Home Dumbbell Exercises

If it’s too impractical or expensive for you to go to the gym, don’t sweat it. With a set of dumbbells you can effectively target pretty much every muscle group in the body, at home.

Gyms can have rows and rows of fancy looking equipment, but the simple fact is that the most effective exercises for building muscle strength and size can typically be performed with nothing more than a set of dumbbells (a quality weight bench is also a great investment but you can still do well without).

To simplify things, you can categorise most gym exercises into two groups – compound and isolation exercises. Your workouts, on the most part, should primarily incorporate compound exercises to ensure you stimulate the muscles adequately. Such exercises, examples being the bench press, row or squat (all of which can be performed with dumbbells), involve more than one joint movement and therefore target a large group (or groups) of muscles. Isolation exercises, on the other hand, are best used more sparingly to target specific muscles (or small group), such as lateral raises or biceps curls.

If you're someone who trains at home and looking to kit out your space, be sure to checkout our home gym equipment best buy section which includes treadmills best buy. You can save a lot of money!

We have categorised the following list of home dumbbell exercises by which muscle group they primarily target and have included information on any additional equipment or household objects that can be used to enhance the exercise.

Chest

Press ups Bodyweight

The humble press up is an exercise you’re probably already aware of and is one of the best exercises you have at your disposal if you have little to no access to gym equipment. It can be performed in a few different ways to make it easier or more challenging.

Press up instruction

How to do:

  1. Before beginning the exercise, go down onto your hands and knees with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart and arms straight. From this position, lift your knees off the ground so your bodyweight is being supported by your hands and the balls of your feet. Your torso and legs should be inline. This is the starting positioning of the press up.
  2. To perform a repetition; bend at the elbows and lower your body in a controlled manner until your face if an inch from the floor.
  3. To complete the repetition, extend your arms until you’re back at the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variations:

If you struggle to complete the desired number of repetitions you can make the press up easier by performing them on your knees instead of the balls of your feet. This can be used to build up the necessary strength to perform the full press up, or as a means of finishing a set that you cannot finish performing the traditional press up.

You can use the press up to primarily target the chest by performing it using a wider than shoulder width stance with your hands. If you instead wish to shift more of the emphasis onto the triceps you can do so by executing the press up with the hands much closer together and keeping the upper arms tucked into the sides of the torso during the movement.

Incline press ups Bodyweight and edge of weight bench / chair / sofa / bed

The press up can be modified so that it shifts greater emphasis onto the upper chest and shoulders by performing the exercise with an inclined position. This can make a great addition to your home routine.

Incline press up instruction

How to do:

  1. Before beginning the exercise, go down onto your hands and knees with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart and arms straight, positioned perpendicular and several feet away from the edge of a platform (e.g. weight bench, chair, sofa or bed). From this position, lift your feet onto the edge of the platform so the balls of your feet are securely positioned on the platform. Your torso and legs should be inline. This is the starting positioning of the incline press up.
  2. To perform a repetition; bend at the elbows and lower your body in a controlled manner until your face if an inch from the floor.
  3. To complete the repetition, extend your arms until you’re back at the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variations:

As with the traditional press up, the incline press up can be varied by adjusting the distance between your hands. As a rule of thumb, a shoulder width or wider positioning of the hands will primarily target the (upper) chest, while using a narrower stance will shift the emphasis onto the triceps.

A light to moderately weighted backpack can be wore to add greater resistance to the exercise, but always ensure you do not use a weight that causes you to slack on proper form as this could lead to injury.

Dips Bodyweight and two parallel bars / edge of weight bench or chair

The traditional dip is performed using two parallel bars (these can be purchased for home use), or for those with no equipment a variation of the dip can be performed using the edge of a weight bench or chair. Either forms of the dip are ideal choices for targeting the chest and triceps.

