7 Muscle-Sculpting Dumbbell Exercises

by Vikki Schembri
7 Muscle-Sculpting Dumbbell Exercises

Toned. Chiseled. Sculpted. Whatever you wanna call it! These exercises are perfect for building strength and getting after your goal physique!

If you are worried about “bulk” – no need! These exercises can definitely aid with muscle definition, but “bulking” is actually pretty difficult and takes a lot of dedicated effort. These exercises are the perfect amount of resistance training and muscular growth, without overdoing it.

These exercises should be done 2-3 times a week; 3-5 sets of each; and 12-15 reps per exercise. Choose a weight that is 75-85% of your max, where the last 3-4 reps are getting pretty difficult to complete.


Goblet Squats hit your glutes, quads, and they will also engage your core, midback, and shoulders as you fight to keep the weight in place.


  • Stand with your feet just wider than shoulder width apart. Hold one dumbbell on either side, a bell in each hand.
  • Push your hips back, bend your knees, and sit into the squat with your knees tracking over your toes and your chest maintaining an upright position.
  • Drive your feet into the ground and stand to return to starting position.


Chest, shoulders, triceps, oh my!

The Dumbbell Bench Press is a great exercise that adds the challenge of balance, compared to a regular barbell bench press. This is a stellar way to build unilateral strength and ensure your chest, shoulders, and triceps are balanced and equal in strength.


  • Sit on a flat workout bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Gripping your dumbbell, let them rest on your thighs and lie back onto the bench.
  • Hold the dumbbells over your chest, shoulder-width apart such that there is a 90-degree angle between your upper arm and forearm, palms facing forward.
  • Exhale as you push the dumbbells upward, fully extending your arms.
  • As you inhale, lower the dumbbells to your sides to return to start.


Row, row, row your way to stronger, more toned arms! You can perform a row with both arms simultaneously or alternating arms. Just make sure you aren’t using momentum or letting the dumbbells pull your shoulders forward and out of a stacked position!


  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and a dumbbell in each hand. Bend slightly at the knee and lean forward from the hips. Pull your shoulder blades back and keep your eyes looking forward with a neutral gaze.
  • Extend your arms so they are straight, palms facing each other. Keep your back stacked and core tight.
  • Lift the dumbbells towards your chest, keeping your elbows tracking behind you.
  • When your dumbbells reach your chest, pause for a second, then extend your arms back to start.


This one is an all-around arm burn! Keep your core tight, don’t arch your back, and squeeze your butt throughout the movement.


  • Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in your knees. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your hands by your side, palms facing each other.
  • Turn your hands so the palms face forward. Bring the dumbbells to your shoulders, keeping your elbows tucked into your sides and your shoulders back. Try not to use momentum, but the strength of your biceps to bring the weight up.
  • When the dumbbells reach your shoulders, turn your hands so your palms face outward. Keeping your core tight, butt squeezed, and driving your heels into the ground, perform a strict press and push the dumbbells up overhead until your arms are straight.
  • Bend your elbows to lower the dumbbells back down, turning the dumbbells so your palms face your body when they reach your shoulders.
  • Lower the dumbbells to your side to return back to start.


Build leg strength, one leg at a time! Bulgarian Split Squats will leave you with a hurt-so-good burn the next day. Make sure you set your back foot on something that will not slide back – or better yet, try it with our single-leg squat stand!


  • Set up a box, chair, or couch behind you. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and hold them by your sides. Set one foot back onto the box/chair/couch. Your front foot needs to be positioned in front such that you can stand comfortably at the top, and as you lower your knee will remain over your ankle.
  • Bend your front knee, squeeze the opposite glute, and lower your hips & knee towards the ground in a lunge-like fashion.
  • Let your knee “kiss” the ground (i.e. don’t slam into it! Save your knees!) and then press your front heel into the ground to stand back up to start.
  • Complete all the reps on one leg, then switch and complete the same amount of reps on the other leg.


Everyone hates thrusters. But that’s only because they are so good for you.


  • Stand in a front squat stance, with the dumbbells racked, feet hip distance apart, elbows forward.
  • Bend your knees and push your hips back as you descend into a squat. Keep your chest up, shoulders back, neutral spine, and core engaged.
  • From the bottom of the squat, stand up by driving your heels into the ground. Continue using the momentum to drive the dumbbells overhead, punching the dumbbells up to finish standing with arms extended and dumbbells over your shoulders.
  • Bring the dumbbells to your shoulders to arrive at the starting position again.


These Toe to Dumbbell movements give you a whole body burn, but with a focus on your core! This movement is easier on your back than sit ups - and more effective! Plus, you've got a great static hold challenging your arms, too!


  • Hold your dumbbell over your chest, one side in each hand. Tuck your shoulders back, tuck your pelvis, and point your toes to assume a hollow body position.
  • Push up on the dumbbell and keep it set in place as you use you abs to bring your feet up and towards the dumbbells.
  • Gently touch your ankles to the dumbbell and then – slowly and in a controlled manner – lower your feet to the ground.
  • Between reps, don’t let your feet TOUCH the ground. Control them as they go down so they only HOVER between reps, until the set is complete.