fbpx
Dumbbell goblet squat at the gym

Ten Great Dumbbell Exercises You Need to Have In Your Routine

Dumbbells…a gym staple and an item found in many home kits. They’re not as effective on overall muscle and strength development and body composition (fat) management as performing heavy, barbell based, compound movements – but are still an important tool in your performance efforts. So, are you bringing dumbbell training exercises into your workouts?

Dumbbell exercises have been shown to activate a number of different muscles and stimulate muscle growth, help improve both muscle force and flexibility, and promote coordination and stability for muscles and joints. Even more, you can use them for a variety of exercises, ranging from simple mobility work to intense resistance training.

While in theory, you could often just replace a barbell with dumbbells for a motion – using dumbbells provides more than just a change in weighted item – dumbbells bring additional muscle action into play – notably in stabilization, that will not only improve your overall physical performance – but will help address muscle and mobility imbalances. They also allow you to introduce more range of motion resistance moves into your kit.

Before we get into our list of dumbbell exercises you should have in your routine toolkit, we also want to make sure you lift properly with them – improving your performance takes a set back with injury, and we want you to keep progressing!

There are two issues that many have found out the hard way by not controlling the dumbbells. First, in some motions, it is easy to get “swinging” with a dumbbell. This motion could involve a limb, joint, or both. As with all weights, movements are supposed to be controlled – you control it up, you control it down. Watch out for “out of control” weighted motions that run the risk of joint injury. Second – watch the joints when using dumbbells – they are not made to hold up well against strains that leverage against their natural alignment. Dumbbells can quickly fall to the side, wrenching an arm or leg in an angle that wrists, elbows, knees, shoulders, ankles, etc are not made to move. Performance is about being a mindful athlete and using a controlled effort in your routine, not throwing around metal for ego.

That said, you better have these dumbbell exercises in your routine kit!

1. Incline Dumbbell Press

incline dumbbell press

Muscles worked: The clavicular head of the pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, and and the triceps

Benefits: Targets the smaller, often underemphasized clavicular head, which isn’t as powerful as the sternocostal head but is nevertheless key to the muscle’s overall power. The exercise forces each pectoral muscle to work independently, so your strong side can’t compensate for its weaker counterpart, helping to prevent and correct muscle imbalances.

2. Shoulder Press

dumbbell shoulder press

Muscles worked: The anterior and lateral deltoids, triceps brachii, pectoralis major, serratus anterior, and external oblique

Benefits: Works all aspects of the deltoid muscle; dumbbells activate more of the anterior deltoid than when using a barbell. Whether from a seated or standing position, the dumbbell exercise engages the core for stability. Avoid locking your elbows, as this transitions to emphasis to your triceps, rather than keep it focused on your deltoids.

3. Bent Over Row

dumbbell row

Muscles worked: The posterior deltoid, brachialis, brachioradialis, middle and lower trapezius, infraspinatus, teres minor, teres major, and latissimus dorsi

Benefits: This motion targets your back and shoulders in the same motion. As a functional exercise, it is a great way to develop muscles and motion used throughout the day when picking up things. Knowing how to properly position your back and brace your abs can protect you from strain.

Alternative to increase difficulty: Assume a plank position to engage your core. You will likely have to decrease weight and or reps.

dumbbell row from plank position

4. Tricep Kick-Back

tricep kickback

Muscles worked: The triceps brachii, and posterior deltoids

Benefits: This helps build a stronger tricep muscle, working all three heads. This will help you not only in daily functional movements, but also support other pressing motions in your training, such as chest and shoulder presses.

5. Twisting Bicep Curl

dumbbell bicep curl

Muscles worked: The biceps brachii (short and long heads), brachialis, and brachioradialis

Benefits: The simple process of starting with your gripped hands facing your body and then moving to the traditional supinated position during the curl helps work both the long and short head of the bicep, while also bringing the brachioradialis into the effort. In short, you activate more muscle fibers that a full range supinated curl, or hammer curl alone.

