Are Dumbbells Enough?

Many individuals would rather use cable machines, barbells, free weight machines, and other forms of exercise to achieve their fitness goals because they think that dumbbells are not enough. Let’s see if they are.

Dumbbells are enough to help you achieve your fitness goals regarding strength, muscle growth, toning, and endurance, even when factoring in light and heavy dumbells. Used in conjunction with HIIT, circuit training, or CrossFit, they can even help you lose weight.

This article will cover any question you have ever had regarding dumbells, giving you insight on why they are enough and why you should consider them in your training regiment.

Is a Pair of Dumbbells Enough?

You may be wondering if just a pair of dumbbells is enough for you to achieve your fitness results because nowadays, in the gym, dumbbells are only a small portion of the equipment you find. You will find everything from barbells to cable machines, free weighted machines, HIIT and CrossFit areas, stretching areas, and cardio areas, just to cover a few.

Dumbbells seem like the old equipment that had to be used when all these other new types of workouts and equipment were not around, so are they really enough?

A pair of dumbbells can most definitely be enough for training. Depending on the exercise, they will offer resistance to that muscle group over a sustained amount of time (repetitions). Depending on the type of resistance that is being applied with them, you will achieve specific fitness results.

In fact, check out some of the benefits of dumbbell training here, and if you are still not convinced then additionally, check out this study that showed an increase in lean tissue mass, muscle thickness, and strength when using free weights such as dumbbells.

Exercise (in all its aspects) boils down to resistance training (creating a force that your body has to work against) with regards to the applied amount of resistance working your body to achieve a specific result (health, weight loss, strength, etc.) over a sustained amount of time. That is all what exercise basically is in any shape or form when you break it down. So can dumbbells do all these things?

The only factor you have to take into account with dumbbells are their weight and using various weights in accordance with varying exercises, so the next question we have to ask is;

How are Dumbbell Weights Measured?

Depending on where you are in the world, dumbbell weights will be measured in lbs (pounds) or kgs (kilograms). 1kg will be equivalent to 2.2lbs, respectively.

Hence, all you need to do if you are working with kilograms is multiply the total weight by 2.2 to acquire the pounds weight, and if you are working in pounds, then you will have to divide the total number by 2.2 to give you the weight in kilograms.

Do You Count the Weight of Both Dumbbells?

When you see a pair of dumbbells, they will have the weight stamped into them, which will either be in lbs. (pounds) or kgs (kilograms).

The weight that is stamped on each dumbbell will be the weight of that dumbbell alone. For example, if you see a set of two 20lb dumbbells’, each of them will weigh 20lbs making the total weight 40lbs.

If you grab a pair of 10lb dumbbells, you will be holding 10lbs in each hand for a total of 20lbs.

How Heavy Should Dumbbells be?

This is the wrong question to ask, and it should rather be; how heavy should dumbbells be in terms of my fitness goals?

Dumbbells’ like any other form of exercise, will offer resistance to the body, making it work, and depending on that type of resistance and how it impacts the body, the results will vary.

Dumbbells will be as heavy as you need them to be to achieve your fitness goals. This means for fitness goals that are toning-related, the weight will be moderate, for muscle gaining and strength building, the weight will be heavy, and for endurance, the dumbbells’ weight will be light.

You have to understand, though, that every individual has a different capacity in terms of strength and endurance, and this will be directly proportional to the weight of the dumbbells they can use.

A person and even a trainer cannot say what weight you will need to use for dumbbells to achieve any specific result without first understanding how strong you are relative to your endurance level.

A pro bodybuilder may use 40lb dumbbells to warm up (building endurance) when doing bicep curls, whereas, for anyone else, this would be heavy (focusing on muscle gain and strength building).

Can Dumbbells Build Muscle?

Dumbbells can indeed build muscle. To build muscle, you need to break down (tear) the muscle and as much of it as possible. You do this with heavier weight because the tension with this type of weight will achieve this result.

