This is an exciting topic in my opinion. The reason is the best piece of exercise equipment out there is a dumbbell, as long as it’s used correctly.

Dumbbells always provide an efficient, simple way to add resistance in a quality way. Now that being said, I’ve seen more than my share of people using them incorrectly.

General “Do’s” and “Don’ts” in dumbbell training

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DO

Use only a weight which can be properly moved with adequate control. We’ve all seen the classic biceps curl where someone is “swinging” or “throwing” the weight back and forth.

If they would only reduce the weight, then “squeeze” it through the range of motion, they would more safely load the muscle properly….and their results would actually be better than that careless tossing about.

If you ever feel that you’re recruiting other muscles to help move a dumbbell…you’re using one that is too heavy. Try stepping down, then squeezing through the movement(s).

Use a full range of motion whenever possible during your dumbbell training. If you can’t completely finish the movement, you again probably have too much weight.

Try to keep the dumbbell “balanced”. Whether you are holding it horizontal or vertical, keep it from tipping or twisting. This will maintain safety across the wrists.

Maintain steady posture. Remember, dumbbells can get heavy enough that your entire body can get moved or pushed around while your (lever) arms are moving through their range of motion. Maintaining this body control is part of the stability requirement that makes dumbbell training effective in the first place.

dumbbell training-02

DON’T

Don’t throw” the weight around. Once again, it is the care and control that elicits the demand(s) on not only the targeted muscle(s) but also on the stabilizing muscles as well.

Oh, and don’t bang them together either. There have been lots of injured knuckles resulting from throwing weight around!

Don’t allow them to freefall. As we know, there is always contraction or “concentric” phase where muscles are contracting/shortening. Upon the opposing lengthening or “eccentric” phase, control the dumbbell…..don’t let it just “drop”.

General recommendations on dumbbell training

Bench Press

For the bench press, keep your forearms completely vertical. The dumbbell is extra weight at the end of the lever arm (your arm), so it can try to pull you off-center. Do not allow your forearms to tip forward or back…dangerous on your shoulders! Also, try not to let them fall outward or inward. Outward extends the lever arm therefore increases the torque at the shoulder. Inward reduces the lever arm lowering the resistance. You want to maintain control over this so that you know exactly what resistance you are working with.

Shoulder Press

Same as above, but now it is even more important! As you hold a weight overhead, you do not want it to tip out of control. The shoulder consists of two layers of muscle. The outer deltoid area is the strong power but the inner rotator cuff area holds the shoulder “joint” together. Rotator cuff muscles are at unnecessary risk when the arm tips forward or back during this movement.

Lateral Raises

Here’s one where people tend to just use too much weight. Stand fully upright with arms hanging down, elbows locked. Do not think “Up” rather think “Out.”

With locked arms holding light dumbbells, try to simply push them straight out to the sides. Again, do not try to “lift” them up, just push them sideways (the shoulder joint will of course make the arms swing upward but use this mind trick…it keeps the shoulder seated during the movement.

Perfect form includes tipping the front dumbbell head very slightly forward. This is kind of a “thumbs down” effort but it is very, very slight. Too much tip is known as an “empty can” position and can be dangerous.

What you’re trying to avoid is allowing the thumbs to point upward. This effort keeps the target stress on the medial and rear heads of the deltoid area.

Finally, when you allow your arms to return down to the “start” position, stop short leaving the dumbbells out a few inches away from the hips. This will keep the stress on the deltoid area a bit more.

One final suggestion

When performing dumbbell training movements in the shoulder press, lateral raises, and biceps curls, try using both arms simultaneously. We’ve seen people doing alternating biceps curls for example…rocking back and forth from left arm to right arm to left arm to right arm.

I’ve noticed that doing these movements on one side, then alternating back and forth causes the body to shift slightly. This changes posture and angles. Using both arms simultaneously keeps the body more stable and balanced.

These are sensible rules to follow, yet some people simply don’t realize they are not following them. Pay attention to these rules and you will enjoy better exercise effect and your body’s joints and connective tissues will be more safely protected.

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