A man an woman give a high five after a dumbbell and kettlebell workout.

The Best Dumbbell Workouts and Exercises

Although there are dozens of great dumbbell workouts to achieve your fitness goals, some have risen above the rest. The experts at PowerBlock have picked five exercises that will form the basis for a full-body dumbbell workout. 

For each exercise, aim for 2-3 sets with 8-12 reps per set – and rest for roughly two minutes between sets. If standing, start with your feet hip-width apart unless otherwise noted. Want to save space while still having a range of weights to use? A pair of adjustable dumbbells is exactly what you need.

1. Dumbbell Bench Press

The bench press is a classic upper body workout, and by switching from a barbell to dumbbells, you get more range of motion for building pectoral strength. It also activates the triceps and shoulders.

  • Lie back on a workout bench or on the floor with your feet flat and knees raised. Hold with a dumbbell in each hand and bend your arms to the side with palms facing up.
  • Press the dumbbells upward while extending your elbows until the arms are straight. Squeeze at the top to help activate the muscle.
  • Lower the dumbbells with control back to your starting position.

2. Romanian Deadlift

This variation on the deadlift is a great dumbbell workout for the hamstrings and glutes. The isolated hinge motion also activates the lower back, forearms, trapezius and hip adductors.

  • Stand with a dumbbell in each hand and arms hanging in front of your body.
  • Hinge at the hips, slightly bend the knees and lean your upper body forward until parallel to the ground. Keep your back straight.
  • Squeeze the glutes and reverse the movement to return to standing.

3. Bicep Curls

The bicep curl is one of the best tried-and-true dumbbell exercises for building upper arm mass. It also strengthens the triceps as well as the muscles that stabilize the elbows and wrists.

  • Stand with a dumbbell in each hand and palms facing outward.
  • Raise the dumbbells to your shoulders by bending at the elbows. Keep your back and upper arms straight and your core tight.
  • Slowly lower both dumbbells to the starting position.

 4. Reverse Lunges

This dumbbell leg workout activates the glutes, quads, hamstrings, abs and calves while using less floor space than walking lunges. Build strength with heavy dumbbells or go for conditioning with HIIT sessions.

  • Stand with a dumbbell in each hand and palms facing inward.
  • Take a big step backward and lower yourself into a lunge. Your back knee should stop just short of touching the floor.
  • Return to standing by pushing off the front foot, then repeat by stepping backward with the other foot.

5. Woodchoppers

This rotational movement exercise is one of the best dumbbell workouts because it is both functional and fun. It builds the core strength you need for sports and other dynamic activities, while also working the arms and shoulders – without chopping any actual wood.
  • Stand shoulder-width while holding a dumbbell in front of you with both hands.
  • Bend your knees while rotating the dumbbell to the outside of your left knee.
  • Straighten the legs and slowly swing the dumbbell diagonally above the opposite shoulder. Keep your arms straight and your core engaged.
  • Do the desired reps, then switch sides and repeat.

Ready for More? 

PowerBlock’s blog has even more great dumbbell exercises, plus workouts for kettlebells, tips on proper technique, routine advice, and much more.