Dumbbells are like the swiss army knife of exercise equipment.
They are both extremely versatile and portable.
What can you use them for? If you come from a Crossfit background, you will probably be thinking along the lines of high rep dumbbell snatches, hang clean + jerks and the dreaded dumbbell thrusters that make you question why you torture yourself in such a way. If you come from more a conventional gym space, chances are you will be thinking more of dumbbell bench press, dumbbell rows & we can’t forget dumbbell curls (curl day is a great day).
If you’re more involved with the Strength and Conditioning world you might also be thinking of single leg strength and stability exercises such as dumbbell single leg deadlifts, or power development exercises such as dumbbell drop jumps.
Physios can prescribe light dumbbell work for prehab/rehab exercises (which can seem tedious at the time but usually have a huge payoff. Do your physio exercises, people). Dumbbells can also be great for changing exercises that could cause pain due to the wrist flexion demands of the movement, such as barbell work (cleans, snatches, overhead pressing) & pushups with its variations. Placing your hands on the handle of the dumbbell will dramatically reduce the need for wrist flexion (provided that the dumbbell is large enough to get your fingers around the handle without scraping them on the floor).
And sometimes, dumbbells make a fantastic door stopper on a windy day. That is a fact.
Dumbbells are a great tool. So, what weights should you buy?
This is dependent on your goal. What movements would you like to include in your training? What is your strength level? These are very important questions to consider. Because if you’re meant to be doing side lying cuff rotations, a 40kg dumbbell is not going to cut it. If you are unsure of what to buy, your best bet is to get pairs in a range of weight – light, moderate & heavy (relative to YOUR strength level). This will cover anything from rehab/prehab exercises to strength work.
Ok, so you have determined most of the movements in your training program and you know the types of weight you’ll need, but how do you know exactly what weights to get? If you have no idea what numbers to get, a good way to find out would be dropping into a local gym (or a friends’ place if they have weights) and trying the exercises you think you will be doing. This way you’ll be able to get a better understanding of what weights you will need to purchase.
Dumbbells are a wonderful tool to have in your arsenal. You don’t want to neglect having them in your home gym.