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10 Fiery Dumbbell Workouts for Muscle and Mental Strength

Build your overall strength and power with these intense dumbbell workouts.

Step aside, barbells, because dumbbells are here to shake up the training! These dumbbell workouts will take your mental strength and conditioning to the next level. 

Unilateral Training: Dumbbells are among the most potent and versatile pieces of equipment you can train with. When you use dumbbells instead of a barbell, you’re working on unilateral movement rather than bilateral movement.

That is, your hands/arms have to move independently and freely from one another, eliciting a powerful neurological response that’ll get you stronger and fitter. The barbell is good at hiding your weaknesses, too. But the dumbbells? They show no mercy. They highlight where your deficiencies are in strength, stability, and mobility.

Physiological Benefits: Dumbbells are also great at diagnosing and treating imbalances. For instance, you may find that on the eighth repetition of a Strict Dumbbell Shoulder Press, your right arm is fine, but your left arm won’t budge.

That shows you that you’ve got a strength imbalance – your right side is stronger than your left. The good news is that the more you train with dumbbells, the more balance you’ll bring to your body. The more balanced you are as an athlete, the less likely you are to get injured over time.

1. CHOE

AMRAP in 35 minutes

Buy-In:

  • 9 Man Makers (2×35/20 lb dumbbells)
  • 11 Burpees
  • In remaining time, AMRAP of:
  • 300 meter Run
  • 27 Air Squats
  • 9 Handstand Push-Ups

Start a 35-minute timer. Do the man-makers and burpees. Then, without stopping continue to the run, air squats, and handstand push-ups and repeat those three movements as many times as possible until the 35-minute clock runs out. Your score is the number of rounds and repetitions completed of the run/air squat/handstand push-ups.

One man maker consists of a dumbbell push-up, two renegade rows (one per arm), and a squat clean thruster.

2. FAST AND HEAVY

For Time, Fast and Heavy

  • 21 Dumbbell Thrusters
  • 400 meter Run
  • 18 Dumbbell Thrusters
  • 400 meter Run
  • 15 Dumbbell Thrusters
  • 400 meter Run

Typically CrossFit workouts prescribe a weight, but in this case, the weight is athlete’s choice. The athlete should choose a dumbbell that, as the name says, is heavy but that they can still move fast. Score is dumbbell weight used and total time to complete.

Scaling

As stated, pick dumbbells that are relatively heavy for you yet still allow you to complete each round of thrusters in very few sets. This workout should be treated like a sprint, so run hard and try to avoid resting until it is over. Intermediate athletes can perform this workout as prescribed, just with lighter dumbbells. Newer athletes can reduce the reps and shorten the runs.

Beginner Option
For time, fast and heavy:
15 dumbbell thrusters
Run 200 meters
12 dumbbell thrusters
Run 200 meters
9 dumbbell thrusters
Run 200 meters

3. TTTTD7

For Time

  • 50 Alternating Dumbbell Power Snatches (50/35 lb)
  • 100 foot Single Arm Overhead Dumbbell Walking Lunges (50/35 lb)
  • 40 Dumbbell Overhead Squats (50/35 lb, alternate every 10 reps)
  • 75 foot Single Arm Overhead Dumbbell Walking Lunges (50/35 lb)
  • 30 Dumbbell Hang Clean-and-Jerks (50/35 lb, alternate every 5 reps)
  • 50 foot Single Arm Overhead Dumbbell Walking Lunges (50/35 lb)
  • 20 Alternating Dumbbell Squat Cleans (50/35 lb)
  • 25 foot Single Arm Overhead Dumbbell Walking Lunges (50/35 lb)
  • 10 Alternating Dumbbell Squat Snatches (50/35 lb)

With a running clock, as fast as possible perform the prescribed work in the order written.

Score is the time on the clock when the last repetition of Alternating Dumbbell Squat Snatches is completed.

dumbbell workoutsSource: Stevie D Photography

Scaling

Dumbbell load for all movements
Lunges with bodyweight
Dumbbell Overhead Squats: front squat/goblet squat
Dumbbell Squat Snatch: power snatch
Dumbbell Squat Clean: front squat

Movement Standards

Dumbbell Power Snatch: DB touches the ground and locks out fully overhead. Can switch the DB however you’d like (overhead, in front of face, at hip level, on ground). Both heads of the DB must touch the ground on every rep. It does not have to be simultaneously, but the both must touch.

