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No Barbell, No Problem: Here’s How to Train Your Upper Body Using A Single Dumbbell

No Barbell, No Problem: Here’s How to Train Your Upper Body Using A Single Dumbbell

With gyms having recently reopened a couple of possibilities lie before you:

  1. You arrive at the gym and there’s barely anyone there, you can get the equipment you want when you want it and have no problem moving around the gym as needed
  2. You arrive at the gym and it’s at capacity which means with social distancing measures in place it’s difficult to get a hold of the equipment you need when you need it and you’re relatively limited in what you can do
  3. Although the gyms are open you don’t want to go back yet and are looking for a way to continue working towards your fitness goals from home

If number one describes your recent experience, congrats. However, if scenario two or three are hitting closer to home then this article is for you.

Today we’re going to look at the best exercises for an effective upper body workout when you only have a single dumbbell available.


The Advantages of Dumbbell Workouts

Aside from now having to rely on having access to barbells, weight plates and a bench, Dumbbell workouts have several other benefits:

  • Helps address imbalances: With dumbbells, you’re training each side of the body independently which means you can identify and fix muscle and strength imbalances
  • Challenge your core: By training with a single dumbbell you’re often putting yourself in a position where one side of the body is weighted and the other is not, this requires you to work your core more than normal
  • Easier to lift heavy with a spotter: If you can get into position safely then dumbbells may be better for lifting heavy without a spotter. As compared to barbell lifting where there is a high chance, you’ll get stuck underneath if you misjudge a rep, with dumbbells you can just drop them off to the side


The Exercises

The following exercises are to be done with a single dumbbell but can also be done with 2 dumbbells if preferred. An adjustable dumbbell is best suited for this workout, but several dumbbells of varying weight will also work.


1: One Arm Floor Press

Working the chest, shoulders and triceps the single-arm floor press can be done from anywhere as you do not need access to a bench, just enough space to lie down and press up. A great movement from muscular pecs and a great core workout too. Here’s how you do it.


2: One Arm Overhead Press

A weightlifting staple the overhead press is one of the absolute best exercises for bigger, stronger shoulders. By doing it one arm at a time you challenge your core but be warned you won’t be able to lift as much as you think on this one. Here’s how you do it.


3: One Arm Rows

No upper body workout is complete without training the back and the one-arm row provides all the benefits of a barbell bent-over row with the added benefit of training your core strength and stability. Here’s how you do it (if you don’t have a bench you can use a sofa, table or anything else stable and the right height).


4: One Arm Concentration Curl

One half of the big arm equation your biceps make up about one-third of your total arm size and help contribute to a t-shirt filling physique. Doing a concentration curl allows you to focus on the mind to muscle connection one arm at a time. Here’s how you do it.


5: One Arm Overhead Triceps Extensions

Making up two-thirds of your total arm size it would be a mistake not to train your triceps when training your upper body. Doing overhead extensions will require focus and strength to effectively train the triceps without hitting yourself in the head. Here’s how you do it.


6: One Arm Lateral Raises

Like your standard lateral raises except one arm at a time. This exercise, like many of the others, requires greater core stability and strength than its two-handed counterpart. If you’re looking to build muscular shoulders you don’t want to miss it. Here’s how you do it.


The Workout

  • One Arm Floor Press: 3 sets | 6-8 reps | 2-3 mins rest
  • One Arm Overhead Press: 3 sets | 6-8 reps | 2-3 mins rest
  • One Arm Row: 3 sets | 6-8 reps | 2-3 mins rest
  • One Arm Concentration Curl: 2 sets | 10 – 12 reps | 1-2 mins rest
  • One Arm Triceps Extension: 2 sets | 10 – 12 reps | 1-2 mins rest
  • One Arm Lateral Raise: 2 sets | 10 – 12 reps | 1-2 mins rest

Aim to use a weight that allows you to leave 1-2 reps in the tank, increasing the weight every time you successfully hit your set and rep goal.

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