12 At-Home Dumbbell Workouts For Powerlifters, Weightlifters, and CrossFitters

At Home Dumbbell Workouts

There are plenty of great resources and articles for building muscle at home. But we wanted to offer more strength-focused workout ideas for strength athletes and those with a similar goal. Now, you may not have a full gym setup at home or maybe you only have the basics. But if you have dumbbells, you’re already halfway there. 

Don’t get us wrong, barbell training is a must for maximizing strength gains. But it also limits your ability to have versatility in your training. 

So if you want to change things up and continue to progress, there are many beastly at-home dumbbell (with some bodyweight training included) workouts for powerlifters, weightlifters, and CrossFitters.

Subsequently, you’ll build your stabilizer muscles, improve motor control, have a freer range of joint motion (more movement possibilities), and help improve your bilateral (affecting both sides/barbell training) movements. 

If you’re looking to make gains… we have 12 dumbbell workouts you need to try!

Also, we’ve provided exercise instructions for some workouts and others contain a link with instructions.

3 Advantages of Dumbbell Training

Here are three advantages of dumbbell training. We think everyone should incorporate dumbbell training as it contributes greatly to performance, function, development, and versatility. 

1. Ideal for unilateral function/performance

Training one side at a time helps to identify left to right imbalance, and it also helps to correct it. We can tend to be more dominant on one side but this can affects performance if one side cannot keep up.

Dumbbells allow us to better train a single side whereas doing this with a barbell is very limited and rather difficult. Unilateral training is also good for improving full-body balance, core stability which is essential for being able to move large amounts of weight and is recommended for injury prevention. (1)

And if you’re an athlete then you must include unilateral training in your regime.

Dumbbell Arnold Press

2. Improves motor control and full-body stability

By simply using dumbbells in your training, you’re forced to develop better motor control and improve your stability. A barbell isn’t easy to use when it comes to big lifts either but dumbbells allow you to develop better movement/positional awareness since you’re having to involve both sides where the weight isn’t equally distributed like with the barbell. 

3. Freer range of joint movement

Dumbbells give you many more options overall to the freer range of movement. In fact, you can work on improving your lifts by utilizing a variety of positions that you cannot do with a barbell. Dumbbells can also help to improve joint mobility.

Plus, as previously mentioned, you’ll improve full-body stability which will help a ton when you train with a loaded barbell. 

Here are 12 awesome workouts…

Powerlifting Workouts

Dumbbell training is very beneficial for powerlifters. It improves stabilization, joint mobility, and teaches you to be patient in your lifts.

You’ll need to use your heavy dumbbells for these workouts since the focus is building strength. Make sure to warm up with a few progressive sets to condition your joints and work your way up to the main sets.

Powerlifting Workout 1 

Dumbbell deadlift

The deadlift is a full posterior chain exercise that involves the lower body, back, core, and biceps. When done with a barbell, you’re able to lift maximum poundages. That’s not so much the case when using dumbbells but you’ll benefit differently.

The dumbbell deadlift will help you to identify energy leaks and left to right imbalances while building strength and muscle simultaneously. 

5 sets x 6-8 reps (rest 3-4 min between sets)

Dumbbell high row

Many lifters don’t have as strong an upper back or rear delts as they should. However, it’s imperative that you train this area as much as anything else. It helps to improve scapular stability so that you can effectively maintain a strong upper posterior for all lifts.

  1. Holding two dumbbells by your sides, bend your knees slightly and hinge forward at the hips. 
  2. Pull the dumbbells toward your shoulders as far as you can with your elbows bent and flared out. 
  3. Extend your arms back to the starting position and repeat. 

4 sets x 8-10 reps (rest 1 minute between sets)

Dumbbell reverse curls

If you desire to be able to pull a lot of weight, we urge you to not neglect the brachioradialis muscle which is located on the knuckle side of the forearm and crosses the elbow joint. What’s so great about this muscle?… Well, anatomically, it has a biomechanical advantage over the biceps when the forearm is pronated. (1)

So when you perform reverse curls, you’re activating this muscle more than if you were to do standard bicep curls. Dumbbell reverse curls are better on the wrists and allow for freer range of movement. 

4 sets x 8-10 reps (rest 45 seconds between sets)

Powerlifting Workout 2

Dumbbell Goblet squat w/ 2-second pause 

The goblet squat is a great leg builder but because you have to hold the dumbbell at chest level, you’re really learning how to maintain proper posture and thoracic extension to perform better with the big lifts. Adding a pause mid-rep is a great way to improve strength in the bottom of a squat position and prolong the intensity. 

Go relatively heavy on this exercise to get the benefits. 

