The Most Effective Dumbbell Exercises To Target Every Muscle Group

dumbbell exercises

If you think dumbbells are only good for curls, then wait till you read this blog! There is a whole world of dumbbell exercises out there that can even give the mighty barbells and Smith machines a run for their money!

So if you’re ready to level up your home workouts with just a set of dumbbells, then you’re at the right place!

In this blog, we'll be sharing the best exercises using dumbbells both for beginners and seasoned fitness freaks, and how to do exercise at home with dumbbells. We’ll cover dumbbell workouts for all major muscle groups, from biceps, triceps, and shoulders to chest, back, legs, and core, and show you how to build muscles with dumbbells exercises and smash all your fitness goals!

C’mon! Let’s hustle for that muscle!

Chapter 1: Are dumbbells worth it?

The short answer: OH YEAH!

Dumbbells can be a great addition to your workout arsenal as they are one of the most versatile fitness essentials around. There are a ton of dumbbell exercises that you can do and no muscle group you can’t target with dumbbells.

If you are considering investing in dumbbells, we highly recommend Burnlab’s adjustable dumbbells.


Here’s why.

  • 1 Burnlab Adjustable Dumbbell stand is equivalent to 15 different dumbbells.
  • Can be converted into a barbell using the connecting bar and the push-up bars can be used to turn the dumbbell into a kettlebell.
  • Takes up less space than 4-5 sets of regular dumbbells making it a great option for home dumbbell workouts.
  • Cheaper than getting multiple sets of regular dumbbells.
  • Has easy-to-use selection dials for adjusting weights from 2 to 20 kg
  • Comes with a diamond-knurled grip that allows for a better grip and prevents you from cutting your hands.

Buy Burnlab’s adjustable dumbbell set right here.

Chapter 2: Benefits of training with dumbbells

Here's why doing dumbbell exercises at home is so awesome for you!

1. Dumbbells help increase muscle strength and size

When you look at dumbbells, you might think they have no game compared to cable press machines, Smith machines, and whatnot.

But a 2022 study published in the ‌Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness‌ shows that dumbbell workouts are as effective as gym machines when it comes to building muscle strength, size, and power.

2. Dumbbells activate muscles effectively 

Turns out dumbbell exercises can activate certain muscle groups even better than barbells and machines!

A 2011 study compared the EMG activity of the biceps when performing a dumbbell bench press, barbell bench press, and a Smith machine bench press. The results showed that the biceps activation was highest with dumbbells.

Another study showed that chest dumbbell exercises were more effective than barbell bench presses (and Smith machine presses) when it comes to activating your pecs.

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3. Dumbbells correct muscular imbalances 

When you use barbells or machines, your stronger side can easily compensate for your weaker one by doing most of the work. This could lead to injuries on the stronger side.

But unilateral dumbbell exercises such as one-arm dumbbell rows involve working one limb at a time, allowing you to identify your strength imbalances and also isolate and strengthen the muscles on your weaker side.

As per a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, working one side of the body results in the other side getting stronger too.

4. Dumbbells put your stability to the test

When you perform dumbbell workouts, you’re automatically adding the element of instability as each side of your body has to work independently to maintain control and you have to engage your core to maintain the weights in position.

This can help activate smaller stabilizer muscles that may be underdeveloped in the presence of muscular imbalances.

A 2022 study even shows that dumbbells are the best for beginner lifters to improve their stability. 

5. Dumbbells offer a larger range of motion

Dumbbell exercises provide a free range of motion without being constrained by fixed machines or bars, allowing you to move in a more natural and unrestricted manner. 

A larger range of motion translates to several benefits such as increased muscle growth, better joint mobility and flexibility, and lower injuries.

You might like: A Guide To Resistance Band Exercises - Legs, Abs, Arms, Shoulders & More

6. Dumbbells allow for more freedom of movement

When doing barbell exercises, you can only move the load up or down. Whereas with dumbbells you’re free to rotate them, turn them sideways, alter the grip, and more. All this helps challenge your muscles differently and is also useful when you’re experiencing pain and can’t move in a certain way.

