Dumbbell exercises can sometimes get a bad rap for not being effective at building muscle. Often, magazines and fitness websites directed at women will encourage women to lift for “toning” rather than muscle building, and in the process, mislead people into thinking that lifting light weights for higher reps is a good idea. That said, there are a lot of great dumbbell exercises that target isolated muscles and can help create a strong, healthy body and muscle growth. Here, we’ll walk you through some of the best exercises to do if your goal is muscle growth rather than overall leaning.
- Bicep curls
Bicep curls are one of the original exercises most people think of when they think of dumbbells and for good reason – they are a great, targeted, isolation move that focuses on building the bicep. To ensure you are getting the best bang for your buck, choose a weight that will allow you to do eight to ten reps to fatigue, but no more. If you are able to do more than ten reps, you need a heavier weight. Focus on form to ensure you are building stronger biceps.
- Single-leg deadlifts
Who doesn’t love a good deadlift? Deadlifts are great for the entire lower body, back and can even help build core muscles. The single-leg deadlift especially forces you to balance as you are lifting, and therefore ends up being a great dynamic move. Like bicep curls, choose a weight that will get you to fatigue around eight to ten reps. Any more than that won’t help increase the size of your muscles.
- Shoulder press
Another great isolation movement in the dumbbell exercises category is the shoulder press. This will help build broad, muscular shoulders. Many of those just getting into fitness forget about this move, because the focus is often on larger muscle groups. That said, building up the smaller groups will help you stabilize in order to lift heavier weights to build more muscle. The shoulder press is a great place to start. Pick a weight that allows you to do six to eight reps to fatigue.
- Goblet squats
Although goblet squats are traditionally done with kettlebells, there’s no rule that they have to be. If you have dumbbells around the house, you don’t need to go get a set of kettlebells. Pick a heavier dumbbell than you would for some of your other exercises, since you will just be using one weight here. It should be heavy enough to allow you to work harder on your way up, but not so heavy that you max out at one rep.
- Weighted reverse lunges
Weighted reverse lunges are another powerhouse for building the lower body. The reverse lunge focuses on the quadriceps, since you’ll be getting a lot of hamstring and gluteus action from the goblet squats. If you have sensitive knees, be careful with the weight, but otherwise choose a weight, just like the goblet squat, that makes you feel like you are working a bit harder on the way up, and aim for about ten reps.
There’s no reason dumbbell exercises need to be about lifting light weights and toning – dumbbells are a great tool for building muscles over time, especially if you choose the right weight and movements.