Dips instruction

How to do with parallel bars:

  1. Stand between the two bars and securely grip them while your arms remain extended.
  2. Bend at your knees with your arms still extended so your bodyweight is being supported by nothing else but your arms.
  3. Lean your torso forward slightly and flare your elbows outward. This is the starting position of the dip.
  4. Slowly lower your body down until your elbows are at a ninety degree angle.
  5. To complete the repetition, extend at your arms until they are just shy of lock out.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

How to do with weight bench / chair:

  1. Sit on the edge of the weight bench / chair with your hands gripping the edge on either side of your legs.
  2. With your hands still gripping the edge, lift up your butt and take a step forward with both feet so your backside has enough clearance from the edge of the bench / chair to descend downward. This is the starting position of the dip.
  3. Lower your torso downward until your elbows are at ninety degrees.
  4. To complete the repetition, extend your arms until they are just shy of lock out.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variations:

The weight bench / chair dip variation described above is an easier version of the dip. If you do not have parallel bars and find the variation explained above too easier you can make it more challenging by putting the heels of your feet on a platform of equal height of your weight bench / chair. A weight plat can also be added to your lap when in this position as you progress.

As with the press up, the greater the distance between your hands during the exercise tends to result in the chest being more responsible for the movement opposed to the triceps. If you instead wish to target the triceps, you can perform the dip with the hands placed closer together (when performing on a bench / chair) and keeping the upper arms close to the torso.

Exercise ball flys Dumbbells and exercise ball / weight bench

If you have an exercise ball at your disposal, you can incorporate dumbbell flys into your routine to effectively exercise the chest.

Exercise dumbbell flys instruction

How to do:

  1. Sit on your exercise ball whilst grasping a set of dumbbells.
  2. Roll forward on the ball so it takes your weight and the ball is supporting your torso.
  3. Extend your arms directly above you with your palms facing one another. This is the starting position of the exercise.
  4. Keeping your elbows slightly bent but fixed in position, lower your arms to your sides in the natural arc motion, stopping when your upper arms are parallel with the ground.
  5. To complete the repetition, reverse the motion until your arms are back above your head.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variations:

Of course, if you have a weight bench you will probably find it far more practical for performing the dumbbell fly, especially as you move onto using more challenging weights. The execution is much the same as described, with the weight bench supporting the torso and backside opposed to the exercise ball.

A weight bench with an adjustable incline allows the incline dumbbell fly to be performed for greater variety in your training program. By performing the exercise on an incline we shift the stimulus onto the upper chest. Try not to use too much of an incline, however, stick to thirty degrees or below to avoid the shoulders becoming too involved.

Triceps

Skullcrushers Dumbbells and weight bench (optional)

A great exercise for isolating the triceps (albeit with a slightly off putting name!), the Skullcrusher is typically performed on a weight bench but can also be executed while lying on the floor when light to moderately weighted dumbbells are used.

Dumbbell Skullcrushers instruction

How to do:

  1. Grasp a pair of dumbbells whilst sitting on the end of your weight bench.
  2. Lay back and extend your arms above your head, perpendicular to the ground, palms facing each other. This is the starting position of the exercise.
  3. Bend at both elbows, lowering the dumbbells, until your forearms are at slightly less than ninety degrees to your upper arm. Keep your upper arms stationary throughout the repetition.
  4. Reverse the movement to bring the dumbbells back up to their starting position to complete the repetition. Do not lock out the elbows at the top, stop just shy.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variations:

The hammer grip described above (where the palms are facing one another) is probably the most comfortable way of performing the Skullcrusher. You can however experiment with using different wrist positions, taking advantage of the freedom dumbbells allow when it comes to wrist rotation.

You could try performing the skullercrusher with your palms facing away from you, palms facing towards you, or even supinating (rotating the wrist ninety degrees as you perform the exercise) the grip.

Trying different grips will not only freshen up your routine, it will also result in different activation of the three triceps heads leading to better results.

Kick backs Dumbbells and weight bench / sofa / bed (optional)

Dumbbell kick back instruction

Dumbbell kick backs are an excellent choice for isolating the triceps and require nothing more than a dumbbell and a raised platform such as a weight bench or the edge of a sofa (although this is optional).

