Ask Scott: Six exercises with dumbbells
Top fitness coach Scott Pearson answers your health and fitness questions.
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
As its name suggests the dumbbell shoulder press works the shoulders! It can be done sitting or standing and the position of your hands can be altered for variation.
For the standard shoulder press begin with the dumbbells at your shoulders with the inside of the dumbbell touching the outside of your shoulder, your palms should be facing away from your body. Make sure your pelvis is in a neutral position (this is important whether you are standing or sitting). From this position press the dumbbells overhead until your arms are straight; the dumbbells should touch together at the top of the movement. It is important that you maintain the neutral pelvis throughout the movement, you will want to lean backwards to recruit the larger muscles of the chest when it gets difficult.
Try to resist this and focus on using the shoulders only. Lower the dumbbells all the way down to the starting position and repeat. For a video click here.
Every man knows the bicep curl! Like all of these exercises it has many variations for a different focus and differing levels of intensity. Again it can be done standing or sitting.
For my basic bicep curl start with by holding the dumbbells by your side, with your palms facing your thighs. From here bend your elbows so that you raise the weight up to your chest. Twist your palms gradually throughout the movement so that at the top your palms face your chest. Start the movement from your hip, don't swing the dumbbells back first to gain momentum.
During the movement don't lean back and don't allow your elbows to go behind your body. Lower back to the starting position (you should have straight arms) and repeat. For a video click here.
Like the dumbbell shoulder press, the lateral raise is predominantly a shoulder exercise. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, holding a pair of dumbbells, so that the rear disc rests against the front of your thighs. From this position raise the dumbbells directly to the side (making sure that you keep your elbows athletically straight) until they reach shoulder height. Lower to the starting position and repeat. For a video click here.
Hold the dumbbells by your sides as if you were about to start a lateral raise or bicep curl (above). From this position 'step' forward, ensuring that you keep your feet hip width apart. As your foot lands lower your hips and shoulders directly down until the knee on your back leg nearly touches the ground. In one motion step back up to the starting position and repeat the movement for the other leg.
During the movement make sure that your shoulders are over your hips (i.e. don't lean forwards or back) and that your front knee doesn't travel further forward than your front foot.
This exercise works the middle of the chest and the front of the shoulder; the incline and hand position can be altered to target different parts of the chest and more of the bicep if you wish.
Begin by lying flat on a bench with the dumbbells held at arm's length above your chest, your palms should be facing each other. From this position lower the dumbbells sideways with your arms athletically straight (a slight bend in your elbows) until they are at the same height as your chest. Keeping your arms straight raise the dumbbells back to the starting position and repeat. For a video click here.
This is definitely more my kind of exercise as it incorporates most of the muscles of the body. This exercise sounds and looks simple but it is actually quite tough to coordinate the body correctly; take time to practice to avoid injury. Begin by holding one dumbbell in the middle with both hands, as if you were holding an axe or something similar. When standing upright the dumbbell will be in front of your waist. From here take a few swings to give the dumbbell some momentum. After a couple of light swings you should start the exercise.
As the dumbbell is lowered bend your legs, making sure you keep your back straight and chest up (as if you were squatting), your arms should be between your legs and the dumbbell should be between knee and ankle height. Vigorously stand up, while at the same time driving your hips and arms forward (don't bend your elbows); this should cause the dumbbell to swing up and away from your body. Pull with your shoulders to continue the movement until the dumbbell is overhead (your biceps should be touching your ears). From here allow the dumbbell to fall back down (remember not to bend your elbows) until it reaches roughly shoulder height. Move with the dumbbell and bend your legs (keeping your back straight, etc as before). Repeat.
SAFETY NOTE. As the dumbbell is lowering NEVER keep your legs straight — always bend them and use the dumbbell's momentum to aid your exercise. If you keep your back straight you will pivot from your hips placing large stresses on your lower back! For a video click here.
Page created on February 2nd, 2009
Page updated on January 18th, 2010