Getting back to the basics
[Article via the expert team at GenerationIron.com] Ah dumbbells. I don’t know about you guys but they remind me of Junior high school. Before all these crazy machines were popular – dumbbells were the way to get strong. Everybody remembers doing dumbbell curls in your friend’s basement with his dad’s weights and thinking “Oh my God I’m so strong, the girls are gonna love this.” Well it’s no secret that dumbbells are just as valuable today as they were back then, if you know how to use them that is.
Dumbbells are great because they provide you with a wide range of motion while lifting as well as being economical on space. You may not have the room to hold a barbell and plates but most of us have enough room for a couple of dumbbells. With that being said, just because you have the equipment doesn’t mean you’re using it to the best of your ability. We’re going to show you some compound exercises to help you get the most out of those barbells and shred your bodies in the process.
Curl and Press
This is a great exercise that combines two singular movements (the bicep curl and shoulder press) in a natural progression movement that will get you strong and lean.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart. Hold one dumbbell in each hand next to your legs. Face your palms forward with your thumbs farthest from your body.
- Exhale, bend your elbows and raise the dumbbells to your shoulders. Inhale and rotate your wrists so that your palms are facing away from your body.
- Exhale and lift the dumbbells over your head.
- Inhale, bend your elbows and lower the weights to your shoulders. Exhale, rotate your wrists and face your palms toward your body.
- Inhale, straighten your arms and lower the weights to your sides into the starting position.
- Complete one to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. Rest for 45 to 60 seconds in between sets.
If you want to up the exercise try starting in a squat position with weights held by your sides ad squat up into the curl and press. Still not enough? Hold the press at the top and squat into that also. After a couple, you’ll feel it.
The Crush Grip Goblet Squat
The goblet squat is a great exercise that was popularized by legendary strength & conditioning coach Dan John. This exercise not only hits all your leg muscles but because of the grip it engages your core and chest.
- Stand holding a light dumbbell by the horns close to your chest. This will be your starting position. You want to actively squeeze into the dumbbell either by the head or the body. This activates the chest muscles.
- Squat down between your legs until your hamstrings are on your calves. Keep your chest and head up and your back straight.
- At the bottom position, pause and use your elbows to push your knees out. Return to the starting position, and repeat for 10-20 repetitions.
If you like this exercise you might also want to try the Dumbbell Front Squat. It’s a regular squat but you bend your elbows and put both dumbbells on the meaty part of your shoulders. Pause at the bottom and then come back to starting position. This will strengthen your core as well as giving you strength and stability.
The Dumbbell Bench Press
This exercise is preferred to the the barbell bench press for many bodybuilders. For one, it adds additional difficulty because not only do you have to lift the weight but also balance them individually. This move also allows for a deeper stretch and better symmetry as you can work each side individually.
- Sitting on the end of the bench, with the dumbbells resting against your abdomen and thighs, slowly lay back onto the bench. Lift the dumbbells to a position directly over your chest.
- Lower the dumbbells until they are slightly lower than your chest and then press the dumbbells to full extension.
- After performing your set number of repetitions, lower the dumbbells back to your abdomen and sit back up so the dumbbells are again resting against your thighs and abdomen.
If you want to make things interesting try making sure the sides of the dumbbells clink at the top of each extension and then rotate your wrist inward so that the sides of each barbells touch before breaking them back to your chest. This will keep your arms extended longer and the range of motion will hit different muscles.
Bulgarian split squats
This exercise will not only test your strength but your balance. This is a movement that will keep you limber and strong in the off season.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand, stand facing away from a bench, and place the top of one foot on the bench.
- Try to keep all the weight on your front (standing) foot as you bend at the knee and descend into a one-legged squat.
If you’re feeling froggy try curling the weights either as you go down or when you’re in the up position.
You can look at this movement as a back exercise or an upper chest exercise but either way you should incorporate this into your dumbbell repertoire.
- Place a dumbbell standing up on a flat bench.
- Ensuring that the dumbbell stays securely placed at the top of the bench, lie perpendicular to the bench with only the back of your shoulders touching the bench and your legs holding up your lower body (almost in a back bridge pose) . Hips should be below the bench and legs bent with feet firmly on the floor. The head will be off the bench as well.
- Grasp the dumbbell with both hands and hold it straight over your chest with a bend in your arms. Both palms should be pressing against the underside one of the sides of the dumbbell. This will be your starting position.
- While keeping your arms locked in the bent arm position, lower the weight slowly in an arc behind your head until you feel a stretch on the chest.
- At that point, bring the dumbbell back to the starting position using the arc through which the weight was lowered.
- Go back to staring position and continue for your set amount of reps.
To direct this exercise toward your chest, keep your elbows close, choke up towards the head of the dumbbell, and concentrate on powering the movement with your hands. To direct it toward your back and lats, let your elbows flair out more and concentrate on using your elbows to power the movement.