4 must-try dumbbell exercises

by Aaron Sidenberg | March 16, 2015

The best exercises that have the greatest impact are often the ones you aren’t doing, and it’s likely because they seem so hard, you’d rather skip them altogether.

The following exercises will benefit anyone looking to build strength, explosive power and muscle mass. Mix them in throughout the week or combine them into one solid workout to start reaping the benefits of the dumbbell.

Turkish Get-Up

The Turkish Get-Up.

The Turkish Get-Up

This move will target your core and shoulder stability and flexibility while also improving all your major muscle groups. For an exercise that simply requires you to “get up,” it will be among the most challenging you encounter.

Start laying faceup on the floor, holding a dumbbell in your right hand with your arm straight up toward the ceiling directly above your shoulder, with your left arm at your side. With your right leg bent (foot on the floor), roll onto your left forearm bringing your shoulders off the ground. Keep the dumbbell extended toward the ceiling the entire time. Once you have found your stability, sit right up so that you are now balancing on your left hand and right foot. Swing your left leg in behind so you are in a lunge position. From there stand up so that your feet are shoulder width apart and again your arm stays extended overhead. Reverse through the movement to return to starting position.

Training Tip: The foot of the same side you hold the weight should stay in the same position the entire time.

Clean and Press

Dumbbell Clean and Press.

Dumbbell Clean and Press

This is an explosive multi-joint exercise that will increase strength and power, targeting primarily the lower back, hips, shoulders and core.

Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart in a partial squat, hold a dumbbell between your knees with your palm facing backwards. Driving through your heels, explode up while performing an upright row to catch the dumbbell at your shoulder. Squat and press through the dumbbell to extend it overhead. Reverse through the motion back to the starting position.

Training Tip: The DB should stay close to the body throughout the upright row.

Nordic Hamstring Curls

Nordic Hamstring Curls

Nordic Hamstring Curls

This exercise develops the posterior chain, in particular, the hamstring and glute strength while also emphasizing explosive power in the chest.

Use a bench to hook your heels under. Keeping your hips extended so your body is in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders, contract your hamstrings to resist your body from lowering to the ground. Before you hit the floor, extend your arms to brace the impact softly. When at the bottom, perform an explosive push-up while contracting the hamstrings to pull your body back to the starting position.

Training Tip: Perfect this exercise without weights first.

Dumbbell Squat

Dumbbell Squat.

The Dumbbell Front Squat

This will target the quads, hamstrings and glutes. It will also improve balance and stability in the core.

Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed slightly out, hold a pair of dumbbells up to your shoulders in a curl like position. Keep your body in an upright position, brace your abs and lower your body by bending your knees and pushing your hips back. Pause at the bottom, then drive through your heels back to the starting position.

Training Tip: Be sure to keep your knees in line with your toes especially on the drive back up.


Aaron Sidenberg is the co-owner of the Basement Fitness at 1212 Lasalle Blvd.

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