No Barbells? No Problem. These Are The 10 Best Dumbbell Exercises You Can Do

By 05.16.16

Getting it done. That’s the bottom line when it comes to exercising. If you don’t have access to equipment, then you can use whatever is available to you. Items such as a pull-up bar, a chair or even the floor can all be used if need be and will provide a pump when done right.

So when people are in a gym and complain that they can’t get to the flat bench to do barbell presses, they are either spoiled or simply not using their minds. As long as there is a set of dumbbells, you can get as good – or an even better – workout than you would with the bar. One major reason is that you have an extended range of motion using dumbbells and also can isolate your weaker side.

Dumbbells are universal and can be used for each and every body part. In a perfect world, you can mix these movements in with the bar to give your workout a variety. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the 10 best dumbbell exercises (in reverse order) and what body part they hit.

10 – LEG CURLS – Yes, there is a hamstring dumbbell exercise and while it is not an easy one to get used to, it can be effective. Lie face down on a flat bench with your knees at the bottom edge. Have your gym partner place a dumbbell vertically in between your feet with the underside of the top being balanced (similar to one-arm French presses). Bring your feet up to a 90-degree angle and return to the bottom.

9 – WALKING LUNGES – Hold one dumbbell in each hand straight down at your sides and find an available long straight line to walk without having much traffic crossing you. Not always available in every gym due to the size of the crowd but a pretty good exercise if you can pull it off.

8 – SHOULDER SHRUGS – What makes these different from the barbell variety is the hand position and that is reason enough to switch it up every workout when you do shrugs, as the hand positon dictates how the muscles are worked.

7 – STANDING FRONT LATERAL RAISES – Yes, you can do these seated. But it’s not the smoothest motion when you have to clear the bench, so we recommend to do them standing to get the most out of them.


6 – FLAT BENCH PRESSES – There are actually three added advantages here compared to using a barbell. First, it’s safer if you don’t have a spotter. Next, you have a deeper range of motion at the bottom because you can down below the parallel line where the bar would have hit your chest. And lastly, that range of motion thing works for you at the top, too, and you can squeeze your chest muscles together.

5 – ONE-ARM FRENCH PRESSES – Do these seated with a low back support with crisscrossed fingers to support the underside of the top part of the dumbbell.

4 – STANDING/SEATED SIDE LATERAL RAISES – Cap off the side deltoid muscles with this exercise and use a weight that can be controlled enough where you do not rest the arms in between reps on your outer thighs. Keep the time under tension on all throughout the entire set, in between reps, too.

3 – ONE-ARM ROWS – The best range of motion exercise for back there is and you can really hit the lats hard with solid form here.

2 – FLAT BENCH FLYES – A great finisher after the pressing movements and one that will give you a nice stretch of the pec muscles. Use the ‘hug a tree’ tip to keep your form correct.


1 – STANDING/SEATED BICEP CURLS – The standard movement for biceps and a perfect one to hit the entire muscle and the brachialis, as well. Remember to twist your wrist outward on the way up and point your pinkie towards your ear at the top of the rep.


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