6. Goblet Squats

goblet squat

Muscles worked: The gluteus maximus, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, biceps femoris, erector spinae, vastus intermedius, sartorius, rectus femoris, medial deltoid, anterior deltoid, and biceps brachii

Benefits: Removes the tension and risk to lower back that a tradition barbell squat might cause, while maintaining focus on your quads and glutes – the major muscles in this exercise.

7. Pullover

dumbbell pullover

Muscles worked: The latissimus dorsi, serratus anterior, pectorlis major, triceps brachii, and teres major

Benefits: The motion beings into play many stabilizer muscles throughout your body, such as abs, upper back/scapular region, and the gluteal muscles. This in turn helps develop key strength in muscles critical in supporting many full chain body motions. You can help stabilize the motion by contracting your chest and elevating your ribcage, contracting your gluteals, and keeping your feet flat.

8. Weighted Lunge

weighted lunge

Muscles worked: The vastus lateralis, rectus femorus, gluteus maximus, vastus medialus, adductor magnus, and soleus

Benefits: Adds more functional complexity to the training, and thus can offer more all-around development than quadriceps-focused motions. This dumbbell training exercise uses the gluteus maximus, adductor magnus of the inner thigh, and the soleus of the calf – in short, a compound motion. You also will need to bring in your stabilizer muscles in your back and legs to sustain your balance.

9. Lateral Raise

lateral raise

Muscles worked: The anterior, medial, and posterior deltoids, trapezius, and supraspinatus

Benefits: The motion primarily targets the deltoid’s lateral head, with some activation of the anterior and posterior heads. As an isolation dumbbell exercise working the lateral head of the delts, it helps strengthen your shoulders and can help correct strength imbalances between your right and left sides. Make sure the movement comes from your shoulders, not your neck. Avoid shrugging or “jerking” the dumbbells or flexing or extending your elbow as your arm is raised to keep proper form.

10. Fly (Regular or Reverse)

incline dumbbell fly
bent over dumbbell fly

Muscles worked regular fly: The pectoralis major and minor, anterior deltoid, and coracobrachialis

Benefits: While helping with all-around pectoral development, the motion opens up your chest muscles, which may may help reduce upper back pain, increase range of motion, and reduce tightness in the upper body. Be careful with the weight you use to help obtain a full range of motion without overextending. Avoid bending your elbows excessively as the weight descends or flattening them as the weight ascends to avoid strain on your shoulder joints.

Muscles worked reverse fly: The anterior, medial, and posterior deltoids, triceps brachii, rhomboid, and trapezius

Benefits: Helps with a scapular retraction or pulling your shoulder blades in toward each other – which counteracts risks to posture caused by excessive chest training or prolonged periods of work at a desk or driving that tend to round the shoulders. Research indicates specific strength training such as the reverse fly is an effective tool to reduce pain and disability in neck and shoulder areas.

As with all exercise planning, if you have a shoulder, neck, or back injury, talk to your doctor or physical therapist to find out whether this exercise is appropriate. Dumbbell exercises are a great tool, but can also easily pull a joint, torque your body, or cause other unexpected movements if not properly handled. A key item to remember is to only lift manageable weights you can control in both eccentric and concentric phases, and that heavy weights (beyond what you can control) can result in poor technique. If you feel any pain during the exercise, slowly lower the weights and end the exercise. Additionally, beware of over-training risks with dumbbells, as their use may seem minimal compared to other motions, but overuse can risk fatigue, plateau, or injury. As with any fitness program – safety first.

– Train Hard!

Research Update: Do Supplements Help Performance?

Supplements are ever present in the fitness industry. We’ve covered some of them in other articles, but the question is always out there – do they help with performance?

