those toes!
Stand up straight with a slight bend in your knees, feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the dumbbells straight out in front of your knees with your palms facing in, maintaining a neutral spine with your chest up.
Keeping your arms straight, explode upward, fully extending your hips, knees, and ankles while shrugging your shoulders up. Pull the dumbbells up toward the top of your chest, close to your body, keeping elbows slightly higher than wrists.
7. Dumbbell front squat
Take some pressure off that back.
Start this one with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells on your shoulders with a neutral grip and elbows up. Next, hinge back, keeping your back straight, like you’re sitting on an imaginary bench (come on, work with us here).
Lower your body until your hips are below your knees. Complete the move by driving through your hips as you come back up to standing position.
8. Dumbbell pistol squat
This exercise isn’t for the faint of heart (so, beginners, try it sans dumbbells first).
Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell sideways with both hands. Extend left leg in front of you and squat down on right leg, moving the dumbbell straight out.
Go all the way down (and we mean all the way down) until your butt touches your ankle. Return to standing position and repeat for reps on both sides.
9. Bulgarian split squat (aka dumbbell goblet split squat)
Squat so much you nearly split your pants!
Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Prop your left foot on a bench behind you and plant your right foot on the floor, so you’re in a wide split stance.
Lunge straight down, keeping your front leg linear and your spine rigid. Come down until your knee hovers above the floor, then push back up to the starting position. Repeat for reps on both sides.
10. Dumbbell side lunge
Feeling a little sideways?
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and dumbbells at your sides. Take a big step to the side with your left foot while pushing your hips back and lowering your body into a deep lunge position.
As you come down, move the dumbbells straight down to the floor so your chest comes over your left knee. Return to the starting position and repeat for reps on both sides.
11. Dumbbell step-up and reverse lunge combo
Put a little pep in your step-up.
Stand 6 inches from a bench, facing toward it, with a dumbbell in each hand. Place your entire left foot onto the bench and step up. Drive through left heel, bringing right knee up to hip height.
Lower back down to the starting position and step back with your left foot into a deep lunge. Be sure to track your right knee over your ankle at a 90-degree angle. Repeat for reps on both sides.
12. Dumbbell 45-degree hyperextension
The motto here: Relax the back, recruit the glutes.
Find a GHD machine and, from starting position, lean over with hips flexed as far as they will go.
Grab a dumbbell and position it under your chin so it looks like a bow tie. Relax all your back muscles and pull up with your glutes. Come up to slight hyperextension, then return to the starting position.
13. Dumbbell floor press
Who said presses need a bench?
Lie faceup with feet flat on the floor and a dumbbell in each hand. Position the dumbbells above your elbows as you rest your elbows on the floor. Push straight up, bringing the dumbbells directly overhead. Return to the starting position.
14. Alternating dumbbell bench press
This is a challenging twist on the classic.
Lie faceup on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Hold the dumbbells on the outside of your shoulders and alternately press the right dumbbell up overhead and back down, then the left.
This exercise also forces you to engage your core for stability — bonus!
15. Dumbbell pullover
Expand your wings by working the serratus anterior, the muscle that hugs your ribs.
Lie faceup on a bench with feet flat on the floor. Hold a dumbbell by one end with both hands straight overhead, engaging glutes and back muscles.
Lower the dumbbell in an arch behind your head until you feel a good stretch. Bring the dumbbell back to the starting position.
16. Bent-over dumbbell raise
Guaranteed to unleash the beast!
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, with palms facing in, bend forward at your hips so your body is positioned just above parallel.
Raise the dumbbells straight out and up to shoulder height, then lower back down to the starting position. Repeat for reps on both sides.
17. Dumbbell chest-supported row
Ready to dive on in?
Lie facedown on an incline bench, supporting your weight on your toes. Hold a pair of dumbbells straight down in front of you so they are parallel to the floor.
Pull the dumbbells up and just outside your chest, getting a nice squeeze in your upper back muscles. Lower back down and continue the stroke.
18. Bent-over dumbbell reverse fly
Don’t swat these away.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Bend forward at your hips so your torso is almost parallel to the floor, holding a pair of dumbbells straight down, with palms facing in.
With elbows slightly bent, raise the dumbbells out to the sides so elbows extend above shoulders. Return to the starting position.
19. Dumbbell upright row
These will lead you back to shore.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a pair of dumbbells in front of you, palms facing your body.
Pull the dumbbells straight up the front of your body to the top of your chest, lifting elbows slightly above shoulders.
20. Prone rear delt raise
Lie facedown on an incline bench, supporting your weight on your toes. Hold a pair of dumbbells straight out in front of you, with palms facing in. Raise the dumbbells out to the sides and back, bending your arms slightly as they come up. Slowly return to the starting position.
21. Side incline lateral raise
Sit sidesaddle on an incline bench with your left side resting on the bench. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, down at your right side, then raise it straight overhead above shoulder height. Return to the starting position and repeat for reps before switching to the other side.
22. Dumbbell shoulder-to-shoulder press
Hold a dumbbell flat in your right hand, resting it on the top of your shoulder. Press straight up, then lower your arm. Repeat with your left arm. That’s 1 rep!
23. Dumbbell spider curl
An exercise good enough for Peter Parker will certainly put a little bulge in those biceps.
Lie facedown on an incline bench, supporting your weight on your toes. Hold a pair of dumbbells straight out in front of you, palms facing forward. Curl the weight up to full contraction without rocking back and forth — isolation, baby!
Return to the starting position. Wanna change it up a bit? Alternate left and right for single-arm spider curls.
24. Dumbbell incline biceps curl
Get an extra squeeze in.
Sit on a 45-degree incline bench with a dumbbell at each side, palms facing your thighs. Curl both dumbbells up at the same time to full contraction. Avoid swinging the weight up for momentum, which is definitely not as easy as it sounds.
25. Dumbbell skull crusher
The exercise name says it all, so be sure to follow closely.
Lie faceup on a bench with feet planted on the floor and your back pressed down. With a dumbbell in each hand, raise your arms straight up, palms facing each other.
Bending only at your elbows, lower the weights down to your ears, finishing in a 90-degree angle. Return to the starting position.
26. Renegade row
James Dean probably did these in his sleep.
Assume the push-up position with feet about shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand, positioned below your chest.
Pull the right dumbbell toward your oblique muscles, keeping it close to your torso. Lower the dumbbell back down and repeat on the left side. Continue alternating sides.
27. Dumbbell overhead side bend
Get a good stretch in.
Hold a dumbbell overhead with both hands. Without twisting your upper body, bend toward your right side until you feel a good stretch on your left side. Return to the starting position and repeat for reps on both sides — and consider yourself spent!
28. Dumbbell Russian twist
Sit on a gym mat with a dumbbell in each hand. Hold the dumbbells out in front of you, then bring them down to your right side, moving only your arms. Twisting at the spine is a big no-no! Bring them all the way to the left, keeping your spine rigid. Return to the starting position. Repeat for reps.
29. Dumbbell windmill
Ready to feel the air up there?
Stand with feet slightly wider than your shoulders and press a dumbbell overhead on your right side. Rotate your feet to the left a bit.
Lean your torso forward while holding the dumbbell straight overhead until your bottom hand touches the floor. Concentrate your gaze on the dumbbell to stay balanced. Return to the starting position and repeat for reps.
30. Dumbbell wood chop
Paul Bunyan knew a thing or two about these.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell out in front of you. Squat, rotating to the right to bring the dumbbell down to your right foot.
Bring the dumbbell back up, keeping your arms out in front of you. Rotate into a left lunge with your arms going overhead to the left side. Repeat for reps before switching to the other side.