Dumbbells are one of the best and most efficient pieces of equipment in the gym. They allow you to train every part of the body, in a range of different motions, to hit each muscle group in numerous ways.
They’re good for functional movements, compound lifts, isolation exercises, and more.
Read on to learn some of the best dumbbell exercises, specifically focused on building upper body strength and aesthetics.
1. Arnold Press
The Arnold press is a variation on the classic dumbbell shoulder press, that activates the entire muscle group throughout the movement.
Like a regular shoulder press, you’ll start holding two dumbbells, slightly above shoulder height. However, you’ll want your palms facing towards you from this starting position.
From here, raise the dumbbells above your head in a slow, controlled motion, while rotating the position of the dumbbells so your palms end up facing outwards.
Return to the starting position, and do it all again.
2. Bent Row
You can do bent rows anywhere, any time. They’re great for the upper back, as well as passively building grip strength.
Start standing, dumbbell in each hand. Bend over, to where your torso is nearly parallel with the floor, while keeping your back straight and core engaged.
From here, simply pull the dumbbells up by driving your elbows back and retracting your shoulders. You should be aiming for the upper back muscles to do most of the work.
3. Lateral Raise
Want big, impressive shoulders? The lateral raise is your friend.
Start standing, straight up, dumbbells in hand and your palms facing inwards.
Slowly raise your arms, straight out, until the dumbbells reach around shoulder height. Pause, lower back to your starting position, and go again.
Focus on perfect form over heavy weight for this exercise, keeping everything in a slow, controlled motion. Try not to let the dumbbells touch your body, and keep your elbows above your wrists at all times.
4. Dumbbell Pullover
Dumbbell pullovers are truly awesome for building strength and aesthetics for the upper body, particularly the chest and lats.
Start by lying face-up on a bench. Your feet should be planted on the ground. Hold a dumbbell over your chest, with both hands on one end of the dumbbell.
Slowly, keeping your core engaged, reach backwards and lower the dumbbell back over your head, towards the ground. You should feel it in your chest and lats, as well as a bit in the triceps.
Keep going as far as you can, then return the dumbbell to your starting position.
Getting the Most From Your Workout
The exercises themselves are just part of the equation. How you do them, and how you support your workout, will determine the benefits you get out of it.
Focus on perfect form over heavier weights. You’ll get better gains, and have less risk of injury.
Hydrate throughout your workout to replace any lost fluids and electrolytes.
And, after you’re done, refuel with good, clean nutrition. Something like the chocolate chip protein cookie from Naked Nutrition is perfect for a quick and convenient post-workout snack, delivering the protein your body needs to rebuild and repair after lifting.