4 sets x 6-8 reps (rest 3-4 minutes between sets)

Dumbbell Pendlay row

This bent-over row variation was named after legendary weightlifting coach Glenn Pendlay who recently passed away from cancer

The Pendlay row is pretty much a dead-stop row. It allows you to take advantage of the concentric portion of the row to improve explosive strength in this area. The row isn’t a powerlifting movement but you must have a strong upper posterior chain (back), to maintain scapular retraction during all big lifts.

4 sets x 5-7 reps (rest 3 minutes between sets)

Pullups

The pullup is an exercise that you can’t afford to not do. It carries over so well to all upper body movements and builds a powerful, functional back, in addition to strong biceps and brachioradialis. 

  1. Grab the bar using a pronated (overhand) grip slightly wider than shoulder-width and hang down. Don’t allow your head to sink down into your shoulders and maintain scapular retraction. 
  2. Keep your legs straight, together, and positioned slightly in front of your body.
  3. Pull yourself up to the top and don’t cheat!
  4. Lower yourself back down maintaining the body position explained in step 1 and repeat.

3 sets x failure (rest 2 minutes between sets)

Here are 10 best pull-up bars on the market for 2020

Reverse iron cross

To finish off the upper posterior chain and more specifically, the rear deltoids, we’ll do the reverse iron cross which is a very challenging bodyweight exercise. To really get the maximum benefit from this exercise, take advantage of what it offers isometrically by pausing each rep for a 2 count.

  1. Lie on your back and place your arms out to your sides. You can either do it as shown in the video below or make a fist which is probably better.
  2. Push your hands through the ground to lift your torso up and hold for 2 seconds. 
  3. Lower back down and repeat. 

3 sets to failure holding each rep for 2 seconds (rest 45 seconds between sets)

Decline pushups

The decline pushup is one of the best bodyweight options for working the chest and upper body pushing muscles in general. The higher you elevate your feet during the pushup, the more difficult it becomes and thus, most people will find this movement challenging regardless of experience level. 

  1. Elevate your feet several feet high on an object.
  2. Place your hands under your lower chest with arms extended about shoulder-width distance apart.
  3. Tighten your core, pull your shoulder blades together, and maintain a neutral torso.
  4. Lower down as far as you can and then press back up.

3 sets x failure

Also, check out the best chest exercises you can do at home.

Powerlifting Workout 3

Dumbbell Romanian deadlift

The Romanian deadlift has become extremely popular over the years because it provides a lot of the same benefit of the deadlift, yet it’s less taxing overall. It’s definitely not the same as the conventional deadlift though (before anyone tries to point that out). 

But it’s a great option for lighter training sessions where you want to help develop the same muscles used during the basic deadlift. Not to mention, it can really help to improve lower back strength and it teaches how to hinge from the hips, which is important for carryover into the conventional deadlift.

It’s also a more possible exercise for those who may not be able to do the standard deadlift since typically, the range of motion is shortened. A powerlifter wouldn’t necessarily be concerned about this aspect but it’s just nice to put that out there for individuals looking to get many of the same benefits.

You can load up with this variation and really develop your strength in the mid-portion of the rep. 

  1. Hold the dumbbells in front of your or by your sides and keep them in this position throughout the movement. 
  2. Bend your knees slightly, tighten your core, and keep your shoulder blades together.
  3. Hinge forward at the hips and lower the dumbbells until they reach mid-shin level.
  4. Drive your heels through the ground and hinge back to a standing position. 

5 sets x 5-8 reps (rest 3-4 minutes between sets)

Dumbbell floor press w/ 3-second pause

The floor press is a viable alternative to the bench press if you don’t have a bench. Although, if you’re a powerlifter then you definitely need to invest in a bench if you train at home. It shouldn’t replace it indefinitely but it’s a good option for improving pressing strength while reducing shoulder strain and improving tricep strength. 

Dumbbells are easier to get into position with this exercise compared to if you were using a barbell which is another advantage. You can simply lie back with the dumbbells rather than having to un-rack them. Use moderate to heavy dumbbells for this exercise.

  1. Lie back with the dumbbells slowly so your elbows are the floor and your arms are bent at 90 degrees. 
  2. Tuck your elbows in slightly toward your torso and keep your shoulder blades down. 
  3. Press the weight straight up and lower it back down pausing for 3 seconds with your elbows on the ground.
  4. Repeat.

4 sets x 4-5 reps (rest 3-4 minutes between sets)

Door frame face pull variation

The face pull should be included several times per week regardless of what your goals are. It’s effective for upper posterior chain development, improve posture, and allowing you to maintain that scapular stability/retraction during all major movements. 

