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July 16, 2021 2 Comments
Everyone knows the classic dumbbell exercises like bench press, single arm row, overhead press, lateral raise, bicep curl, and overhead extension, but we guarantee most of you have never seen many of these unique yet tried and true dumbbell exercises. Not only will these dumbbell exercises add a little creativity to your workouts, but they will also help to stress and overload your muscles and body in new ways, which strength and hypertrophy training is all about.
Here are 21 of the best dumbbell exercises you’ve probably never seen (let alone done) but should definitely try during your next workout sessions.
This is a total body dumbbell exercise that kind of looks like the name suggests.
The main target of this exercise is your quads, glutes and shoulders, but it also works your hamstrings, chest and upper back. Moreover, it will have your heart rate through the roof, so you are going to burn calories fast with this one.
You are going to be using light dumbbells for the Iron Cross...
How to do the Dumbbell Iron Cross:
The dumbbell Cuban Press is a combination of some movements you probably already know - an upright row, external rotation of the shoulders, and overhead press. So, it’s a three phase movement.
All in all, it’s a great exercise for targeting the shoulders and upper traps. It’s going to help you build stronger, more resilient shoulders. But go light with this one.
How to do the Dumbbell Cuban Press:
Not a lot of people work through the transverse plane enough. The Spell Caster is the perfect dumbbell exercise to welcome some rotation into your training as it is effective and not difficult to learn.
The Spell Caster is going to strengthen your entire core, which includes your abs, obliques and erector spinae. It is also going to work your shoulders and back as you need to fight gravity to keep the dumbbells up, and your hips and glutes as to help you maintain stability and balance.
How to do the Dumbbell Spell Caster:
Start with light dumbbells. Practice good form. This exercise is not about using heavy weight. It’s about controlling the movement in a somewhat explosive manner.
Your standard overhead press is front delt dominant, whereas the W-Press is middle delt dominant, which is great as the middle delts are often an underdeveloped and difficult area to target.
The W-Press targets your lateral (aka middle or medial) delts as well as your supraspinatus. It’s a great exercise for building that 3D broad shoulder look. It’s also effective at building resilience in the shoulder by correcting muscle imbalances, which a lot of people have due to ineffectively working these muscles.
How to do the Dumbbell W-Press:
The RDL Death March combines back flexion and extension with hip flexion and extension, which is a movement pattern that is not often trained. Like a standard RDL, it’s good for strengthening the hamstrings, glutes, and low back, but with the Death March added, you get even more improvements in back health and resilience. Essentially, it’s a little more dynamic than a normal dumbbell RDL and the hip flexion and extension is done from a slight staggered stance rather than a bilateral stance.
Note: This is normally a prehab exercise done with lightweight, but it is also a great accessory exercise to add to normal strength training routines.
How to do Dumbbell RDL Death March:
Strange as the name may be, this often forgotten exercise is fantastic for trap and deltoid development. For those with shoulder pain, it puts less stress on the shoulder joint than upright rows, and it’s equally as effective (it’s also great for the biceps and serratus anterior!).
All in all, the dumbbell Armpit Row might look weird (and sound weird), but you should give it a go.
How to do the Dumbbell Armpit Row:
The dumbbell Tate Press is an exercise that if you’ve seen it being done, it was most likely by someone experienced. It definitely looks a little strange, but it is super effective at smashing the triceps. After just a couple reps you are going to feel your triceps firing off like crazy.
Start light with the Tate Press and get the form down as it is not an easy exercise.
How to do the Dumbbell Tate Press:
The Y-Raise is an exercise trainers love to use for building client’s shoulder stability and resilience. This variation of the Y-Raise takes things to another level by performing it in a bent over position and with just one dumbbell.
With that, you are going to be targeting your rear delt, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis, lower trap (an often overlooked muscle), upper head of your pec major, AND your low back and core. A lot of these muscles are often underdeveloped because they are hard to hone in on. The Y-Raise takes care of that.
How to do the Dumbbell Bent Over One Arm Y-Raise:
The supine (lying) bicep curl is great at isolating and building bigger, stronger biceps. The supine position makes cheating on the movement nearly impossible because you can’t use momentum by swinging. As such, your biceps will be doing ALL the work.
How to do the Supine Bicep Curl:
We’d be surprised if you didn’t know the classic Farmer’s Carry. This is just a more difficult variation of that exercise (although you will be using lighter dumbbells).
While the standard Famer’s Carry works the upper body as you need to hold the dumbbells as you walk, the Dumbbell High Low Carry brings the upper body, especially the back and shoulders, into play to a much higher degree. On the whole, this is a great total body exercise.
The movement is simple, but not easy. All you have to do is press one dumbbell up overhead and hold the other in a lower pressing position near your shoulder and then walk.
