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Smart Dumbbell Workouts To Get You Stong And Lean

By Mallory Creveling June 11th, 2020 | Image Source: Men's Journal

You don’t need to hit the gym to get a workout that burns out—and builds up—your muscles. To get seriously strong and lean, all you need is a set of dumbbells—and these six creative dumbbell workouts. Each one adds a fun, challenging element to your typical free weight routine, whether that’s with exercises you’ve never tried before or a change in tempo that tests your strength.

Choose your goal, select one of these dumbbell workouts, do a proper warmup, then go hard. Your at-home strength workout just got leveled up. Note: If workout doesn’t indicate specific rest, take a breather as needed

How to Eat to Get Strong and Lean

The Most Creative Dumbbell Workouts to Build Muscle and Burn Fat at Home

1. The Compound Total-body Dumbbell Workout

“When I think of exercising with limited equipment I think How can I get more bang for my buck,” says Kelvin Gary, C.P.T., CEO and owner of Body Space Fitness in New York City. To get more out of every move, Gary combines movements to increase intensity and get different muscle groups to work together. Here’s his workout that does just that.

Instructions: Perform 3-4 sets x 8-10 reps

  • Staggered Stance Jump Squat: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in rigtht hand with arm extended. Step your right foot back and raise the heel off the ground, as you lower into a squat until knees are bent at 90 degrees. Drive through feet and explode off ground, jumping as high as you can. Land as softly as possible, making sure you keep the dumbbell at your side at all times, without bending or collapsing at your torso. Reset the lifted heel each time. Repeat for reps, then switch sides.
  • Lateral Lunge and Press: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell at shoulder level with elbow bent. Take a lateral step to the left, bending your knee and hinging at the hip, keeping your right leg straight. Push through left foot to stand, as you press the dumbbell in right hand overhead. Return the dumbbell to right shoulder and repeat for reps, then switch sides.
  • Single-Leg RDL Reach and Row: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in right hand with arm extended. Slightly elevate right foot off the ground. Perform a single-leg Romanian deadlift (RDL) by slightly bending left knee, hinging at left hip, and reaching the dumbbell in right hand toward left foot. Reach as far as you can while keeping chest proud and spine neutral. From here, pull right elbow toward ribcage to row the dumbbell up, then extend left knee and hip to stand. Repeat for reps, then switch sides.

  • Renegade Row With Leg Lift:
    Come into a high plank position with right hand grasping a dumbbell. Maintaining a strong plank, row dumbbell to ribcage as you lift left foot off the ground. (Try to keep hips steady by engaging core.) Place your hand and foot back down. Repeat for reps, then switch sides.
  • Situp to Seated Twist: Lie flat on your back, legs extended, holding a dumbbell at your chest with both hands. Perform a situp, bending at the hips and knees, lifting legs and torso off the floor. Perform one Russian twist (rotate to each side) with the dumbbell, then lower back down to the floor. Repeat.
  • Low-to-High Wood Chop: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Holding one dumbbell in both hands, bring to outside of right knee, left heel off the ground and left knee facing right knee. Stand up by driving through right leg and briefly stop the dumbbell at chest. Then, pivot to the left, switching foot position so right heel raises and right knee faces left knee. At the same time, press dumbbell overhead, over left shoulder. Bring dumbbell back to center, both feet facing forward, before bringing back to right knee. Repeat for reps, then switch sides.

1 / 5

Pete Thompson

2. Total-Body Dumbbell Workout

“This program is meant to make you move, learn, and sweat,” says Pierre Armand, C.P.T., instructor at The Fhitting Room. You’ll use just one dumbbell in the first strength set and two in the second. “The final ‘fhix’ is there to make sure you have nothing left in the tank,” Armand says. To warm up, do good mornings, inchworms to pushup, and plank to squat (aka squat thrusters).

Strength Set 1: Perform 1 set x 30 seconds each

  • Single-arm Dumbbell Row (right): Start in a staggered stance, left leg forward, right leg back, hinged over at the hips. Hold a dumbbell in right hand with palm facing you (neutral grip), arm extended. Row weight to rib cage, elbow staying close to torso. Slowly lower weight back down, re-extending arm. Repeat.
  • Single-arm Dumbbell Hang Clean (right): Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in right hand by your side. Hinge at hips, sending butt back like a deadlift, then forcefully extend hips forward to stand back up as you simultaneously pull or clean the dumbbell to right shoulder. Lower dumbbell back down and repeat.
  • Single-arm Dumbbell Push Press (right): Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell at shoulder level. Dip your hips down and back slightly (not a full squat), then quickly drive through your feet to stand, pressing the weight overhead until your bicep is by your ear. Lower weight back to shoulder. Repeat.

