Dumbbell exercises are an excellent way to lose fat, including on your stomach. While you can't spot train away abdominal fat, losing weight all over your body will also help you lose weight on your tummy. Building muscle and performing dumbbell circuits are highly effective for fat burning.
Aside from essential health habits such as getting the right amount of sleep, eating a healthy balanced diet and limiting stress, exercise is a top contributor in the fight against obesity.
Read more: How to Lose Weight on the Torso
The Causes of Stomach Fat
Abdominal obesity can be caused by many factors, some of which are unknown to science. A March 2015 article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says that anything from endocrine disruptors, which are hormone-mimicking chemicals in our food, drugs and water, to daily stress, can contribute to abdominal obesity. And of course, eating more than you burn off and remaining sedentary contribute to an increase in belly fat and weight gain all over your body.
Genetics also plays a role in the amount of stomach fat that you have. Where you tend to carry excess fat and how that fat subsequently comes off as you lose weight can depend highly on your genetics.
No matter the cause, having too much stomach fat can be unhealthy and dangerous. Harvard Health Publishing says that having an excess of subcutaneous and visceral fat contributes to many health problems. Visceral fat creates a protein that triggers inflammation, which in turn creates an increased risk of illnesses such as heart disease.
Subcutaneous fat is a less risky type of fat that can even help in the fight against diabetes due to its role in the production of a hormone called adiponectin, which helps regulate the processing of sugars and fats, creating an anti-inflammatory effect.
Even so, having too much of a good thing is unhealthy, and a 35-inch waist or over if you are female and 40 inches or over waist size for men correlates to a higher risk of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, dementia, cardiovascular disease and asthma.
Exercising for Fat Loss
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that physical activity helps provide a substantial boost to your health aside from weight loss. Exercising is essential for your fat loss success due to its contribution to a caloric deficit, which is something that you need to lose weight.
A caloric deficit means that you are burning off more calories than you are consuming. You can do this by both lowering your usual calorie consumption and by burning off those calories through dumbbell workouts and other exercises.
The research on optimal exercise for fighting fat indicates that combining aerobic and resistance training is the best strategy, as seen in a meta-analysis published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine in December 2016.
The analysis examined factors such as body mass, fat mass, lean body mass increase and more, comparing aerobic exercise alone to a combination of both aerobic and resistance training. The researchers discovered that a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise improved body composition, reduced inflammation and advanced metabolic profiles of the study participants.
Dumbbell Workouts For Fat Loss
Dumbbell workouts can help you to build muscle and burn a substantial amount of calories if you train effectively. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends whole-body movements at high intensities to promote the greatest level of calorie burn for fat loss. A process called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) is a bonus booster to your fat loss efforts after dumbbell workouts.
This EPOC effect helps to elevate your level of calorie burn for many hours post-workout. So, not only will you burn a lot of calories during your dumbbell exercises, but you will also continue to burn calories at a higher rate afterward due to your body's attempt to return to a resting state.
As your body tries to rebalance hormones and replenish fuel stores as well as repair cells and build muscle, it will use up calories at a higher rate than it would otherwise, adding to your daily calorie burn.
Dumbbell workouts used in a circuit training high-intensity method will provide this desired effect. ACE says that you should be at a more advanced stage in your fitness journey to perform high-intensity strenuous movements. If you are a beginner, make sure that you're listening to your body and not performing any dumbbell exercises that cause pain or seem too difficult for you.
Create Effective Circuit Dumbbell Workouts
To create effective circuit dumbbell workouts, you'll need to get your timing right. An anaerobic high-intensity interval-style workout is typically done with 15 to 45 seconds of work followed by 30 to 120 seconds of rest or active recovery time, says ACE. This creates a work to rest ratio of 1:2-3 that's effective for EPOC metabolic conditioning.
When creating your dumbbell workouts, choose around four to eight exercises. These workouts should be reasonably short due to their intensity — 15 to 20 minutes of high-intensity is all you need. Be sure to add five to 10 minutes to warm up and five to 10 minutes to cool down after your workout. You can choose how many rounds you'll do based on how much time you have or want to spend working out.