The more muscle you are able to break down, the larger it will grow when it recovers. Dumbbells are great for this because they can be used as a compound exercise (incorporating many muscle groups) or as an isolation exercise (focusing on one muscle), depending on the exercise in question.

Keep in mind that everybody is born with a specific number of muscle fibers for each muscle group, and that is all you will ever have. This is where genetics comes into play, but that is a topic for another article.

Will 10lbs Dumbbells Build Muscle?

This is relative to the strength of the person using them, and also, it will be relative to the muscle group you are working.

10lbs dumbbells will be heavy enough to build a specific amount of muscle if the person can only complete 5 to 8 reps with them going to failure. This rep range is the ideal rep range to build muscle if the weight is heavy enough that the person fatigues to failure at the end.

In most cases, a beginner or female (due to them being genetically weaker than men) will be able to build muscle with his amount of dumbbell weight until they get to a point where the rep range exceeds 8. Then the exercise will turn into an endurance and toning exercise with the dumbbells.

In other cases where small muscle groups and supporting muscle groups are concerned, 10lb dumbbells’ will be enough to grow a sufficient amount of muscle because these muscle groups are small and can only handle a small amount of weight.

Furthermore, there have been many studies to indicate that lighter weights can be just as effective as building muscle as heavier weight.

Are 20lbs Dumbbells Enough?

20lb dumbbells will be enough in most cases regarding toning, endurance, muscle building, and strength training. Depending on the rep range and the muscle group involved, this will vary accordingly.

For example, squatting with 20lb dumbbells will improve fitness and your quads, calves, and glutes in terms of toning and endurance because most individuals will be able to do more than 10 reps using this weight.

If you had to use 20lb dumbbells’ for shoulder exercises, you would easily increase your strength and muscle mass because the shoulders are a small muscle group, and 20lbs will be more than sufficient if not too heavy in some instances. Hence, the rep range will be low to moderate, which means you will tear sufficient muscle.

How Many Reps of 20lbs Should I do?

Many individuals always ask this question, and the answer does not fall with the amount of weight you are able to do or the number of repetitions with that weight.

Depending on the exercise (muscle groups involved) and your goal, you will strive to always do each set to failure within a specific rep range regardless of the weight involved. To build muscle and strength, the ideal rep range is between 5 and 8. for toning, it is between 9 and 12, and for endurance training, it is 12 to 15.

Please note that your last rep should be bringing you to failure no matter what you are trying to achieve, whether for strength, toning, or endurance.

Fitness goalRep rangeWeight neededExercise involved
Strength and muscle building5 – 8Will varyWill vary
Toning9 – 12Will varyWill vary
Endurance12 – 15Will varyWill vary

Take note that this is basic exercise understanding 101. this does not consider other training methods with weights such as drop sets, supersets, HIIT, and others.

Can Dumbbells Make You Fit?

Fit is a broad and ambiguous term that can have many meanings. Dumbbells’ can indeed make the muscles you are working get fit in terms of toning and endurance, allowing them to get stronger and allowing them to be healthy.

When it comes to cardiovascular fitness, dumbbells’ could essentially increase your fitness level to a certain degree, but proper cardio exercise (running, hiking, swimming, cycling) would be more beneficial.

In order to get cardio fit, you need to be working your lungs, quads, and glutes continuously while keeping your heart rate at 70% of its maximum or above. Depending on your age, weight, fitness level, and what percentage of your maximum heart rate you are working at, the cardio involved will either be aerobic or anaerobic (both will increase fitness levels).

For example, you could do walking lunges across the gym floor with dumbbells for 30 minutes. That would indeed make you fit, strengthen your legs, and tone them and build them for endurance. That is if you could do walking lunges nonstop for that amount of time.

Using dumbbells to target specific leg muscles could indeed tone them and make them fitter depending on the weight used and the duration of the exercise. However, fitness in terms of cardiovascular fitness would need you to utilize dumbells in conjunction with another form of training such as HIIT, CrossFit, or circuit training. Alone, dumbells would not provide you with the requirements needed to increase your overall cardiovascular system’s fitness.