Strength Set 2: Perform 4-minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible)z

  • Double Dumbbell Rows x 5 reps: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand with arms extended. Hinge at the hips, then row weights to rib cage, elbows staying close to torso. Slowly lower weights back down, re-extending arms. Repeat.
  • Double Dumbbell Hang Clean x 3 reps: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand with arms extended. Hinge at the hips, sending butt back like a deadlift. Forcefully extend hips forward to stand as you simultaneously pull or clean the dumbbells to shoulders. Lower weights back down and repeat.
  • Double Dumbbell Push Press x 1 rep: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells at shoulder level. Dip your hips down and back slightly (not a full squat), then quickly drive through your feet to stand, pressing the weight overhead until your biceps are by your ears. Lower weights back to shoulders. Repeat.

Superset 1: Perform 2 sets x 30 seconds on, 10 seconds off

  • Double Dumbbell Strict Press: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells at shoulder level with elbows bent. Press weight overhead, keeping core tight and lower half steady, biceps by ears. Slowly lower weights back down to shoulders. Repeat.
  • Double Dumbbell Pause Squats: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells at shoulder level with elbows bent. Push hips down and back to lower into a squat. Hold for 2 seconds at the bottom, then drive through feet to stand. Repeat.

Superset 2: Perform 2 sets x 30 seconds on, 10 seconds off

  • Single-leg Bridge Pulse Right: Lie on back, knees bent, feet flat. Lift left foot and hold leg straight up. Drive through right foot and squeeze glutes to lift hips toward ceiling. This is your starting position. Lower and lift hips down and up an inch.
  • Single-leg Bridge Pulse Left: Lie on back, knees bent, feet flat. Lift right foot and hold leg straight up. Drive through left foot and squeeze glutes to lift hips toward ceiling. This is your starting position. Lower and lift hips down and up an inch.

Superset 3: Perform 2 sets x 30 seconds on, 10 seconds off

  • Alt Dumbbell Snatch: Stand with feet hip-width apart, dumbbell on floor between feet and slightly in front of you. Push hips down and back to lower into a squat, chest tall, and grab dumbbell with left hand. Drive through feet to stand as you pull elbow up, dumbbell lifting to chest height. Then, continue standing up as elbow drops down, flipping palm out and pressing weight overhead. Lower weight back down to floor as you lower back into a squat. Perform the move with right arm on next rep. Continue alternating.
  • Dumbbell Deficit Pushup: Start in a plank position, dumbbell under right hand. Lower into a pushup, then press back up. Repeat. Perform with dumbbell under left hand for second set.

Superset 4: 2 sets x 30 seconds on, 10 seconds off

  • Single-arm Racked Pendulum Lunge: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in right hand at shoulder height with elbow bent. Step right foot forward into a lunge, both knees bending 90 degrees. Drive through feet to stand back up. Then, step right foot back into a lunge, both knees bending 90 degrees. For second set, repeat with weight in left hand and left leg stepping forward, then backward.
  • Jump Squats: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Push hips down and back into a squat, then explode up to jump. Land softly with bent knees. Repeat.

Finisher: 3-minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible)

  • Double Dumbbell Front Racked Squats x 8 reps: Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, holding dumbbells at shoulder level with elbows bent. Push hips down and back to lower into a squat. Drive through feet to stand. Repeat.
  • Double Dumbbell Thrusters x 4 reps: Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, holding dumbbells at shoulder level with elbows bent. Push hips down and back to lower into a squat. Drive through feet to stand, as you simultaneously press weights overhead, biceps by ears. Lower weights back to shoulders and repeat.
  • Burpees x 2 reps: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Place hands on ground and jump feet back to plank. Lower entire body to floor. Then, press back up and jump feet back up to hands. Explode up, extending hips. Repeat.

2 / 5

José Mandojana

3. Core and Cardio Dumbbell Workout

If you love cardio, but want more strength in your weekly routine, add this workout, Created by Armand, to your lineup. It focuses on revving your heart rate, with core- and full-body exercises mixed throughout. Start with good mornings, inchworm to pushup, froggers, and air squats as your warmup. “The final three minutes of work are designed to get the most of your heart and lungs, challenging you to see if you have what it takes to complete the workout in its entirety,” he says. Challenge accepted.

