Dumbbells are a mainstay in most gyms and people’s homes, and they provide a balanced unilateral isolation routine. Dumbbells are primarily paired with post compound movement workouts to specifically target weak areas and are generally considered as “accessory” type movements.
Many programs incorporate dumbbells as either accessory work or consist a part of a superset regime. However, most gym-goers use dumbbells to perform bicep or triceps work.
The dumbbell has way more uses than that and we will give you the breakdown on the effectiveness of the dumbbell.
Fixing Muscle Imbalance(s)
Since dumbbells are compact enough to be carried, on one hand, it excels in isolation movements. Isolation work is important to fix muscle imbalances, which will prevent future injuries from happening.
An example of muscle imbalance is a sway or lean to one side during a squat. (It is one of the main reasons besides pre injuries and poor technique)
Some Common Isolation Movements
- Dumbbell bench press
- Dumbbell shoulder press
- Dumbbell Flys
- Isolation curls
Muscle imbalances can be hereditary, fortunately, it can be smoothened out from practising isolation movements during your training program.
Dumbbell isolation work can be used as the main exercise during the deloading phase or rehabilitation period. However, it should be used in part with bigger compound movements to maximize muscle and strength growth.
Improves Body Coordination
Doing bar work or constant sports-related movements can lead to weakness in other areas. Dumbbells can reduce poor coordination by focusing on the individual muscle itself to drive the weight up (or down).
Once you have “made” that pathway to “feel” the muscles more individually, you will be able to holster greater command over the muscle group during training.
By doing so, your body can make the mind to muscle connection. In essence, you will be able to “feel” a certain part of your main muscle group that is being trained.
One benefit is that you will be able to tell if your technique is off, perhaps knowing if you’re having a poor day at the gym or even discovering muscle imbalances.
The positive note on this is that during compound movements such as the bench press, you will be able to maximize the muscle motor recruitment of the particular trained muscle and push the weight with the most effective way and with proper technique, instead of just sliding all over the place.
Higher Recruitment of Muscle Stabilizers
Muscle stabilizers are critical in maintaining a healthy musculoskeletal system. They support the bigger muscle groups during heavy compound movements.
Ignoring the stabilizers will put you at risk in contracting lifting related injuries and prevent you from seeing future muscle growth due to the inability to train with greater intensity.
A dumbbell shoulder press is harder to perform than a barbell (with the same amount of weight on each side), as it incorporates more of your stabilizer muscles as compared to a barbell.
By strengthening your stabilizer muscles, you will be able to reduce the chance of having an injury as well as improving your technique and lifting heavier weights for more repetitions. This, in turn, will generate muscle growth.
Dumbbells open more ways for training versatility. Since it is more compact, a lifter can use the dumbbells in many ways to overcome training block and reduce dullness in a training program.
A lifter can also incorporate dumbbells to add weights to dips or pull-ups (Yes you can do that with weight plates too, but you hardly find a 35kg weight plate lying around)
Some common workout modifications with dumbbells.
- Weighted hip extension
- Circus Dumbbell Press
- Goblet squats
- Overhead triceps extension
A slight change in one’s program from time to time allows exposing the muscles to readapt to different forms of muscle breakdown(a good thing) and allow for more growth in the size and strength department.
Exposing Smaller Muscle Groups
There are some muscle groups which are harder to train like the calves, neck and forearms. The dumbbells allow you to specifically target these muscle groups to further encourage growth in those areas.
For the forearms and neck (trapezoids specifically), I’d recommend practising the farmers walk using the heaviest dumbbell you can carry and walk for 20m or a minute or so.
Yes, a deadlift can too, stimulate the forearms and neck muscles to0 but, since the farmers walk is more dynamic, and it has a better “real-life application” purpose as compared to the deadlift.
Yes, the dumbbell is easily stored. There are dumbbells in the market in which it comes as a compact package with adjustable levels of weight. It comes in handy especially in a nationwide lockdown due to a pandemic or even during a rainy day.
Being able to have access to weights is something of a luxury, considering that most people around the world were booted out from gyms due to COVID-19.
There sure seems to be excellent benefits of a dumbbell as compared to other equipment such as the barbell, kettlebell or elastic bands. However, each serves its own needs, and all have their benefits.
I am not downplaying the role of other equipment in the gym. All, if not most of them are equally useful in their ways.
The dumbbell is an important piece of equipment to fix muscle imbalance, improve body coordination, higher recruitment of muscle stabilizers, increase training versatility, exposing smaller muscle groups and it is super convenient to store it anywhere.
Do not forget that the dumbbell is just a slice of the pie. Bar work, stretching, nutrition, rest and recovery all play very important roles to reduce injuries and to grow faster, stronger and bigger.
Student, Strength fanatic, value investor and the guy who Tourettes all too often. I’m just another lad who is happy to share my experiences, opinions and research skills to bring more facts and perspective into the world of fitness.