The Complete Upper-Body Dumbbell Workout
No gym? No sweat! With just a bench and some dumbbells you can combine these 7 moves for a fierce upper-body workout that can be done just about anywhere!
Seated One-Arm Overhead Dumbbell Extension
With your arm overhead, you’ll better engage the largest and most dominant muscle on the back of the arm, the meaty long head of the triceps. That’s true no matter what kind of equipment you use — cable, barbell or dumbbell.
Do it Right: Sit erect on an upright bench, feet flat on the floor. Grasp a dumbbell and hold it overhead at full arm extension. Bending only your elbow, lower the weight behind your head until your arm forms a 90-degree angle. Feel your triceps stretch, then press back up to full-arm extension and squeeze your tri’s hard at the top. Repeat for reps, then switch arms.
Power Pointer: Try the two-arm version, too, but keep your elbows in tight. Allowing them to flare out wide reduces the muscular stress on the triceps.
Alternating Dumbbell Curl
Unlike the barbell curl, the alternating dumbbell curl allows you to perform what’s called supination at the top of each rep. Starting with a palms-in (neutral) grip, you can slowly turn your wrists as you approach the top of the move, and that twisting motion allows for a better peak contraction and overall growth.
Do it Right: Stand erect holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. Keeping your chest up and elbows in tight, curl one weight toward the same-side shoulder, turning your wrist up as you go. Squeeze your biceps hard at the top, then lower to the start. Repeat with the opposite arm.
Power Pointer: Of all the ways to perform this movement wrong, the most common is to try to bring the weight as high as possible, which pulls your elbow away from your side. However, this recruits the front delts and lessens the isolation on the biceps. Keep those elbows back!
Dumbbell Wrist Curl
The wrist curl goes last, and that’s no accident. If you hit your forearms too early in your workout, they’ll fatigue and prevent you from maintaining a good grip when training larger muscles like the back and biceps. This puts those bodyparts at a disadvantage because they rely on the forearms to be fresh.
Do it Right: Sit at the end of a bench with your forearms flat on it, and grasp a dumbbell in each hand with your palms up. Allow the weights to roll to your fingers, then use your wrists to curl the dumbbells back to the start.
Power Pointer: For a greater range of motion and stretch on the brachioradialis, keep your thumb on the same side of the dumbbell handle as your fingers. This ensures that you fully engage as much of the lower forearm as possible.