Few things are more intimidating than entering a weight room for the first time, especially if it’s full of burly, sweaty men — and even more so if you aren’t blessed with a great abundance of muscle mass.
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These dumbbell exercises have beginners in mind, and will prepare you physically (and mentally) for moving on to heavier weights.
Here are some foundational, simple dumbbell exercises for beginners, many of which are used by athlete’s and professional weightlifters. Start with a low weight and high reps, and work yourself up to heavier weights for greater gains.
1. Dumbbell Squats
The bio-mechanical and neuromuscular movements of the squat encompasses a wide rage of athletic activities, and it has been scientifically proven to enhance athletic performance. Therefore, the squat should always be included in all exercise routines for beginners.
The squat is important for 3 primary reasons:
- It engages virtually every muscle group in the body.
- It closely mimics the movements of daily living, such as lifting objects and bending down.
- In the clinical setting, the squat is used to increase lower body strength and is utilized in physical therapy for knee replacements and other lower limb issues.
Here’s how to do it right:
- Begin standing feet slightly wider than your hips, knees slightly bent.
- Hold a heavy dumbbell in each hand.
- Your toes should be pointed slightly outward – about 5 to 20 degrees outward.
- Look straight ahead and pick a spot in front of you. Do not look down at the floor or up at the ceiling.
- Now, break at your hip and push your butt backwards, continuing to send your hips backwards as your knees bend. Keep your back straight and your chest up, and be sure to keep your knees in line with your toes. Don’t forget to engaged your core!
- Squat down as low as your hips, then slowly rise up.
2. Dumbbell Chest Presses
The chest press is known as the king of the pec workouts. Want strong chest muscles and shoulders? Go with this exercise, and use a light weight to begin.
- Begin lying on a bench, with a dumbbell in each hand and your feet flat on the floor.
- Push the dumbbells up so that your arms are directly over your shoulders and your palms are up.
- Slowly flex through the elbows to lower the bar to the middle of your chest.
- Elbows should come in by your sides.
- Contact with the chest is okay, but don’t bounce the weight or rest the weight on your chest at any time.
- Pause and extend through the elbows to raise the bar to starting position.
- As you press upwards, perform a dumbbell bench press; start by pressing the dumbbells up with your elbows to your sides until your arms are fully extended. extended.
- Lower the weight to sides of your chest until you feel a slight stretch in your shoulder. Do not allow your elbows to go past your shoulders. Never lock your elbows.
3. Bicep Curls
The biceps tend to be the muscle group most focused on by athletes. Larger biceps have practical functionality as well as a sexy look — strong biceps translate into a stronger upper body which mean more lifting power.
- Stand up straight, feet flat on floor, hip width apart, one barbell in each hand, hands facing upward.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles, as well as your back, while maintaining a neutral position.
- With elbows slightly in front of your ribs, curl the bells upward, lifting with your arms and shoulders. Focus especially on squeezing the upper biceps.
- Lift the barbells without moving your upper body.
- Do not arch your back or move the rest of your body around. You’re only focusing on the biceps.
4. Tricep Extensions
Here’s an easy, yet effective, technique for intensifying arm definition.
- Sit on any comfortable box, bench, bucket, or just about anything else that’s convenient, flat, comfortable and can hold your weight. Alternatively, you can do this one standing, too.
- Hold one heavy dumbbell in both hands. Be sure your palms are facing up, arms straight. Your elbows should be pointed inwards towards your your ears, chin up.
- Lower the dumbbells behind your head to between your shoulder blades, elbows in place. Straighten your arms then return to start.
5. Standing Tricep Kickbacks
- From a hip distance standing position, hinge at the waist and keep a flat back.
- Keep your arms straight as you hold your weights in each hand.
- There are two moves here.
- The first is to bend your elbows and bring the weights up to your sides in a rowing motion.
- The second move is to straighten your arms behind you, keeping your elbows straight as you push the weights behind your body.
6. Single-Leg Deadlifts
While you can perform the standard two-legged deadlift, this move really targets your hamstrings effectively.
- Stand on one leg, on the same side that you hold a dumbbell.
- Keeping that knee slightly bent, perform a stiff-legged deadlift by bending at the hip, extending your alternate, free leg behind you for balance.
- Lower the dumbbell until you are parallel to the ground, and then return to the upright position.
7. Standing Side Raises
The dumbbell lateral raise targets your delts, trap muscles and shoulders. Use a light weight for this exercise, because it gets tough, quick.
- Begin with a weight in each hand.
- Start with your arms straight by the floor and then raise your arms in a straight line out by your sides so they form a long line with your shoulders.
To really target your glutes, thighs and hamstrings, lunges are your best bet. Pick up slightly heavier dumbbells for this one.
- Begin standing upright holding two dumbbells in your hands by your sides.
- Step forward with your right leg around 2 feet or so from the foot being left stationary behind and lower your upper body down by bending your knee, while keeping your back straight and tall.
After a short period of time, the lighter weights that you started out with will feel light as a feather, and that’s when you will want to step up to something heavier. If you’re not sure what dumbbell to use, check out this in-depth review of Daniel DeMoss between powerblock vs bowflex. Work hard, work smart and you’ll be strong and toned in no time. Happy lifting!