April 23, 2018
Portrait of a young woman exercising with weights

3 Great Dumbbell Exercises

by Leslie Pepper  

Dumbbells are an inexpensive and easy way to work out at home. You can do numerous and varied exercises with them, with no other equipment needed save a mat or chair. And they can be easily stored in your closet or under the bed.

We curated these three dumbbell exercises with the help of Anthony Wall, director of professional education at the nonprofit American Council on Exercise. You’ll need a pair of 1 to 3 pound dumbbells (or slightly heavier ones if you’re more fit), an exercise mat, a chair or bench with a backrest, and a low step or platform. For each exercise, start with one set of 8 to 12 repetitions. As you get stronger, you can add a second set.

Seated dumbbell bicep curl

Begin seated on the chair or bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Your arms should be at your sides and close to your body, palms facing forward. Exhale as you slowly lift the dumbbells toward your shoulders, bending at the elbows, until your upper arms and forearms form a “V.” Keep your head and shoulders in contact with the back of the chair, your buttocks firmly planted in the seat, and your feet flat on the floor throughout the movement. Don’t bend your wrists or hunch your shoulders. Pause at the top of the movement, then inhale as you lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.

Works: Arms

Dumbbell step-up

Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, arms at your sides, and palms facing your body, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Carefully place your right foot on the step or platform (make sure your entire foot is on the step), then exhale as you push off with your left foot, bringing it up to meet the right foot on the step. Now inhale as you slowly and carefully lean forward slightly, put your body weight on your right foot, and step backward off the step with your left foot. Then put your body weight on your left foot as you step off with your right foot, returning to starting position. Do 8 to 12 reps, then switch so the left leg is leading. (You can also alternate between legs.)

*Note: The modification shown in the picture is more difficult; stick with the easier version described here and a lower step than pictured. To increase the difficulty, don’t put the second foot on the step; rather let it hover just above the step.

Works: Buttocks, hips, thighs

Dumbbell triceps kickback

Start with your legs in a split stance, right leg, about 18 inches in front of the left, with a dumbbell in your left hand. Engage your core muscles to stabilize the spine as you place your right hand on your right thigh and lean slightly forward. Bend your left elbow so that your upper arm is parallel to the floor, your forearm is perpendicular to it, and your palm is facing your body. Exhale as you slowly straighten your elbow, keeping the upper arm stable, until your entire arm is parallel to the floor. Then inhale as you slowly bend your elbow back to starting position.

Works: Arms

All images are from the American Council on Exercise.

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