In October, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign released the results of a 12-week exercise regimen study conducted on 148 active duty Air Force airmen. The exercise regimen combined strength training and high-intensity interval aerobic fitness challenges. Additionally, half of the participants received a twice-daily nutrient beverage that included protein; the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA; lutein; phospholipids; vitamin D; B vitamins, and other micronutrients; along with a muscle-promoting compound known as HMB. The other half a placebo. Neither the participants nor researchers knew who received the supplement or the placebo.

In short, half of the group were given supplements during the study.

The Findings…

For both groups, the exercise regimen alone alone “improved strength and endurance, mobility and stability, and participants also saw increases in several measures of cognitive function. They had better episodic memory and processed information more efficiently at the end of the 12 weeks.” The participants’ body fat percentage was reduced and they showed an increase in the oxygen-uptake efficiency (VO2 max). They also showed signs of increases in the accuracy of their responses to problems designed to measure fluid intelligence.

In short (again), exercise is good for you – the whole group saw benefits, both physically and mentally, from performing a regular fitness routine.

Researchers found that those who also consumed the nutritional supplement “saw all of these improvements and more.”

Those that took the supplement drink displayed an improved resting heart rate and greater improvements in their ability to retain and process information. Additionally, their reaction time on fluid intelligence tests was better than the placebo group.

Some Questions…

While the study saw improvements in the supplement shake group, it did not fully ascertain why this occurred.

  • How did the shake affect the macronutrient, micronutrient, and vitamin profile of the test subjects?
  • How did the shake affect daily caloric intake?
  • How was the shake timed with optimal intake windows for the participants?

Matt Kuchan, a co-author of the study, stated “it is possible the active supplement closed nutrient gaps,” since the average American diet that the airmen were on is well-documented to have nutrient gaps. He believes, though, the positive effects “resulted from the combination of muscle and brain nutrients,” and that the nutrients in the shake, which are found in healthy foods, would be difficult to replicate in a natural diet.

Bottom Line…

The study showed that those on the supplements obtained more results in physical and mental performance. While there are questions as to the “why” – the result is that the supplements helped close some gap for the participants’ that supported achieving higher performance levels.

As the term itself states, supplements are to supplement – not replace – dietary needs. But with many individuals, even athletes, trying to balance access to quality nutrients and daily responsibilities, supplements offer a mechanism to help people achieve their fitness performance goals.

– Train Hard!

Time Under Tension: Attacking Your Muscle Growth

Time under tension (TUT) is the amount of time that a muscle or group of muscles is under stress during a set. The reported advantage from TUT is that by focusing on the duration muscle fiber is under stress, rather than a movement repetition count, the intensity will result in gains in muscle size and strength.

The general consensus is that increasing TUT will maximize hypertrophy by increasing the muscle fiber breakdown that occurs during the workout. Thus, hypertrophy may improve if one lifts lighter weights for a longer period of time than to use heavy weights for fewer reps.

How does TUT do this?

TUT’s results may be through creating a hypoxic environment in the working muscles. The premise follows as such:

  • Resistance training with weights produces a buildup of metabolites in the body,
  • At the same time, muscle contractions cause blood vessels to condense and restrict the blood flow to working muscles

It is the lack of blood flow oxygen that creates a hypoxic environment for your muscles, and a 2010 study from the Mie University Graduate School of Medicine showed that hypoxic muscle environments actually enhance muscle strength and hypertrophy.

Applying TUT to your workouts

  1. Focus on the eccentric part of the muscle movement. Eccentric is the lowering, or “anti-contraction” part of the muscle movement. Slowing your eccentric motion will cause an increase in micro-fiber muscle damage, thus encouraging more growth.
  2. Focus on intensity. You need to be lifting heavy enough to fatigue the muscle. Consider ranges 60-80% 1 RPM.
  3. Drop sets until fatigue. It’s about time, and failing to finish a set works against it. So if you hit your limit too soon with the weight, drop to a lower amount, and keep repping out until you finish the set.