Not just that, dumbbell exercises also mimic real-life movements and thus enhance overall strength and functionality.

7. Dumbbells are easy on the joints

Dumbbells allow for a more neutral grip and wrist position, which can help reduce the strain on your wrists and shoulders and prevent injuries.

8. Dumbbells help increase muscular endurance

Doing dumbbell workouts with lighter weights and in the higher rep range (12 reps or more) is a fantastic way to develop your muscular endurance.

9. Dumbbells are beginner-friendly

Dumbbells have the upper hand with regard to safety and ease of learning.

Say you’re a beginner doing a dumbbell shoulder press. If you aren’t able to complete your reps, you could easily drop the dumbbells on the floor and take a break. (Can’t really do the same thing with a barbell, now can you?)

With a barbell, you will most likely require a spotter to help you out with exercises such as back squats and chest presses. Not so with dumbbells.

Now let’s dive into the best dumbbell exercises for every muscle group.

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Chapter 3: Dumbbell Exercises For Legs

Sure barbells and leg press machines are great for your legs. But a pair of dumbbells can be just as good for supercharging every muscle in your legs. 

dumbbell exercises

So, why is it important to do dumbbell exercises for your legs?

Because leg day workouts help reduce lower back pain, prevent injuries, lose weight, enhance your athletic performance, correct any muscular imbalances in the legs, etc. Not to mention you’ll be working out your gluteus maximus (the biggest muscle in your body) and thus torch some serious calories!

Here are 10 of the best dumbbell exercises for your legs.

  1. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
  2. Dumbbell Reverse Lunge
  3. Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat
  4. Leaning Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat
  5. Dumbbell Jump Squat
  6. Dumbbell Front Squat
  7. Lying Dumbbell Hamstring Curl
  8. Dumbbell Goblet Squat
  9. Dumbbell Side Lunge
  10. Dumbbell Step-Up
Learn More:
Want to learn how to do leg dumbbell exercises at home in detail (with videos)? Click here for a detailed guide on 10 Simple & Effective Dumbbell Exercises For Killer Legs - Men & Women.

Chapter 4: Dumbbell Chest Exercises 

If having a broad, sculpted chest is high on your fitness goals list then you can’t ignore dumbbell chest exercises! (They can fire up your pecs even better than barbells, as mentioned earlier).

dumbbell exercises

But why should you even exercise your chest?

Cause strong pec muscles add power to your shoulder and arms, meaning you can push heavy objects with ease. A strong chest also leads to better posture, alleviation of back pain, improved breathing, and much more.

Here are a few of the best exercises using dumbbells for your chest that you can do standing, on the floor, and on a bench.

  1. Standing Dumbbell Chest Press
  2. Standing Crossbody Dumbbell Raise
  3. Dumbbell Half Circle Raises
  4. Dumbbell Close Grip Floor Press
  5. Decline Dumbbell Floor Press
  6. Alternating Dumbbell Floor Press
  7. Reverse Grip Dumbbell Floor Chest Press
  8. Dumbbell Eccentric Fly To Press
  9. T Bench Dumbbell Fly
  10. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press Twist
Learn More:
Want to learn how to do chest dumbbell exercises at home in detail (with videos)? Click here for a detailed guide on the 10 Best Dumbbell Chest Exercises For Sculpted Upper Body.

Chapter 5: Shoulder Exercises With Dumbbells

Dumbbells are fantastic fitness tools for training your shoulders.

Here’s why.

dumbbell exercises

Here’s a list of dumbbell exercises for the shoulders that’ll give you those delts to die for!

