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Sample Dumbbell Exercises: Total Body

This is an excerpt from Dumbbell Training by Allen Hedrick.

Total Body

Total-body exercises, those using the major muscles groups in both the lower and upper body, are the weightlifting movements, better known as Olympic lifts. The weightlifting movements consist of cleans, jerks, and snatches plus all of their associated training exercises.

These total-body exercises have significant advantages over other types of exercises when performed with dumbbells. Most importantly, they are performed explosively. Lifters attempt to accelerate the weight as quickly as possible. The weightlifting movements result in high power outputs because of this acceleration phase. Research has shown that the power resulting from the weightlifting movements is significantly greater than the power that results from more traditional movements, such as the bench, squat, or deadlift. In most sports, the limiting factor in optimal performance is the ability to generate power not strength levels. Further, when using dumbbells, the variety of exercises is increased because dumbbell training allows both alternating and single arm movements, which obviously can't be performed with a barbell.

Although it is beyond the scope of this book, another training method that increases power is plyometric training. In chapter 9, Training for Increased Power, plyometric exercises are part of the training regimen. Plyometric training uses a variety of exercises that take advantage of the stretch-shortening cycle that occurs when a muscle is stretched. This stretch-shortening cycle results in a more explosive muscular contraction.

It is possible to combine the exercises in this chapter and in previous chapters. For example, you could perform a power clean to a power jerk, or a front squat to a split alternating-foot jerk. The combinations are endless and only limited by your creativity. One of the primary advantages to combining these lifts is their positive effect on muscular endurance. And performing combination lifts during a hypertrophy cycle is beneficial because of the additional muscle mass recruited during each repetition.

One note of explanation is needed here. In many of the exercise descriptions below you will see the phrases catch the dumbbells or catch the dumbbell. The dumbbells are not literally leaving the hands so that they have to be caught. However, in many of the exercises, the dumbbells will be moving at a high rate of speed. To catch the dumbbell means that the dumbbells are brought to a complete stop under control and in good position.

Split Alternating-Feet Alternating-Arm Jerk | Instructions

  1. Stand with the feet about shoulder-width apart and rest a pair of dumbbells on the shoulders.
  2. Sit back until you are at the depth of a vertical-jump attempt. Keep the heels on the floor.
  3. At the bottom of the jump action, quickly rise and transfer the momentum by pushing against the ground through the lower body and core to the upper body.
  4. The force generated in the lower body should cause the dumbbells to quickly lift off of the shoulders.
  5. When the hips are fully extended, quickly split the feet, with the left foot moving forward and the right foot moving back so you catch the dumbbells in what could be called a high lunge position.
  6. While splitting under the dumbbell, continue to lift the dumbbell in the right hand until the elbow is fully extended and locked. The arm steers the dumbbell to the correct position. Very little pressing action should be involved.
  7. Return the feet to the starting position, stepping up with the right foot and stepping back with the left foot.
  8. Pause in this position for a second and then lower the dumbbell back to the starting position.
  9. Alternate the split position and the arm assisting the lift of dumbbell each repetition.
  10. In the top position the arm that has been raised will always be on the opposite side of the leg that has moved forward (e.g., right leg forward, left arm up).

Common Errors

  • Placing the feet either wider or narrower than shoulder width.
  • Initiating the movement by flexing the knees forward rather than flexing the hips back.
  • Pausing at the bottom of the jump position instead of changing direction as quickly as possible.
  • Using the arms to press the dumbbells off the shoulders instead of to steer the dumbbells to the correct catch position.
  • Lowering the dumbbells before the feet are fully recovered to the start position.
  • Lifting the arm on the same side as the forward leg.

Learn more about Dumbbell Training.

More Excerpts From Dumbbell Training