Tabata: 12 sets x 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off (6 minutes total)

  • Oblique V-Up (right): Lie on left side, arms and legs extended. Using right obliques, sit up, forming a V at the top as right arm reaches toward feet. Lower back down. Repeat.
  • Dumbbell V-Up: Lie on back, arms and legs extended, both hands holding one dumbbell. Sit up to tailbone, lifting legs straight up, knees straight, reaching hands to toes. Lower back down. (Bend knees to chest at the top for a modification.) Repeat.
  • Oblique V-Up (left): Lie on right side, arms and legs extended. Using left obliques, sit up, forming a V at the top as left arm reaches toward feet. Lower back down. Repeat.

Strength Set 1: 2 sets x 30 seconds on, 10 seconds off

  • Dumbbell Push Press: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells at shoulder level. Dip your hips down and back slightly (not a full squat), then quickly drive through your feet to stand, pressing the weights overhead until your biceps are by your ears. Lower weights back to shoulders. Repeat.
  • Dumbbell Bentover Row: Start in a hinge position, feet hip-width apart, dumbbell in right hand, arm extended down. Row weight to rib cage, elbow staying close to torso. Slowly lower weight back down, re-extending arm. Repeat.

Perform one set on left side, then switch for second set

Strength Set 2: 2 sets x 30 seconds on, 10 seconds off

  • Dumbbell Touchdown Jacks: Stand with feet together, arms bent in front of you holding either end of a light dumbbell at shoulders. Jump to jack feet out and simultaneously extend arms, pressing weight overhead, biceps by ears. Jump feet back together and bring weight to chest. Repeat.
  • Dumbbell Racked Squat Pulses: Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, holding dumbbells at shoulder level. Push hips down and back into a squat. Pulse up and down by lifting and lowering an inch, staying low.
    Strength Set 3: 2 sets x 30 seconds on, 10 seconds off
  • Alt Jack Knives: Lie on back, arms and legs extended. Sit up onto tailbone, lifting right leg and reaching left arm toward right foot. Lower back down. Repeat, lifting left leg and reaching with right arm. Continue alternating.
  • Dumbbell Tuckups: Lie on back, arms and legs extended, holding a dumbbell with both hands. Sit up onto tailbone, tucking knees into chest and bringing arms overhead and weight to shins. Lower back down. Repeat.

Strength Set 4: 2 sets x 30 seconds on, 10 seconds off

Alt Dumbbell Renegade Row: Start in a high plank position, both hands on dumbbells. Maintain a strong plank as you row right hand toward rib cage, keeping elbow close to torso and hips steady. Then place right weight back down, and repeat on left side. Continue alternating.

Dumbbell Plank Pull-Throughs: Start in a plank position, one dumbbell placed behind hands and to the right side of torso, in line with belly button. Maintaining a strong plank, grab dumbbell with left hand and pull underneath body to left side. Repeat on right side. Continue alternating.

Finisher: 3-minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible)

  • Alt Dumbbell Snatches x 12 reps: Stand with feet hip-width apart, dumbbell on floor between feet and slightly in front of you. Push hips down and back to lower into a squat, chest tall, and grab dumbbell. Drive through feet to stand up as you pull elbow up, dumbbell lifting to chest height. Then, continue standing up as elbow drops down, flipping palm outward and pressing weight overhead. Lower weight back down to floor as you lower back into a squat. Perform the move with left arm. Continue alternating.
  • Jumping Lunges x 6 reps: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Step right foot back and lower into a lunge, both knees bending to 90 degrees. Drive through feet to jump up, switching feet in air, landing with left foot back in a lunge, both knees bending 90 degrees. Continue alternating.
  • Burpees x 3 reps: Stand with feet hip-width apart, then place hands on ground and jump feet back to plank. Lower entire body to floor. Then, press back up and jump feet back up to hands. Explode up, extending hips. Repeat.

3 / 5

James Michelfelder

4. 40-Minute Full-Body Dumbbell Workout

You’ll hit every major muscle group in this workout, programmed by Mathew Forzaglia, C.P.T., creator of Forzag Fitness. Rest for about 30 to 40 seconds between exercises. “It’s focused on strength exercises, but keeping your body moving gives it a little conditioning aspect,” Forzaglia says. “Not only will [shorter rest breaks] give a greater fat-burning response, but this workout is also a very efficient way to train.” More work in less time means you get stronger, faster.