  1. Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
  2. Leaning Dumbbell Lateral Raise
  3. Dumbbell Alternating Front Raise
  4. Dumbbell Upright Row
  5. Arnold Dumbbell Press
  6. Dumbbell Push Press
  7. Dumbbell Figure-8
  8. Dumbbell Urlacher
  9. One-Arm Bent-Over Dumbbell Rear Delt Raise
  10. Dumbbell Shoulder Scoop Press
Learn More:
Want to learn how to do dumbbell exercises for the shoulder in detail (with videos)? Click here for a detailed guide on 10 Effective Shoulder Exercises With Dumbbells You Can Do Anywhere.

Chapter 6: Dumbbell Bicep Exercises 

Here’s an eye-popper.

A study published in The American Journal of Cardiology showed that male heart patients with the most arm and leg muscle and the least belly fat had a lower mortality risk compared to thin patients with smaller arms and less muscle! (Who knew training your biceps had perks other than looking sexy in a tight tee, right? 😉)

dumbbell exercises

Dumbbells are awesome tools for building your biceps as you can target the different heads of your biceps just by changing the grip.

So, if you wanna get those bulging peaks, check out these best exercises using dumbbells for biceps! 

  1. Seated Concentration Curl
  2. Spider Curl
  3. Preacher Curl
  4. Dumbbell ‘No Money’ Curl
  5. Incline Dumbbell Curl
  6. Dumbbell Drag Curl
  7. Dumbbell Close-Grip Curl
  8. Dumbbell Waiter’s Curl
  9. Dumbbell Cross-Body Hammer Curl
  10. Zottman Curl
Learn More:
Want to learn how to do biceps exercises at home with dumbbells in detail (with videos)? Click here for our detailed post - Get Bigger Biceps: 10 Best Dumbbell Bicep Exercises.

Chapter 7: Dumbbell Triceps Exercises

Triceps. They’re not just sidekicks to your biceps, they actually make up 2/3rds of the mass of your upper arm! 

And dumbbells happen to be one of the best tools to train them!

Dumbbell exercises for the triceps help promote stable shoulder joints, prevent shoulder injuries, and more.

dumbbell exercises

Here are a few must-do dumbbell workouts to put your triceps to the test!

  1. Incline Dumbbell Kickback / Chest-Supported Kickback
  2. Incline Dumbbell Overhead Extension
  3. One-Arm Overhead Dumbbell Triceps Extension
  4. Lying Dumbbell Tricep Extension
  5. Close Grip Dumbbell Press
  6. Dumbbell JM Press
  7. Standing Dumbbell Tricep Kickback
  8. Close-Grip Dumbbell Push-Ups
  9. Dumbbell Tate Press
  10. Overhead Extension Thruster
Learn More:
Want to learn how to do dumbbell exercises for triceps in detail (with videos)? Click here for a detailed guide on the Top 10 Dumbbell Tricep Exercises For Toned Arms.

Chapter 8: Dumbbell Abs Workout

Why do dumbbell exercises for your abs? 

Because a strong core means improved balance, stability, and flexibility, quicker injury recovery, and more.

dumbbell exercises

Here are the best dumbbell exercises to get a rock-solid core!

  1. Russian Twist
  2. Dumbbell Single Arm Otis Up
  3. Dumbbell Twisting Toe Tap
  4. Dumbbell Hollow Rocks
  5. Dumbbell Woodchopper
  6. Dumbbell T-Push Up
  7. Dumbbell Side Plank Snatch
  8. Dumbbell Plank Row
  9. Dumbbell Sit-Up
  10. Dumbbell Side Bend
Learn More:
Want to learn how to do dumbbell exercises for abs in detail (with videos)? Click here for a detailed guide on the 10 Best Dumbbell Ab Workout To Build A Stronger Core.

Chapter 9: Back Exercises With Dumbbell

Wanna tone your back muscles, build upper body strength, reduce back pain, and improve your posture? 

dumbbell exercises

Then check out this list of dumbbell exercises for your back!