How to do:

  1. Grasp a dumbbell with your left hand while placing your right knee and hand onto the platform for support.
  2. Bring your upper arm up to the side of your torso so it is roughly parallel to the ground and your elbow is at a ninety degree angle. This is the starting position of the exercise.
  3. While keeping your upper arm stationary, extend your arm until it is straight.
  4. To complete the repetition, slowly reverse the movement to bring the dumbbell back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variations:

We have described the kick back performed using a raised platform as it provides the most support but you can also perform the exercise standing with your torso bent forward. However, always be careful if opting for this version because if done incorrectly it can place undue stress on the back and lead to injury.

Using a weight bench or other stable platform of similar height is the advised option.

Overhead triceps extensions Dumbbells

Another effective dumbbell exercise for isolating the triceps is the overhead triceps extension. These can be performed standing or seated (which may be necessary if your ceiling is too low).

Dumbbell overhead triceps extensions instruction

How to do:

  1. Stand grasping a pair of dumbbells.
  2. Lift the dumbbells above your head so your arms are straight, perpendicular to the ground and your palms are facing one another. This is the starting position of the exercise.
  3. While keeping your upper arms fixed in position, lower the dumbbells by flexing at the elbow until they are below ninety degrees and you feel a slight stretch of the triceps.
  4. To complete the repetition, reverse the movement by contracting your triceps until your arms are just shy of lockout.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variations:

As mentioned, if you do not have sufficient clearance above your head you can perform the overhead triceps extension whilst seated instead.

As with the Skullercrusher, you can try different grips when performing the exercise to provide slightly different stimulus to the three triceps heads. As well as the hammer grip described, you can execute the exercise using an overhand grip (palms facing backwards), underhand grip (palms facing forwards) and a supinated grip which involves rotating your wrist ninety degrees as the dumbbell descends/ascends.

Close grip press ups Bodyweight

As briefly explained with the press up variations, performing the press up with your hands placed closer together is an effective way to shift the stimulus of the press up onto the triceps. This is the same principal as performing a narrow grip bench press at the gym (hence using the word ‘grip’ in ‘close grip press up’) instead of a traditional bench press.

Press up instruction

How to do:

  1. Before beginning the exercise, go down onto your hands and knees with your hands about six inches apart and arms straight. From this position, lift your knees off the ground so your bodyweight is being supported by your hands and the balls of your feet. Your torso and legs should be inline. This is the starting positioning of the close grip press up.
  2. To perform a repetition; bend at the elbows and lower your body in a controlled manner until your face if an inch from the floor.
  3. To complete the repetition, extend your arms until you’re back at the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variations:

You may want to try the exercise using a range of different widths between your hands to find one which is most comfortable while remaining challenging. Generally speaking, you will find placing your hands slightly narrower than shoulder width apart will be the easiest, while placing your hands next to each other is the most difficult.

As you progress with the exercise you can try performing the exercise with your feet on a raised platform which shifts a greater proportion of your bodyweight over your arms, hence making it more challenging. In addition, you can try wearing a light to moderate weighted backpack to add additional resistance, but only do so if it allows you to still execute the press up with perfect form.

Biceps

Dumbbell biceps curls Dumbbells

When it comes to targeting the biceps, you really need nothing more than a set of dumbbells. Dumbbells provide the freedom to perform a variety of curls that target the biceps, brachialis and the other arm flexor muscles.

Dumbbell biceps curl instruction

How to do:

  1. Either sit or stand erect grasping a set of dumbbells in each hand with your arms down by your sides.
  2. From this position, curl the left dumbbell up by flexing at the elbow, keeping your upper arm stationary at your side. Bring the dumbbell all the way up to full contraction.
  3. To complete the repetition, slowly lower the dumbbell by reversing the movement so the dumbbell is back by your side. Repeat the same movement with your right arm.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variations:

In the above description we purposely left out which grip to take when performing the biceps curl.

The most common biceps curl is probably the supinated curl which involves starting the repetition with your palms facing inward and then rotating the wrist as the dumbbell is raised so at the top of the curl your palm is facing towards you. On the descent the opposite is performed.

Another great option for shifting the emphasis onto the brachialis (the muscle that runs beneath the biceps heads) is to perform the curl using a hammer grip – that is, keep the palms facing inward throughout the curl.

