T Nation

Training with Dumbbells


How do you guys incorporate dumbbell training into your workouts? The thing is, im doing full body workouts, so i cant really perform 2 seperate exercises per body part, for example barbell bench press x3, and then dumbbell press x3. Its just a tad too much for me.

Would you alternate days, or weeks or months? I personally prefer dumbbells over barbells. Would it be unwise to do exclusively dumbbells over barbells?

Also another quick question to slip in there. I normally do tricep extensions with cables, however i started for the first time dumbbell tricep extensions, and its very uncomfortable for my upper back and shoulder. Is this normal or do i have bad form?

Oh fyi, my goal is size and strength, with more of an emphasis on size/physique/asthetics.


If I'm doing any dumbbell work its always after any compound movements. Why can't you work the same body part twice in one workout? Are you really so physically tired that you cannot, or are you just afraid of overtraining?

If you are doing your DB tricep extensions overhead then it is normal to put stress on the shoulder. For that reason I don't do them at all. There are way too many options for your tri's that they can still be worked to exhaustion without any overhead movements (I'd save that for pressing).


If i do more than 3 sets per body part 3 times a week i slowly decline. I used to do 6 sets and even after a weekend of rest i was actually steadily getting weaker or not getting stronger at all. 3-4 sets is the sweet spot for me. Plus im very active at my job, im constantly moving and bending over all day and using my arms, especially shoulders, and i work 7 days a week.

Currently im doing 5 sets pers body part technically but the first 2 sets are more of a warmup so i dont count them.


Honestly, since your goals are so open ended, you can train pretty much however you want here and you'll be fine. If you trained using only dumbbells, you'd get bigger and stronger. If you trained only using barbells, you'd get bigger and stronger. Barbells for 6 months dumbbells for another? Same. Barbells 1 month, dumbbells only for your right side 1 month, dumbbells only for your left side 1 month...weird, but bigger and stronger by the end of it no question.

When you start chasing more specific goals, you need more specific approaches. If your goal was a 225lb strict press, I'd suggest spending more time with the barbell at first, developing mastery of the movement, and then maybe spend some time with dumbbells to bring up weak points.

All THAT being said, your above comment about how performing more than 9 sets for a bodypart in a week leads to decline leads me to believe that you should honestly dedicate some training time to improving your conditioning. It sounds like your recovery might be a little lacking, and this could be holding back your progression. Some conditioning followed by a super high volume block might do you good.


Do you still eat the same as you stated in this thread?

Cause, that's not much to help fuel your workouts or recovery.


DB's are great for benching and overhead presses. I get much better stimulation with DB bench press then barbell - my chest and front delts are more rounder/full. Try it out is my advice and sure you can drop barbell bench press for dumbells. When i had bad shoulders i used them exclusively for a few years! I was using 115lb dumbells at the end of it.

Personally if i had to choose one or the other i would choose dumbells. Barbells tend to beat me up easier. But for strength you can't beat a barbell.

One other thing watch a few videos on youtube with guys using heavy db's, you'll see how to "kick" them in place. Or buy power hooks. I have a set but i never got around to using them. I got good at kicking them up so there's not much stress on the shoulders and its just a great feeling picking 100 dumbells of the floor and geting really to bench with them. You feel like a beast :slight_smile:


Yeah I definitely feel like my recovery sucks. The past week I've started drinking a half gallon of milk a day, and added a little bit of carbs. I felt good on the low carb thing but I also felt flat. Hopefully the tweak will help. I've made gains on that diet so far but now that I'm a little bigger it makes sense to up my intake a bit


Really dude if that amount of work is wiping you out there's some else wrong.

Do you go to failure much?


Did you guys read how I work a strenuous job 7 days a week?

Currently I do

Squats x5
Press x5
Rows x5
Tricep Extensions x5
Bicep Curls x5

The first set of each is a warmup, the second I add a bit more then I'm really working on the last 3 sets.

3 days a week, medium day, light then heavy on friday


Also I wouldn't say any more wipes me out but I don't make a lot of progression if any if I go more.

And yeah I go to almost failure every time. Usually to the point where I can do one more forced rep but I stop.

And if you want to talk conditioning I don't know many people that could keep up with me. I rest an average of 15 seconds between sets and still stay in the rep ranges.


You need to pick your spots with failure training in my experience. Maybe 3-5 sets a week? I really don't know dude. When i go to failure i work like a dog. I wouldn't be able to do many sets.


Canada, yeah the amount I'm doing has been good. I just edited my last post to say I rest an average of 15 seconds between sets. I don't know I'd this is a factor but I'm paranoid about losing my pump so I go pretty fast


You rest 15 seconds between sets to failure and stay in the same rep range? For the next set using the same weight?



I'm not very strong though. Like yesterday I benched with 50 pound dumbbells haha


I call bullshit there guy. Impossilbe


Ok I'll post a video


if your work out works for you and your goals by all means continue. Your diet how ever looks like you barely eat anything at all and i feel like your recovery problem might be in there honestly.

Any perticular dietary reasons you eat such small meals? I feel you aren't even close to hitting one of your macros.


Well if you look at the portion sizes that I have, and include the half gallon of milk it's actually 300g of protein and 100g of fat, just low carbs.

The chicken for instance is usually a good 14oz. Two or 3 large handfuls of almonds, 2 or 3 yogurts. Just as examples


To answer your question though, my idea with that amount of food is to stay lean while gaining muscle. It's worked so far, even lost some fat. Haven't lost muscle yet.

Bulking my yield faster muscle gains but I'd rather take the slow steady route and not have to go trough Bulking and cutting.


Ok that makes way more sense then. For honest advice, i still do think you could stay relatively lean and have a lot more energy if you slowly added a little big of carbs pre and post.