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10 Best Dumbbell Exercises To Build Size & Strength

The dumbbell is a stellar tool if you want to boost your strength and get bigger.
FACT CHECKED BY Alexa Mellardo

"Size" and "strength" are two very important words to weight lifters. Dumbbells are the key equipment choice to help make it all happen, along with these 10 best dumbbell exercises to build size and strength.

If your goal is to build size and strength, it's essential to lift weights on a regular basis. How often? I recommend training at least three to four times a week, focusing on lifting heavier, performing more reps, or a combination of both. The more you put into your workouts, the sooner you will see results.

When it comes to exercise equipment, dumbbells are a great strength training tool. They're versatile, and you can perform a wide variety of movements with them to help build size and strength.

Your exercises should include a course of mostly compound exercises, then end with isolation movements. This routine will allow you to recruit as many muscle fibers as you can.

Here's a list of 10 dumbbell exercises you can incorporate into your fitness routine. Perform three to four sets of the following movements, and before you know it, you will start to notice the benefits.

Dumbbell Front Squats

Start your dumbbell front squats by holding a pair of dumbbells at shoulder height. Make sure your core stays tight as you hinge your hips back and squat to the floor until your quads are parallel to it. Next, drive through your heels and hips to rise back up, flexing your quads and glutes to finish. Complete three to four sets of 10 reps.

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Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts

To perform the dumbbell Romanian deadlift, you'll need to position a pair of dumbbells in front of you. Keeping your chest tall and knees soft, push your hips back while bringing the weights down your thigh. Once you complete a nice hamstring stretch, drive your hips forward, squeezing your glutes. Complete three to four sets of 10 reps.

Dumbbell Bench Presses

man doing dumbbell bench press

Begin the flat dumbbell bench press in a sitting position on a workout bench along with a pair of dumbbells. Lie back, and press the weights up. Next, lower the dumbbells evenly while keeping your elbows slightly tucked. Come down enough to incorporate a solid chest stretch in before pressing the dumbbells back up, flexing your pecs and triceps. Complete three to four sets of 10 reps.

Chest-Supported Dumbbell Rows

For this next move in our dumbbell exercises to build size and strength, adjust your workout bench to a 30 to 45- degree incline. Grab two dumbbells, and position your chest on the pad. Be sure to keep your knees on the seat of the bench. Straighten your arms, and begin pulling the two dumbbells in with your elbows, squeezing your lats at the very end of the motion. Lower the dumbbells down for the full stretch before performing the next rep. Complete three to four sets of 10 reps.

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Dumbbell Reverse Lunges

man doing dumbbell exercises, reverse lunges at the gym

Grab a dumbbell in each hand for this exercise. Then, take a long stride back with one leg. Firmly plant your heel down into the ground, and lower yourself until your back knee touches the floor. Push through with your front leg to return back up. Repeat with the other side. Complete three to four sets of 10 reps with each leg.

Dumbbell Bent-Over Lateral Raises

Start by pushing your hips back and bending your torso forward to a minimum of 45 degrees. Keep your chest tall, your back straight, and your knees soft. With the dumbbells hanging down toward the floor and a slight bend in your elbows, raise your arms to each side so that the weights are parallel with your torso. As you do this, squeeze the back of your shoulders. Use resistance on the return back to starting position prior to performing another rep. Complete three to four sets of 15 reps.

Dumbbell Shoulder Presses

For the dumbbell shoulder press, position both dumbbells up to your shoulders, making sure your palms are facing each other. Keep your core tight and squeeze your glutes while pressing the dumbbells up, flexing your shoulders and triceps at the top of the motion. Lower the dumbbells back down using control before performing another rep. Complete three to four sets of 10 reps.

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Incline Dumbbell Curls

Next up is the incline dumbbell curl. While lying flat on an incline bench, take a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing up and your arms completely extended. Keeping your elbows tucked against your sides, curl the weights up, flexing your biceps hard at the top. As you lower the weight, use resistance by using your biceps, giving a good stretch at the bottom. Complete three to four sets of 10 to 12 reps.

Dumbbell Triceps Extensions

man performing dumbbell triceps extension

Position yourself flat on your back on a bench for the dumbbell triceps extensions. Start by pressing the weights up so that your palms are facing each other. Keep your shoulders completely straight and your elbows bent back so the dumbbells come down toward you. The moment your forearms touch your biceps, reverse the motion, flexing your triceps to finish. Complete three to four sets of 10 to 12 reps.

Dumbbell Crunches

For this final exercise, position yourself flat on your back with your knees bent. A dumbbell should be in each hand, and your arms fully extended. Start the first crunch by coming up just high enough to flex your abs hard. Exhale as you complete the rep at the top, then lower back down to the starting position. Complete three to four sets of 15 reps.

Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.
Tim Liu, CSCS, is an online fitness and nutrition coach based in Los Angeles Read more about Tim