A Top Trainer Shared the 30 Best Dumbbell Exercises for Building Muscle

In the latest video on the Athlean-X channel, the strength coach Jeff Cavaliere breaks down the “best dumbbell exercises of all time” that can be used to increase your gains in each muscle group.


The best way to grow your biceps is to make sure you schedule exercises into your workouts that target every part of the muscle, and Cavaliere lists a number of curl variations that do just that: waiter curls for the upper biceps, alternating curls with dumbbells for the short head, drag curls for the long head, and cross-body hammer curls for the brachialis. He also suggests using dumbbells in a weighted pull-up, which will allow you to load your biceps more than that movement would normally allow.


For Cavaliere, the lying triceps extension is the exercise to develop the triceps, as it stretches the long head of the muscle more than many other triceps movements (the incline powerbomb is also good for this). You can complement this with the dumbbell kickback, which helps the long head reach maximum contraction.

And then the JM press provides an opportunity to add cargo. “When it comes to building bigger triceps without machines or barbells, this will give you the opportunity to use heavier dumbbells and get the overload that will create the size you’re looking for,” says Cavaliere.


Rows are a typical back builder, but Cavaliere isn’t a fan of the standard single-arm incline dumbbell row due to the elevated risk of hernia, substituting it with the tripod row. This keeps both feet on the ground maintaining the mechanics of the exercise. The high pull then targets your upper back muscles, and the pullover stretches your lats, while the weighted pull is great for building size as well as strength in your back.

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One of Cavaliere’s all-time favorite leg exercises is the Bulgarian split squat. “It’s a multidimensional exercise that can be overloaded very successfully with just dumbbells,” he says. He also recommends reverse lunges (which are a good option if you’re struggling with knee pain), Romanian deadlifts, and offset lunges.


“There’s nothing more basic than the dumbbell bench press,” says Cavaliere. “Of course you can increase the intensity through a bunch of escalation techniques, but at its basic level, doing this exercise has to be one of the staples in your arsenal when trying to build a bigger chest.”

While Cavaliere generally avoids recommending flying exercises as he doesn’t recommend doing them without support, he makes an exception for floor flying, which is done from a lying position.


Finally, Cavaliere’s best shoulder-building exercises include the spoon press, which engages the front delts, trap lateral raises that target the middle delts, hip hugs for the lateral and rear delts, and the rear deltoid row. Other options are dumbbell front raises, which hit the front lats without letting the rest of your shoulder muscles do too much work, and the over-and-back, which is a full-press variation that you can load up to pack. in more size.

Philip Ellis is a UK freelance writer and journalist who covers pop culture, relationships and LGBTQ+.

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