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4 Unconventional Dumbbell Exercises You Should Be Doing

4 Unconventional Dumbbell Exercises You Should Be Doing

  1. Are you looking to get the most out of the use of your dumbbells? 
  2. Do you have a garage gym with primarily dumbbells and want to train for function? 
  3. Are you looking to develop a high level of functional fitness with an effective dumbbell workout? 

If you are looking to get the biggest return on your training then you need to try these unconventional dumbbell exercises. You’re going to appreciate today’s article particularly if you’re looking for a “minimalist” approach to training so that you can get the most out of the use of very little equipment. Give this a read and apply to your day’s training. Just make sure to share this article with your friends and family.

Unconventional Dumbbell Exercises 

1. Single arm dumbbell bench press: This movement is fairly simple in terms of it’s description, but remember that simple doesn’t mean easy. You only need two things to pull this off. You need a flat bench and a single dumbbell.

So why do it?

Well the single arm dumbbell bench press is an incredibly effective movement for creating tremendous core stability. In contrast to the double arm dumbbell press this movement forces you stabilize the weight by maintaining a strict line of tension that runs diagonally down the front part of your torso.

You’ll immediately feel this line of tension run from the hand with the loaded weight all the way down to the opposite hip and leg. Because of this you are forced to maintain this line of tension or risk literally being pulled off of the bench. By the way I’ve witnessed this happen even after giving fair warning to those willing to try. Follow the instructions. Maintain the line of tension.

2. Dumbbell/kettlebell single arm row: Of course the single arm row is a great variation to include into your training. However, I like to encourage my trainees to perform this movement without the use of a bench when possible. Of course, if you need the added stability of a bench then use it, but if you don’t need it then you can do without it.

So why do this drill?

The single arm row is a horizontal rowing movement compared to the pull-up which is a vertical pulling movement. The difference is that the horizontal row gives your shoulder girdle a bit more of a break as it takes your shoulder out of flexion for a change. Many times I suggest performing a 2 to 1 pulling to pushing ratio with strength movements.

This is because people tend to get too much pushing movement in their programming relative to pulling. Additionally shoulder flexion (overhead) and internal rotation tends to be overloaded with much of the training population. As a result these patterns can overload the shoulder leading to problems. Additionally I prefer the bent over row without the use of a bench which forces you to create greater stability.

A ground up point of view of a man lowering a kettlebell towards the ground during a single arm kettlebell row.

Learn about more unconventional dumbbell exercises you should be performing like this single arm row. You’ll learn with my 120 Day Functional Fitness program. Click the image to get started.

With this variation you have to create the needed tension and stability throughout your trunk to perform the movement. A more horizontal position also allows you to get a full stretch when extending the weight during the eccentric (lowering) portion of the movement. The single arm row can be performed with either a dumbbell or a kettlebell.

3. Dumbbell get up floor press: This is the first phase of the Turkish Get Up (TGU). With this movement you want to start off the floor with the dumbbell in hand. You want to bend the knee of the leg on the same side of your body that you are loaded with the weight.

So in other words, if you are lifting with your right arm then you want to make sure your right knee is bent with your foot close to your hips. You want your foot to be wider than the angle of your hips to provide added stability.

Here you want to press the dumbbell straight towards the ceiling (or sky) and roll up onto your left elbow. Lower yourself back with control and repeat the movement.

So why perform this movement?

Well this movement is great for training you how to truly activate your core midsection. It teaches you how to activate and utilize the tension of your trunk to make the movement seamless. When performing this movement you should not be trying to perform” a crunch.” Instead you should learn how to be smooth and intentional with the movement.

4. Dumbbell farmer’s walks: This is one of the most powerful movements you can perform. To perform dumbbell farmer’s walks all you need is a pair of relatively heavy dumbbells and some flat walking space. To execute the movement simply pick up the dumbbells and start walking. You want to walk for a distance until your grip is challenged and you need to set the weight down.

When performing the walks keep your shoulders and midsection stable. Work to keep your arms from sinking in right next to your body. Hold the weights off of your body.

Why perform this movement?

Farmer’s carries are tremendous for helping you to build total body functional strength. This functional strength results in a stronger grip, a stronger more stable core, cardiovascular fitness, and shoulder stability. Farmer’s carries are simple and effective. Don’t confuse simple with being easy. Those are two different things!

Unconventional Dumbbell Exercises: The Takeaway

If you’re not incorporating these unconventional dumbbell exercises into your training routine then you need to be. The key to building a strong body from head to toe is making sure that you’re functional and balanced. These drills will provide you with both of these elements while looking to challenge your grit.

Are you including any unconventional dumbbell exercises into your own training? 

What are you doing to be more functionally strong? 

Post up and share here below in the comments. 

Also for a LIMITED TIME ONLY if you order my 120 Day Functional Fitness Plan you will be able to take advantage of my special discount bundle consisting of…

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Man holding an atlas stone on his shoulder displaying functional fitnessRelated Articles:

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3 Functional Strength Drills For Fitness And Performance

4 Guaranteed Ways To Get A Functionally Strong Body

4 Signs You’re Lacking Recovery With Your Training



I'm a Certified Strength And Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and author. I have had over 17 years experience in MMA fitness, strength and conditoning, and athletic performance for most every sport. As an author and specialist I've written close to a million words on fitness and strength. I'm also a Muay Thai practictioner and enjoy helping others to reach their peak potential through fitness and performance.

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