For example, a 30-minute workout could consist of a five to 10 minute warm-up, followed by high-intensity dumbbell exercises completed using a 1:3 work to rest ratio (15 seconds of work and 45 seconds of rest). Running through five separate dumbbell exercises in a circuit four times over, with a one-minute recovery time interspersed between circuit rounds and a five to 10 minute cool down, you'll have yourself a highly effective 30-minute fat burning dumbbell workout.
To gauge your intensity, use a rating of perceived exertion scale. A seven to eight level of exertion will give you a challenging anaerobic work interval. Your rest intervals could be as simple as pacing back and forth, allowing your rate to slow down somewhat before entering another high-intensity interval. Use the following scale provided by the Cleveland Clinic.
- 0 – No effort
- 1 – Very easy
- 2 – Somewhat easy
- 3 – Moderate effort
- 4 – Slightly hard
- 5 – Hard
- 7 – Very hard
- 10 – Very, very hard
Dumbbell Exercises for Fat Loss
The following dumbbell exercises are excellent choices for a high-intensity fat loss circuit that will burn a lot of calories and cause the desired EPOC effect. These are more advanced, full body moves that may be difficult for a beginner. Practice without dumbbells until you get more comfortable and have perfect form.
Never sacrifice form for speed or increased repetitions and never push past pain. Remember to rest after your work interval is finished and take a slightly longer rest as needed between circuit rounds. Aim for two to four rounds of the circuit.
Read more: What Size Dumbbells Should I Use?
Move 1: Dumbbell Thruster
- Stand with feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Hold a pair of dumbbells at shoulder height, one in each hand with palms facing inwards. Your elbows should point slightly forward.
- Brace your core and hinge your hips backward, bending your knees into a squat, with thighs parallel to the floor (or as far as your mobility will allow). Your knees should track over your toes and not collapse inwards.
- Raise back up by extending your knees and hips with power. Near the top of the movement, press the dumbbells upward, extending your arms overhead.
- Lower the dumbbells back down to shoulder height as you descend into another squat to continue the repetitions. Repeat repetitions quickly in succession during your work period.
Move 2: Dumbbell Step-Up
- Stand facing a bench holding dumbbells by your sides.
- Step your right foot onto the bench and step up, extending your knee and bringing your left foot onto the bench. Keep your back straight and your torso upright, tracking your knee over your in the direction of your foot, not collapsing inward.
- Reverse the movement to step back down. Repeat leading with your left foot.
- Continue stepping until your work interval is finished.
Move 3: Dumbbell Walking Lunge
- Standing with dumbbells at your sides, step your right leg forward, landing with control. Flex at the knee and hip to lunge forward until your left knee is almost touching the ground.
- Press up to stand on your right leg and then step forward with your left leg this time.
- Continue to alternate legs until your work interval is up.
Move 4: Renegade Row
- Place dumbbells on the floor and get onto your knees. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand, in line with your shoulders. Extend your legs out behind you in a plank position.
- Bend your elbows into a push-up with your chest down to the dumbbells. Keep your body in a straight line with no back sag or hip drop and push back up to the top by extending your arms.
- At the top, press into your feet as you lift one arm into a dumbbell row by lifting the weight to your chest, keeping your elbow tight to your side. Lower the weight to the floor and row the weight on the other side.
- After rowing both sides, drop back down into a push-up and repeat the movement.
- Continue until your work interval is up.
Move 5: Farmer's Carry
- With a solid grip, hold a heavy dumbbell by your sides in each hand, palms facing down. The weight should be hanging down by your hips.
- Maintain a straight back while you walk forward carrying the weight. It should be heavy enough to feel challenging. Keep your core tight.
- Continue to walk, turning around, and coming back if necessary, until your work interval is up.
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Are the Recent Secular Increases in the Waist Circumference of Adults Independent of Changes in BMI?"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Taking Aim at Belly Fat"
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: "Assessing Your Weight and Health Risk"
- CDC: "Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight"
- British Journal of Sports Medicine: "Concurrent aerobic plus resistance exercise versus aerobic exercise alone to improve health outcomes in paediatric obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis"
- ACE: "4 Effective Exercises for Fat Loss"
- ACE: "How to Create an Effective Circuit Workout"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Rated Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale"
- Exrx.net: "Dumbbell Thruster"
- Exrx.net: "Dumbbell Step-up"
- Exrx.net: "Dumbbell Walking Lunge"
- ACE: "Renegade Row"
- ACE: "Farmer's Carry"