Overhead Lunge: 25 foot increments. 1 DB is held overhead in a full lockout position and must switch arms every 25.

Dumbbell Overhead Squats: DB held overhead, squat must pass through parallel and stand to fully locked out. Must switch arms every 10 reps.

Dumbbell Hang Clean-and-Jerk: DB must start at the hang position, touch the shoulder on the clean, and then and in the lockout position. Must switch arms every 5 reps.

Dumbbell Squat Clean: Both heads of the DB must touch the ground, come into a rack position, pass through a full squat to extension, alternate every rep.

Dumbbell Squat Snatch: DB touches the ground and locks out fully overhead and athlete passes through parallel in the squat. Can switch the DB however you’d like (overhead, in front of face, at hip level, on ground). Both heads of the DB must touch the ground on every rep. Must alternate arms every rep.

4. PAINSTORM XXI

For time

  • 30 Burpees
  • 30 Deadlifts
  • 30 Burpees
  • 30 Cleans
  • 30 Burpees
  • 30 Strict Presses
  • 30 Burpees
  • 30 Push Presses
  • 30 Burpees
  • 30 Jerks
  • 30 Burpees
  • 30 Swings
  • 30 Burpees
  • 30 Sumo Deadlift HIgh-Pulls
  • 30 Burpees
  • 30 Snatches (Left Hand)
  • 30 Burpees
  • 30 Snatches (Right Hand)
  • 30 Burpees
  • 30 Man Makers

Use one pair of Dumbbells (55/35 lb) throughout

Use the same pair of dumbbells throughout. Originally the WOD was designed as “choose your own weight.” If you’re looking for an Rx weight consider 50/35 lb.

One man maker consists of a dumbbell push-up, two renegade rows (one per arm), and a squat clean thruster.

Score is the time on the clock when the last repetition of Man Makers is completed.

Movement Standards

Most of the weighted movements (Deadlifts, Cleans, Strict Presses, Push Presses, Jerks, Sumo Deadlift High-Pulls, and Man Makers) are intended to be done with two Dumbbells.

As in most CrossFit workouts, olympic lifts (Cleans & Snatches) are power (not squat) unless otherwise stated.

Snatches are with a single Dumbbell, one arm at a time.

Dumbbell Swings are an uncommon movement and this workout (which is from 2007) does not explicitly state whether the swings should be single- or double-dumbbell swings. But double Swings would be awkward, so we assume it’s single Dumbbell Swings. We also assume the swings are Russian style (to eye height) instead of American (overhead), which is safer since dumbbells don’t have handles for swings.

5. DUMBBELL WORKOUTS: WADE

5 Rounds For Time

  • 11 One-Arm Dumbbell Power Snatches (50/35 lb)
  • 12 One-Arm Dumbbell Thrusters (50/35 lb)
  • 11 Weighted Pull-Ups (50/35 lb dumbbell)

Alternate arms on each snatch and thruster

6. SWOLE-TEL

Four Parts in 12 minutes

EMOM for 3 minutes:

  • 15 Dumbbell Rows (2×30 lb)
  • 10 Push-Ups
  • EMOM for 3 minutes:
  • 10 Dumbbell Rows (2×40 lb)
  • 10 Push-Ups
  • EMOM for 3 minutes:
  • 5 Dumbbell Rows (2×45 lb)
  • 10 Push-Ups
  • Then, AMRAP in 3 minutes:
  • Dumbbell Rows (2×30 lb)

Perform the entire workout with a running clock. No rest between sections. Score is total number of dumbbell rows completed in the final 3-minute AMRAP section of the workout.

7. HOTEL HELL

For Time

  • 100 Dumbbell Hang Clean Thrusters (2×35/25 lb)
  • 5 Burpees to start, and at the top of each minute

Start with 5 burpees. Then complete as many hang squat clean thrusters (aka: “hang clusters”) as possible until the minute is up. Repeat until 100 total are completed.

