Whether you workout at home or at a commercial gym you should be spending the vast majority of your time weight training with dumbbells.
Flat out, dumbbells are the most versatile pieces of exercise equipment that you will find in any gym. If you train with dumbbells you can adapt any exercise in at least three different ways, and all of these variations are superior for developing strength and improving fitness than are their barbell equivalents. Let’s take an old favorite of mine, the military press. For those of you who aren’t familiar with what a military press is, here’s a quick explanation.
Basically, “militaries” are performed by standing with your feet shoulder width apart while holding the weight at shoulder level before pressing the weight straight overhead so that the arms are locked, and then lowering the weights back to the shoulder. During the pressing movement, the posture is upright and the legs do not contribute at all to the lift.
If you use a barbell to perform the military press – obviously- both arms work at the same time to produce the upward and downward phase of the press. Thus we have only one barbell version of the military press. Doing the military press with dumbbells gives us at least 5 different ways to do the military press; both arms pressing at the same time, alternating arms pressing, holding dumbbells in each hand but performing 10 repetitions with one side before switching to the other side, holding one dumbbell at a time and performing 10 reps with one side before switching to the other side, and “curl and presses” where you start with the dumbbells at your side and perform a biceps curl them to get them to shoulder level before pressing them overhead. And there are more, but by now you should get the idea.
Dumbbells give you the chance to develop unilateral strength – one side at a time – because both of your hands aren’t fixed to a barbell. In the above example, even if you are pressing two dumbbells at the same time you are developing unilateral strength because each side is working by itself to produce movement.
Weight lifting exclusively with barbells – bilaterally – can lead to muscular and strength imbalances that you might not notice until you try to use dumbbells. I’ve had people tell me that one side was stronger than the other because it was their dominant side, when in reality this imbalance was due to always training with a barbell.
Actually, in my exercise tips section of the site I will regularly provide info on a variety of dumbbell variations that you can include in your workouts. But I will tell you now that you can do every exercise with dumbbells that you can do with barbells; squats, dead lifts, bench press, rows and even explosive, Olympic style lifts as well.
If you are looking for equipment for your home you might think dumbbells pose a bit of a problem from a space standpoint because you will need to purchase 10 or 12 sets of dumbbells. Well, you’d be wrong on that count, as there are now adjustable dumbbells that pack 15 pairs of dumbbells into one pair.
So rather than clutter your workout area with a rack and 30 dumbbells – or even a home gym system or barbell set – you can now purchase one set of adjustable dumbbells that range in weight from 5 pounds to 52.5 pounds, and cost less than traditional dumbbell/barbell set ups as well. Dumbbell training is the most efficient and effective mode of training that you can do in any setting. No matter what your fitness goals are, dumbbells will help you achieve these goals better than any other piece of equipment.