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5 Proven Ways to Turbocharge Results From Your Dumbbell Workouts

Online Fitness Coach

5 Proven Ways to Turbocharge Results From Your Dumbbell Workouts

If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

-Frederick Douglas

Out of many factors that influence your ability to train, the basics matter the most.

Can you perform a proper push-up?

Do your knees hurt when you squat?

If you’re new to training or coming back from a long layoff, you’ll struggle with some things.

That’s fine. It’s bound to happen.

Stick with it and master the basics.

The basics will take you far.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner who’s wet behind the ears or an experienced lifter who’s tried every trick in the book. Basic movements like lunges, squats, and presses are the best things to help you lose stubborn fat and build solid muscle.

However, once you feel great about the basics, it’s time to shake things up.

After a while, if you do the same exercises the same way, two things will happen:

  • You’ll get bored. Training won’t be fun. It’ll become a burden. Then, your workouts become inconsistent. Instead of making progress, you backslide and gain a few pounds.
  • Your body will remain the same. If you do the same routine for an eternity, your body adapts. For 4-6 weeks, this is great. That’s all the time your body needs to create change. After that, your body has zero reason to change because the stimulus is the same.

It’s time to make more progress. It’s time for a change.

You don’t have to change everything. I suggest you don’t.

So, what should you do?

Use different methods so you continue to shed fat, add muscle, or make your workouts more challenging.

How should you change things up?

Step away from the barbell. 

Spend more time in the trenches with dumbbell workouts.

Why?

Here are the benefits of using dumbbells over a barbell:

  • Dumbbells provide a better range of motion so it’s easier on your joints.
  • Dumbbells allow you to train your muscles at different angles so you have a larger variety of exercises to perform.
  • This is the icing on the cake. It’s easier to train in the comfort of your home with a set of adjustable dumbbells.

Who knew right?

Now, it’s time for you to learn and bust through your training plateaus.

Here are five ways you can challenge yourself and make your dumbbell workouts more intense.

Tip #1 – Slow Down

Just like Usher told us in 1998, sometimes you need to take it nice and slow.

As weird as it seems, the easiest way to make an exercise more intense is to slow down on the eccentric part of the exercise.

The eccentric part is the “negative” or lowering phase of the movement. The best example of this is when you lower yourself in a squat.

This portion of any exercise is most responsible for gaining strength.

When you lower the weight under control and flex the target muscle group hard, you create intramuscular tension.

This stimulation helps you achieve maximum muscle gain if you don’t take breaks in muscle tension during a set.

To accomplish this, focus on the feeling of the muscle contraction rather than the actual lifting of the weight.

What You Should Do 

Use a super slow eccentric.

I’ll use seated hammer curls as an example.

Do the following:

  • Grab your dumbbells and take a seat.
  • Use a neutral grip (palms facing inward).
  • Sit up tall with a straight back.
  • Start with your dumbbells up in mid contraction.
  • Then, take 6 seconds to lower them.
  • Flex hard against the weight as you lower each rep.
  • Take 1 second and use a hard contraction on the way up.
  • Perform 3 sets of 6-8 reps.

Tip #2 – Build Muscle and Power

We know you can build muscle with dumbbell workouts.

What about power?

Hell yeah! You can add kick-ass amounts of power with dumbbells at any time.

Can you build muscle and power at the same damn time?

Again, hell yeah.

What You Should Do 

One of my favorite methods to build muscle and improve power is called a tempo contrast.

The method intensifies the tempo each set by alternating between two slow reps and two explosive reps.

Each set must total a multiple of four to be effective (i.e. 4, 8, 12, 16, 20).

For the slow reps, use a slow eccentric of 4-5 seconds.

For the explosive reps, be fast and powerful. Get some force behind it!

Training that uses explosive force increases your capacity to use type II muscle fibers. Not only are type II muscle fibers responsible for improving your power, but they help you develop an athletic, toned, and muscular look.

