The Benefits Of Dumbbell Training

If you've been flirting with the idea of buying a pair of dumbbells, but aren't sure if they’re worth it, this article is for you.

a group exercise enthusiasts training with dumbbells

It’s not up for argument, dumbbells are one of the most versatile training tools available. And it’s no exaggeration to say that they are the exercise equipment version of a Swiss Army knife. The number of different exercises that can be performed with a pair of dumbbells probable exceeds the number of atoms in the known universe.


Ok, not quite that many. But a lot.


So why are they such a good training tool? Well, for starters, unlike fixed exercise machines, dumbbells do not impede your natural biomechanical movement. Put more simply, dumbbells faithfully follow your natural movement and do not force you to follow a fixed, pre-determined plain.


Why’s this a good thing? Firstly, by following your movement you are less susceptible to suffer joint aggravation and/or injury. Secondly, the exercise feels more natural and thus more pleasant to perform.


In addition, dumbbells can be used to target pretty much every muscle in your body. By contrast, fixed machines are typically designed to target a specific – and therefore limited – range of muscles. Not so with a pair of DBs.


Furthermore, dumbbells are great for increasing the resistance of body-weight exercises. When pull-ups become too easy just pop a dumbbell between your legs. When you can perform burpees till the cows are ready to come home hold a pair of dumbbells, that’ll slow you down some.


They can even be used to increase the intensity of some cardiovascular exercises. Some mornings, when I go on my obligatory 4-mile run, I take my trusty 2kg dumbbells with me – it never ceases to surprise what a difference four additional kilograms make to the intensity of my run.


In this article six dumbbell-related frequently asked questions have been answered. Also, you will discover a range of exercises, a tutorial video and best dumbbell product review.



FAQ #1: Can dumbbells help me lose weight?

a man about to perform exercises with a pair of dumbbells

In all honesty, the answer is no, not really. A pedantic person could challenge that answer and say ‘Well what if I performed a thousand snatches a day followed by a thousand vertical lifts? That’d keep the tubb at bay?’ Yes it probably would but few people have the time or inclination to use dumbbells in this way.


To promote the same aerobic (fat burning) response as, say, rowing, or running, you’d have to train for twice as long and at a much higher intensity; basically you’d have to pump those DBs like a pair of pistons.


Typically, dumbbell exercises are grouped into sets and then assigned a specific rep range. Applied in this fashion the dumbbell is a great tool for developing lean, defined musculature (more on that in a moment).


However, the sculpting power of dumbbells is amplified when incorporated into circuits or supplemented with cardiovascular exercises.



FAQ #2: Can dumbbells help improve muscle tonality?

a woman performing exercises with a dumbbell

Yes they certainly can. In fact, I wouldn’t be overstepping the line of exaggeration if I said that dumbbells are one of, if not the, best training tool for sculpting sharp muscle tonality. How come?


Dumbbells can be wielded in two distinct and decidedly different ways. One, like the miner’s hammer and two, like the sculptor’s chisel. The first way, where we might perform such exercises as the Farmer’s Walk or the single-arm snatch, enables us to develop strength and size. When using dumbbells in this way we would select heavier weights and perform fewer reps.


But if we used dumbbells like the sculptor’s chisel and focused more on isolation exercises, such a bicep curls, triceps extensions, and the like, we would begin to develop sharper and more defined muscles.


Incorporating this style of dumbbell lifting into an exercise regime that included circuit training and cardiovascular exercise, it wouldn’t be long until we took on the shape of a Renaissance statue.



FAQ #3: What dumbbell weight should I select for my home gym?

a guy performing dumbbell curls

This is a tricky question to answer. The problem we have with deciding the best weight is directly analogous to the problem Goldilocks had when trying to choose the best bowl of porridge to scoff and the best bed to sleep in afterwards. And by that, I mean the problem of getting weight just right.


If the weight you select is too light it will not sufficiently stimulate your physicality, thus you will unlikely experience any physiological adaptations: increase muscle strength/size, tonality, performance, etc. If too heavy, however, you’ll not only be limited to the immense range of available exercises (see list above) but you could also increase injury risk.


So, with all that in mind, you need to select a weight that sits somewhere in the middle of too light and too heavy. How can you work that out? Simple. Next time you go to the gym test the weight range. Work your way up the rack until you find that weight which is just right.


Alternatively, if you’ve got the cash to splash, go splurge on a full set (see product list below).



FAQ #4: How can I use dumbbells?

This question is best answered with a video.



FAQ 5: How many exercises can you perform with a pair of dumbbells?

a group of trainers completing a CrossFit circuit with dumbbells

If the dumbbell’s popularity isn’t a consequence of their versatility, it’s certainly got something to do with their staggering fitness functionality. Seriously, there is so much you can do with a pair of dumbbells. Think I’m exaggerating? Check out the list below:


1. Bicep curls
2. Reverse bicep curls
3. Hammer curls
4. Triceps extensions
5. Single arm snatch
6. Single arm clean into press
7. Shoulder press
8. Shoulder flys
9. Chest press
10. Chest flys
11. Reverse flys (for the back)
12. Single arm row
13. Bent-over rows
14. Squats
15. Thrusters
16. Vertical lifts
17. Plyometric squat jump
18. (There are many more but I’ve got things to do . . .)

