From helping to manage weight to building strong bones to reducing back pain, resistance workouts can do wonders for your body. If you're an exercise newbie — or a longtime cardio lover who's looking to add strength training into the mix — a new challenge can feel a bit intimidating. Where the heck to begin?
"Sometimes the hardest thing is just getting started," says Geoff Tripp, CSCS, certified personal trainer and head of fitness at Trainiac. But learning the simple, tried-and-true basics can help you build confidence, as well as strength and muscle.
"Dumbbell exercises are a great place to start, since free weights are easy to manage and handle," Tripp says. Plus, with dumbbells, you can easily adjust your load, which gives you limitless options for modifying moves to suit to your needs and fitness level.
Try This 30-Minute Dumbbell Workout
Designed by Tripp, this 30-minute, full-body dumbbell workout incorporates basic strength movements that will help you lay a good foundation as you progress in your resistance training.
Though it's suitable for beginners, this workout is also challenging enough for those who are a bit more advanced. Best part? You can do it at the gym or in your living room, whichever works for you.
Do: 2 sets of the following exercises for 10 to 12 reps each (or time where indicated). Rest for 30 to 60 seconds between each exercise.
Move 1: Dumbbell Lateral Raise
- Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them at your side.
- Raise your arms straight out from your sides until they are in line with your shoulders, elbows slightly bent.
- Slowly lower your arms to starting position.
Read more: 8 of the Best Body-Weight Shoulder Exercises
Move 2: Push-Up
- On the ground, set your hands shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your body straight from head to toe and your core tight as you slowly lower yourself toward the ground, bending your elbows out at a 45-degree angle from your body.
- Don't let your hips sag and press hard off the ground to return to the starting position.
If the move is too challenging, perform it on your knees or with your hands on a chair, box or step instead.
Move 3: Dumbbell Chest Press
- Lie down on a flat bench with your feet firmly planted on the floor.
- With an overhand grip (palms facing your feet), push the dumbbells up so that your arms are directly over your shoulders.
- At the top of the lift, squeeze your chest for a second, then lower the dumbbells slowly until your elbows bend to 90 degrees and the weights are at chest level..
- Press the weight up again.
Move 4: Dumbbell Bent-Over Row
- With a dumbbell in each hand (palms facing your body), bend your knees slightly and lean forward by hinging at the hips.
- Keep your back straight and let your arms hang perpendicular to the floor.
- Lift the dumbbells to your sides, keeping the elbows close to the body while squeezing your shoulder blades and back muscles at the top of the movement.
- Slowly lower the weight back down to the starting position.
Move 5: Side Plank With Leg Lift
- Lie on your side, positioning yourself on your bottom elbow and the side of your foot.
- Lift your hips in the air, forming a straight line from ankles to shoulders, and brace your core.
- Holding your torso stable, raise your top leg without bending your knee or letting your hips sag.
- Repeat for 10 to 12 reps, then switch sides.
If this move is too challenging, drop to your bottom knee and keep the top leg straight to lift it.
Move 6: Dumbbell Goblet Squat
- Grip a dumbbell (holding it vertical) in front of your body and stand slightly wider than hip-width apart.
- Slowly sink your hips back and down as you bend your knees and lower into a squat.
- Keep the weight close to your body as you push through your heels to stand.
Read more: 12 Essential Squat Variations to Try
Move 7: Dumbbell Deadlift
- Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart holding dumbbells by your side.
- Slowly hinge at your hips and bend your knees slightly to lower the weight, keep the dumbbells close to your body.
- Maintain a flat back, moving forward as if you were going to pick something up from the floor until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings.
- Squeeze your hamstrings and glutes and reverse the move, lifting the weight back to starting position.
Move 8: Dumbbell Squat to Press
- Hold dumbbells at shoulder height.
- Sit your hips back and lower into a controlled squat.
- At the bottom of the movement, push through your heels and drive up, pressing the weights overhead as you stand.
Move 9: Prone Plank
- Start by lying on your stomach, hands under your shoulders and feet flexed, toes pressing into the ground.
- Push through your hands and toes as you lift yourself up, so that your arms are fully extended and your body is in a straight line from head to toes.
- Hold for 30 to 60 seconds or as long as you can with proper form.
Move 10: Side Plank
- Lie on your side and place your elbow in line with your shoulder.
- Push through your elbow and feet to lift your hips off the ground.
- Keep your core pulled in and hold for 30 to 60 seconds (or as long as you can with proper form).
- Switch sides and repeat.
Move 11: Dumbbell Biceps Curl
- Lock your elbows into your rib cage and hold a dumbbell in each hand.
- Bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells up, squeezing your biceps at the top.
- Slowly lower your dumbbells in a controlled movement.
Move 12: Dumbbell Triceps Kickback
- Grab a pair of dumbbells (palms facing your body) and hold them at your sides.
- Hinge forward at your hips, keeping your core pulled in and your back straight.
- Bend your arms 90 degrees at the elbows, so your triceps are aligned with your back.
- Lift the dumbbells up and back as you straighten your arms.
- Pause briefly at the top contraction, then lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position.