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Dumbbell Exercises

written by: Nicky LaMarco • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 6/27/2011

Dumbbell exercises can be easy, inexpensive, and safe. Instead of requiring large pieces of expensive equipment, all you need is a good set of dumbbells.

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    Tips for Beginners

    Dumbbell Exercises Just as with any exercise program, safety is of the utmost importance when using dumbbells. Before you start exercising with the weights, allow yourself five to ten minutes to warm up with some good aerobic exercises. Then, perform some stretches to get your muscles ready.

    If you are just starting out with dumbbell exercises, be sure to use only the lighter weights. Then, gradually work your way up to the heavier weights as you progress in your training. You should also have another person present, known as a "spotter," especially when using heavier weights. Also, never let a dumbbell drop to the floor, as the sudden release of tension in your muscles could cause them to tear.

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    Chest Exercises with Dumbbells

    Dumbbell exercises can be quite effective when developing the chest muscles. If you want to work the triceps, pectorals and the front of the shoulder, the flat dumbbell press is a good exercise. Begin by lying flat on a bench, holding the weights above your chest. Extend your arms, and face your palms towards your feet.

    Keeping the weight under control at all times, lower the weights to chest level. Then, using a smooth motion, raise the dumbbells back to the starting position. Don't lock your elbows, as this could cause joint injuries. Perform the desired number of repetitions.

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    Dumbbell Exercises for the Back

    Although dead lifts are often considered to be one of the most popular dumbbell exercises, it's not always the best choice for beginners and those who have a history of back problems. Instead, try the single arm row. Start by standing with your leg next to the bench. Then, bend the left leg, allowing it to rest on the bench. Bend forward, supporting yourself with your left hand on the bench until your upper body is parallel to the ground. Holding the weight in your right hand, lower it until it almost touches the floor, keeping your palm towards the bench. Keep your elbow tucked close to your side then raise the weight to your midsection. Hold for a second, then slowly lower the weight back to the starting position, making sure to keep the weight under control the entire time.

    Perform the desired number of repetitions, then switch positions so that you can exercise the other arm.

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    Exercises for the Biceps and Triceps

    Hammer curls can be very effective for building the biceps. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand upright with them at your sides. Make sure your palms are facing towards your body. While keeping your elbows locked at your sides, curl the weights up slowly, without moving your shoulders.

    As a variation, you can perform this exercise one arm at a time. For the triceps, try the overhead triceps extension. Stand with your feet at shoulder width apart, holding a dumbbell with your right hand. Fully extend your right arm so that the weight is held above your head. Then, use your left hand to hold your right elbow, with your left forearm in front of your face. Let your right elbow slowly fold, lowering the weight behind your head. Hold for a second, then extend your arm back into the upright position. Perform the desired number of repetitions then switch arms.