Doing it using a door frame is a great variation and way to effectively perform this exercise as you’re using your own bodyweight which can make it challenging.

  1. Stand in front of a doorway and place your arms against the frame as shown in the video.
  2. Step forward a little and then lean back into the doorway, controlling your body throughout. 
  3. Retract your shoulder blades while pressing yourself forward using your forearms, then repeat. 

3 sets x 12-15 reps (rest 45 seconds between sets)

Powerlifting Workout 4

Dumbbell rear lunge

The dumbbell rear lunge is a lifesaver for those with knee issues and/or those who just want to be able to train heavy without running into any knee problems. It’s also a unilateral exercise that’ll help to identify and correct strength or muscular imbalance. Plus, it’ll improve balance, coordination, and lower body function. 

3 sets x 8-10 reps (rest 1 minute 30 seconds between sets)

Standing shoulder press

The shoulder press is not only beneficial because it strengthens the delts, which contribute largely to the bench press. But it’s also very effective for developing overhead stability, shoulder stability which provides great support during the squat as well.

4 sets x 5-7 reps (rest 2-3 minutes between sets)

Chinups

You can hardly ever do “too many” pullups or chin-ups. Again, any variation where you’re pulling up your own body weight is very necessary for improving many aspects of upper body strength and function. Chin-ups not only work your back but it’s also one of the best exercises you can for building your biceps (also assist in pulling). 

  1. Grab the bar using a supinated (underhand) grip about shoulder-width and hang down. Don’t allow your head to sink down into your shoulders and maintain scapular retraction. 
  2. Keep your legs straight, together, and positioned slightly in front of your body.
  3. Pull yourself up to the top using your biceps and don’t cheat!
  4. Lower yourself back down maintaining the body position explained in step 1 and repeat.

3 sets to failure (rest 1 minute between sets)

Bodyweight sliding pullover

Most people won’t have a sufficient setup to be able to do this exercise any other way. Therefore, we’re going to include it. The sliding pullover is an excellent lat strength builder that improves straight arm scapular strength and stability. This is important for keeping a rigid upper body when performing the deadlift and bench press. 

You want to be able to stabilize the bar and allow it to move in a single path without falling off track. Therefore, you can see why this is an essential exercise. You can also do the straight-arm pulldown it using a cable or a band as well. 

You’ll need to be able to slide your knees across the floor so get creative if you don’t have slippery pants. 

  1. Get on your hands and knees. 
  2. While keeping your arms extended and shoulder blades neutral, slide your body back until your arms are reaching overhead.
  3. Now pull yourself forward keeping relatively straight arms. 

2 sets to failure (rest 1 minute between sets)

Weightlifting Workouts

Weightlifting involves two movements… the snatch and the clean and jerk. So we can do exercises that’ll assist with these movements in addition to the actual movements. 

Weightlifting Workout 1

Dumbbell jump squat

The jump squat is an excellent exercise that develops and improves explosiveness. But it also involves triple extension of the ankles, knees, and hips. As a result, the dumbbell jump squat carries over well to weightlifting. Use dumbbells that are about 25% of your body weight in pounds to be able to perform this exercise most efficiently.

  1. Holding the dumbbells by your sides, keep your core tight and back straight. 
  2. Bend your knees to lower your body until your upper legs are slightly below parallel. 
  3. Jump straight up so that your feet leave the ground while getting full body extension. 
  4. Landy softly and by bending your knees to absorb the descent. 
  5. Reset and then repeat. 

3 sets x 8-10 reps (rest 1 minute between sets)

Single-arm dumbbell hang clean

The clean is a very important component of weightlifting because it’s involved in the first part of the clean and jerk. So if you can master this movement, then you’ll be in very good shape for heaving massive loading overhead.

With that being said, you can go heavy on this lift. 

  1. While holding the dumbbell in one hand or using two dumbbells, bend your knees until your upper legs are just above parallel. 
  2. Drive through your heels while pulling the dumbbell/s up and shrugging your shoulders. Keep the dumbbells as close to your body as possible. 
  3. Move your elbows forward and turn over the dumbbells while bending at the knees, and then stand straight up.

4 sets x 5-7 reps (rest 1 minute between sets)

Dumbbell suitcase deadlift

Anterior and posterior (front and back) movements are very common and necessary but lateral (side to side) stability and strength exercises have their place too. Lateral strength movements should actually be included in all workout routines but especially for weightlifters. 

The reason being is the explosiveness and athleticism necessary to perform the basic lifts definitely require more stability and positional awareness. Therefore, if you have weak lateral stability, you’re going to experience energy leaks which will throw you off.