Are Dumbbells Good for Weight Loss?

Weight loss requires you to burn calories which intern burns the stored energy (fat) on your body. For this process to take place, you need to be doing a form of aerobic cardiovascular exercise that makes you work your heart at approximately 70 percent of its max for an extended period of time (no shorter than 30 minutes). Cardiovascular exercise includes swimming, running, jogging, hiking, cycling, swimming, etc.

The only way you could utilize dumbbells for weight loss would be in such a way as to incorporate them into a form of cardiovascular exercise (aerobic or anaerobic). You could do this in the form of HIIT, CrossFit, or circuit training. Only by doing this would dumbells also play a role in helping you to achieve sufficient weight loss by burning extra calories.

Exercises with dumbbells alone would not make your body meet the requirements of proper cardiovascular exercise unless there were other severe factors involved, such as extreme dieting, disease, extreme muscle fatigue, and others.

However, even though you will need to use them in conjunction with cardiovascular exercise for sufficient weight loss, this study shows that using dumbbells and ankle-wrist weight has the potential to reduce cardiovascular disease.

Will Dumbbells Reduce Belly Fat?

Dumbbells alone will not reduce belly fat. Fat is stored energy that you can get rid of by burning a sufficient amount of calories utilizing your cardiovascular system and correct eating.

The only case where dumbbells would result in belly fat loss is where your calorie intake would be less than your daily calorie expenditure, and you were exercising with dumbbells. However, it would not even then reduce belly fat but rather the fat on your body in relation to your body type. Furthermore, the fat loss would not be specifically due to the dumbbells but rather a deficit of calories.

The best way to lose belly fat is to do cardiovascular exercise, and if you would like to utilize dumbbells, you would use them in conjunction with HIIT, circuit, or CrossFit, as we discussed before. Check out this article here from Medical News Today that correlates this fact.

Can You do Dumbbell Curls Every Day?

Depending on your goals, you are able to do dumbbell curls every day. If you are looking to tone and build endurance, then as long as you give them sufficient rest, you will be able to achieve your goal by doing dumbbells’ curls with moderate weight in a rep range between 9 and 15.

You would also have to consider what other forms of exercise or weightlifting you are doing that would be utilizing your biceps and work according to that.

For goals where you would like to achieve strength and muscle growth, it would be advisable to do dumbbell curls no more than twice or three times a week. Due to the fact that you tear the muscle down, it needs a sufficient amount of time to recover, and thus doing them every day would not allow them to do so.

Which Dumbbells are Best for Beginners?

Whether you are a beginner or a person who has been exercising for years, you should use the appropriate dumbbell weight for your specific goal. The dumbbell weight will vary depending on the person’s physical fitness, muscle strength, and goals.

A beginner may fatigue quicker, but the principle is the same. For strength and muscle building, you will have a rep range of between 5 to 8, for toning between 9 and 12, and for endurance, 12 to 15.

How Much Weight Should a 15-year-old Lift with Dumbbells?

Due to the fact that a teenager is still growing and developing (their muscle structure and bone structure is changing), they should always only ever use moderate weight. This means they should use a weight that allows them to move through a rep range of between 9 and 15.

Heavier weight could affect the bone structure and joints in a developing teenager, and as such, there may be instances where these elements could get damaged and cause problems later on in life.

Full Body Dumbbell Workout

Getting into shape does not have to be that difficult, and if you read our article here about how dumbbells can effectively take you from zero to hero no matter your fitness goals, then you are in luck.

We put together the most common exercises that you can utilize with dumbbells in order to achieve your fitness goals. That means whether you are looking to lose weight, gain muscle and strength, build endurance, or tone, these exercises will help you do that.  

The only thing you need to consider is your rep range and the heaviness of the weight itself. Remember that the rep range and weight that allows you to move through that rep range to failure will ultimately help you achieve your goals. We have listed the rep range chart for your perusal below.

