Ask Mr. Olympia: The Total-Body Dumbbell Workout

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Q: What are the best dumbbell exercises for each bodypart? I train at home and have only dumbbells, but I still want to get the most possible out of my workouts.

A: First, let me assure you that you can make impressive gains using only dumbbells. A barbell, of course, is the most efficient means by which we increase our strength and overall mass, but dumbbells can get you there just the same.

CHEST
Since these will be the only exercises in your chest workout, do four or five sets for each, with a rep range of eight to 12 on the flat bench and 10-12 on the incline.

Incline dumbbell presses
Bring the weights all the way down, until they touch your deltoids. At the top, bring the dumbbells together and squeeze your pecs hard.

Flat dumbbell presses
Bring the dumbbells down until they touch your upper pecs and, again, bring them together at the top and squeeze.

Incline flyes
Here is where you can get the fullest range of motion for your upper pecs and your deltoid tie-ins by stretching at the bottom and touching the dumbbells together at the top.

Flat flyes
This is the ultimate full-extension motion for your pecs.

DELTOIDS
Do four sets each, with reps of 10-12.

Dumbbell presses
You can do these standing or seated, even both in the same workout, and they're safer than using a barbell.

Lateral raises
Ideal for capping the outer heads.

Front raises
They add mass to the front deltoid caps, but also enlist the rear delts and supraspinatus, thickening your shoulders from front to back.

Bent lateral raises
Do these extra-strict to really isolate the muscles.

Shrugs
The best trap exercise possible, better even than barbell shrugs.

BACK
Do five sets each, 10-12 reps per set.

Bent two-arm rows
Bend over in an upright-row position, grab a dumbbell in each hand and hold them aligned in front and under your upper body. Row both arms together, as if you were using a barbell.

45-degree two-arm rows
Execution is the same as for the preceding exercise, except that your body is slightly more upright and you let the dumbbells hang normally, palms facing your body. This one really works all of those nasty muscles in the upper back.

One-arm rows
You already know this classic. Get a full range of motion.

BICEPS

Alternate curls
Do them standing, hammer style and seated, four sets in each position, 10-12 reps per set.

Concentration curls
Another four sets of 10-12 reps.

TRICEPS

Seated behind-the-neck extensions
Use this position for two different exercises. Use both hands to cup a very heavy dumbbell for four sets of eight to 10 reps, then do one-arm extensions for four sets of eight to 10 reps.

Lying extensions
Here, too, you can use both arms together, with a dumbbell in each hand. Also do the extensions one arm at a time. In either case, four sets of 10-12.

Dumbbell kickbacks
A staple in everyone's triceps routine. Do four sets of 10-12.

LEGS

Squats
Let the dumbbells hang in both hands and squat. The only major difference between dumbbells and a barbell is that dumbbell squats are easier on your back. Do four to eight sets of eight to 10 reps.

Lunges
The only difference here is that a barbell may be easier to balance. Do six sets of 10-12.

Lying leg curls
Lie facedown on a bench, with your knees and lower legs off the end. Hold a dumbbell firmly between your feet, and curl it upward, using hamstring strength. Do eight sets of eight to 10.

Calf raises
Grab something with one hand to stabilize yourself, then hold a dumbbell in the other hand and do one leg at a time, for six sets each, 10-12 reps.

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