The Best Dumbbell Workouts - Arms and Upper Body

Work your whole body with just a pair of dumbbells.


There are more than 200 exercises you can do with dumbbells. We asked our fitness experts to help us select the 12 exercises that do the most good. We've split them into two groups of exercises - for your arms and upper body and here is an at-home muscle-building plan for your mid-section and lower body. 


Crunch. Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent and your calves draped over an exercise bench. Fold your arms comfortably across your chest, your fingertips lightly touching your shoulders and your elbows tucked against your body. Keeping your head tucked slightly in toward your chest, slowly curl your upper body up toward your legs until your shoulder blades come 10 to 15 cm off the floor.

Hold this position for a couple of seconds before slowly returning to the starting position. Do 15 repetitions. When three sets come easily, you can try cradling a 2- to 11-kg weight plate or dumbbell across your chest.
Side Bend. To work the muscles on the sides of your abdomen, stand with your back straight and your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and place your left hand on your waist. Now, slowly bend to the right as far as possible, return to the starting position, and then bend to the left.

Do 20 repetitions before switching the weight to your left hand and repeating. Once you’re able to do this comfortably for two or three sets, add 2 kg to the weight.

Lunge. Standing with your back and neck straight and your feet 20 cm apart, grasp a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing in.

Keeping the weights at your sides, take a large step forward with your right foot, then bring your left knee down until it almost touches the floor. The toes of your left leg should not leave the floor, and your right knee shouldn’t extend beyond your right foot.

Reverse the motion, stepping back to the starting position. Repeat the lunge with your left leg, inhaling as you lunge and exhaling as you return. Do 10 to 12 repetitions with each leg.

Calf Raise. Holding a dumbbell at your left side with your palm facing in, step up onto a secure platform high enough so that your heels hang off the edge and your weight is supported by the balls of your feet.

Place your right hand against the wall or on a railing for support. Tuck your right foot behind your left heel. Now, with both your head and your back straight, inhale as you rise up on the toes of your left foot. Hold the position for a moment, then exhale as you return to the starting position.

Do 15 repetitions, place the dumbbell at your right side, then perform the exercise using your right leg.

Buttocks/Thighs/Lower Back
Deadlift. Standing with your feet about 40 cm apart, place a dumbbell on the floor near the outside of each foot. Bend down and grab the dumbbells, palms facing in. Keep your knees bent, your back straight and your head up. With your elbows locked, inhale as your slowly straighten up. Exhale as your return the weights to the floor.

Use light weights at first—4 to 9 kilogrammes—and do 10 to 15 comfortable repetitions.

MORE! Bigger arms with just this dumbbell workout!


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