Shoulders

One arm dumbbell press Dumbbells

A shoulder workout is incomplete without an overhead shoulder press. No other exercise can match overhead pressing when it comes to targeting the front and side deltoid heads, the muscles that are responsible for that all important shoulder width.

One arm dumbbell press instruction

How to do:

  1. Stand erect grasping a dumbbell in one hand.
  2. Safely bring the dumbbell up to shoulder level and stand with your feet shoulder width apart and a slight bend in the knee. This is the starting position of the exercise.
  3. Keeping your torso stationary, press the dumbbell up above your head until your elbow is just shy of lockout.
  4. To complete the repetition, slowly reverse the motion to bring the dumbbell back to the top of your shoulder.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variations:

We discuss the traditional two arm shoulder press next. Both are great choices and are in effect the same exercise. We have included the one arm dumbbell press as a standalone exercise because it provides a choice for those that wish to focus on one shoulder at a time. The exercise is also particularly popular for those that train with kettlebells instead of dumbbells.

The grip you take when pressing the dumbbell can be experimented with, such as using a hammer grip (palms facing inward), or even performing the Arnold press:

To complete the Arnold press, begin the overhead press with you palms facing towards you but as you press the dumbbell up rotate your wrist a full 180 degrees so at the top of the press your palms are facing forward. You perform the reverse during the descent.

Dumbbell shoulder press Dumbbells

Probably the most effective shoulder exercise out there, the dumbbell shoulder press greatly stimulates the front and side of the shoulders in a single exercise and, in addition, works each shoulder unilaterally to ensure balanced development.

Dumbbell shoulder press instruction

How to do:

  1. Either stand or sit on the edge of a raised platform, grasping a set of dumbbells.
  2. Safely bring the dumbbell up to shoulder level, elbows flared outward. This is the starting position of the exercise.
  3. Simultaneously press the dumbbells up above your head until your elbows are just shy of lockout.
  4. To complete the repetition, slowly reverse the motion to bring the dumbbells back to the top of your shoulder.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variations:

As described with the one arm dumbbell press, while the shoulder press is typically performed with an overhand grip (palms facing away), you can also execute the press with a hammer grip (palms facing inward) to add some variety.

The Arnold press is another option. To perform the Arnold press you begin the shoulder press with your palms facing towards you. As you press the dumbbells overhead you rotate the wrists a full 180 degrees as you ascend, so at the top of the press your palms are facing away from you. The movement is reversed on the descent so that you finish with your palms facing towards you again.

Lateral raises Dumbbells

The lateral raise is the best choice for those who wishing to isolate the lateral/side deltoid head. The lateral raise is also an excellent pre-exhausting exercise to use before moving onto the shoulder press - a great routine for really taxing the shoulders.

Dumbbell lateral raise instruction

How to do:

  1. Stand erect grasping a pair of dumbbells to your sides. This is the starting position of the exercise.
  2. With a slight bend in the elbow, raise the dumbbells up until your upper arms are parallel to the ground.
  3. To complete the repetition, slowly reverse the movement so that the dumbbells return back down by your sides.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variations:

The overhand grip used during the lateral raise provides the best activation for the lateral deltoid head, the area of the shoulder we’re trying to target with the exercise. It makes less sense to try a hammer grip (palms facing away) as this will result in the front deltoid head playing a greater role.

To provide greater TUT (Time Under Tension), you can perform the side laterals in an alternating fashion, with one arm kept at the top of the repetition while the opposite dumbbell is being lowered and raised. To do this, first raise your left arm to the top of the repetition and hold. Next, raise your right arm up to the top of the repetition and lower the left arm once your right arm reaches the top. Repeat this alternating raise until you complete the set.

Front raises Dumbbells

The front of the shoulder (anterior/front deltoid head) can be isolated by performing the dumbbell front raise.

Dumbbell front raise instruction

How to do:

  1. Stand erect grasping a set of dumbbells to your front with a slight bend in the elbow.
  2. Whilst keeping a slight bend in the arm, raise your left arm up in front of you until it is parallel with the ground.
  3. Slowly lower the dumbbell back to its starting position to complete the repetition. Repeat the same with the right arm.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variations:

If you’re not using particularly heavy dumbbells, you may find it less time consuming to raise both arms at the same time instead of alternating them. If however you find yourself struggling to keep good posture, switch back to raising one arm at a time.

