Exercising with dumbbells can amp up your strength once you've mastered the basics of body-weight exercises. Depending on your fitness level and goals, adding 10-pound weights can make your at-home workouts more efficient and effective (though your ideal dumbbell weight may differ).
"The key is to use an amount of weight that allows you to perform the exercise with proper technique, postural stability and joint mobility while fatiguing the target muscle groups within a specific number of repetitions," says Chris Gagliardi, scientific education content manager for the American Council on Exercise.
Gagliardi put together a list of nine different exercises you can do using 10-pound dumbbells targeting various areas of the body, including lower and upper legs, hips, core, arms, chest and back. For each of the exercises, perform 1 to 4 sets of 8 to 15 reps.
Make sure you can do each exercise with good form without a weight before adding dumbbells. Adjust the weight of your dumbbells if you can't maintain good posture or form throughout a full set.
1. Renegade Row
- Begin in a high plank plank with one dumbbell in each hand.
- Bend your elbows to lower your chest down toward the dumbbells. Keep your body straight and flat.
- Press down into the dumbbells to straighten your arms back to a high plank.
- At the top of the push-up, press your feet into the ground and pull your right hand up to bring weight up to your chest. Keep your elbow close to the rib cage. Slowly lower the weight to the floor before rowing the left hand up toward your chest.
- After doing a row with each arm, slowly lower your body to the floor for the next push-up.
2. Squat to Overhead Press
- Begin standing with one dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other. Bend your arms at the elbow, bringing the weights in front of each shoulder, keeping your elbows close to the body.
- Keeping the weights on the front of your shoulders, push back into your hips and keep your back straight as you lower into a squat.
- When your hips are below your knees in the squat, push both legs into the ground to stand up. At the same time straighten your arms and press the dumbbells directly overhead.
- Slowly return the weights to the shoulders and repeat.
Combining a squat with an overhead press engages your whole body from your shoulders all the way down to your feet.
3. Single-Leg Deadlift
- Stand and balance on your left leg, holding a dumbbell in your right hand.
- Keep your left knee slightly bent, back straight, as you tilt forward on your left hip. Your left hip will act as a fulcrum as you keep your right leg in a straight line with your body from head to toe. As you bend forward, leading with your head and keeping your back straight, your right leg will lift backward.
- Keep your right arm holding the dumbbell straight. As your body bends forward, the dumbbell in your right arm will lower toward the floor directly in front of your standing leg.
- Press your left foot into the floor and lower your right leg to the ground as you raise your body up to standing.
- Pause in a balanced position before performing the next repetition. Complete one full set on one side before switching sides.
This exercise targets the back, butt and hips, and can be incorporated into any workout. Be sure to perform the same number of repetitions on each side.
4. Reverse Lunge With Rotation
- Stand with feet hip-width apart. Hold a single dumbbell with both hands in a vertical position directly in front of your chest. Keep your elbows close to the rib cage and your back straight.
- Step back with your left foot, lowering your left knee almost to the ground.
- At the bottom of the movement, keep the back tall and twist the dumbbell over your right leg.
- Turn back to center, press your right foot into the ground, and step your left leg forward to return to the original starting position.
- Repeat on the other side.
Adding a twist to a standard lunge engages your abdominal obliques as well as your thighs and hips. Make sure you do the same number of reps on each side.
5. Transverse Lunge
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart with one dumbbell in each hand. Keep your palms facing each other and your arms straight down by your sides.
- Keep your left foot pointed straight ahead while stepping diagonally back and to the right with your right foot. Twist to the rear, following your foot with your body as if you were about to walk in that direction. When your foot lands on the ground, bend your knee up to but not beyond a 90-degree angle.
- Push off the ground with your right foot to pull your body and foot back to center.
- Repeat for a full set before switching sides.
This exercise targets the glutes and hips by stepping a lunge out to the side instead of to the front or back.
To be sure you're stepping far enough in this exercise, imagine you're standing inside a compass rose with your feet facing North. When stepping to the right, step back to where it would say "South-East." On the right side, you'll be stepping back to "South-West."
6. Triceps Kickback
- Hold a dumbbell in your left hand. Step your right leg forward, keeping your weight evenly distributed through the heels of both feet. Contract your abdominal and core muscles. Place your right hand on your right thigh and lean forward, transferring most of your upper extremity body weight into that right side. Your head should be aligned with your spine.
- Pull your left shoulder down and back and maintain this position throughout the exercise. Squeeze your upper left arm close to your body, bending your elbow to 90 degrees. This is the starting position.
- Exhale and slowly straighten your left elbow by contracting your triceps muscles until your elbow is fully extended. Your upper arm should remain stationary next to your torso and not raised during the movement.
- Inhale and bend your elbow to return the weight to starting position while keeping the rest of your body in position.
- Complete a full set on one side before switching sides.
Triceps are a small but necessary focus to add to any arm or full-body workout. The 10-pound dumbbell lends itself well to this exercise.
Isolate your triceps throughout this exercise, keeping your body still and engaged as you perform the exercise. Move slowly and mindfully to ensure proper form, maximize effectiveness and avoid injury.
7. Hammer Curl
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lightly grip one 10-pound weight in each hand. Keep your arms at your sides, with your hands facing each other.
- Bend both elbows in unison until the dumbbell nears the front of your shoulder. Your wrists should remain neutral without any bend or strain. Be sure to keep your shoulders low and back.
- Inhale and gently lower the dumbbells back to your starting position until the elbows are fully extended, keeping the dumbbells in the neutral position.
Work your biceps, forearms and stabilizer muscles with this variation on the standard biceps curl. While a biceps curl is performed with the hands facing forward, the hammer curl has the hands facing each other and mimics the motion of a hammer.
If raising both weights simultaneously poses a strain, alternate arms, keeping one arm in the starting position as you raise the other.
8. Squat to Overhead Raise
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold one dumbbell lengthwise in both hands so that each hand is holding a weighted end.
- With your arms straight down, slowly bend at the hips and keep the back straight while lowering into a squat, keeping the weight between both legs.
- At the bottom of the squat, push both feet into the ground to return to standing.
- Keeping the arms straight with a controlled movement, swing the weight straight in front of the body to finish with it over the head.
- Lower the dumbbell back down in front of the body to return to the starting position.
This full-body contraction and extension is a fun burst of energy and motion that targets shoulders, upper and lower back, abdominal muscles and legs.
9. Diagonal Raise
- Begin standing with feet shoulder-width apart, holding one dumbbell in the left hand with the left arm down straight and the left palm resting in front of the right thigh.
- Keeping your arm straight, raise your left arm across your body and out to the left side, bringing the weight up to shoulder-height.
- Return the weight to starting position on the right thigh.
- Complete a full set before switching sides.
This intermediate-level shoulder exercise can be challenging with a ten-pound dumbbell for beginners. Master the exercise with controlled, pain-free movements at lower weights first. It is performed with one dumbbell, one arm at a time, switching arms between sets.