If you want to stay in shape, you've got to adapt. That means figuring out how to get in an effective workout even if you lack access to a full gym. Whether you're at home or on the road, knowing how to work out with minimal equipment is a huge benefit for any athlete. What is one of the most common pieces of exercise equipment? The standard dumbbell, of course. If you have a dumbbell (yep, just one), then you've got all you need to get in a great full-body workout.
We've compiled five awesome single-dumbbell exercises that will let you get your sweat on anywhere, anytime.
Single Dumbbell Exercises
1. Turkish Get-Up
The Turkish Get-Up is a full-body exercise that challenges your endurance, mobility and core strength—all with a single dumbbell. It is a favorite of athletes such as Haloti Ngata and Steve Cishek. Check out the above video to learn how to perfect it.
To perform a Turkish Get-Up:
- Lie on your back, bend your right leg at the knee and keep your left leg straight.
- Hold a dumbbell in your right hand above your chest and leave your left arm on the floor.
- Keeping your eyes on the weight, use your core to prop yourself up to a sitting position and push off the floor with your left elbow.
- Slide your left arm out so you can push off your palm and bridge your hips as high as possible while keeping your eyes on the weight. You should have three points of contact—your left hand and both feet. When you're high enough, pull your left foot underneath and your left hand off the floor so that you're kneeling.
- You should now be in a kneeling position with your left knee on the floor and your right arm held out straight above you. Your eyes should still be focused on the weight.
- From there, push yourself off your front and back feet to rise up to a standing position. Think of it like doing a Split-Squat.
- Follow the movements in reverse to return to the starting position.
- Sets/Reps: 3x6 each side.
2. Goblet Squat
The Goblet Squat is a lower-body exercise. One of its biggest benefits is that it's great practice for proper Back Squat form. The Goblet Squat is a simple movement that requires only a single dumbbell, but don't discount its benefits. Watch the video playlist above for a demonstration from strength and conditioning coach Mike Boyle.
To perform a Goblet Squat:
- Hold the top of the dumbbell with both hands in an underhand grip. Your wrists should be facing each other. It should look like you're holding a big goblet, hence the name. The top of the dumbbell should be touching your sternum and the bottom of the dumbbell should be touching your stomach.
- Slowly lower yourself into a squat, keeping your knees behind your toes and your butt back. Your weight should be mainly on your heels.
- Keep your chest up and your shoulders back, ensuring that the dumbbell is still touching your sternum and your stomach.
- At the bottom of the movement, your thighs should be parallel to the floor (or past parallel), and your elbows should be barely touching the insides of your thighs.
- Drive up through your heels, keeping your knees out, your chest up and your butt back.
- Sets/Reps: 3x10.
3. Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows are great for ensuring that both sides of your body are being trained equally. They're simple yet effective, which is why programs like Georgia Tech Basketball and Oklahoma Wrestling incorporate them into their training. They can be done both freestanding and with the support of a bench. The freestanding option is a bit more difficult, so we'll cover the latter option. Check out the video above to learn how to correctly perform Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows.
To perform a Single-Arm Dumbbell Row:
- Assume a slight squat position and place one hand on a bench.
- Hold the dumbbell in your other hand with a neutral grip and keep your arm straight. Your back should be arched slightly up and your knees should be out.
- Pull the dumbbell toward you, keeping your arm close to your side. Maintain a neutral grip. Keep your knees out and your back arched slightly up throughout the movement.
- Once the dumbbell is just below your chest, slowly lower it to return to the starting position. Alternate arms between sets.
- Sets/Reps: 3x8 each arm.
4. Concentration Curl
The Concentration Curl is a powerful exercise that requires just a single dumbbell. They are effective because they isolate the biceps and really force you to practice good form. Perform a few sets of slow, controlled Concentration Curls and you'll have a great arm pump going.
To perform a Concentration Curl:
- Sit on a chair or bench with your knees wide and the elbow of one arm firmly on the inside of your thigh.
- Hold the dumbbell with an underhand grip and lean slightly forward.
- Keeping your elbow against your thigh, curl the dumbbell up. To keep your wrist in the correct position, focus on keeping your pinky turned out throughout the movement. Here's an example of good form.
- Maintain a slight forward lean throughout the movement.
- Sets/Reps: 3x10 each arm.
5. Single-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press
The Single-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press works your chest muscles like a traditional Bench Press, but it adds a core-stabilizing component. It also addresses any muscle imbalances you might have in your upper body and chest, because it forces both sides of your body to do equal work.
To perform a Single-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press:
- Lie on a bench with your feet flat on the floor.
- Hold one dumbbell straight out in front of you, and place your other hand against your waist.
- Lower the dumbbell slowly while keeping your core and upper body stable. Use the hand on your waist to prevent yourself from twisting or turning.
- Once the dumbbell reaches chest level, push it back up to the starting position, continuing to keep your body stationary and stable. Alternate arms between sets.
- Sets/Reps: 3x10 on each arm.
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