The front raise can be executed with an overhand grip (palms facing downward) or with a hammer grip (palms facing inward). Both are effective at targeting the front deltoid.

Upright row Dumbbells

Dumbbell upright row instruction

Although usually performed with a barbell or EZ bar, there is no reason why the upright row can’t be executed with dumbbells and incorporated into a dumbbell only routine. The upright row is a compound exercise that targets the shoulders and upper trapezius (the muscle which runs from your neck to your shoulders).

How to do:

  1. Stand erect grasping a set of dumbbells to your front with a slight bend in the
  2. Whilst keeping the dumbbells close to the front of your body throughout, raise your elbows up by your sides until they are at, or just above, parallel to the ground.
  3. Slowly reverse this movement to bring the dumbbells back to their starting position in front of your body.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variations:

There are no notable variations to the upright row when performed with a set of dumbbells.

It is worth noting that some people don’t get along with the upright row, either due to the pressure it can place on the rotator cuff (the muscles that stabilise the shoulder joint) or the possible uncomfortable wrist positions. If you do find it troublesome to perform it would be advisable to bin it from your routine and opt for the overhead press instead.

Back

One arm dumbbell row Dumbbells and edge of weight bench / sofa / bed

One arm dumbbell row instruction

The one arm dumbbell row is the ideal choice for working the major muscles of the upper and middle back.

How to do:

  1. Place you right hand, knee and the ball of your foot on the edge of a weight bench (or equivalent). Keep your torso straight and grasp a dumbbell in your left hand. This is the starting position of the exercise.
  2. Pull the dumbbell to your abdomen by flexing at the elbow and bring your elbow back. Keep your arm close to your sides throughout opposed to letting it flare outward. Stop once the dumbbell is just shy of your abdomen.
  3. Reverse the movement in a controlled fashion until the dumbbell is back in the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions (and then switch sides).

Variations:

The traditional one arm dumbbell row described involves pulling the dumbbell towards your abdomen and not allowing the arm to flare outward. This in turn places the greatest emphasis onto the latissimus dorsi (the largest back muscle) and other major muscles that make up the upper and middle regions of the back.

You can however shift the stimulus onto the rear shoulder and trapezius to a greater extent by lifting the dumbbell towards your chest and allowing your arm to flare outward. This shifts the exercise into a hybrid between the one arm row and rear deltoid raise. You will find you can handle less weight by making this adjustment as the stronger back muscles play less of a role.

Dumbbell push up and row Dumbbells (hex)

Combining two exercises into one, the dumbbell press up and row is an excellent option for those following a whole body training routine. The chest, arms, shoulders and back all get worked hard during this dynamic move.

Dumbbell push up and row instruction

How to do:

  1. Begin in the push up position (see push up in chest section), gripping a set of hex dumbbells using a hammer grip (palms facing towards each other).
  2. Perform a push up by lowering yourself until your nose is an inch or so shy of the ground.
  3. As you ascend from the bottom of the repetition to complete the push up, now bring the left dumbbell up towards your abdomen to perform a row.
  4. Lower the dumbbell back to the ground to complete the repetition.
  5. Complete for the desired number of repetitions, alternating the rowing action.

Variations:

The push up to dumbbell row is only suitable for those who have hex dumbbells as their flat side prevents the dumbbells from rolling during the exercise. If you only have round dumbbells you would be best opting to perform the press up and row separately. If you’re performing a high intensity resistance workout you can achieve similar by performing a super-set of press ups and dumbbell rows.

Pull up Pull up bar

By requiring a pull up bar we know we’re somewhat straying off course in what is meant to be dumbbell only exercises, but the pull up is an exercise that cannot be replicated with a dumbbell only set up and its ability to target the latissimus dorsi and other back muscles is sorely missed without. Investing in a pull up bar, whether it’s a simple one fitted between a door frame or an actual pull up station, is highly recommended and won’t break the bank.