Score is the time on the clock when the last thruster is completed. If athlete does not finish score is number of rounds and reps completed.

Crossfit athlete Jason Khalipa performs dumbbell snatches in competitionSource: Jason Khalipa

8. POPEYE

3 Rounds Without Breaking

  • 30 Curls (2×25/15 lb)
  • 30 Strict Presses (2×25/15 lb)
  • 30 Lateral Raises (2×25/15 lb)
  • 30 Hammer Curls (2×25/15 lb)
  • 30 Upright Rows (2×25/15 lb)
  • 30 Push Presses (2×25/15 lb)
  • 30 Curls (2×25/15 lb)

1 minute Rest

Increase weight each round. See how heavy you can go. No Time limit once the round has begun.

Once you start the first set of 30, you can’t put the weights down or rest them on any surface. You can stop moving and hold the weights in your hand, but you can not let go of the Dumbbells.

Once you complete a full round, rest for 1 minute, then pick them back up and go again. This time, you have the option to increase the weight.

Start light, don’t burn out. Rest before you burn up too quickly. The hard part will be the grip so play it smart.

Scaling

Intermediate: Use 20/10 lb dumbbell weights.

Beginner: Use 20/10 lb dumbbell weights. Reduce repetitions to 21 reps.

9. HOTEL BANDIT

3 Rounds for Time

  • 10 Dumbbell Snatches, Left (50/35 lb)
  • 10 Dumbbell Overhead Lunges, Left (50/35 lb)
  • 10 Dumbbell Snatches, Right (50/35 lb)
  • 10 Dumbbell Overhead Lunges, Right (50/35 lb)
  • 10 Dumbbell Power Cleans, Left (50/35 lb)
  • 10 Dumbbell Front Squats, Left (50/35 lb)
  • 10 Dumbbell Power Cleans, Right (50/35 lb)
  • 10 Dumbbell Front Squats, Right (50/35 lb)

With a running clock, as fast as possible perform the prescribed work in the order written for 3 rounds. Overhead lunges are written as the total number of steps, not steps per leg. Dumbbell must be held in one hand for front squats.

Score is the time on the clock when the last round of Dumbbell Front Squats is completed.

Scaling

3 Rounds for Time

  • 10 Left-Arm Dumbbell Snatches (35/20 lb)
  • 10 Left-Arm Dumbbell Suitcase Lunges (35/20 lb)
  • 10 Right-Arm Dumbbell Snatches (35/20 lb)
  • 10 Right-Arm Dumbbell Suitcase Lunges (35/20 lb)
  • 10 Left-Arm Dumbbell Power Cleans (35/20 lb)
  • 10 Left-Arm Dumbbell Front Squats (35/20 lb)
  • 10 Right-Arm Dumbbell Power Cleans (35/20 lb)
  • 10 Right-Arm Dumbbell Front Squats (35/20 lb)

10. PAINSTORM XV

7 Rounds for Time

  • 10 Man Makers
  • 20 Dumbbell Deadlifts
  • 30 Single-Arm Dumbbell Snatches (15 per side)
  • 40 Single-Arm Overhead Lunges (20 per side)
  • 50 Dumbbell Swings

Use one pair of dumbbells throughout (pick your own weight)
With a running clock, as fast as possible perform 7 rounds of the prescribed work in the order written. This workout was originally intended to be a “choose your own weight” adventure. If you’re looking for an Rx weight consider 35/25 lb.

One man maker consists of a dumbbell push-up, two renegade rows (one per arm), and a squat clean thruster.

Score is the time on the clock when the last round of Dumbbell Swings is completed.

Tips and Strategy

Settle in for a long workout (intermediate athletes should finish in 50-90 minutes) by picking a pace that you can maintain for that amount of time. In other words, don’t do the first 10 Man Makers unbroken. Do one, rest a second, do another, etc. For the rest of the movements, break up the reps into very manageable sets. Go slower than you think you need to for round one. See if you can hold that pace for the next 6 rounds.

Read More: 20 CrossFit Dumbbell Workouts for Time to Build Strength and Transform your Body

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