Apply TUT to bodyweight movements centers around slowing down the eccentric part of the movement. For example, lower yourself in a push-up using a 4-6 second count, before exploding back up. Same with a squat – slow lower, power back up. Resistance bands work for this too.

Hopefully you now understand enough include TUT in your fitness toolkit.

-Train Hard!

 

Creatine Supplements: Effects on Muscle Performance

There are a lot of articles out in the fitness world that talk about the wonders of creatine supplements. Many supplement companies not only have creatine as a standalone product, but include it in pre-workout mixes.

So this stuff must be great, right? As we did with our Pre-Workout article, we’re going to try to give you simple, yet science based take on creatine to help guide you in your health and fitness decisions.

So what is creatine, and how does it work?

Let’s start with the science – adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the most basic form of energy in your body’s cells. It plays a fundamental role in metabolism and muscle function.

Biochemically, ATP is a nucleoside triphosphate, which indicates that it consists of three components: a nitrogenous base (adenine), the sugar ribose, and the triphosphate.

In muscle performance, ATP acts in the following manner with myosin, which is a motor protein best known for its role in muscle contraction:

  • ATP prepares myosin for binding with actin by moving it to a higher- energy state and a “cocked” position.
  • ATP must bind to myosin to break the cross-bridge and enable the myosin to rebind to actin at the next muscle contraction.

Mechanism of muscle contraction.

For training, or any intense muscle activity, your muscles typically store only enough ATP for 8–10 seconds of high-intensity exercise. After this, your body must produce new ATP to match the demands of your physical activity.

Simply put, this is why you can burst few short periods of energy and muscle movement, but cannot sustain those levels.

We’re getting to the part about the creatine…

A study by the Centre for Human Sciences in 2000 showed that fatigue sustained during short-term, high-intensity exercise is associated with the inability of skeletal muscle to maintain a high rate of anaerobic ATP production from phosphocreatine hydrolysis – and that the ingestion of creatine monohydrate at a rate of 20 g/d for 5-6 d was shown to increase the total creatine concentration of human skeletal muscle by approximately 25 mmol/kg dry mass, some 30% of this in phosphorylated form as phosphocreatine.

Moreover, the study showed that a loss of ATP during heavy anaerobic exercise was found to decline after creatine ingestion, despite an increase in work production. These results suggest that improvements in performance are due to parallel improvements in ATP resynthesis during exercise as a consequence of increased phosphocreatine availability.

Short version – Creatine supplements increase your body’s stores of phosphocreatine, which in turn helps support your body’s ability to create ATP and replenish the depleted supply to continue fueling muscle activity.

Other Creatine Benefits

Increase in the water content of your muscle cells.

Increase in repetitions and weight loads of training sessions.

May reduce muscle breakdown and assist in post work out recovery.

Lastly, a study in 2010 from the Department of Sport Science was conducted to determine the effect of resistance training for 8 weeks in conjunction with creatine supplementation on muscle strength, lean body mass, and serum levels of myostatin and growth. The researchers found that creatine increased muscle mass when added to an exercise regimen and resulted in a “significant decrease in serum levels of myostatin,” which is a protein that inhibits muscle cell growth.

So that’s it – creatine helps your body maintain its ATP levels, which in turn help muscle output, recovery, and growth.

Does that mean you should take it?

That is a discussion between you, your health provider, and if available, registered dietician. But hopefully, with our comments, you are now better informed about one of the more prolific supplements on the market.

As always

-Train Hard!

 

Cardio and Weight Training

Are you looking for a lean and fit physique? Trying to get the most out of your program to shed unwanted fat and develop lean muscle? Many believe cardio and weight training as two distinct types of exercise that do not work together in a fitness program – but, when you incorporate them into your program, you create a powerful tool for conditioning and fat loss. So forget about the myth that they work against each other, and let’s be clear – you should do both to create the best fitness program, no matter your goals.

How do cardio and weight training impact fat loss?

