Comprehensive List of Dumbbell Exercises

There is so much you can do with just a pair of dumbbells that it sometimes can be overwhelming. You can work every muscle in your body with different dumbbell exercises. This comprehensive list of dumbbell exercises will help you to better organize your workouts and realize the full extent of what you can do with dumbbells.

​List of Dumbbell Exercises

Let’s go over these dumbbell exercises as segmented by​ ​the main target areas in the body. 

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​Upper Body

​Bench Presses

​With a bench and two dumbbells you can do a lying bench press to work your chest. Start lying flat on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Hold the dumbbells in front of you, shoulder width apart. Bring the dumbbells to the sides of your chest so that your elbows create a 90-degree angle. Next, exhale and use your chest to press the dumbbells up above your chest. When they reach the top, pause and then bring them back down to the sides of your chest.

You will want to find a bench with the ability to be adjusted. You can then adjust the bench so you can do incline or decline bench presses so you can work different part of your chest and arms.

When you sit upright on a bench you can turn your bench press into a shoulder press to work your shoulders. This is the same pressing motion, but instead of pressing above your chest you press the dumbbells above your head.

Woman bending her back while holding dumbbells

​Bicep Curl

​The bicep curl is one of the best dumbbell workouts you can do to gain mass in your biceps, and you won’t even need to use a bench for ​training.

Start a bicep curl by standing up straight with your feet shoulder width apart while holding a dumbbell in each hand. Tuck your elbows in and rotate your palms forward. Then bend at the elbow to lift the weight up to your chest. Throughout the move be sure to keep your upper arm totally still.

Lift​ ​the dumbbell up as much as you can and then slowly lower it back down. Repeat the same motion on the other side. Only the forearms should be moving during this entire exercise. You can do this one arm at a time or both arms together.

Other variations of this move include the hammer curl, incline bicep curl, and preacher curls. All utilize the same basic motion and work the biceps.

​Tricep Extensions

​​Triceps can be a difficult muscle to tone, but they’re important to target if you want to get an aesthetically pleasing arm.

Start a tricep extension by grabbing a single dumbbell with both hands and holding it above your head. Next, bend at the elbow so that the weight goes behind your head. When your elbows reach a 90-degree angle, pause and then extend your arms to bring the weight back to the starting position.

Another variation of this move that works the chest is the dumbbell pullover. If you want another move that works you triceps, try the tricep kickback.

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​Bent Over Row

​Bent over row is a great move for working your back and upper arms.

To do a bent over row start in an athletic stance holding two dumbbells. Hinge forward from the waist until your upper body is almost parallel with the ground. Next, drive your elbows behind you and bringing your shoulder blades in towards each other. Continue to bring the dumbbells up towards your hips, until you have reached your full range of motion. Pause, and then slowly lower the dumbbells back to starting.

If you want to focus more on your arms do a single arm row on a bench. You can also try single arm plank row for chest, core, and arm workouts

​Lateral Raise

Lateral raises are another exercise that targets the shoulders and upper arms.

Start in an athletic stance with a dumbbell in each hand. Without bending your elbows, raise your arms out to your side until your arms are at shoulder level. Pause momentarily, and then slowly lower your arms back to the starting position.

Some similar moves to try are the dumbbell front raise, shoulder shrugs, and arm circles.

Woman doing dumbbell lunges

​Lower Body

​Dumbbell Squats

Dumbbell squats are one of the best lower body workouts you can do. Your quads and glutes will be burning after a round of dumbbell squats.

Start with your feet about shoulder width apart, your chest up, and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Begin the movement by sitting back in a squatting position as if there is a chair behind you, keeping your eyes and chest lifted throughout the entire move. Be sure to go into a full squat so you are getting the most out of your workout.

A killer variation of the dumbbell squat that also includes some upper body work is thrusters. They will get your heart pumping and get you the results you are looking for. You can also get do some different types of squats, like sumo squats, using dumbbells for extra resistance.

​Walking Lunge with Dumbbell

​​Walking lunges target almost every muscle in the leg, especially the hamstrings and glutes. Adding a pair of dumbbells to this move gives you the extra resistance you need to really challenge yourself.

To do this, start with a basic lunge. As you reach the lunge position, stand up and bring your back leg to meet your front leg so that you are continuously moving forward. Throughout this entire move just hold the dumbbells steady at your side for some extra resistance.

You can also try adding dumbbells to a free weight stationary lunge or a reverse lunge for a similar effect. Additionally, doing step ups or knee ups with dumbbells will also give you a good leg and glute workout.


​​A dumbbell deadlift is a workout that will target multiple muscles including the hamstrings, back, and shoulders.

Start this move by grabbing a pair of dumbbells with an overhand grip. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Next, hinge at the hips and slightly bend the knees to lower the weights to the ground. Keep your back straight as you do this. When you reach the bottom position quickly hinge your hips forward to lift back into the starting position and repeat. This is a good and engaging workout and you will be able to ​see results very soon.

Another version to try is the single legged deadlift, which is great for working on your balance.

​Calf Raises

Adding dumbbells to calf raises is a good way to give yourself an extra challenge for a relatively simple exercise.

Start with a dumbbell in each hand and get in an athletic stance. Start to rise up to your tip toes and pause when you reach the top. Hold for a second and then slowly lower yourself back down. You will need to brace your core throughout this move and wear appropriate workout shoes if you have flat feet so you can hold your balance.

Woman doing dumbbell exercises on a mat


​Some of the best core moves you can do with a dumbbell are adding dumbbells to existing workouts for more resistance. This includes adding a dumbbell to moves like the Russian twist and basic sit ups. But you also have the option to do some good standing core work with dumbbells by doing moves like the wood chopper.


​There are so many exercises you can do with a dumbbell set for beginners and you can use this list of dumbbell exercises as a good starting point to try them all. This list includes most of the moves you can do. There are so many variations and slight changes you can make to every move. No list could account for everything you can do with dumbbells. Maximize your energy with supplements before trying out a few moves and see how they feel. Before you know it, you will be needing heavier weights and working up to the most advanced dumbbell exercises.

Robert Lemus has been a natural competitor for 6 years, starting in Men’s Physique, then Bodybuilding, and then into Classic Physique. He is the Orange County Bodybuilding champion in 2016 for the Musclemania Organization. In 2018, he received his Pro Card with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) in Classic Physique.