  1. Chest-Supported Dumbbell Row
  2. Dumbbell W Raise
  3. Dumbbell High Pull
  4. Dumbbell Pullover
  5. Elevated Plank Row
  6. Dumbbell Gorilla Row
  7. Dumbbell Dead Row
  8. Reverse-Grip Dumbbell Bent-Over Row
  9. Wide-Grip Dumbbell Bent-Over Row
  10. Dumbbell Man Maker
Learn More:
Want to learn how to do dumbbell exercises for the back in detail (with videos)? Click here for a detailed guide on Strengthen Your Back: 10 Dumbbell Exercises for a Healthier Spine.

Chapter 10: Lower Back Exercises With Dumbbells

Want to improve your posture and stop back pain in its tracks?

dumbbell exercises

Then check out these best dumbbell exercises for your lower back!

  1. Dumbbell Deadlift
  2. Dumbbell Superman
  3. Romanian Deadlift
  4. Dumbbell Bird Dog
  5. Renegade Row
  6. Dumbbell Good Morning
  7. B Stance Romanian Deadlift With Dumbbells
  8. Dumbbell Glute Bridge
  9. Dumbbell Stiff-Leg Deadlift
  10. Dumbbell Side-Plank Push
Learn More:
Want to learn how to do dumbbell exercises for the lower back in detail (with videos)? Click here for a detailed guide on 10 Lower Back Exercises With Dumbbells For Strength & Mobility.

Chapter 11: FAQs

1. Can I build muscle with just dumbbells?

Yes. You can absolutely build muscle using dumbbells alone.

As previously mentioned, dumbbells allow for a larger range of motion which leads to increased muscle growth. Add to that the fact that dumbbells allow for unilateral training which studies have shown promotes greater muscle stimulation than bilateral movements.

In addition, dumbbells can be used for both isolation exercises that focus on specific muscles and compound exercises that engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, providing a well-rounded approach to muscle building.

When it comes to hypertrophy training, it is important to consider a few key variables including intensity, volume, rest period, and time under tension.

For building muscle using dumbbell exercises, ensure that you train at an intensity that is around 75-85% of your 1- Rep Max. Aim to perform 6-12 reps of 3-5 sets per exercise with a rest period of 60-90 seconds between sets.

To know more about how to train for hypertrophy, read our post here.

2. Do dumbbells burn fat?

Yes, dumbbells burn fat.

Dumbbell exercises help increase muscle mass, which boosts your basal metabolic rate and leads to more calorie burning at rest. 

Incorporate dumbbell exercises into your HIIT workouts by using heavier weights or practice full-body dumbbell workouts with lower rest times to further help increase your heart rate and burn major calories.

However, please note that weight loss can only happen when you are in a calorie deficit. So it is important to combine dumbbell workouts with a proper diet for effective weight loss.

Related: What Type Of Training Do I Need To Do To Lose Weight?

3. Can I use dumbbells every day?

You can use dumbbells everyday provided you are training a different muscle group each day. As a general rule, you should give your muscles 24-48 hours to recover between consecutive sessions.

However, you can use dumbbells for other types of exercises, such as light-weight, high-repetition exercises, or incorporate dumbbells into cardio workouts or functional training routines, on a daily basis. These types of dumbbell workouts can provide additional benefits like improving endurance, cardiovascular health, and overall functional fitness.

Related: Do I Need To Work Out Every Day?

4. Will dumbbells tone my body?

Yes, incorporating dumbbells into your fitness routine can help tone your body. (Toning means losing body fat while gaining lean muscle mass to enhance your body definition and shape.)

Strength training using dumbbells is one the best ways to get a toned and sculpted body as you can effectively target various muscle groups, such as arms, shoulders, chest, back, legs, and core.

A well-balanced diet, regular cardiovascular exercise, and adequate rest are also essential components of an overall fitness program for achieving a toned body. 

Related: 12 Simple But Effective At-home Body Toning Exercises For Women


As you can see, the sky's the limit when it comes to dumbbell exercises. 

We’re sure our comprehensive list of dumbbell exercises for beginners and pros alike will help you smash your leg day, arm day, and any-muscle-group day out of the park!

So scoop up Burnlab’s adjustable dumbbells and let’s get stronger!

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