Men seeking to build strength, neuromuscular coordination and functionality should consider adding dumbbells to their exercise regimen. Dumbbells do more than tone. Because they are not attached to a machine or pulley, they allow for free motion and require more muscular stability to lift, thereby utilizing more muscles than machines. They are small and easy to store, so have a few pairs of different weights and get a complete workout in the comfort of your own home.
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Upper Body Basics
The most basic upper body dumbbell exercises are the shoulder press, chest press, bent over row, biceps curl, overhead triceps extension, triceps kickbacks, lateral raises, frontal raises and reverse flyes. Perform all these exercises during an upper body dumbbell program. For more advanced lifters, try unilateral training. For example, do a shoulder press but start with your weakest side and only lift one dumbbell overhead. Do as many as you can until your shoulder fatigues, then switch arms and repeat for the same number of reps. This type of training is great for activating your core and correcting muscle imbalances.
Lower Body Low-Down
The most basic lower body exercises that target the quads, hamstrings and glutes are the lunge and squat. The University of Rochester Medical Center suggests incorporating dumbbells by holding one in each hand and doing narrow stance squats with the dumbbells on the outsides of your knees. Also try wide-stance squats with the dumbbells in between your knees, stationary lunges, reverse lunges and walking lunges. Isolate the hamstrings with stiff-legged deadlifts by holding the dumbbells in front of your legs, and slowly bending over at the hips, pushing them back and keeping your back straight. Keep the dumbbells as close to your legs as possible. Go as low as you can until you feel a pull in your hamstrings, then squeeze your glutes to stand back up. Also try single leg dumbbell squats, step-ups, side lunges and single-leg deadlifts.
There are a variety of ways in which to split up your dumbbell training routines. If you are new to exercise and want to gain some overall strength and tone, do two or three full body dumbbell routines per week on non-consecutive days. Chose four upper body exercises and four lower body exercises and vary them each session. If you have more time and want to isolate upper and lower body, do two upper body days and two lower body days per week, choosing six to eight exercises per day. To isolate individual muscle groups, Muscle and Strength recommends a three day per week program. Try a pushing program on Monday day, utilizing chest and triceps, then a pulling program on Wednesday, utilizing back and biceps, and finally a leg and shoulder day on Friday.
Programming for Your Goals
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends training each major muscle group two times per week, allowing at least 48 hours between training individual muscles for recovery. If you are new to exercise, start with light weights but increase repetitions to 15 to 20 for two or three sets. For strength and muscle mass gain, use a heavier weight and complete three to four sets of 10 to 12 repetitions. For general health and wellness, do three sets of 15 repetitions of each exercise.