Dumbbell exercises can be up there with the most effective equipment-based exercises that you can do if you know what it is that you need to be doing with them! Some exercises are of course better than others, that’s a given, but do you know which are and aren’t worth your time?

We’ve compiled our top 10 dumbbell exercises so that you can fit at least one of them into almost any workout. There’s something for every muscle group, as well as a few compound exercises so that you can make the most of your time and your efforts while still utilising one of the most versatile pieces of equipment in the gym.

Romanian Deadlift

Romanian deadlift

First up on our list is the Romanian deadlift. Deadlifts are one of the best possible exercises that you can do for your posterior chain and likely one of the heaviest lifts you can do. They work a huge range of different muscles together in unison which means you're really getting the most from your efforts, with your hamstrings being the star of the show. Make sure you've mastered your technique before using bigger weights though to keep yourself safe in your training.

Farmers Walks

Farmers walk

The farmer's walk is one of few moves on the list that has so much efficiency. It's by far one of the best dumbbell exercises you can do, no questions asked. Once you know what kind of weight you can withstand, just grab the heaviest dumbbell you can manage in each hand and get moving. Short quick steps with a straight back and good form will result in your legs, back, arms and shoulders all getting a tremendous workout.

Pull Over

Dumbbell Pullover

Although pullovers are a tad controversial, they are a good exercise none the less. They will give your chest a new angle to work from and have a huge muscle activation because of the massive movement range. Make sure that your motion range is up to scratch though and start off light to make sure that you’ve really got it down!

Bench Press

Bench Press

The bench press is one of the most iconic exercises out there. No matter how into your fitness you are, you’ve likely seen a bench press. Using dumbbells instead of barbells, though, ups your game that little bit more. Chances are, you can’t quite lift as much using the dumbbells because of the lack of stability there, and this is actually going to work in your favour. Because you have to stabilise yourself, you’ll be building muscles that you don’t normally even use, helping yourself to be generally stronger rather than just being stronger at your bench press in the long run. Picking the right weight is always crucial and changes with equipment, choose wisely.


Single Arm Rows

When it comes to working your back muscles, it can be quite hard to do them without a cable or a pull-up bar. There are just not that many dumbbell exercises out there that can hit your lats or mid back in particular, and that’s just how it is. One of the best ways you can target it though is with single arm rows. You’ll hit your lats hard and develop a significant level of strength from isolating each side, which again is something very rare in back training. Make the most of it!

Shoulder Press

Woman shoulder pressing

Although you'll already be hitting your shoulders with the bench press and the pullover, you haven't hit them on their own as you've only been using them as supporting muscles to hit other muscle groups. The shoulder press is an incredible exercise that again is compound but will really hit your delts hard. There are different ways to shoulder press too, so think about what works for you. You can do it seated, but we’d recommend being stood so that you can engage your core and back for stability and build up muscle in as many places as possible, even though you likely won’t be able to lift as much.

Front Raises

Front raises

Sticking with the deltoid muscles, your anterior deltoids aren’t often hit as much as they should be. This is where front raises come into play. They are another common exercise and for good reason too. Few exercises actually use the anterior deltoids to their full potential, and for generally stronger shoulders, it’s important that you put them through their paces. With a dumbbell in each hand too, you can do single arm or both arms at the same time to really get the best out of them.

Bicep Curl

Close up of a bicep curl

You can’t think of dumbbell exercises and not have the bicep curl come to mind. It’s just not feasible. They are one of the best bicep exercises out there, and they help build up your arms and support you through other more generalised exercises, as long as you nail your form. Your biceps are used a lot more than you may realise in other exercises, so even if you're not looking to build mass, they're important to have at a good strength level.


Woman doing tricep kickbacks

Staying on the arms theme, kickbacks are one of the most effective tricep exercises too. They get more muscle activation than a lot of other tricep exercises and hit all three heads of the triceps at the same time. This is a feat that very few exercises have in their corner. Your triceps are the biggest muscle in your arms by far, so it's well worth them being up to scratch, especially as you move into heavier bench or shoulder presses.

Goblet Squat

Woman doing a goblet squat

Legs don’t often come to mind when you think of dumbbell exercises, but you can work them in. Goblet squats are a great way to hit almost your entire lower body at once, and so are well worth their spot on the list. Your quads and glutes, in particular, will see the benefit of this one, and you may well find the dumbbell to be a lot more comfortable than the more standard barbell squat!


All of these exercises are incredible for what they do, and that is give you the best possible motion range, stability requirement and overall true strength building you can be looking for. Pick the right exercise for the right workout and you'll see your progress growing rapidly.


Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. Exercise.co.uk assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.