Cardio

Several studies have shown that a certain level of cardio can achieve more fat loss than weight training. The continuous movement of cardio at high intensity can burn calories at a higher level than weight training. But, before you ditch the weight training, know that this is not a universal statement towards all weight training programs. And, not a universal statement towards all cardio programs.

Weight Training

Strength and resistance training will build muscle, simply put. Muscle tissue has a higher metabolic rate than fat so having more muscle raises your resting metabolic rate, which in turn burns calories. But, studies have shown the differences are not significant. However, before you wonder why bother with weights, remember that it is the weight training that builds and maintains your lean muscle mass – not cardio. So while the fat loss effect may be similar, you will not have a lean, muscled body through cardio alone. Lastly, weight training generates what is known as the after-burn effect – this is the energy your body burns after the workout ends, and can last for several hours. This is the period of time post-workout when your body is continuing to burn calories to repair and build new muscle tissue to cope with the weight training regiment.

So for an effective weight loss program, to maintain and build lean muscle, and maximize your fat burning, you should be doing both cardio and weight training. Moreover, when you lose weight it tends to be a combination of fat and muscle – so a workout that helps maintain and build muscle through weight training will help ensure you minimize any loss to your muscle gains through your fat loss efforts. But understand, you will lose some muscle during periods of weight loss. This is why professional body builders cycle through bulking and cutting programs -they need to maximize the muscle mass, before trimming it down through programs targeting fat loss.

How do you put cardio and weight training together?

This is the age old question – cardio before weights? Weights before cardio? Together, or separate workouts? The answer depends on your goals. You likely have a fitness objective for your workouts that can be simply put as a cardio goal or muscle goal. Or think of it this way, are you trying to get better at your running times, or gain muscle for beach season. Over simplified, but go with us on this.

You want to be able to put as much energy as possible into the part of training that is specifically targeted to your goals. So if your goal is cardio based, you should prioritize cardio, and then move onto weight training. The reverse is true for building lean mass – start with the weights, for maximum use of your energy, and finish with cardio.

For all around fitness, programs that involve CrossFit bring what might be the best of both worlds together – but just understand by focusing on resistance and cardio at the same time, you are not maximizing either. Nothing is wrong with that, just understand the mechanics of the program you implement.

Tips for Combining Cardio and Weight Training

  1. Put your goal based program first, then add the other.
  2. Use heavy, compound weight exercises – high weight, low rep. These incorporate multiple major muscle groups, and will work more muscle and burn more calories than muscle specific exercises.
  3. Incorporate HIIT or interval training into your cardio program. These will strengthen and develop your endurance and oxygen capacity, and enable you to improve faster than steady state cardio exercises.
  4. Divide the elements into separate workouts if you want to fully focus on each program. If you want to have full sessions, you will need to allow your body time to recover in order to fully benefit from the other program. Lifting weights for an hour and then going into a full cardio program is not an effective training method. Split the workouts into two-a-day splits, or put them on separate days and rotate your schedule.
  5. Record your training results and wokouts in order to adjust the cardio and weight training elements to ensure continued progress. It will likely take some alterations to your program to get the most of combining cardio and weight training. By recording your workout results, you can ensure you are making adjustments based on your actual performance, rather than perception. Remember, how you feel is not always the same as how you performed.

Cardio and weight training are not the mortal enemies that so many make them out to be. If properly merged, they will be an effective tool to improve your fitness, build and maintain lean muscle, and produce fat loss.

– Train Hard!

Select the fields to be shown. Others will be hidden. Drag and drop to rearrange the order.
  • Image
  • SKU
  • Rating
  • Price
  • Stock
  • Availability
  • Add to cart
  • Description
  • Content
  • Weight
  • Dimensions
  • Additional information
  • Attributes
  • Custom attributes
  • Custom fields
Compare
Wishlist 0
Open wishlist page Continue shopping
Shopping cart close