Curated By Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.
Some exercises should always be in your routine. Sure, there are plenty of exercises and exercise variations on Instagram and TikTok, and it’s easy to do different movements every workout.
But a handful of exercises are fundamental. They teach your body to move the way it’s supposed to move, and they reinforce good posture and build critical muscle where you need it for long-term strength and health. They’re movements that will let you go heavy, too, which is key to building the size and muscle you want.
These four dumbbell moves fall into that category; they’re the indispensable moves that should always be in your routine in some form or other. Do them at least every other week, and you’ll watch your muscle, strength, and durability gradually improve.
The best part: They’ll ready you for all those other exercises on TikTok and Instagram, too.
1. ROMANIAN DEADLIFT
If you do only one exercise, let it be the Romanian deadlift. The most basic human act you can do is picking something up from the ground, and the RDL prepares you for that. To bend down safely to pick anything up, you need to do something called a hip hinge, pushing your butt backwards. The RDL teaches you to do this, and in doing so, it strengthens your lower back, hamstrings and glutes. Take your time on each rep and don’t rush; as you lower with control you’re building eccentric hamstring strength.
Start with 3 sets of 8-10 reps, and don’t be afraid to train this move heavy.
2. INCLINE DUMBBELL ROW
Strengthening your back muscles is critical to your posture. It also protects your shoulders in the long-term. From sitting to playing on our phones to driving, our back muscles very often wind up weak, or overly relaxed. Row movements teach your midback muscles to contract, and the incline row is the best way to start rowing. You’ll be able to go heavy on this row while never stressing your lower back or spine. That makes this another great chance to move heavy weight.
Do 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
3. SINGLE-ARM HALF-KNEELING PRESS
A strong core and strong shoulders set the stage for you to do everything from bench presses to powerful squats, and they let you get more out of moves like biceps curls, too. You can train both areas with the half-kneeling overhead press. To do it, set up in a half-kneeling stance, right knee on the ground. Hold a dumbbell at your shoulder in your left hand. Tighten your abs and squeeze your shoulder blades. Then, without arching your back, drive the dumbbell overhead; lower back to your shoulder.
Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps per side.
4. REVERSE LUNGE
Life very often happens from a staggered stance, one foot in front of the other. That’s something you can’t train with squats or deadlifts, so spend a bit of time in the offset position instead. As a bonus, the reverse lunge also lets you squeeze your glutes as you stand, and glute strength is something that protects your lower back.
Start with 3 sets of 8-10 reps per side, and it doesn’t matter where you hold the dumbbell. Holding it at your sides will be easiest; holding it at your shoulders or overhead will add difficulty.
Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.
Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience. He’s logged training time with NFL athletes and track athletes.
His current training regimen includes weight training, HIIT conditioning, and yoga.
Ebenezer has had multiple prestigious positions including serving as a sports and tech columnist for the New York Daily News.