From helping to manage weight to building strong bones to reducing back pain, resistance workouts can do wonders for your body. If you're an exercise newbie — or a longtime cardio lover who's looking to add strength training into the mix — a new challenge can feel a bit intimidating. Where the heck to begin?
"Sometimes the hardest thing is just getting started," says Geoff Tripp, CSCS, certified personal trainer and head of fitness science at Trainiac. But learning the tried-and-true basics can help you build confidence, as well as strength and muscle.
"Dumbbell exercises are a great place to start, since free weights are easy to manage and handle," Tripp says. Plus, with dumbbells, you can easily adjust your load, which gives you limitless options for modifying moves to suit to your needs and fitness level.
Try This 30-Minute Dumbbell Workout
Designed by Tripp, this 30-minute, full-body dumbbell workout incorporates basic strength movements that will help you lay a good foundation as you progress in your resistance training.
Though it's suitable for beginners, this workout is also challenging enough for those who are a bit more advanced. Best part? You can do it at the gym or in your living room, whichever works for you.
Do: 2 sets of the following exercises for 10 to 12 reps each (or time where indicated). Rest for 30 to 60 seconds between each exercise.
1. Dumbbell Lateral Raise
- Start standing with your feet hip-width apart holding dumbbell in each hand, arms at your sides. Keep your back flat and knees slightly bent.
- Keeping your core braced, raise the weights out to your sides until they reach shoulder height, elbows slightly bent.
- Lower the weights slowly to the starting position.
- Position yourself on your hands and knees, hands under shoulders and knees under hips.
- Step your feet back and straighten your legs so that you're balanced on your palms and toes.
- Check your body and hand position: Your body should make a straight line from head to hips to heels, and your hands should be directly under your shoulders or slightly wider apart.
- Keeping your abs tight, bend your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body and lower your body to the floor. Remember to brace your core throughout the movement.
- Make sure to keep your body in one straight line from the neck through the spine to the hips and down to the heels.
- Press into your palms and push the floor away from you to come back up to a high plank, still keeping your body in one straight line.
If the push-up is too challenging or if you're feeling any back strain, perform it on your knees or with your hands on a chair, box or step instead.
3. Dumbbell Bench Press
- Lie down on a flat bench with your feet firmly planted on the floor.
- Brace your core so your back doesn't arch. With an overhand grip (palms facing your feet), push the dumbbells up so that your hands are directly over your shoulders.
- At the top of the lift, squeeze your chest for a second, then lower the dumbbells slowly until your elbows bend to 90 degrees and the weights are at chest level.
- Press the weight up again.
4. Dumbbell Bent-Over Row
- With a dumbbell in each hand (palms facing your body), bend your knees slightly and lean forward by hinging at the hips. Your feet should be hip-width apart.
- Keep your back straight and let your arms hang perpendicular to the floor.
- Lift the dumbbells to your sides, keeping your elbows close to your body while squeezing your shoulder blades and back muscles at the top of the movement.
- Slowly lower the weight back down to the starting position.
5. Side Plank With Leg Lift
- Lie on your side, positioning yourself on your bottom elbow and the side of your foot.
- Lift your hips in the air, forming a straight line from ankles to shoulders, and brace your core.
- Holding your torso stable, raise your top leg without bending your knee or letting your hips sag.
- Repeat for 10 to 12 reps, then switch sides.
If this move is too challenging, drop to bend your bottom knee and keep the top leg straight to lift it.
6. Dumbbell Goblet Squat
- Stand with your feet between hip- and shoulder-width apart and your toes facing forward or slightly outward.
- Grip a dumbbell (holding it vertical) in front of your body at chest height, elbows close to your sides.
- Keeping your feet flat on the floor and your back straight, brace your core and push your hips back and down until your thighs are parallel to the floor (or as low as you can comfortably go).
- Pause here for a brief moment, then drive through your heels to stand back up.
7. Dumbbell Deadlift
- Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart holding dumbbells by your side.
- Slowly hinge at your hips and bend your knees slightly to lower the weight, keep the dumbbells close to your body.
- Maintain a flat back, moving forward as if you were going to pick something up from the floor until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings.
- Squeeze your hamstrings and glutes and reverse the move, lifting the weight back to starting position.
8. Squat to Overhead Press
- Begin standing with one dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other. Bend your arms at the elbow, bringing the weights in front of each shoulder, keeping your elbows close to the body.
- Keeping the weights on the front of your shoulders, push back into your hips and keep your back straight as you lower into a squat. Brace your core to avoid arching your back.
- When your hips are below your knees in the squat, push both legs into the ground to stand up. At the same time straighten your arms and press the dumbbells directly overhead.
- Slowly return the weights to the shoulders and repeat.
9. High Plank
- Lie face down on your belly with your palms on the floor underneath your shoulders and your feet flexed with the bottoms of your toes on the floor.
- Take a deep breath and press through your palms to lift yourself up into the top of a push-up position. Your body should make a straight line from your heels through your hips to the top of your head.
- Draw your navel toward your spine and squeeze your glutes.
- Look at the floor directly below your head to keep your neck in a neutral position, and breathe normally.
- Hold for 30 to 60 seconds or as long as you can with proper form.
10. Side Plank
- Lie on your side and place your elbow in line with your shoulder.
- Push through your elbow and feet to lift your hips off the ground.
- Keep your core pulled in and hold for 30 to 60 seconds (or as long as you can with proper form).
- Switch sides and repeat.
If you feel pain or lower back strain, maintain your plank but bend your bottom leg so that your bottom foot faces the wall behind you.
11. Biceps Curl
- Start with your arms at your sides, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing up. Keep your feet hip-width apart.
- Keeping your elbows glued to your sides and your chest upright, raise the weights up toward your shoulders.
- At the top of the motion, focus on squeezing your biceps.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells until your elbows extend fully at the bottom without locking.
12. Triceps Kickback
- With a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hinge your hips back, maintaining a flat back. Your upper body should be at a 45-degree angle to the floor.
- Bring your arms to your sides with your palms facing each other, elbows tight to your ribs. This is the starting position.
- Extend your arms straight back with control and squeeze your triceps at the top.
- Bend your elbows and slowly lower your arms back to the starting position.