Fitness goalRep rangeWeight neededExercise involved
Strength and muscle building5 – 8Will varyAll exercises in this PDF
Toning9 – 12Will varyAll exercises in this PDF
Endurance12 – 15Will varyAll exercises in this PDF

Before we begin, the last thing to note is that this is a full-body workout that will utilize and work all the major and minor muscle groups in your body. You are more than able to break up the exercises and train certain body parts on different days if you wish, or you may choose to do them all in one workout. Depending on how you split up the exercises, you will achieve different results.

Utilizing the exercises and training one or two body parts a day with heavyweight will allow you to build muscle mass and strength while doing all the exercises in one workout session will effectively turn the workout into a full-body endurance, toning session. Just remember to go as fast as possible without sustaining injury.

Shoulder press

Shoulder press will work your front and side deltoids along with your triceps. Start off by raising the dumbbells and placing them on your shoulders. You will then push the dumbbells into the air, almost locking your elbows when you reach the top. You don’t lock your elbows when you reach the top because you will lose control over the weight if you do.

Coming back down with a smooth and steady motion, you stop at your shoulders again and repeat the exercise according to your fitness goal.

Seated bicep isolation curls

As the name suggests, this exercise will work and isolate your biceps. If you’ve ever wanted guns, then this is one way to get them. Sitting on an exercise bench or chair, grab an appropriate weight and lean slightly over.

Take note that you will be exercising one arm at a time. Place your elbow with the arm that has the weight in it into your thigh so that it sits there comfortably. Use the opposite arm to support yourself, so you don’t fall over.

This exercise will use a full ROM, which means you should extend the weight until your arm locks at the bottom. You then curl as high up as you can, slowly releasing the weight when you reach the top. Unlike shoulder press in this position, you have full control over the weight, so there is no need to worry.

Dumbbell rows

Dumbbell rows are one of the best exercises you can do to work your back. If done correctly, it will not only work your entire back (that means middle, lower, and traps), but it will work your biceps and core as well.

When you are in the row position and pull the weight towards yourself, your core needs to stabilize your body, ensuring that you do not lose balance and topple over. Furthermore, any form of a row will utilize the biceps, especially when it comes to beginners. Beginners don’t really know how to squeeze and flex the back muscles when it comes to back exercises when they first start out, so what happens is that a lot of strain is put on the biceps. Make sure that you “pull” the weight with your back muscles to effectively work the back.

Start by grabbing a dumbbell and kneeling on an exercise bench. The dumbbell should hang straight down at your side while your back should be extended and as erect as possible. Squeezing your core and squeezing your back muscles pull the dumbbell towards your chest. It is tempting when the dumbbell reaches your chest just to relax and let the dumbbell fall; however, try to release it in a controlled manner, further squeezing your back and core, getting the entire momentum of the exercise.

Dumbbell kickbacks

We decided to incorporate two tricep exercises because the triceps are one of the weakest body parts, and essentially, any form of a push will utilize them, so they do need to be worked perhaps a little bit more than other body parts.

Dumbell kickbacks, as with seated isolation dumbbell curls, isolate the tricep and should be used more for toning and conditioning than for building muscle. You will find that doing kickbacks; you are only able to use half if not less than half of the weight you would when doing skull crushers.

Kickbacks will be similar to dumbbell rows in that your body position is the same. The only difference is you start with you are raised, allowing the dumbbell to be situated at your chest. With an extended kickback, motion flexes your arm back as far as possible, going through your arm’s entire ROM slowly releasing when you reach the top.

Skull crushers

Skull crushers are considered the “meat and potatoes” tricep exercise, and if you are looking for sheer mass and strength, then this exercise is the way to go.

You should be in a seated position on an exercise bench with your back straight, or you could use a chair. Posture is essential for this exercise because if not done correctly, you can injure yourself.

Grabbing a weight start by using both hands and arms to place the weight on one of your shoulders. This will be your starting position. Sometimes the weight is pretty heavy, and you can’t just throw the weight up and go, so placing it on your shoulder will help you start with a full amount of control and prevent injury.

