If you want to reap the full benefits of dumbbell training, you must know how to lift them properly. Applying proper dumbbell lifting techniques will help you grow muscle mass and achieve your long-term fitness goals. It will also:

  • provide and metabolic overload which result in muscle growth
  • trigger greater muscle activation
  • reduce your risk of injury

Whether your purpose for training with dumbbells is to add variety to your workout or correct muscular imbalances with unilateral training, knowing how to properly lift dumbbells is essential. Let me share with you several tips to help you do just that.

How to properly lift dumbbells overhead

Among the best overhead dumbbell exercises are the overhead dumbbell triceps extensions, single-hand dumbbell triceps extensions, dumbbell shoulder presses, Arnold presses, and single-arm dumbbell snatches.

When you perform overhead dumbbell exercises, try to maintain a neutral spine while executing the movement. Don’t be like some individuals who arch their lower back while doing dumbbell shoulder presses. The main drawback: you may compromise your lower back in the process. When that happens, you won’t be able to execute your other exercises properly.

When doing overhead dumbbell triceps extensions, keep your elbows close to your head so you can engage the long head of your triceps more. When you let your elbows flail out during the movement, it becomes far less effective.

As for dumbbell presses and Arnold presses, they are great options for working on your shoulders. When you’re about to lift the dumbbells overhead, ensure your upper arms and forearms form a 90-degree angle. Once you lift the dumbbells above your head, bend your elbows slightly and maintain a neutral back.

Single-arm dumbbell snatches are an effective unilateral compound movement which hits your shoulders, core, calves, glutes, triceps, and hamstrings. You will lift the dumbbell at the top of the movement. Try doing so in an explosive manner while gripping the dumbbell firmly. Extend your arm fully without overextending your elbow.

How to properly lift dumbbells sideways

Exercises where you have to lift dumbbells sideways—such as the dumbbell lateral side raise and the bent-over dumbbell raise—target your deltoids and shoulders.

The top of the movement of the dumbbell lateral side raise involves lifting both dumbbells

away from your sides simultaneously until they’re parallel to the ground. When you raise the dumbbells, try leading with your elbows so you can emphasize your delts. This also places less stress on your rotator cuffs, which is a delicate set of stabilizing muscles. Keep your elbows slightly bent during the movement to ward off potential injuries.

For the bent-over dumbbell raise, you need to make sure your hands are angled in such a way that your thumbs are lower than your pinky fingers prior to lifting the dumbbells. This helps target your rear deltoid during the movement. Maintain a neutral spine and keep your chest out. Bend your elbows slightly as you lift the dumbbells until they’re parallel to the floor.

How to properly lift dumbbells forward

A variety of the dumbbell lateral side raise is the dumbbell front raise. As the latter’s name implies, you simply have to lift the dumbbells forward. The dumbbell front raise works your deltoids, traps, and erector muscles.

When you raise the dumbbells for this exercise, do so simultaneously with your arms straight out in front of you until they reach your shoulder level. Make sure to bend your elbows slightly to keep injuries at bay.

How to properly lift dumbbells while lying or sitting on a bench

You can perform many dumbbell exercises while lying or sitting on a bench. For the former position, you can choose from dumbbell presses, dumbbell pullovers, dumbbell chest-supported rows, and dumbbell skull crushers.

Dumbbell presses and dumbbell pullovers work your chest muscles. The latter also works your back, lats, and triceps. During the lifting phase for these two exercises, you need to grip the dumbbells tightly and bend your elbows slightly when you reach the top of the movement. Refrain from locking out your elbows to avoid injuries.

As for dumbbell chest-supported rows, they target your back muscles. Once you lift the dumbbells and your elbows to your sides, you’ve reached the top of the movement. Make sure you squeeze your upper back when you’ve reached this phase of the exercise to place emphasis on this muscle group.

For their part, dumbbell skull crushers help you build your triceps. Here, you raise your arms simultaneously toward the ceiling with your palms facing each other while lying on a flat bench. You then bend your forearms until the dumbbells are next to your ears. Ensure your forearms are perpendicular to the floor.

You can execute some of the aforementioned dumbbell exercises while sitting on a bench. These include dumbbell tricep extensions, single-arm dumbbell tricep extensions, dumbbell shoulder presses, Arnold presses, dumbbell lateral side raises, and bent-over dumbbell raises. The same rules still apply, from the tight grip on the dumbbells and the neutral spine.

Tips for lifting dumbbells safely

You may have noticed several recurring themes while reading the previous sections. It is imperative to keep these tips in mind during your dumbbell training:

  1. Bend your elbows slightly: Locking out your elbows whenever you lift dumbbells can result in injuries or discomfort. Always bend them slightly during your dumbbell workout.
  1. Maintain a neutral spine: Doing so won’t compromise your lower back. Moreover, a neutral spin helps you stabilize your body so you can perform the exercises efficiently.
  1. Brace your core: This will not only engage your core, but also stabilize your torso so you can get the most out of your workouts.
  1. Pace your movements: Never rush through your dumbbell lifts. Doing so will compromise your form and give your muscles less time to expand and contract. Give the lifting phase of your exercise one count and the lowering phase one to two counts to reap the full benefits.
  1. Breathe properly: Exhale as you lift the dumbbells and inhale as you lower them. Proper breathing technique helps supply working oxygen to your muscles. This, in turn, helps power your muscles through your workout.
  1. Don’t lift heavy too soon: It bears repeating: going gung-ho on your lifts may backfire on you and result in injuries. Start with a light dumbbell weight. Once you’re accustomed to the lifting technique and resistance, progress to a slightly heavier weight.
  1. Warm up and cool down:  Begin your workouts with dynamic stretching or light cardio for 5 to 10 minutes. Once you finish your last rep, do static stretching for the same amount of time. When you ease into and out of your workout, you will keep injuries at bay.
  1. Hire a certified personal trainer: A fitness professional can teach you the proper dumbbell lifting techniques. Plus, he/she can help spot for you when the need arises.

About Ironmaster

Ironmaster is a world-renowned leader in strength training equipment. The company produces high-quality innovative fitness equipment—including state-of-the-art adjustable dumbbells for your home gym—for their customers based in the United States and around the world.

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