Pull up instruction

How to do:

  1. Grasp the pull up bar using an overhand grip, hands wider than shoulder width apart.
  2. Allow your body to hang freely from the bar, arms extended. Bend at the knee if there is insufficient clearance beneath you. This is the starting position of the exercise.
  3. Pull yourself up until your chin is just above the bar.
  4. Slowly lower yourself to complete the repetition. Do not allow yourself to sway during the exercise.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variations:

If you do invest in a pull up bar you open up the possibility to be able to perform a number of great exercises you would have not been able to do so previously.

The pull up itself can be varied according to grip width, with the wider grip described targeting the lats (latissimus dorsi) and a narrower grip shifting a greater level of the workload onto the biceps and, interestingly, the chest. Switching up the width of grip can be a great way to freshen up your routine and ensure balanced development.

Of course, you can also switch the grip of the pull up so that you use an underhand grip. This exercise is more typically known as a chin up and is easier to perform as the arm flexors help out the latissimus dorsi during the exercise. This often serves as a good starting point for those who are yet to gain the strength levels needed to perform the more challenging bodyweight pull ups.

Also note, if you do purchase a pull up bar you can also perform hanging leg and hip raises – great additions for strengthening and developing your abs.

Abs

Crunches Bodyweight

The crunch can be performed anywhere and is the ideal exercise for targeting the abdominals and the obliques which run to the side of the abdomen.

Crunches instruction

How to do:

  1. Lay on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Bend at the elbows and place your hands on either side of your head, elbows flared outward. This is the starting position of the crunch.
  3. Keeping your neck and head aligned, raise your shoulders off the ground, focusing on shortening the distance between your ribcage and pelvis. Only your shoulders leave the ground during the crunch, your lower back remains stationery.
  4. Once you reach full contraction slowly lower your shoulders back to the ground.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variations:

Once you have built up sufficient strength you can make the crunch more challenging by out-stretching your arms above your head throughout the exercise to add greater resistance. Further resistance can be added by holding light dumbbells.

We discuss side crunches shortly – a variation of the crunch that primarily targets the obliques.

V-ups Bodyweight

For those looking for a more advanced exercise to tax the core, the v-up combines the crunch and leg raise to attack the abdominals from both sides.

V-ups instruction

How to do:

  1. Lay on the ground with your arms out-stretched above your head and legs out-stretched with a slight bend in the knee. This is the starting position of the exercise.
  2. Simultaneously life your feet and arms upward. Your shoulders should leave the floor to perform a crunch and legs be risen so that your butt leaves the ground as your pelvis flexes forward.
  3. At the top of the repetition your hips will be raised, shoulders off the ground and your arms stretched towards your feet.
  4. Slowly reverse the movement back to the starting position to complete the repetition.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variations:

As with the traditional crunch, greater resistance can be added to make the exercise more challenging.

Weighted straps that you can attach to your wrists and ankles can be purchased to make the v-up more difficult. Alternatively, many people perform the v-up using an exercise ball for added resistance, passing the ball between their feet and their hands in an alternating manner. On the first repetition the exercise ball is held between the feet to add greater weight to the leg raise. At the top of the repetition the ball is passed to the hands so that the descent and the following ascent is performed with the ball adding resistance to the crunch. This is repeated throughout the set.

Plank Bodyweight

The plank works the muscles of the core isometrically, that’s to say, placing the muscles under tension without actual movement. The plank primarily targets the abdomen but recruits many additional muscles of the body for stabilisation and assistance.

Plank instruction

How to do:

  1. Lay face floor on the ground.
  2. Lift your torso up by placing your forearms on the ground to support your upper body with elbows directly below your shoulders. Torso and legs should be inline, with the balls of your feet making contact with the ground.
  3. Hold this position for the desired amount of time.

Variations:

For beginners who find it difficult to hold the plank the exercise can be made easier by either performing the plank on your knees instead of feet, or by placing your forearms on a raised platform so your body is angled upward.

On the other hand, the plank can be made more challenging by adding moderate weight onto the hips or by lifting one foot off the ground.

