When I started working out in earnest, a few years ago, all I had were a pair of dumbbells and a yoga mat. Now, at the time, I wasn’t following any hardcore scientific analysis as to why just a pair of dumbbells might be enough. All I knew was that I hated gyms and that I never wanted to go to one.
I also knew that I loved looking and feeling strong, healthy, fit. So I bought a yoga mat, borrowed a friend’s dumbbells, and got to work figuring out a routine for myself. As time has gone by, I’ve made some changes to that policy. I now have two sets of dumbbells—a heavier set and a lighter set— and a pair of resistance bands, again a heavier set and a lighter set.
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My workout week is fairly simple: a day each for chest, back, arms and shoulders and legs, a day for cardio and one rest day. Every few weeks I take an active rest week away from weights. That week I mostly do two to three days of full body work with resistance bands and a day working on my core. Suits me fine.
So why do you only need a pair of dumbbells? Well, for starters, you can achieve serious mass and strength by training with dumbbells. When it comes to achieving these, what you’re looking for is hypertrophy, that is, the increase in muscle cells through exercise. And a dumbbells are perfect for this.
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Since dumbbells aren’t fixed to anything, you have to put in the work to stabilise them, to ensure that your form is right and that you’re putting in the right amount of effort. When you do this right, you end up activating more muscle fibres in your body. Another great advantage, I’ve come to realise, is that dumbbells allow you to work on your muscle imbalances. If one side of your body, or one arm or one leg is weaker than the other, then you can use dumbbells to fix it.
You can also increase or decrease the intensity of your workouts easier with a pair of dumbbells. If you have a heavier and a lighter set, then it’s easier to work through fatigue to gain more hypertrophy. Say you're performing a bench press. Simply put down your heavier weights when you feel you’ve reached your limits, and immediately do a few more reps with a set of lighter weights. Now you’re talking fatigue!
With this in mind, I’m listing some excellent dumbbell workouts here which you should definitely make a part of your workout routine.
You already would know that dumbbells are great for training your arms and shoulders, but did you know that they’re great for training your legs and glutes as well? Check this workout from Chris Heria for a kickass routine.
Another area of the body that often ends up getting neglected is your back. Here’s an excellent dumbbells-only workout from Athlean-X to fix that!
Finally if you, like me, have two pairs of dumbbells, then here’s an excellent full body HIIT workout from the Body Coach. Have fun!