  1. Place the dumbbell next to you and take a hip-width stance. 
  2. Hinge forward at the hips until your upper legs are slightly above parallel to the floor.
  3. Bend your knees and grab the dumbbell.
  4. Drive through your heels and midfoot while keeping your back flat, then when the dumbbell reaches above the knee, move your hips forward to lockout. Make sure your shoulders remain neutral throughout. 
  5. Complete the your reps on one side and switch. 

3 sets x 6-8 reps (rest 2 minutes between sets)

Weightlifting Workout 2

Dumbbell squat clean 

If you want a total body exercise that’ll benefit your weightlifting efforts, the squat clean is right up your alley. You’ll benefit greatly from this movement by building explosive power and improving on some essential components needed for the basic weightlifting movements.

It’s a bit more complex than just your standard, single-movement exercises. But once you get it down, it’s one heck of an exercise to have in your arsenal. 

  1. With the dumbbells placed on the floor, squat down and grab them.
  2. Drive through your heels and midfoot to help propel the weight up while pulling the dumbbells upward.
  3. Then perform a half squat while turning the dumbbells over in the front racked position and stand up.
  4. Repeat

3 sets x 6-7 reps (rest 1 minute between sets)

Dumbbell snatch

The snatch as explained above is one of the two weightlifting movements. It basically involves pulling the dumbbell up overhead into an extended arm position. The lift is supposed to be very explosive so that you can launch the weight without having to use your arms to press it. 

4 sets x 7-8 reps (rest 2 minutes between sets)

Here’s a guide for how to master the single-arm dumbbell snatch

Weightlifting Workout 3

Dumbbell swing

The dumbbell swing is a beneficial exercise for learning how to hinge at the hips explosively which is a key component of weightlifting. It’s similar to the kettlebell swing with minor differences but still very effective.

  1. Hold the dumbbell in front of your body with both hands and take a wider than hip-width stance.
  2. Bend your knees and hinge forward at the hips to lower the dumbbell in between your legs.
  3. Explosively thrust your hips forward while keeping your arm straight. Do not lift the dumbbell using your arms as the movement should occur through the power of the hip thrust.
  4. Return to step 1 in a fluid motion and repeat for desired reps. 

3 sets x 8-10 reps (rest 1 minute between sets)

Dumbbell push press

This exercise will help improve the overhead portion of weightlifting movements. Use two dumbbells. 

  1. Start with the dumbbells positioned just off the shoulders.
  2. Bend your knees and flex your hips then explode upward through the hips while extending the arms overhead. 
  3. Receive the weight using your hips. 

4 sets x 5-7 reps (rest 1 minute between sets)

Weightlifting Workout 4

Kneeling dumbbell snatch

Taking away assistance from the lower body really forces you to develop upper body explosive and power. Give it a try to switch things up a little. 

  1. In the tall kneeling position, hinge forward at the hips and lower the dumbbells to the floor. Keep your shoulder blades together.
  2. Explode through the hips to pull the dumbbells up overhead and lock out your arms.

3 sets x 6-8 reps (rest 45 seconds between sets)

Dumbbell clean and push jerk

Help improve every aspect of your weightlifting movement patterns with this dumbbell variation. 

  1. Bend your knees and position your body down into the bottom of a deadlift position with dumbbells in your hands.
  2. Explode through your heels and midfoot, then thrust the hips upward to help pull the dumbbells into the front racked position. You should catch the dumbbells at the bottom of the squat position. 
  3. Stand up and reset.
  4. Bend your knees and explode upward while pushing the dumbbells overhead. Keep the shoulder blades back as the dumbbells extend overhead. 

3 sets x 6-8 reps (rest 2 minutes between sets)

CrossFit Workouts

Here are four CrossFit WODs that aren’t for the faint of heart. You’ll need to have decent cardiovascular fitness before attempting these workouts too since many are fast-paced and involve higher reps.

Related: Best dumbbell CrossFit workouts to improve your weaknesses

Painstorm XV

Choose an appropriate weight because you’ll stick with it throughout the entire workout. If you’re not sure, a recommended RX weight for this WOD is 35lbs for men, 25lbs for women. 

Do seven rounds for time:

  • 10 Man Makers
  • 20 Dumbbell Deadlifts
  • 30 Single-Arm Dumbbell Snatches (15 per side)
  • 40 Single-Arm Overhead Lunges (20 per side)
  • 50 Dumbbell Swings

Note: One man maker involves a dumbbell push-up, two renegade rows (one per arm), and a squat clean thruster.

Crossfit Dumbbell Workouts

160816

You’ll need access to a pullup bar for this WOD.

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