Hip raises Bodyweight

Both the hip flexors and abdomen are the main targets of the hip raise. To get the full benefit of the exercise ensure you lift your hips off the ground at the top of the movement, rolling your pelvis forward towards your ribcage.

Hip raises instruction

How to do:

  1. Lay on the ground, arms extended by your sides with palms on the floor for greater balance, and legs extended with a slight bend in the knee. This is the starting position.
  2. Raise your feet off the ground until your thighs are perpendicular to the floor, keeping your knees fixed in a slightly bent position throughout.
  3. At the top of the movement lift your butt off the ground by rolling your pelvis.
  4. Slowly reverse the movement to bring your butt and legs back down to the ground.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variations:

The hip flexors are the prime movers during the initial portion of the exercise as you bring your legs up to be perpendicular to the ground. If you solely wish to exercise the abdomens you can skip this portion and just focus on the raising and lowering of your butt from the ground.

The exercise can be made more challenging by adding resistance. As described with the v-up, weight ankle straps can be purchased to add greater resistance, or an exercise ball can be held between your feet.

Side crunches Bodyweight

The exercises listed so far primarily target the abdominals but don’t overlook the obliques, the muscles that run either side of the abs. The side crunch is a great choice for targeting them.

Side crunches instruction

How to do:

  1. Lie on your back, knees and hip bent and feet on the floor.
  2. Keeping your back on the floor, rotate your hips so the outside of your thigh is down to one side.
  3. Place the arm on the side where your knees are pointing onto the ground. The other arm should be bent, hand to the side of your head. This is the starting position.
  4. As with the traditional crunch, raise your shoulder off the ground by flexing at the waist, bringing your ribcage towards your pelvis.
  5. Slowly reverse the movement to bring your shoulders back in contact with the ground.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions and then switch sides.

Variations:

As with the crunch, the key to making the exercise easier or harder is where you place your hands.

To make the exercise easier you can place your hand on your chest so there is less weight across your shoulders.

In turn, to make the side crunch more challenging you can out-stretch your arm above your head so there is greater resistance.

Exercise ball v-up Exercise ball

As we’ve already briefly mentioned, this is a popular variation of the v-up that warrants its own listing. This is a fairly advanced core exercise so be sure to be comfortable performing the traditional v-up before moving onto it.

Exercise ball v-ups instruction

How to do:

  1. Lay on the ground with your arms out-stretched above your head and legs out-stretched with a slight bend in the knee. Hold the exercise ball between your feet. This is the starting position of the exercise.
  2. Simultaneously life your feet and arms upward. Your shoulders should leave the floor to perform a crunch and legs be risen so that your butt leaves the ground as your pelvis flexes forward.
  3. At the top of the repetition your hips will be raised, shoulders off the ground and your arms stretched towards your feet. Pass the exercise ball to your hands.
  4. Slowly reverse the movement back to the starting position to complete the repetition. The exercise ball will now be held in your out-stretched hands.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, swapping the exercise back and forth on each repetition performed.

Variations:

The exercise ball v-up is itself a variation of the traditional v-up. If you find this exercise too challenging try the v-up instead until you build up sufficient strength.

As with the v-up, additional resistance can be added to the exercise ball v-up by wearing weight ankle and wrist straps.

Legs

Dumbbell lunges Dumbbells

The dumbbell lunge is a great tool to have in your kit when it comes to exercising the lower body. The quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves are all targeted.

Dumbbell lunges instruction

How to do:

  1. Stand erect grasping a set of dumbbells.
  2. Lunge forward onto your left foot, landing heel first.
  3. Lower your body by flexing at the hip and knees until your right knee is just shy of the floor.
  4. To complete the repetition, push back from your left foot to return back to your original position.
  5. Complete the desired number of repetitions, alternating sides.

Variations:

We have described the static lunge above because it is assumed those of you training at home are unlikely to have a lot of place to work with. If you do have sufficient room you could also try the walking dumbbell lunge which is similar to as we’ve described but instead of push back to the starting position you instead bring your back leg forward, lunging forward on each repetition.

