Single-arm dumbbell chest press - Photos by Jamie Lusch

Smart workouts with dumbbells

Some women worry that using dumbbells will give them big, bulky muscles.
Pshaw, to use a term that is just as old-fashioned as that notion.
Ladies, do you have any idea how long and hard one has to work to gain the kind of size you’re worried about?
Do not be afraid of using dumbbells in your workouts. They have been around for many years and have outlasted all the fad training gadgets for a reason; they’re reliable and effective.
The biggest benefit is that using dumbbells (or free weights as they are sometimes called) requires you to engage stabilizing muscles to perform each movement, which in turn increases strength, balance and posture. That’s a big advantage over machines that limit and regulate movement. I promise you won’t look like Mr. Olympia after a few good workouts.

Single-arm dumbbell chest press
1. Grip a dumbbell in your left hand and lie on your back on a flat bench.
2. Hold dumbbell over your chest and push your arm straight up. Your palm should be facing out, but turned slightly inward.
3. Place your right hand on your abs. Lower dumbbell to the side of your chest. Pause, then press weight back up. Be sure to tighten your abs and core as you work your upper body. Do 12 to 15 repetitions; repeat on your right side.

Dumbbell row
1. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
2. Bend at your hips, keeping your lower back straight, and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor. Let dumbbells hang at arm’s length from your shoulders, palms facing rear.
3. Pull dumbbells to the sides of your torso, by raising your upper arms, bending your elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades together in a rowing motion. Pause, then slowly lower dumbbells back to starting position. Do 12 to 15 repetitions.

Split-stance dumbbell curl
1. Grip a pair of dumbbells and place one foot in front of you on a bench or step that’s just higher than knee level.
2. Let dumbbells hang at arm’s length next to your sides, palms facing forward. Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl dumbbells toward your shoulders.
3. Pause, squeezing biceps, then slowly lower weights back to starting position. Do 12 to 15 repetitions.
Note: Placing one foot in front of you on a bench forces your hip and core muscles to work harder in order to keep your body stable, which uses more muscles and burns more calories.

1. Hold a pair of dumbbells next to your shoulders and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
2. Keeping your back straight and abs tight, push your hips back, bend your knees and lower your body until tops of your thighs are at least parallel to the floor or lower.
3. Then push yourself back up, but as you do, press dumbbells overhead until your arms are completely straight.
4. Lower dumbbells back to starting position. That’s one repetition. Do 10 to 12 repetitions.

Offset reverse dumbbell lunge (step-backs)
1. Stand holding a dumbbell in your right hand next to your shoulder with your arm bent.
2. With your left foot, step backward into a reverse lunge and lower your body until your back knee almost touches the floor.
3. Push yourself back to starting position and repeat 10 to 12 times. Change sides and repeat. (To make it easier, this may be done without weights, hands on hips.)

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