When you’re short on options, it can feel like a fruitless search when you look for new ways to plan effective, strength-building workouts. But thankfully, if you have a set of dumbbells at home, that’s really all you need.
Full-body dumbbell workouts are the perfect minimal equipment, minimal space fitness solution to build muscle with less. You’re able to move around with fewer restrictions than heavy barbells, and a set of dumbbells doesn’t take up much space in a cluttered apartment or rec room.
Try this 5-move routine during your next at-home strength training session, or step away from the barbells or machines on your next trip to the gym. Either way, you’ll get some good work in doing some of our top exercises.
3 sets of 6 to 8 reps
“The squat is one of the fundamental moves in the gym—it’s a move that can pack on size for your lower body and build total-body strength, and it’s going to hit your core a lot more than you realize,” says Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.
To nail the goblet squat, keep your elbows up high, keeping mid-back tension to pull your shoulders back. Your feet should be about shoulder width apart with your toes turned slightly out, squeezing your glutes. Lock in your core to prevent yourself from leaning forward. As you squat down, open your knees up (not caving in). Don’t let your elbows rest on your knees. Instead, keep a nice strong position with your upper back, core and glutes engaged. As you press back up, keep your knees open and squeeze your glutes and core.
3 sets of 6 to 8 reps
“One of the best bang-for-your-buck exercises in the gym is the dumbbell thruster,” says Samuel.
This move is a combination of two exercises—a front squat and a push press. Your feet should be shoulder width apart (maybe a hair wider). Sit back in your heels and set up in a front squat position, elbows parallel or slightly above your shoulders. You should also have some mid-back flex to help keep your shoulders back in the sockets for a nice controlled position. Your core should also be tight. As you squat down, you should come a little bit below parallel—you don’t need to go ‘ass to grass’. Keep your core fired to prevent tipping forward. Explode upwards as you drive those dumbbells overhead.
3 sets of 3 to 5 reps
The shoulder-safe dumbbell snatch allows you to build strength and power without putting your delicate joints at risk (at least compared to other variations of the movement).
Keep your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, sitting back almost as if you’re going to do a deadlift. Keep your chest up and eyes forward. Creating a nice straight line with your arm as it reaches for the dumbbell, turn your elbow forward ever so slightly to create some external rotation of your shoulder, turning on your lat.
Transfer your weight to your heels and sit back, keeping your shins perpendicular to the ground. Stand up as powerfully as you can using your glutes with the dumbbell close to your body like you’re zipping up a coat. As soon as the dumbbell reaches shoulder height, start pulling back and getting your back muscles involved. Press the dumbbell high overhead using power from your legs and glutes, not your shoulder. Then lower the dumbbell to your shoulder and gradually drop it down for a nice controlled release, hinging at the hip slightly.
4 sets of 40 seconds
The farmer’s carry offers real-world, fundamental, total-body strength in one move.
For the initial pick up, bend at the knees and push your butt back as you grab your weights. Tighten your core and stand up. Grip your dumbbells aggressively and squeeze your forearms the entire time, keeping the weights level. Squeeze your glutes and get your pelvis is a neutral position so you can walk strong. Squeeze your abs to draw your ribcage in. Roll your shoulders back, which turns on your lower lats and rhomboids. Keep your neck in a neutral position as you walk forward, maintaining tension. Make sure you remain upright and focused.
3 set of 15 reps
You want to think of the Russian Twist as a situp first. Keep your feet nice and flat on the floor, your heels especially. Squeeze your glutes, which will prevent your knees form going all over the place as you twist. Lean back, thinking of forming a right angle for your torso relative to your thigh. Raise your arms out in front of you, looking up at your hands. Grab your weight and drive it out in front of you, maintaining that right angle. Keep your eyes on your dumbbell as you rotate, holding for 1 second to the side and coming back center. Hold again for 1 seconds, then shift to the other side, holding for one second.
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