It is worth noting that the stride length you take during the lunge dictates to some degree which muscles get worked the hardest. A shorter step will tend to tax the quadriceps to a greater degree, whilst a longer step will recruit the hamstrings and glutes more.

Dumbbell side lunges Dumbbells

A twist on the traditional dumbbell lunge, the side lunge not only works the usual suspects – quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes – but is also an excellent choice for targeting the hip adductors, the muscles that make up the inner thigh.

Dumbbell side lunges instruction

How to do:

  1. Stand grasping a pair of dumbbells.
  2. Lunge to one side, roughly forty five degrees from the direction you’re facing, landing heel first.
  3. Lower your body by flexing at the hip and knees until your right knee is just shy of the floor.
  4. To complete the repetition, push back from your left foot to return back to your original position.
  5. Complete the desired number of repetitions, alternating sides.

Variations:

As with the traditional lunge, you can place greater emphasis onto the quadriceps or glutes by the length of step you take. A shorter step will place greater load onto the quadriceps while a longer step will target the hamstrings and glutes to a greater extent.

Step ups Dumbbells and raised platform

Working the same muscles as the mighty squat, the step up is home-gym friendly exercise that is excellent for development the entire lower body.

Step ups instruction

How to do:

  1. Stand in front of a raised platform (a sturdy weight bench is usually of ideal height), grasping a set of dumbbells.
  2. Place your left foot onto the raised platform and extend at the hip and knee of the leading leg to stand on top of the platform.
  3. Carefully place your right foot back down onto the ground in the same position it was previously and step off the platform so you’re back to the original position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, alternating legs.

Variations:

Selecting a slightly taller platform or standing further away from the platform to elongate your stride will result in greater recruitment of the glutes and hamstrings.

On the other hand, standing right next to the platform and taking a short step will place greater resistance onto the knee extension and therefore primarily tax the quadriceps.

Wide squats Dumbbells

The inner thigh, hamstrings and glutes are the main targets of the wide squat.

Wide squats instruction

How to do:

  1. Stand holding a pair of dumbbells with your feet wider than shoulder width apart, feet pointing outward.
  2. Keep your back upright, squat downward until your thighs are parallel with the ground.
  3. Extend at the hip and knee to return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variations:

The narrower you place your feet during the squat the more emphasis will be placed on the quadriceps as the hamstrings, glutes and adductors play less of a role.

A wider “sumo” style squat will place even greater emphasis on the adductors (inner thigh), as well as the hamstrings and glutes.

Dumbbell stiff leg deadlift Dumbbells

When it comes to targeting the hamstrings, few exercises can come close to the stiff leg deadlift. With no access to leg curling equipment, attacking the hamstrings via hip extension is the best choice.

Dumbbell stiff leg deadlift instruction

How to do:

  1. Grasp a pair of dumbbells while standing with a narrow stance.
  2. Keeping a slight bend in the knee, flex at the hips to lower the dumbbells towards the floor, stopping when your back is parallel to the ground (or until you feel slight stretch in hamstrings and lower back).
  3. Reverse the movement by extending at the hip.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variations:

You may see some people performing the stiff leg deadlift with their legs straight and no bend in the knee. This is unadvisable as it can place excessive load onto the spine and lower back.

Always start with a light weight if it’s your first time performing the stiff leg deadlift and only add resistance gradually as you become stronger and more flexible.

Hip thrusts Bodyweight and raised platform

If you’re looking for an exercise to specifically target the glutes, look no further than the hip thrust.

Hip thrusts instruction

How to do:

  1. Sit on the ground with your back leaning against the edge of a raised platform (such as a weight bench).
  2. Move your upper back onto the edge of the raised platform, knees and hip bent, feet flat on the floor roughly shoulder width apart. This is the starting position of the exercise.
  3. Pivoting on the edge of the platform, extend at the hip so your torso and thighs become aligned. Focus on the contraction of your butt.
  4. Slowly reverse the movement to bring yourself back down to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variations:

Performing the hip thrust with bodyweight should be ample for beginners.

As you become more advanced you can add greater resistance to the exercise by placing weight plates or a weighted bag on the hips. Placing a wrapped up towel underneath the weight often makes things more comfortable.

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