Whether your objective is general health and fitness, developing muscle mass, endurance or enhanced athletic performance, resistance training with dumbbells can help you achieve it. Everyone desires to experience the most significant improvements in the quickest time, and research shows that the most efficient method of strength training is with free weights.

In comparison to a traditional exercise machine, free weights supply the greatest stimulus to your muscular systems. Unlike health club machines, where targeted muscles are isolated, exercising with free weights compels your body to employ stabilizing muscles. The end result is more swift developments in strength than can be attained by applying any other means. And the most straightforward and effective technique for strength training with free weights is a work out routine including dumbbells.

You can perform a complete workout with dumbbells alone and they’re compact and easily moved around your exercise space. They can be easily stored, so you can work out at home and not have to dedicate a whole room to exercise equipment. This is especially true with adjustable dumbbells – and they're so versatile you can target nearly every part of your body with them. Most importantly, they're highly effective.

Below is a total upper body workout. All you’ll need is a pair of dumbbells and a workout bench. The exercises target all the major muscle groups in your upper body: the chest, shoulders, back, traps, biceps and triceps. For general health and fitness, toning, firming and endurance training, lift lighter weights and use higher repetitions. For developing muscle mass and real world power, use heavy weights and just a few repetitions. Either way, perform the exercises the same way to get a complete and effective upper body workout.

Chest Exercises

Flat Chest Press
1. Lying flat on the bench, hold the dumbbells directly above chest with arms extended
2. Lower weights to the chest in a slow, controlled motion
3. Slowly push dumbbells back up to starting position
4. Do as many reps as you can until muscle failure
Notes: Avoid locking your elbows

Flat Chest Flies
1. Lying flat on bench, hold dumbbells directly above your chest with palms facing each other
2. As you lower the weights, bend elbows slightly, maintaining throughout the exercise
3. Open arms to sides - elbows remaining locked and slightly flexed
4. Feel a stretch in the pectorals
5. When upper arms are parallel to the floor, return the weights to the starting position
Notes: Keep your feet flat on the floor and your back flat on the bench. Use a 3 count on the way down, pause, and a 3 count back up to the starting position

Shoulder Exercises

Seated Shoulder Presses
1. Sit upright on bench or use an adjustable incline bench set to just under 90 degrees
2. Make sure back is straight and flat 3. Start with dumbbells over your head with palms facing forward
3. Slowly lower dumbbells to shoulders 5. When arms are at 90 degrees, press the dumbbells back up
Notes: Don't crack the dumbbells together and don't lock your elbows out. This exercise develops the entire shoulder muscle group and is also useful for shoulder injuries. There is a tendency to lean back while performing this exercise - don't - this reduces its effectiveness as well as placing strain on the lower back.

Lateral Raises
1. Stand upright, knees slightly bent, shoulder width apart, holding dumbbells in front of thighs
2. Raise upper arms to sides until elbows are shoulder height
3. When arms are parallel to floor, slowly lower and repeat
Notes: Maintain elbows' height above or equal to wrists and keep elbows slightly bent throughout. If elbows drop lower than wrists, front deltoids become primary mover instead of lateral deltoids.

Front Raises
1. Stand upright, knees slightly bent, feet shoulder width apart, palms towards thighs
2. Raise one dumbbell directly in front of you to eye level with only a slight bend in the elbow - keep your body still so the anterior deltoid is fully engaged
3. When arm is parallel to ground lower dumbbell slowly back
4. Repeat with the other arm. Notes: Keep a slight bend in the elbow when lifting
Notes: Great exercise for those with shoulder injuries, particularly rotator cuff injuries

Back Dumbbell Exercise

Single Arm Row
1. Stand upright next to bench. Place one knee up on the bench for support and the other on the floor and one arm locked out on the bench. Upper body should be parallel to floor
2. Reach down and pick up a dumbbell with your free hand
3. Without cheating, lift the dumbbell as slowly as you can, keeping your stomach tight
4. Raise dumbbell up to your midsection keeping back still throughout movement
5. Slowly lower dumbbell to start position and repeat.
Notes: Keep your back flat and parallel to the floor

Trapezius Dumbbell Exercise

Upright Rows
1. Stand upright, feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent
2. Grasp dumbbells and stand with palms facing front of thighs - keep your back straight
3. Pull dumbbells to front of shoulder, chin height, with elbows leading out to sides
4. Hold for a count of 2 and slowly lower to start position and repeat
Notes: The dumbbells should be close to the body as you raise them and the elbows should drive the motion. Continue to lift until they nearly touch your chin. As you lift the dumbbells, your elbows should always be higher than your forearms. Also, if you suffer from shoulder problems, you may want to stay away from this exercise, substituting another form of lateral raise.

Biceps Dumbbell Exercise

Preacher Curls
1. Set bench to 45 degree angle - stand behind the bench
2. Hold dumbbell with arm fully extended on back rest
3. Keep back of upper arm against back rest and curl dumbbell up towards your face
4. Slowly lower dumbbell until arm is nearly fully extended
Notes: Great for isolating the biceps and forcing them to work independently. As a general rule, always hit the weakest arm first.

Triceps Dumbbell Exercise

French Presses
1. Lie flat on bench, holding dumbbells directly above chest with palms facing each other. Dumbbells should just about touch one other.
2. Keep your shoulders locked, your abdominal muscles tight, chest up, and elbows stable
3. Let your elbows fold so dumbbells are lowered down to either side of head.
4. Push the weight up, stopping just before your elbows are straight
5. Reverse the motion back down.
Notes: Always start with a light weight and make sure you can lift it in a safe and controlled manner using good technique. Using a heavier weight too soon can result in injury.

Adjustable dumbbells allow you to exercise faster and smarter. They are great space-savers and are less expensive than comparable conventional dumbbell sets. Plus, they’re easy to use and convenient.

Author's Bio: 

To learn more about adjustable dumbbells, including in-depth reviews of all the best adjustable dumbbell systems by Bowflex and PowerBlock, visit the Bowflex Reviews website where you can also find out how to purchase Bowflex and PowerBlock dumbbells for up to 60% off.