Strength Set 1: Perform 3 sets

  • Dumbbell Deficit Pushups x 10-12 reps: Start in a plank position, each hand on a dumbbell. Lower body to ground, maintaining a strong plank. Push back up. Repeat.
  • Dumbbell Lateral Lunge to Knee Drive x 12-15 reps: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms down by sides. Step right foot out to the right, hinging at the hip and bending right knee with knee and toe pointing forward. Keep left leg straight. Drive through right foot to stand, right knee driving in and up toward chest. Repeat for reps, then switch sides.
  • Alt Dumbbell Renegade Rows x 10 reps: Start in a high plank position, both hands on dumbbells. Maintain a strong plank as you row right hand toward rib cage, keeping elbow close to torso and hips steady. Then place right weight back down. Repeat on left side and continue alternating.

Strength Set 2: Perform 3 sets

Dumbbell Swings x 12 reps: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in both hands down by sides. Hinge and push hips back, bending knees just slightly as you bring the weights behind you. Drive through feet and extend hips forward to stand up from the hinge position, while swinging the dumbbells forward to shoulder height. Let the weights lead you back to a hinge position. Repeat.

  • Seesaw Chest Press x 12-15 reps: Lie on the floor or a bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand, wrists over shoulders. Lower right arm toward chest, bending elbow. As you press right dumbbell back up, begin to lower left dumbbell toward chest. Continue alternating, lowering one side as the other side presses up.
  • Weighted Situps x 15 reps: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet planted. Hold one or two weights at chest or shoulders. Sit up, chest tall at the top. Slowly lower back down. Repeat.
  • Strength Set 3: Perform 3 sets
  • Stepups x 20 reps: Stand in front of a chair, couch, or bench, facing it and holding a dumbbell in both hands down by sides. Place one foot on the chair, couch, or bench, then drive through foot to stand. Slowly lower back down. Repeat for reps, then switch sides.
  • Bentover Single-arm Row x 12-15 reps: Start in a staggered stance, left leg forward, right leg back, hinged over at the hips. Hold a dumbbell in right hand with palm facing you (neutral grip), arm extended. Row weight to rib cage, elbow staying close to torso. Slowly lower weight back down, re-extending arm. Repeat.
  • Skull Crushers x 12-15 reps: Lie on back, knees bent and feet planted, holding a dumbbell in each hand with arms extended and wrists over shoulders, palms facing each other. Bend elbows, bringing weights toward face. Extend elbows, bringing wrists back over shoulders. Repeat. Keep elbows over shoulders the entire time.

Strength Set 4: Perform 3 sets

  • Sumo Deadlift With High Pull x 10 reps: Stand with feet wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed slightly out, holding a dumbbell in each hand in front of you, palms facing you. Hinge at the hips, sending butt back, and bending knees. Drive through feet and squeeze glutes to stand. As you stand, pull elbows high so weights come to chest. Lower weights back down and repeat.
  • Hang Clean and Press x 8 reps: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand with arms extended. Hinge at the hips, sending butt back like a deadlift. Forcefully extend hips forward to stand as you simultaneously pull or clean the dumbbells to shoulders. Press the weights overhead until biceps are by ears, then lower weights down. Repeat.

4 / 5

Justin Steele

5. 20-Minute Lower Body Dumbbell Workout

Try to tackle these supersets with zero breaks between moves, says Forzaglia, who designed the workout. (Break between sets, as needed.) “For the first three exercises, focus on hitting the muscle with heavier weight and lower reps,” he says. “Then the remainder of the workout focuses on adding volume with higher repetition.” You’ll work in multiple planes of motion, too, to hit hamstrings, glutes, and quads effectively.

Strength Set: Perform 4 sets

Sumo Box Squats x 8 reps: Start standing in front of a chair, couch, or bench, with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms extended down in front of body. Push hips down and back to lower into a squat until butt taps the chair, couch, or bench. Drive through feet to stand back up. Repeat.

Superset 1: Perform 3 sets

  • Romanian Deadlift x 8 reps: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, down in front of you, palms facing you. Hinge at the hips, sending the butt back, keeping just a slight bend in the knees. Drive through feet to stand back up, extending the hips. Repeat.
  • Bulgarian Split Squat x 8 reps each side: Start standing in front of a chair, couch, or bench, facing away from it and holding a dumbbell in each hand down by sides. Place one foot on the chair, couch, or bench behind you. Make sure you’re far enough away from object that front knee can bend 90 degrees. With tall posture and tight core, bend front knee and lower down, so back knee lowers down toward floor. Drive through front foot to stand back up. Repeat for reaps, then switch sides.

