The Dumbbell Solution

Posted On Apr 14, 2014 By Tom Holland

A man using BowFlex SelectTech Dumbbells performing a Dumbbell workout.

When it comes to working out, I stick to the basics. I prefer exercises and routines that have stood the test of time, workouts that have been around forever and will continue to be used for many years to come. I avoid the fads because they are by definition something that will not be around very long, and for good reason – they just aren't as effective. They may be flashy, they may be entertaining, they may even be fun. But what I am looking for, for myself as well as my clients, is results. Give me the greatest return on my investment, both of time and money.

This is why one of the mainstays in my home gym is dumbbells. You can do an infinite number of exercises with them; the only limitation is your imagination. Dumbbells are extremely functional, so you can use them for sport-specific training as well as to bulletproof your body for everyday life. They also allow you to work unilaterally, one limb at a time, which helps correct muscular imbalances. All great things.

I used to have two racks full of dumbbells of varying shapes and sizes, more than a dozen pairs; I have since replaced them all with one pair of BowFlex® SelectTech® 1090s, two dumbbells that go from 10 pounds all the way up to 90 in five-pound increments.

One of the main problems with home gyms and dumbbells is that people most often have a random mix of them. I've seen far too many of these home gym setups. Someone with a green neoprene pair of 3 pounders, 10 pound metal ones and an old pair of rusted 50 pound iron dumbbells. This random selection will end up being too light for certain exercises and way too heavy for others.

Success in strength training is all about overloading the muscle with precise weight and progressing appropriately. Having a limited selection of dumbbells doesn't allow for this gradual progression, which then leads to seriously decreased results and a much higher chance of injury. Being able to move up incrementally is essential, especially when you are working your entire body, small muscles to large ones.

I have two basic dumbbell strategies that I use for simple workouts. One is using them to focus on a specific muscle group, such as a bicep curl or bent-over back row, and the second is to use them for combo exercises, combining two moves into one, such as lunges with overhead shoulder presses and squats with side raises. The first approach is great for newer exercises as well as for targeting a single body part. The second workout design is great for more advanced people, those wanting to cut down their exercise time considerably, and those wishing to focus on more full-body, functional moves.

Dumbbell Workouts

Here are exercises that will always be mixed into my repertoire throughout the year:

Basic Dumbbell Exercises

  • Chest press
  • Bent-over rows
  • Front and side raises
  • Bicep curls
  • Tricep kickbacks
  • Dumbbell squats
  • Dumbbell lunges

Combo Dumbbell Exercises

  • Forward lunge with bicep curl
  • Squat with side raise
  • Rear delt fly to tricep kickback
  • Push-up to dumbbell back rows
  • Bicep curl to overhead press
  • Plié squat with bicep curl
  • Side lunge with front raise