After months of doing bodyweight exercises in your living room, you’re probably ready to try something new. And while you could certainly mix things up by ordering a Peloton bike or a fancy trampoline, you can also choose to up the ante on your at-home workouts with one of the most basic (and affordable) equipment upgrades money can buy: A simple set of dumbbells.
Adding weights into your workout can be a great way to increase overall strength, tone your muscles, and improve balance, flexibility, and stability, but reaching for a set for the first time can be admittedly overwhelming. “I love supplementing bodyweight exercises with dumbbells… to make the movements more challenging,” says Venus Moore, a trainer with Halle Berry’s new virtual fitness and wellness platofrm, Re.Spin. “Adding progressive weight to your workouts forces the muscles to constantly have to adapt and rebuild themselves stronger, and highly effective workouts are key to creating those desired next level results.”
When you’re first getting started with beginner dumbbell exercises, Moore suggests keeping it simple and choosing light dumbbells—ideally between five and 10 pounds. “You want to be able to learn the exercise movements correctly and execute proper form, so you don’t want the weight to be too heavy,” she explains. “The right weight dumbbells ensure you train effectively without putting the wrong type of strain on your muscles. Train smarter, not harder, to eliminate the risk of potential injury, and remember that heavy weight does not equal results when it’s used incorrectly.”
According to celebrity trainer Lacey Stone, you’ll want to begin by focusing on more basic stationary moves, like squats, chest presses, rows, biceps curls, shoulder presses, and triceps extensions. “First things first, get that form down with lighter weights,” she says. “Once you get the fundamentals down, that’s when you can add in compound movements where you work the upper and lower body together.”
To help you work a set of weights into your regular routine, scroll through for some of the best beginner dumbbell exercises you can do at home to work your entire body in a single workout. But remember: “Basic” does not necessarily mean “easy,” which means you’ll be feeling the dumbbell burn in no time.
1. Bent over row
Grab a dumbbell in each hand, and bend your knees with your feet hips-width distance apart. Push your hips back and roll your shoulders back to bend your upper body down (keeping your spine straight), and pull your arms up with your elbows at 90 degrees until the weights are parallel to your hips. Squeeze your shoulders at the top of the move, then slowly lower your arms back down to start.
2. Alternating dumbbell curl
This move is a two-for-one that targets your arms and shoulders. Standing up straight with a dumbbell in each hand, bend at your elbows to curl the weights up to your shoulders (be sure to keep your palms facing your body and your elbows glued to your sides as you curl). Then, pivot your arms so your palms are facing each other, and press the weights up overhead as you twist your arms so that your palms face forward. Slowly reverse the move to return to start.
3. Dumbbell lateral raise
Target your deltoids with this move, which involves raising a set of dumbbells out to the side until they’re parallel to your shoulders, creating a “T” shape with your body. Be sure to engage your core and glutes as you move, and start with light weights until you master the slow, controlled motion of the move.
4. Goblet squat
Weights aren’t reserved for working your arms and shoulders—you can use beginner dumbbell exercises to hit your lower body, too. Holding a single, medium-to-heavy weight with one end in each hand, lower down into a squat until your butt is slightly below your knees. Drive up through your heels to return to stand, squeezing your glutes as you reach the top of the move. Be sure to keep your chest proud and eyes up to maintain proper form.
5. Weighted reverse lunge
Kick your lunges up a notch by adding some weight into the mix. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, and take a big step back with one leg. Drop down into your lunge, making sure that your front knee stays behind your toes, then drive up through your front foot to return to stand and repeat on the other side.
6. Dumbbell wood chop
Yup—you can use dumbbells to work your core. This move involves twisting through your abs and obliques to raise a weight above your head, and mimics the act of chopping wood. Hold the top of a weight in both hands at one side of your body, then stabilize your core as you pivot to reach it up above your opposite shoulder (as if you were swinging an axe). Then, swipe it back down to the starting position as you rotate through your feet.
7. Single-leg deadlift
This hip-dominant, unilateral move targets your hips and glutes one side at a time. Hold a weight in one hand, and stabilize with your foot on the opposite side. Bend your standing knee and slowly lower the weight down toward the floor (keeping your chest proud, back flat and hips square) while the foot on the same side as your weight back behind you. Activate your “floating” leg throughout the move by flexing your foot, which will help to fire up your glutes. Drive through your standing leg to return to the starting position, and track the movement with your gaze to maintain proper form.
Another way to add weights into your routine? With your HIIT workout. So grab your dumbbells and follow along with the series below.
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