What to Know About Dumbbells

Medically Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on July 21, 2023
3 min read

If you’ve ever worked out in a gym, you may have used dumbbells for strength training. Maybe you have a set lying around your home. Here’s what you need to know about using them during your workouts.

The CDC recommends that adults get at least 2 days of strength training a week. Strength training involves using weights to build stronger muscles. When you weight train, you work against gravity to lift or move dumbbells to certain positions.

Along with building up your muscles, strength training gets your heart rate up, helping you burn fat.

Dumbbells are small bars that fit in your hand and have equal weights on either side. They weigh as little as 2 pounds and go up to over 100 pounds.

They may seem easy enough to use. You pick them up, lift them, move them around, and put them back down. But it’s not that simple. If you’re new to using dumbbells, consider working with a licensed or certified personal trainer. A fitness professional can help you with:

  • Correct form and technique
  • Understanding your limits
  • Exercises that work all your muscle groups‌
  • The number of repetitions to do for each set

Remember to warm up. If your muscles are cold, you’re more likely to get injured. Take a walk or do an aerobic activity for at least 10 minutes to warm up your muscles and prepare them for dumbbells.

Complete a single set. Choose a weight that makes your muscles tired by the time you reach 12-15 repetitions. Doing just one set of that may give you similar muscle-building benefits to doing three sets total.

Use the right weight. If you feel like you can keep going after 12-15 repetitions of one exercise with dumbbells, your weight is too light. The goal is that you should barely be able to finish the last repetition.

Remember to rest.Rest is just as important as working out with dumbbells. If you’re feeling sore, listen to your body and take a break. Give each muscle group at least 1 full day to rest in between workouts.

Improved circulation. When you challenge your muscles with dumbbells, you force your blood to pump stronger, boosting oxygen and nutrient flow in your body.

Lower health risks. Weight lifting with dumbbells lowers your risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. Since strength training builds lean muscle mass, it helps you burn fat.

Better sleep. Using dumbbells in the gym can lead to improved shut-eye. And better sleep leads to improvements in your workouts.

Weight loss. When you build lean muscle mass and burn fat, it leads to weight loss. Cardio can only get you so far in your weight loss efforts. Strength training is key for getting the best results.

Tendency to hold your breath. Working out with dumbbells is strenuous, and you may hold your breath without even noticing. Be aware of your breathing during dumbbell training, so you don’t increase your blood pressure. This puts you at a greater risk for getting a hernia.

Injury risk. When you get into strength training with dumbbells, you may want to work out more often. Don’t push yourself too hard, because that could make you more likely to get injured. If you use poor form while you’re lifting, you could also get an injury.