When ready, move the weight behind your head and, with an upwards motion of your arms, push them into the air going through your full ROM. This means go as high and as low as possible while moving through the exercise. When you are complete, place the weight on your shoulder again and do not under any circumstances drop or throw the weight in a way that you will injure yourself.

Upright dumbbell rows

Upright rows are a great way to strengthen your shoulders and traps. If you have ever gotten tired from carrying groceries or anything over a long distance, then this exercise is for you.

Start by taking a dumbbell in each hand and letting them hang in front of you over your thighs. Keeping in mind you are in a standing position, your back is straight, and your core is tightly squeezed. It is essential to squeeze and tighten up your core for this because the motion of the row can easily throw out your back.

With an upright jolting motion, pull the dumbbells up along your body raining your elbows into the air until the dumbbells reach your shoulders. When you reach your shoulders, try for a controlled release back to the bottom.

Pushups or chest press

Chest press is similar to bench press, except instead of a bar, you would utilize dumbbells. The one thing to consider is that if you are just starting out, perhaps this exercise is not for you. Dumbbells are primarily for isolation and require the use of your supporting muscles, and unless you have a little bit of experience in the gym and have worked your chest sufficiently then, we suggest you stick to pushups. Otherwise, you are more than likely to drop the dumbbells, injuring yourself in more ways than one.

Keeping your tiptoes on the ground and extending your body flat, keeping your back straight and your core tight, place your arms at your side. The closer your arms are to your body, the more you will work your triceps, and the further your elbows are away from your body, the more of your chest you will work.

Start flat on the floor and push yourself into an elevated position through your arm’s entire ROM until your elbows lock. Going back down can vary depending on how strong you are. Optimally it would help if you strived to go as low as possible until your nose touches the floor but still keeping your back perfectly straight. However, if this is not possible, go as low as you can, repeating the exercise to failure.

Bodyweight or dumbbell squats

The ultimate leg exercise is squats. It works your hamstrings, quads, glutes, and calves. There is really no other exercise to beat squats, no matter if you are looking to build endurance, muscle, or tone up.

For the purpose of bodyweight squats, you will not need dumbbells because (but can use them as we will discuss later), for beginners, squats can tire you out very quickly. You must understand that working your glutes and quads (two of the largest muscles in the body) are a prerequisite to cardiovascular exercise; hence they can be draining.

Start with your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes facing in a forward direction. Your back should be straight, and once again, your core should be taught. Always remember that when doing any exercise in a standing position to squeeze and keep your core tight.

With a sitting motion, squat down until you are in a seated position and then push yourself up once again. It is important to note that you should not go past this position because you can easily injure your knees this way.

If you are strong enough to use dumbells, then with the same technique, you would just hold the dumbbells of appropriate weight at your side and squat through the ROM of the exercise.

Final tips

These exercises comprise a full-body workout, and as we said, they can be split up or done in the same workout, depending on what your goals are. The last thing to note is that exercise is not without its limits, and if you genuinely wish to achieve specific results, then you will need to eat accordingly.


We discovered that dumbbells are more than enough to achieve most of your fitness goals, including building strength, muscle, endurance, and muscle toning.

The only factor to consider is that dumbbells alone will not make you fit in terms of your cardiovascular system and helping you to lose weight unless used in conjunction with other exercises that work your cardiovascular system aerobic or anaerobically.

Remember that even though dumbbells will be regarded as an anaerobic exercise because of the energy system used, what most individuals think to be fit will require the use of your cardiovascular system for extended periods of time. Hence you would use dumbbells’ in HIIT, circuit training, or CrossFit to achieve this.


Effects of Training With Free Weights Versus Machines on Muscle Mass, Strength, Free Testosterone, and Free Cortisol Levels

Dumbbells and ankle-wrist weight training leads to changes in body composition and anthropometric parameters with potential cardiovascular disease risk reduction

5 Benefits of Dumbbell Training

Pumping iron: Lighter weights just as effective as heavier weights to gain muscle, build strength

Hit the weights, not the treadmill, to reduce belly fat

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