The following is a guest post by Matt Palfrey of Sandbag Fitness:

 

This article isn’t going to focus on the standard dumbbell movements we’ve all seen and done. Chances are you’ve got some great dumbbells and you use them regularly but fall into the same old exercises and routines. Most people I speak to do curls, bench press, and lateral raises with their dumbbells but little else. With such a versatile piece of training equipment, wouldn’t you rather get the very best from them?

 

Below, you’re going to get some dumbbell exercises that will not only blast your strength through the roof, but also create a crowd in the weights room.

 

A Brief History Of Dumbbell Lifting

 

The dumbbell itself is widely believed to have originated from the haltere, a hand-held weight used in ancient Greece, specifically in the long jump. Later they were used by English bell ringers as a silent way to build strength. These days, the dumbbell is commonplace in gyms throughout the world and remains one of the most popular options for those training at home.

 

The Advantages of Using Dumbbells

While basing a strength program around the barbell is age-old and sensible advice, there are many benefits to be had from utilizing the dumbbell as an alternative:

 

  • The dumbbell will not allow for strength imbalances between your arms. You won’t be able to use your dominant arm to assist when you aren’t strong enough to lift the weight with your weaker arm. This will help to eradicate any strength imbalances that you may have.
  • The compact nature of the dumbbell makes it a good choice for dynamic, power-based movements.
  • Having a different weight in each hand allows you to perform various combinations of bilateral and unilateral movements.
  • Dumbbells can provide a more comfortable range of motion for many individuals.
  • It can be easier to dump the dumbbells when a lift goes wrong, making them a great option when training alone.

 

So here are my five favorite exercises to spice up my dumbbell training routine:

 

Exercise 1: The Windmill

What's It For: Great for developing shoulder stability and rotational core strength, perfect for MMA athletes, wrestlers, and martial artists.

 

How To Do It: Press a dumbbell overhead in one arm and keep that arm straight throughout the exercise.   Set your feet around hip width apart and turn them outwards at 45° to your working arm. Start the movement by hitching your hip to the side, and then slowly reach down towards the ground. Look upward to the dumbbell and allow your shoulder and arm to rotate. Return to the start position and repeat.

 

 windmill, matt palfrey, matthew palfrey, dumbbell windmill, dumbbellswindmill, matt palfrey, matthew palfrey, dumbbell windmill, dumbbells 

 

Men's Weights:

  • Beginner: 20% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Intermediate: 35% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Advanced: 50% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Beast: 75% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm

 

Women's Weights:

  • Beginner: 15% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Intermediate: 25% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Advanced: 35% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Amazonian Goddess: 50% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm

 

Exercise 2: The Bent Press

What's It For: Develops additional pressing power in the windmill position. This makes them a great choice for developing true multi-planar strength.

 

How To Do It: Clean a dumbbell to shoulder height. Set your feet in the same position as if you were completing a windmill. Start the movement by hitching your hip out to the side and press the dumbbell upwards as you reach down towards the ground with the opposite arm. Return to the start position and repeat.

 

 best press, matt palfrey, matthew palfrey, dumbbell windmill, dumbbellsbest press, matt palfrey, matthew palfrey, dumbbell windmill, dumbbells 

 

Men's Weights:

  • Beginner: 15% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Intermediate: 25% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Advanced: 35% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Beast: 60% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm

 

Women's Weights:

  • Beginner: 5% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Intermediate: 10% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Advanced: 20% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Amazonian Goddess: 30% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm

 

Here is a video of "Iron Tamer" Dave Whitley teaching the bent press with a kettlebell.

 

 

Exercise 3: Straddle Press

straddle press, matt palfrey, matthew palfrey, dumbbell windmill, dumbbells

What's It For: A serious test of core strength and flexibility in the hamstrings and hips

 

How To Do It: Sit on the ground in a straddle position with a dumbbell held at shoulder height. Press the dumbbell overhead without leaning backwards. Aim to keep your legs completely straight throughout the exercise. Complete on both sides.

 

Men's Weights:

  • Beginner: 15% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Intermediate: 25% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Advanced: 35% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Beast: 50% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm

 

Women's Weights:

  • Beginner: 5% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Intermediate: 10% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Advanced: 20% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Amazonian Goddess: 30% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm

 

Exercise 4: Renegade Row with Rotation

What's It For: A killer variation on the traditional push up position

 

How To Do It: Begin in a press up position, supporting yourself on your dumbbells. Keep a tight core position and row one dumbbell up toward your chest. As the dumbbell reaches your chest, allow the arm to fully extend upward. Return to the start position and repeat on the opposite side.

 

renegade row, matt palfrey, matthew palfrey, d-bells, dumbbells

renegade row, matt palfrey, matthew palfrey, d-bells, dumbbells

renegade row, matt palfrey, matthew palfrey, d-bells, dumbbells

 

Men's Weights:

  • Beginner: 10% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Intermediate: 20% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Advanced: 30% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Beast: 40% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm

 

Women's Weights:

  • Beginner: 5% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Intermediate: 10% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Advanced: 15% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Amazonian Goddess: 25% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm

 

Exercise 5: Bottom Up Press

bottoms up press, bottoms up, matt palfrey, matthew palfrey, d-bells, dumbbells

What's It For: Great for grip strength and shoulder stability

 

How To Do It: Start by getting a dumbbell up to shoulder and positioning it in the palm of your hand. Press the dumbbell overhead, keeping the weight balanced in your hand. Repeat on both sides. This exercise won’t be possible with certain types of dumbbell - hexagonal work best.

 

Men's Weights:

  • Beginner: 10% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Intermediate: 20% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Advanced: 30% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Beast: 40% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm

 

Women's Weights:

  • Beginner: 5% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Intermediate: 10% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Advanced: 20% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm
  • Amazonian Goddess: 30% of your bodyweight for 5 reps per arm

 

I’m a real believer in getting the very best out of the equipment you have access to. You don’t need to be limited to the same exercises week in, week out. Sometimes you need to get creative to push through boundaries.

 

Stick to the basics in general, but try supplementing with these dumbbell exercises. You might just find that it’s the jolt you need to keep moving forward.

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