Get the Most Use Out of Your Dumbbells

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A dumbbell in the hand is worth two in the bicep.

I love dumbbells, don’t you? They’re compact, easy to hold, and easy to lift (though not too easy). A few minutes of curls is a great way to get some baseline arm work done, and you can do it while you’re watching TV. But if that’s all you’re doing, then you’re not getting the most function out of your dumbbells. You’ve got those great, grippable weights, so use ’em to their fullest potential!

You’ve no doubt seen the classic clean with large barbells performed by Olympic athletes, but did you know you can do the same motions with a couple of dumbbells? It’s easy; just grab the dumbbells with the backs of your hands facing forward, squat down and lift them up to your shoulders, and stand all the way up. You can add the jerk too, if you want; just lift both dumbbells straight up into the air before you settle them back down on the ground. Just be careful, as dumbbells aren’t physically connected like a single barbell, so they may be a little harder to balance.

Ever heard of the farmer’s walk? It’s a traditional staple of Scottish athletic events wherein athletes try to walk around a field while carrying massive weights in the shortest time possible (and without collapsing). While the pro version is a little intense, you get a great burn from a simplified version with weights better tuned to your body type. All you need to do is hold your dumbbells at your sides and try to walk a specified distance as quickly as possible. It’s like working for a moving company, except you don’t get paid.

The whole point of barbells is to weigh down your hands and build strength in your arms. As long as you’ve got a pair of the things and a little imagination, you can come up with all sorts of high-intensity workouts.