10 Top Dumbbell Exercises

You'll find below a list of our 10 favourite dumbbell exercises, presented in a Top 10 format.

Although the selection is purely subjective and may be up for debate, the exercises were carefully chosen based on their effectiveness and their classic status. You should be able to find at least one that targets each of the major muscle groups.

  1. Dumbbell Bench Press
  2. Alternated Biceps Curl
  3. Shoulder Press
  4. Triceps Kickback
  5. Kneeling One Arm Row
  6. Lateral Raise
  7. Lying Fly
  8. Upright Row
  9. Stationary Lunge
  10. Toe Raise

#1 - Dumbbell Bench Press

The Dumbbell Bench Press is one of the quintessential exercises one can do using dumbbells. Although it does require you to have access to a flat bench it remains one of the best ways to target your pectoral muscles (chest), your triceps, as well as your front deltoids (shoulders).

If you have access to a reclining and declining bench you'll be able to modify the setup in a way as to perform the Incline Bench Press and the Decline Bench Press. The incline, i.e. putting the bench in a 45 degree angle modification will help you target the upper region of your pectorals while the decline, i.e. putting the bench below horizontal, will help you target the lower levels of your chest muscles.

#2 - Alternated Biceps Curl

The Alternated Biceps Curl is another classic dumbbell exercise that definitely belongs in this list. Although there are many variations of this basic exercise, the main benefit will remain to strengthen your biceps muscles and to a degree your forearms.

You can perform this exercise by raising both dumbbells at the same; by keeping your palms facing each other throughout the movement for a Hammer variation; by limiting your movement to half-way up for a concentrated variation; or finally by using a preacher curl pad if you have access to one.

#3 - Shoulder Press

The Shoulder Press exercise can be done by raising your two hands at the same time or by pushing one hand up while lowering the other (alternating). It can also be done while sitting down if your ceiling is low or even with a back-supported vertical bench if you want to remove your back from the equation entirely.

Your deltoid muscles (shoulders) will be primarily solicited but they'll definitely need help from your triceps, making this an excellent upper body exercise.

#4 - Triceps Kickback

The Triceps Kickback exercise is to triceps what the Biceps Curl is to biceps: its all time classic. While you will need to put your knee on a flat bench this setup will render performing the exercise very comfortable.

In order to maximize the input from your triceps though you will need to make sure that your upper arm stays still throughout the exercise otherwise you'll get your back and shoulders to help take the load off of your main target.

#5 - Kneeling One Arm Row

The Kneeling One-Arm Row is probably the best back exercise one can do using a dumbbell. The action of putting your knee and hand on a flat bench will make targeting your middle back muscles (lats) very comfortable and effective.

While your lats will do most of the work, the rear deltoid muscle will also be solicited in helping raise the dumbbell.

#6 - Lateral Raise

The Lateral Raise dumbbell exercise is the best way to specifically target your shoulder muscles, specifically your outer (middle) deltoid muscles.

This exercise can also be performed while sitting down or with your back supported. Additionally, bending your upper body forward will put a greater emphasis on your rear deltoids, thus making it possible to target specific regions of your shoulders.

#7 - Lying Fly

The Lying Fly dumbbell exercise will also require you to have access to a flat bench but along with the Dumbbell Bench Press exercise at the top of the list represents one of the best ways to target your chest muscles.

What distinguishes the Lying Fly from the Dumbbell Bench Press is how it manages to remove the triceps muscles from the movement by effectively locking them up in position for the duration of the exercise. This will allow you to put a greater emphasis on strengthening your pectoral muscles specifically. You can also perform the incline variation and the decline variation if your workout bench will allow it.

#8 - Upright Row

The Upright Row exercise is the last of the shoulder exercises to be included in this list and is the first one to bring in the upper back muscles, or trapezius to be specific.

This exercise is very effective at targeting the rear region of your shoulder muscles and can be performed very easily.

#9 - Stationary Lunge

While dumbbells are well adapted to strengthening the leg muscles these exercises are not always the most popular. However we think at least one such exercise belongs on this list.

The Stationary Lunge is an easy to perform leg exercise that's exceptionally good at targeting the muscles located in your lower body (quadriceps, glutes, and calves) and a lot of athletes spanning the entire sports spectrum use it religiously.

#10 - Toe Raise

Finally, the last exercise on the list is one that targets the muscles located in your lower legs, that is you calf muscles, or calves.

The Toe Raise is the most effective way to strengthen your calves which are solicited during normal daily activities and while engaging in a great variety of sports where running or jumping is involved.