How to do the Dumbbell High Low Carry:
Everyone knows the lateral raise, but not many people perform it with their hands in a position that has their thumbs pointed up (thumbs up is called the Full Can, i.e. it won’t spill, and Empty Can is thumbs pointed down).
The Full Can not only targets your delts differently, by bringing a little more tension on the front delts, but it is also much easier on the shoulder joint. This is why it’s a great exercise for people who have issues with their shoulder joint (which so many people have). It’s also great because it’s easier to keep your shoulder blades depressed with this hand positioning. Lateral raises with palms facing down often causes people to shrug their shoulders, which is incorrect form.
How to do the Dumbbell Full Can Lateral Raise:
The normal standing shrug is pretty much an upper trap isolation exercise, where as the dumbbell incline shrug is an upper trap, middle trap and rhomboid exercise. Overall, it just brings your entire upper back into play.
How to do the Dumbbell Incline Shrug:
The pec major is made up of an upper and lower head known as the clavicular and sternocostal heads, respectively. While chest exercises work both to some degree, usually they hone in on one or the other (i.e. incline bench hits the upper head, flat bench hits the upper part of the lower head, decline bench hits the lower part of the lower head, and some exercises hone in on the inner area of the pec major). The dumbbell flat bench Around the World is special because it hits the chest from all angles. Not a lot of chest exercises can say that. This exercise is also great for the delts.
And while it’s not a main lift on a chest day, it’s definitely a fantastic accessory exercise to add into your routine like you would a fly.
Give it a try and you will see just how effective it is at creating tension in the pecs.
Note: You can also do it from a decline or incline position to hone in on the lower or upper head a little more.
How to do the Dumbbell Around the World:
Here is another great exercise to work you through the transverse plane. There are variations of this woodchopper exercise that train you for anti-rotation (which is still a transverse plane exercise), but this one involves rotation. It’s going to strengthen your entire core, as well as your shoulders. Start light and get the form down before attempting this with any considerable load.
Note: The half-kneeling position is great for developmental purposes. Read more about why half-kneeling exercises are beneficial.
How to do the Dumbbell Half-Kneeling Wood Chopper
The upward motion can be done explosively.
Be sure to perform this exercise both ways. So, bottom left to top right and bottom right to top left.
Dumbbell Drag Curls do a stellar job of honing in on the biceps as it takes the shoulders out of the equation. You are going to get an intense contraction in your biceps with this one.
Don’t be surprised if this becomes one of your favorite bicep exercises.
How to do the Dumbbell Drag Curl:
The Dumbbell Forward Lunge Tricep Extension is essentially a total body exercise, yet it especially hones in on the legs and triceps. It is a serious calorie burner. If you do full body workouts or HIIT style training, this is a great addition as you can hit many muscles in one go.
Make note that this exercise is going to take a little bit of practice as it requires good balance and coordination.
How to do the Dumbbell Forward Lunge Tricep Extension:
The Dumbbell Hang Curl is another fantastic bicep isolation exercise. The forward hanging positing optimizes isolation by removing assistance from the back and shoulders. Essentially, you can’t cheat on these curls,
How to do the Dumbbell Hang Curl:
The dumbbell Scott Press is essentially a combination of an Arnold Press and a lateral raise. With that, it is great for both your front and middle delts.
How to do the Dumbbell Scott Press:
This is an awesome full body dumbbell exercise that builds durability and brute strength. It’s going to work your legs, core, shoulders, arms, back and upper chest. Really, it hits almost all your muscles as you need to hold the dumbbells in an overhead position throughout, which means many small muscles are recruited for stability and other large muscle groups come into play to assist.
How to do the Dumbbell Kneeling Hold to Stand:
The Zottman Curl is essentially like an all-in-one bicep exercise. It hits all the muscles effectively in one exercise (biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis) as you are moving your biceps through full range of motion (supinated to prontated, aka underhand to overhand).
While the preacher curl exercise can be done with out a preacher bench, the preacher bench allows you to avoid any shoulder or back movement and just simply focus on the arms.
How to do the Zottman Preacher Curl:
Related: 5 Best Zottman Curl Variations
The finally exercise on our list is another killer total body dumbbell exercise. It pretty much works all your muscles but it specifically hones in on your quads, glutes, shoulders, arms, upper back and chest. Like the other total body exercise, this is a testosterone boosting, calorie burning, strength building movement.
How to do the Dumbbell Press Squat:
BONUS EXERCISE: THE DEVIL'S PRESS
If you have questions about these exercises, please feel free to reach out to us. And if you liked these dumbbell exercises, give them a go and share this on social media. We appreciate the support!
More Dumbbell Exercises:
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