Dumbbells are often the forgotten tool in bodybuilding. With the advent of machines, the popularity of dumbbells declined. The problem with that is the reduction in stabilizing muscle involvement. The muscles that stabilize the joints during a free weight lift are often taken out of the exercise during a machine exercise.
When training to build muscle many of the exercises are the same whether you use barbells, dumbbells, kettle bells, machines, or any other equipment. When developing the chest and shoulders you need to use pressing motions. The back requires lots of pulling motions from different angles. The arms can really be developed using dumbbells. Many people forget about the potential for some great leg work using dumbbells, as well.
Since they are often forgotten, let’s start with the legs. Squatting with dumbbells adds an extra degree of comfort because the weights can be held in a position that fits your body. The weights can be held at the shoulders, in tight to the chest, or hanging down at the sides. The position of the weights also allows for a more natural body position during the lift. Avoid the temptation to lean forward or look down because it can cause back injury just as it does in regular squats. Stiff-legged dead lifts are also a great leg exercise with the dumbbells. Heel raises can be done for the calves. One of the best all around leg shaping exercises is the lunge and dumbbells are ideal for performing this exercise.
Moving up the body to the abdominals and obliques, dumbbells can be used to sculpt this area, as well. Crunches with dumbbells for resistance are great for a change up. The resistance lowers the number of repetitions needed to get a great pump. Side bends holding one dumbbell or twists with the dumbbells out in front are also great for the obliques. Good mornings with the weights held in front are a great way to work the lower back area. These are done in a bowing motion, as if greeting someone good morning.
Moving farther up still, to the chest, we find many more dumbbell exercises. Dumbbell bench presses call a lot more support muscles into play than the regular bench press. It also allows for more involvement from the inner attachment. These can be done from the flat, incline, or decline positions. Dumbbell flys, again from any of the angles, are great for overall chest development. Dumbbell pullovers, done from a lying position, will bring all the attachments into play.
Now, the shoulders are another area that dumbbells are commonly used for. Dumbbell overhead presses really hit the meat of the shoulder. Dumbbell lateral raises done standing, or bent over for the rear deltoids, are great for shaping and sculpting. Using dumbbells for upright rowing motions can take some of the stress of the wrists and make the exercise more effective. Shrugging exercises with the dumbbells will place the shoulder in a more natural alignment and may reduce some of the stress on the rotator cuff muscles.
Okay, finally we are at the back. The king of back exercises would have to be the deadlift. And, the deadlift can be performed with dumbbells. Mind you, the weight may be reduced, but the strict form that can be adhered to with dumbbells can make this exercise tough. The weight can be held closer to the body and a straighter back can be accomplished with dumbbells. Bent over one-arm rowing can be done with dumbbells also, to help develop the sweep of the lats. Two arm rowing, from a bent-over position or lying face down on a high bench, is great for developing the thickness and lines of the upper back.
When planning your training routine don’t forget the value of dumbbells. They really call the supporting muscles into play and allow for a great range of motion. They can be used for bulking, as well as shaping, exercises. Most exercises can be adapted to dumbbells. So don’t be a dumbbell, use dumbbells in your training.