Health Tips > Fitness Files > How to Get a Full-Body Workout with Dumbbells

How to Get a Full-Body Workout with Dumbbells

View All Section Pages

woman working out with dumbbells

Dumbbells are some of the most versatile and easy-to-use pieces of equipment you’ll find in the gym. For home use, they are inexpensive, compact and virtually indestructible. While you may think of dumbbells as weights to build your bicep muscles, they are so much more than that. Dumbbells are effective at building and toning various muscle groups, not just the arms. Dumbbells can also be used to work the legs (think lunges, calf raises and squats), the back (deadlifts) and the abs (weighted crunches and side bends).

Dumbbells come in either adjustable or fixed weight variations. Adjustable dumbbells use small plates to change the weight, while fixed weight dumbbells come in a range of sizes. “Dumbbells can range anywhere from one to 200 pounds, generally increasing in 2.5 to five-pound increments up to 25 pounds, and five-pound increments beyond 25 pounds,” explains Patrick Fisher, Cooper Fitness Center Professional Fitness Trainer.

In addition to strength training, dumbbells can also be used for cardio training, such as during an interval workout or while walking, Fisher says. “It is not recommended to jog or run while holding dumbbells,” he adds.

To get a full-body workout using dumbbells, Fisher recommends the following exercises:

  • Legs — Hold dumbbells at your side while doing squats, lunges and step-ups.

  • Arms — To change up your workout, instead of weight machines use dumbbells to complete dead lifts, chest presses, lat rows, shoulder presses, bicep and tricep curls and shoulder raises.

  • Core — Try the Turkish Getup, or do crunches while holding the bell above your head.

Using dumbbells to perform the above exercises helps to keep your body in balance, as each arm is required to lift its fair share. Dumbbells allow you to easily identify muscle and strength imbalances. Addressing those deficiencies with unilateral dumbbell exercises will help improve your overall strength.

While dumbbells can be used for quick workouts at home or at the gym, if you are on the road, there are other objects that can be used as “dumbbell replacements,” Fisher explains. “Many people who travel regularly pack exercise bands. They take up no space and weigh very little. With bands, you can duplicate the same movements you would do with dumbbells. Bands can also be used to add resistance to bodyweight exercises.”

There are certainly some advantages to using weight machines, but a majority of movements you can do on a machine can be performed using dumbbells. The benefits of using dumbbells rather than machine weights include:

  • Increased level of challenge

  • Requires more balance, coordination and stability

  • Helps to recruit more muscle fibers

  • More joint freedom of mobility, making dumbbells easy on the joints

To learn more about how to work dumbbells into your fitness routine with the help of a professional fitness trainer, visit or call 972.233.4832.

Article provided by Cooper Aerobics Marketing and Communications