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3 Excellent Exercises That Pack On Muscle with One Dumbbell

Online Fitness Coach

3 Excellent Exercises That Pack On Muscle with One Dumbbell

I’d like to give you a brief music history lesson.

In 1966, Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston sang about this subject. It was about dreams, love, and wishes in a romantic setting.

In 1988, Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock rapped about this subject. It was about why you must have the dynamic duo of a rapper and a DJ on a hip-hop record.

What am I referring to?

“It takes two baby”.

“It takes two to make a thing go right, it takes two to make it out of sight”.

No matter the circumstances, we relate everything to being better in pairs of two. Think about it.

Peanut butter and jelly. A sandwich and soup. Eggs and bacon.

Ok. Enough with the food talk. You know what I mean. The same applies to your workouts. Rarely, do you perform an exercise with one dumbbell.

Have these scenarios ever occurred?

  • You have a home gym that’s missing a few dumbbells from a set.
  • Someone grabbed one dumbbell from a set and you’re forced to sit and wait until they’re finished.
  • You’re at home and want to crush a workout. You don’t have dumbbells, so you’re forced to use an inanimate object as a weight.

If so, don’t panic. With a little creativity and knowledge from yours truly, one dumbbell (or object) is all you need.

Let’s dive into 3 excellent exercises you should use to pack on muscle with one dumbbell.

Exercise #1 – Heel Elevated Goblet Squat (Isometric Hold)

When we customize an online training plan at JP Fitness Coaching, we consider everything such as current and previous injuries, access to workout equipment, and your schedule.

Due to years of inactivity and sitting at office desks for hours each day, you may suffer from low back pain. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, between 75-85% of people experience some form of low back pain during their lifetimes.

Some clients come to us with the ultimate goal of easing their back pain and gaining strength as they shed fat. When it comes to training around injuries, customizing a plan includes substituting or refraining from a few common exercises. One of those exercises is the barbell back squat. The immense amount of pressure on your spine may cause discomfort. It makes zero sense to perform an exercise if it makes you feel like your back is going to break in half.

You may want to eliminate squatting altogether because you think it’s bad for your back. You don’t have to. The squat is a primal movement pattern you’re born to perform. You simply need a variation that allows you to train without causing pain.

What You Should Do

If you want a minimalist exercise that’ll pack muscle on your legs and protect your lower back while you build core strength, add the Heel Elevated Goblet Squat with an isometric hold to your training repertoire. Before we go any further, let me explain what an isometric hold means.

When you perform an exercise, there are four parts to each movement.

  • The eccentric part occurs when a muscle lengthens, such as when you lower yourself in a squat.
  • The isometric pause in a stretched position occurs at the end of the eccentric part like the bottom of your squat.
  • The concentric part occurs when a muscle shortens, such as when you raise yourself from the bottom of a squat.
  • The isometric pause in a lengthened position occurs at the lockout position like the top of a squat.

The part you want to take advantage of is the isometric pause in a stretched position. Why?

When you hold this position, it increases intramuscular tension. With more tension, you’ll maximally contract your muscles and boost your strength.

Plus, the goblet position puts zero pressure on your low back. When you elevate your heels, your knees track smoothly into a safe squat position which results in better quad development.

How to Perform the Exercise

  • Create an elevated surface. Use a 2 x 4, two books that are 1-2” thick, or a weight plate if you have them for your home gym.
  • Grab a dumbbell and place your heels on the elevated surface. Keep your feet straight.
  • Place the dumbbell into a goblet position (two hands and up to your chest).
  • Lower yourself into parallel squat position using a 3-second tempo
  • Hold that position 4 seconds. Then, you come up.

Perform 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

Exercise #2 – Single-Arm Dumbbell Floor Press (Slow Eccentric)

Due to years of shoulder aches and pains, I know several people who don’t include flat dumbbell or barbell bench press in their training routines period.

I rarely do. If you want to save your shoulders and pack muscle on your pecs, the incline dumbbell press is your go-to exercise.

However, along with a set of dumbbells, you may not have access to an adjustable bench. For anyone who wants a home gym, I recommend purchasing one. Until then, I have an excellent substitution.

What You Should Do

If you don’t have an adjustable bench for incline presses or you have shoulder issues, you can still make muscle gains. Leave your bench press worries behind you. It’s time for you to use the Single-Arm Dumbbell Floor Press.

Do you remember the eccentric part discussed in the previous exercise? Of course, you do.

Emphasis the eccentric part of the movement. Lower the weight in a slow controlled motion. When this occurs, you have a greater potential for muscle growth without pounding your body into oblivion.

The best part is that it’s a huge shoulder saver. When you lower the weight, the floor halts your range of motion. Your chest and triceps can execute without interference from your shoulders.

How to Perform the Exercise

  • Lie on your back with your feet straight out.
  • Contract your core and push your back into the floor.
  • Get your dumbbell up on the working side. The off arm should be out to the side or tucked at 45 degrees.
  • Retract your shoulder blades and push them into the floor.
  • Take 4 seconds to the lower the weight and come down at 45 degrees.
  • As your elbow touches the floor, explosively press the dumbbell back up.

Perform 3 sets of 8-10 per side.

Exercise #3 – Single-Arm 21s (Partial Reps + Isometric Hold)

Who doesn’t love bicep curls?

If you don’t, stop reading this. I’m kidding!

Seriously, bicep curls are amazing and necessary for arm growth. I achieve my best arm growth when I train my biceps 3-4 times per week for a specialized period of 4-6 weeks.

Do I use the same-old boring bicep curl each time? No.

It’s best to use a different variation or method each time. It allows you to target multiple angles and stimulate your biceps in several ways.

One of my favorite training methods is the 21 rep technique. Normally, you need a bar or a set of dumbbells. Let me show you how to do it one dumbbell.

What You Should Do

Curl one arm at a time, but add a muscle-building twist. Instead of the same old boring dumbbell curl, use partial reps and flex hard. The partial reps pre-fatigue the muscles. You’ll feel your biceps more and become better at flexing them during curls.

How to Perform the Exercise

  • Take a seat at the end of a bench or use a chair. Sit tall with your back straight.
  • With a dumbbell in one hand, flex both biceps like you’re in the middle of a barbell curl.
  • Keep the empty arm flexed in the position.
  • Then, perform 7 bottom partial reps with the arm holding the dumbbell.
  • Next, perform 7 top-half reps.
  • Finally, perform 7 full reps.
  • Repeat this sequence on the other arm.

Perform 3 sets of 21 reps per arm. By the end, your veiny biceps will be ready to bust through your sleeves. Do these for a few weeks and you’ll have to custom order shirts that fit your massive arms.

The Takeaway

Of course, it would be great if you always had a pair of dumbbells for an intense blood pumping, muscle-building workout. That may not always be the case. Spice up your training. Add these exercises to your workouts so you continue making gains even when you don’t have access to a bunch of workout equipment.

Need help putting a plan together? Apply for our Lean Body Blueprint Online Coaching Program today. We’ll build a customized option for you to shed fat and pack on muscle in the safety of your home.