Best Dumbbell Exercises For Building Muscle & Toning

best dumbbell exercises

Build muscle and tone your physique with a great pair of dumbbells.

Using dumbbells in your routine seems to be a staple now. With so much equipment to use, we often stick to those exercises we know will build muscle and help us tone so we see only the best gains. However, with these quality dumbbells, you will find you can really enhance every muscle with the wide variety of exercises available to you.

Dumbbells are not foreign to us, as they are a staple piece of equipment. But we often neglect to realize that dumbbells can help us tone and shape our physique. By working to counter act muscle imbalances, dumbbells are great for giving us a symmetrical aesthetic and a well-rounded physique, on top of building worthwhile muscle.


As we get into these exercises below, you may disagree with our “best of” list. That’s okay because certain exercises work better for others. If you find you ever want to change up your workouts for better growth and gains, then definitely check out some of these awesome exercises.

Let’s jump into dumbbells and take a look at what exercises really make dumbbells work to our advantage. These exercises are the best for each muscle group and will definitely take your workouts to new heights.

best dumbbell exercises

Benefits Of Dumbbells

The benefits of using dumbbells in your workouts are too hard to ignore. Great for training and for small spaces, dumbbells can be a game changer when it comes to building muscle and toning your physique. As convenient and versatile pieces of equipment, what you will find is something that cannot be replaced easily for what it can do for all your gains.

Benefits of dumbbells include:

  • Perfect for building muscle: Dumbbells are perfect for increasing muscle growth by creating time under tension and adding nice resistance to your workouts. Plus, you can always increase in weight for continued gains (1).
  • Adjust for strength and symmetry: You can work one arm or one leg at a time with dumbbells and this will be perfect when it comes to strength and symmetry for the ideal physique. This helps avoid any muscle imbalances (2).
  • Add variety and versatility to workouts: With dumbbells, you get the best of all worlds as they can be used for a variety of workouts and different exercises to challenge you. If you don’t feel like a barbell or kettlebell, then use dumbbells!

best dumbbell exercises

Best For Each Muscle Group

Let’s take a look at these exercises and explore what we think are the best dumbbell exercises for each muscle group. What you will find is that maybe you have different ones you enjoy best. Let us know and maybe you will change our minds.


  • Quads: Goblet Squat

The goblet squat is the perfect exercise to replace the barbell squat and can improve strength, mobility, and build mind-muscle connection when you do transfer over to the back squat. You will find you can really work your range of motion with this exercise.

  • Biceps: Alternating Bicep Curls

Of course, the alternating bicep curl is a classic exercise and one that has stood the test of time. By working each arm independently you start to build each arm to its respective size while working on symmetry. These are great during your workout, or for an end of the workout punisher to push through fatigue and build real strength.

  • Triceps: Triceps Kickbacks

A great triceps isolation exercise, kickbacks allows you to build strength and size effectively and with ease. Not only does this build muscle and strength, but it also will enhance stability in your shoulders and arms to assist sport specific and functional movements. And you need a great triceps workout to develop that horseshoe-shaped arm.

best dumbbell exercises

  • Chest: DB Bench Press

This exercise gives you a chance to work towards chest growth in a slight variation of the traditional bench press. If anything, this exercise makes it a bit more challenging because you have to balance two dumbbells as opposed to the even feel of one barbell. You won’t lift as much weight, but you will certainly still build muscle.

  • Back: Renegade Rows

Renegade rows work to build upper back and lat size while improving stability. With you in the push-up position working to row each dumbbell from that fixed point, you will find your core will be challenged as well as your lats. It is important to keep your feet planted on the ground and to not rotate your trunk so as to avoid injury and also get the most out of this exercise.

  • Shoulders: Arnold Press

The Arnold press is one of those shoulder exercises that you must know about for it can create those boulder shoulders in no time. What you will find with this exercise is a great movement perfect for developing arm strength and size while working to achieve a nice physique. This exercise is effective, but with the twisting of the dumbbell and the load on your shoulders, stretching and being careful are essential.

  • Hamstrings: Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian deadlift is one to build functional ability while also building up those hamstrings so they perform better overall. A real test of balance and stability, what you will find with this exercise is something to challenge you but also be rewarding in the end. A great way to target muscle imbalance, RDL’s are your one stop shop for hamstring gains.

Check out our list of the Best Dumbbells for more great muscle building and toning products!

Wrap Up

Dumbbells and their ability to boost our workouts are not to big ignored. A necessary piece of equipment in our workouts, what you will find is serious gains can be made to each muscle group. These exercises are the best of each, in our opinion, but let us know if you have a different one. The best part is, what works for one may not work for another, but with so many options out there, we can certainly try to find them all.

Let us know what you think in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

*Images courtesy of Envato


  1. Saeterbakken, A.; Tillaar, R.; Fimland, M. (2011). “A comparison of muscle activity and 1-RM strength of three chest-press exercises with different stability requirements”. (source)
  2. Franettovich, M.; Hides, J.; Mendis, M.; Littleworth, H. (2011). “Muscle imbalance among elite athletes”. (source)
Austin Letorney is a writer, actor, and fitness enthusiast. As a former rower, he has shifted his focus to sharing his knowledge of the fitness world and strength sports with others.