And don’t forget, as I mentioned above, dumbbells can be employed in the capacity of increasing the resistance of body-weight exercises – pull-ups, dips, burpees – and some cardiovascular exercises – running and cycling. (Sometimes, when I’m feeling a little flighty, I pop a pair of DBs in a rucksack, which I’ll hump about for 20-miles while I cycle around the British countryside. Why? I hear you ask. Because it’s a great way to increase power to weight ratio and, when you slip that bag off and hit the road unencumbered, you feel quick, Eddy Merckx quick!)



FAQ #6: What are the best dumbbells?

a number of dumbbells on the floor of a home gym

1: PROIRON Neoprene Dumbbell

Product Overview (click image for availability)

These neoprene coated one-piece cast iron dumbbells from PROIRON are extremely well rated. But then that should come as no surprise considering that they tick all the right boxes. For not only are they borderline bombproof and coated in colourful neoprene, but they have also been designed in such a way that enables you to stack them!


This comes with a double positive: 1) being able to stack them will save space – which is one of the limitations of fixed-weight dumbbells; if you’ve got a whole set they literally litter your gym – it can sometimes feel like they’re multiplying. And the second positive: they won’t roll away!


Over 7500 reviews and still holding on to 4.5 stars!


2: Mirafit Soft Touch Mini Hex Dumbbells

Product Overview (click image for availability)

Mirafit has entered the market with a comparable product to PROIRON. However, there’s a couple of slight differences that I want to bring to your attention. I’ll be quick. Whereas PROIRON offer multiple colour options Mirafit offers just one – black (which isn’t a colour I know). This is merely a matter of aesthetics and I doubt it’ll bother most people.


The other difference is the hexagonal shape, which is much sharper. This means that these dumbbells are unlikely to roll away even if you decide to exercise on the slopes of Snowdonia.


The only limitation I’ve been able to identify with Mirafit’s dumbbells is the sparsity of weight options. Most companies offer a broad range of weights – typically from 1kg up to 10kg – yet Mirafit supplies a mere three: 1kg, 1.5kg and 8kg. Which is beyond arbitrary.


4.5 stars with over 300 reviews.


3: JLL® Hex Commercial Dumbbell

Product Overview (click image for availability)

Never fear, JLL is here! The hex dumbbell from JLL is a premium quality product. These are the type of dumbbells that you’d find in a public gym. And I don’t mean that figuratively or as an attempt to exaggerate the merit and worth of these dumbbells. The gym that I use has an army of them.


So why are they so good? For starters they are mega durable – rock and solid would be my go-to adjectives. In addition, the handles are sculpted in such a way that makes them a pleasure to hold; even after a long super set of hammer curls. Furthermore, the finely cut hexagonal shape prevents them from going walkabout and enables them to be stacked nice and neat in the corner of your gym.


Of all the dumbbells featured these are the most expensive but they’re also the best quality.


4.5 stars with over 50 reviews.


4: BodyRip Ergo Neoprene Dumbbell

Product Overview (click image for availability)

This is a tidy little product from BodyRip. For your eighty-five English pounds you’ll receive three weight variations – 1, 2 and 3kgs – and a portable storage rack. Of course, the obvious questions is: what if I want a heavier weight range? And the obvious answer: go speak with the good people at JLL.


But if you’re just looking for a light set of weights that you can pop next to couch for when the adverts come on, BodyRip’s dumbbells will provide you with that extra resistance without causing you to break into a sweat.


They’re good for other things besides breaking the boredom of commercial advertisement. Lighter dumbbells are great to run with as they marginally increase the intensity whilst giving your shoulders a workout.


BodyRip’s dumbbells also satisfy, what I believe to be, the list of mandatory musts: Cast iron. Hexagonal. Coated. (And colourful!)


4.5 stars with over 130 reviews.


5: Amazon Basics Neoprene Dumbbell Pair

Product Overview (click image for availability)

In Amazon’s bid for world domination – and it’s very nearly there – they’ve created an ‘Amazon Basics’ range. Basically, what they do is identify successful products and rip them off with their own in-house version – and by ‘in-house’ I mean made in a sweatshop somewhere in central China; aka the West’s workhouse.


And because Amazon makes a shit ton of money every second selling other peoples’ products, or charging people for shelf space, they can copycat those very same products and sell them at near rock bottom prices – a penny or two above cost. This ain’t good for the independent sellers who rely on Amazon for a market stall on the busiest high-street in the world, but it’s great for the consumer. We get disgustingly cheap products with the guarantee of no-quibble returns.


So here, with Amazon’s neoprene dumbbells, you’re getting exactly what you would with Mirafit and PROIRON – just a lot cheaper.


4.5 stars with over 1200 reviews.


Conclusion

To reiterate, the humble dumbbell is an excellent piece of exercise equipment and no gym – whether public or private – is complete without them. They are highly durable and bewilderingly versatile.


Also, dumbbells are comparatively inexpensive and once you purchase a pair (one-piece cast iron) you’ll never need to replace them.



(As we are very interested in user feedback at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)

Blog Author

Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.

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