The Best 30 Dumbbell Exercises for Building Muscle (GET JACKED)

Optimise your skills and gains with the dumbbells.

These dumbbell exercises for building muscle have been chosen by Jeff Cavaliere from Athlean X.

Read through, watch the video and learn how to improve your muscle gains.

Dumbbell Exercises for Building Muscle

“The best dumbbell exercises for building muscle could entail a lot of movements, but which ones are the best? In this video, I am going to show you my selection of the 30 best dumbbell exercises to build muscle. Not only that, but I am going to break them down into specific muscle groups as well to help you select the right dumbbell exercises for you.”


1. Kneeling Waiter’s Curls

2. Standing DB Alternating Curls

3. Cross Body Hammer Curls

4. DB Drag Curls

5. DB Weighted Chins

“The Waiter’s Curl is excellent for developing the biceps peaks. The Standing DB Alternating Curl is a classic way to hit the short head, in contrast to the DB Drag Curls which targets the long head. We can’t forget the brachialis, which is well targeted by the Cross Body Hammer Curl. To round it all out, the DB Weighted Chins allows for the opportunity to overload the muscle with more weight than is available with just dumbbells.”

dumbbell bench press Dumbbell Exercises for Building Muscle


6. Lying Tricep Extensions

7. JM Press

8. DB Kickbacks

9. DB Incline Powerbombs

“The Lying Tricep Extensions and Incline Powerbombs allow us to get that long head on stretch through the exercises’ full range of motion. To put the long head in its peak contracted position, we would select the DB Kickback. The JM Press allows for the use of some heavier weight to overload the triceps overall which will help assist in muscle growth.”


10. DB Tripod Rows

11. DB High Pulls

12. DB Pullovers

13. DB Weighted Pullups

“The DB Tripod Row is a great replacement for the 1-Arm DB Row as it gives a better base of support to avoid a hernia. The DB High Pull is excellent for targeting the upper back muscles with the added benefit of external rotation. The DB Pullover is a great selection for being able to put the lats on stretch while giving them an opportunity to overload. And while the pullup itself is great for building your lats, adding weight allows for more overload for greater size.”


14. DB Bulgarian Split Squats (Upright / Leaning)

15. DB Reverse Lunges

16. DB RDL’s

17. DB Offset Lunges

“The DB Bulgarian Split Squat is great for loading up the quads or the posterior chain (based on your torso position). The DB Reverse Lunge is great for those with knee pain but still want to engage in a dynamic, unilateral leg movement. The DB RDL’s are great for putting the hamstrings and glutes on stretch before engaging them to return the weight to its starting position. The DB Offset Lunge is another great option that adds the challenge of not allowing the weight to pull you over to one side.”


18. DB Bench Press

19. DB Upper Chest Pullover

20. DB Incline Squeeze Press

21. DB Weighted Dips

22. DB Floor Flies

“The DB Bench Press is a staple exercise that I believe is one of the absolute best for building a bigger chest. While I mentioned previously the pullover as a back exercise, by changing the orientation of our elbows, we can effectively target the upper chest. The DB Incline Squeeze Press is another great option for hitting the upper chest, but gives the added benefit of isometric adduction. The Dip will definitely build the lower chest, but adding some extra weight and overload to the exercise will help spark even greater muscle growth. The Floor Fly takes the risk of the regular bench fly and negates it by offering the support of the ground through the movement.”


23. DB Scoop Press

24. DB Cheat Laterals

25. DB Push Press

26. DB Hip Huggers

27. DB Rear Delt Rows

28. DB Front Raise

29. DB Over and Backs

“The DB Scoop Press gets additional front delt activation before a combination of shoulder muscles are used. Cheat Laterals allow for overload on the middle delt through using a heavier weight, but also a controlled eccentric. Speaking of overload, the DB Push Press allows for more weight to be used in comparison to a traditional overhead press by allowing momentum from below. To really hit the side and rear delts, the DB Hip Huggers offers a great option. The Rear Delt Row will effectively target the rear delts, an often ignored muscle in the shoulder. The DB Front Raise is a great option for targeting the front delts while limiting the activation of the rest of the shoulder. The DB Over and Back is solid as well.”


30. DB Carries

“Heavy DB Carries offer a great opportunity to not just build mental toughness, but bigger forearms and traps as well.”


Muscles of the Core and Upper Body

The core is a group of muscles that stabilize the body and provide support while also allowing movement. This article will focus on the upper row of core muscles, which includes rectus abdominis, external obliques, internal obliques, transverse abdominis and latissimus dorsi.

Rectus abdominis

Your rectus abdominis is the muscle that attaches along the front of your abdomen. It’s located in the centre of your trunk, running from just above your pubic bone to just below your rib cage. The rectus abdominis is a superficial muscle and works to flex your spine and stabilize the body during movement. In this way, it also helps to hold in place other abdominal muscles such as transversus abdominis and internal obliques that run diagonally across your abdomen.

Source: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

Rectus abdominis also plays a role in helping to support your internal organs by pulling them back into place after they’ve been compressed by abdominal pressure or activity such as coughing or sneezing. As such, these deeper layers of abdominal muscle are crucial for overall core strength and stability—and they’re what give us our six-pack!

Internal obliques

The internal obliques, located on the sides of the body and wrapping around to meet at a point called the linea alba (which means “white line”), are a set of muscles that help with rotation, flexion and abduction. They work with the transverse abdominis muscle to compress the abdomen.

The rectus abdominis is responsible for flexing your trunk forward, bringing it toward your pelvis; it also works together with other muscles such as those in your back and hips. It’s a basic core muscle that can be strengthened through exercises like crunches or sit-ups in order to prevent back pain from occurring over time.

External obliques

The external obliques are a group of muscles that lie on either side of the abdomen. They help rotate, flex and bend your trunk (the area between your ribs and hips). These muscles also help you twist at the waist, as well as swing your arms to the sides while walking.

The external obliques connect to the lower ribs and pelvis, but not directly to each other. This arrangement allows them to be active during many movements that involve rotating or bending sideways at the waist, such as twisting from side-to-side when sitting down or standing up from a seated position. Acting together with other abdominal muscles, they support good posture when you’re sitting up straight in chairs or standing upright after bending over for long periods of time (such as sweeping).

In addition to helping with rotation movements involving turning around in circles (e.g., throwing darts), these muscles also assist with bending forward from standing upright by pulling against gravity—for example: when reaching down toward something on a high shelf—or leaning forward while sitting down (easing pressure off your back).

Transverse abdominis

The transverse abdominal (TVA) is the deepest of all your abdominal muscles. It runs from the pubic bone to the lower ribs, and it helps with respiration and posture. The TVA works with other core muscles to stabilize your spine during movement, especially when bending forward or sideways.


The deltoids are a group of muscles that connect the upper arm to the shoulder and are responsible for shoulder movement. There are three separate sections, namely:

  • anterior (front) deltoid
  • medial (middle) deltoid
  • posterior (back) deltoid

Latissimus dorsi

The latissimus dorsi is the largest back muscle, and it extends from the lower half of your thoracic spine to your humerus (upper arm bone). It helps you perform arm movements in a wide range of directions. It also helps stabilize your scapula (shoulder blade) when you’re using it for lifting or pushing motions.


Your pectorals are the muscles that cover your breastbone, or sternum. They are part of your anterior core and are primarily used in pushing and pulling motions. Pectoral exercises include pushups, bench presses, dips, flys and pullovers (the latter three are all done with cables).

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