Superset 2: Perform 3 sets

  • Lateral Lunges x 10 reps each side: Stand with feet together, holding a dumbbell in each hand with arms down by sides. Step right foot out wide, bending knee and sending hips back, keeping left leg straight. Drive through right foot to stand back up, feet coming together. Repeat for reps, then switch sides.
  • Pistol Squats x 10 reps: Stand with feet together, holding a dumbbell in each hand (or one weight at chest with both hands), elbows bent and weights at shoulders. Lift left foot, leg extended in front of you. Send hips down and back to lower into a squat on right leg. Drive through foot to stand. Repeat. To modify, start in front of a chair, couch, or bench and lower to the seat on a single leg.

Superset 3: Perform 3 sets

  • Weighted Stepups x 10 reps each side: Stand facing a chair, couch, or bench, holding a dumbbell in both hands, elbows bent with weight at shoulders. Place one foot on the chair, couch, or bench, and drive through foot to stand up. Slowly lower back down. Repeat for reps, then switch sides.
  • Single-leg Hip Thrust x 12 reps each side: Sit on the ground in front of a chair, couch, or bench with knees bent and feet planted. Place a dumbbell on right hip. Lift up, so edge of chair, couch, or bench hits right below shoulders, then lift left leg off floor. This is your starting position. Drive through right foot and squeeze glutes to lift hips up toward ceiling, thigh parallel to floor. Slowly lower hips back down and repeat for reps, then switch sides.

5 / 5

James Michelfelder

6. Upper Body Eccentric Strength Dumbbell Workout

With every active exercise, you work your muscles concentrically (creating tension as the muscle shortens, say as you curl up on a bicep curl) or eccentrically (creating tension as the muscle lengthens, like when you lower the weights back down from a bicep curl). Adam Rosante, C.S.C.S., celebrity trainer and creator of Gym Class with Adam, prefers that downward phase to help you handle impact. “Building eccentric strength gives your muscles the ability to absorb force,” he says. “That’s essential for pro athletes and weekend warriors alike, not to mention for everyday life.” With this workout you get that added strength benefit, plus a timed challenged and an added pump.

Strength Set 1: Perform 3 sets

  • Iso-Hold Rows x 15-20 reps: Lie facedown on an incline bench holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms hanging straight down. Row weights back toward chest and hold for 30-60 seconds. Keep shoulders squeezed together like you’re trying to crack a walnut. When time is up, immediately perform the 15-20 rows. (No incline bench? Perform the move in a standing bent-over position, hinging at the hips.)
  • Dumbbell Skiers x 15 reps: Lie facedown on an incline bench holding a lighter dumbbell in each hand than used for the rows, arms hanging straight down. Keep arms straight with palms facing each other throughout this entire movement. Using the back muscles, bring the dumbbells straight overhead. Hold for a second, then drive them down and back behind you (like ski poles). That’s 1 rep. Repeat the motion with control. (You can do this move in a standing bent-over position too.)

Limit rest between exercises; rest 45-60 seconds between sets

Strength Set 2: Perform 3 sets

  • Iso-Dynamic Lateral Raises x 8-10 reps per side: Hold a light dumbbell in each hand, palms facing forward with thumbs up. Raise both arms out to sides to form a T. Hold one arm out in the extended position while you perform 8-10 reps of lateral raises on the other side. Then, hold that side out and perform 8-10 reps on the other side.
  • Cuban Press x 8-10 reps: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Perform an upright row by pulling elbows high, weights reaching chest. Once elbows get to shoulder height, hold them there and rotate your arms to bring your hands in line with your head, knuckles facing the sky and elbows pointing down. Then press the weights overhead, biceps by ears. Reverse the movement back to start. That’s 1 rep. Repeat.
  • 3-Way 21s x 21 reps total: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. With palms facing each other, curl weights to shoulder, then lower back down. Repeat hammer curls for 7 reps. Then, curl the weights to shoulders with palms facing up. Repeat supinated biceps curls for 7 reps. Then, curl the weights to shoulders with palms facing down. Repeat reverse curls for 7 reps.

Limit rest between exercises; rest 45-60 seconds between sets

Timed Challenge

  • Incline Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 sets x 6 reps: Sit on an incline bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms extended with weights over shoulders. Take 6 seconds to lower the weight to your chest, then press back up explosively. Repeat. Aim to increase weight with each set. Rest for 60 seconds between sets. (If you don’t have a bench, lie on the floor.)
  • Incline Dumbbell Bench Press Challenge – 1 set x 50 reps: Rest for 2 minutes before starting this move. Use 60 percent of the heaviest weight used in the 6-rep incline dumbbell bench press. Complete the reps as fast as possible with perfect form, only resting when needed. Try to beat your best time whenever you repeat this workout.

Author: Mallory Creveling

Source: Men’s Journal: The Most Creative Dumbbell Workouts to Build Muscle and Burn Fat at Home

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