Here’s a great example of a tempo contrast set with my favorite exercise, the incline dumbbell press:

Tip #3 – Squeeze First, Ask Questions Last

From time to time, a member of our free private Facebook group asks this question:

“When I train ­­­­­_____ muscle group, it’s hard for me to my feel _______ muscle.”

At some point in your training life, it’ll be difficult to contract a specific muscle.

You may feel one pec more than the other during incline presses.

You may not feel your back muscles squeeze hard enough when you row. Instead of using your back, it’s all biceps. That’s not what you want.

What You Should Do

Train your muscles to contract. Show them how to work and fatigue the right way. Use a pre-fatigue isometric hold.

The pre-fatigue method improves your ability to contract weaker muscles and recruit more muscle fibers. You’ll fatigue the targeted muscle which will provide your body with a better feeling of how the muscle should work during a specific movement.

When you recruit more muscles at once, you have the potential to maximize growth.

Let’s take the dumbbell split squat for example.

Here, I’m using a 10-second pre-fatigue hold to show my muscles how to contract before I perform the movement.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B_M-CyFBpqG/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Tip #4 – Rep It Out and Squeeze

I love this method more than my favorite treat…donuts.

The top right of this picture features an Oreo donut. You can’t beat it!

Ok. Back to this training stuff.

If you don’t have trouble feeling your muscles when you squeeze them, you’re ahead of the game.

If you want to gain rock-hard muscle or add a blood-pumping challenge to the end of each set, you’re in luck.

What You Should Do

Create more tension. Drain every last bit of juice out of your muscles. Use a post-fatigue isometric hold.

This method helps extend the set so the targeted muscle is under tension long enough to stimulate muscle growth.

Research suggests that if you want to maximize muscle growth, place a muscle under tension for 40-70 seconds per set. 

For strength and size, 30-50 seconds per set is optimal.

Not much says “look at those muscles” more than a thick back and veiny biceps in a tight t-shirt.

The best way to accomplish both is with a dumbbell chest supported row using a 10-second post-fatigue isometric hold.

Do the following:

  • Get your bench to a 45-degree incline.
  • Face the bench with your head above the top of the back pad.
  • Use a neutral grip (palms facing inward).
  • Perform 12 reps with each one lasting at least 3 seconds.
  • On the last rep, hold the squeeze at your back for 10 seconds before you end the set.
  • 3 sets of 12 will do.

Tip #5 – Contract Twice

It doesn’t matter if your goal is to lose fat or gain muscle.

The optimal goal is to train consistently to keep your muscle.

Part of that training requires you to stimulate lactate or “lactic acid”.

Does this mean you should pulverize your muscles into oblivion with 20 sets of 100 reps until your body is in agony?

No.

As bodybuilding legend, Lee Haney famously said, “Stimulate, don’t annihilate.”

One way to stimulate your muscles without feeling like death is to contract them hard…twice.

What You Should Do

Use a double contraction. 

It works best with exercises where you can keep under constant tension on one muscle (i.e. squats, curls, presses, and Romanian deadlifts).

The method challenges your body to create tension for an extended time because each rep is 1.5 squats.

During each rep, you’re trapping blood and oxygen inside the muscle which leads to less blood flow and oxygen. When this occurs, lactate builds and helps stimulate muscle growth.

In the video, I’m performing a double contraction goblet squat.

  • Grab your dumbbell in the goblet position (hold on one end at your neck/chest area).
  • Lower yourself into the bottom of the squat.
  • Go up halfway, then down again.
  • Finally, come up.
  • That’s one rep.
  • Perform 3 sets of 15 reps.

The Takeaway

After you master the basics, don’t ditch them.

When most of your training includes dumbbells, you can always change things up to beat the boredom of a barbell.

Don’t get me wrong. Barbell exercises are fantastic, but the versatility of dumbbells allows you to do so much more.

Use the tips above to get you started or simply add to your training toolbox.

Geez…wouldn’t it be great if you could have someone figure out all of this for you?

We should work together. Apply for our 1-on-1 online coaching Lean Body Blueprint program by clicking HERE.

The application is so short, I won’t be able to finish my Oreo donut before you hit submit.