T Nation

Your Opinion on Dumbbells?

Hi Dr Darden,

Continuing my strategy to combine three of your regimen in a repeated cycle two times a week. To keep the sessions interesting, I feel the need to add a new or different excercise here and there once in a while.

In your recent books, I notice that there aren’t that many dumbell excercises? Any specific reason for that, or just a coincidence? I would guess that the activation of separate arms makes the excercise harder for novice trainees, as well as put a larger amount of stress on the shoulders in general?

I used to love doing incline dumbbell presses for pecs for some reason, prior to getting into HIT with machines. Now, I was thinking about trying out the dumbbell flye press (as instructed by Christian Thibaudeau in a relevant article on T Nation) in a HIT manner (4-5 sec down, 4-5 sec up). I would love to hear your opinion on this, as well as any recommended excercise, that in your opinion work exceptionally well with two dumbbells?

Any other followers that have any favourable recommendations on Dumbbells on a Darden regimen?

Funny I was just thinking how much I like my dumbbells and if it came push to shove between them and my numerous machines I’d go with my rack of dumbbells!!


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I’m all for dumbbells. I like Thib’s style of dumbbell flies. And I agree with Scott and his fondness for them.

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I did Thib’s dumbbell fly presses yesterday and I’m super sore today. They definitely have a great feel to them. Especially for someone like me who had a tough time activating my chest and it’s always been a weak point. I’d definitely say give them a go, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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Thanks for this JT,

Flye presses approved then! I really liked the idea of slow eccentric flyes combined with presses. Sounds like a HIT-excercise.

In terms of load/weight, were you in between what you normally use for regular flyes and presses?

I will make sure to try this on mondays excercise.

Since it was my first time trying them the weight I picked was a little low. I would say the load is in between DB flys and DB bench press. Probably more on the lower end though.

The exercises are almost limitless with dumbbells. The safety is there too compared to a barbell. If I lived in a small place with little very little room, I would simply buy an adjustment bench and dumbbells with the weight selector on them (Powerblock, Bowflex, etc.). That would barely take up any space. It’s really all one would need to work every muscle and reach their potential or darn close to it.

Having a set of adjustable dumbbells kept me sane and fit after I lost access to the gym due to the pandemic. I have the Iron Master version that goes up to 75LB per dumbbell. That plus a pullup bar and a flat bench is all I need to train my upper body.

For lower body, I’ve switched to unilateral leg work (rear foot elevated split squat with added weight. I also bought a weight vest at Dick’s (60 lb capacity) just before the lockdowns started in March. That makes it a little easier to load the split squat.

Eventually I may buy the add-on kit which allows up to 120LB per dumbbell. That is way overkill for me in terms of upper body work. But it would allow me to do bilateral squats, deadlifts, and RDL’s with up to 240LB.

It has occurred to me that if, in retirement, I end up living in a smaller place, that Ironmaster set, plus the bench and pullup bar would be all the gear that I would need for strength training. They sell a stand with a compact form factor that conveniently holds all the weights and handles.

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I have the Ironmaster dumbells with the 120 pound add ons.
Great quality dumbells. The add ons can be a little bit of a pain to change as the add ons have longer rods and so you have to unload the regular rods first.
I’ve also heard that they are now selling micro plates. Which will come in handy as the jump of around 5 pounds per dumbell can sometimes be too much (loading one side only halves the increase , but is not ideal)

I also have the Ironmaster dumbells up to a weight beyond what I need. And the bench and cable tower. Brilliant setup. I’ve been to a commercial gym once or twice a year tops. Home stereo in my gym, no waits, no issues with dropsets (I have a second set of dumbells) I’ve added a few things over years and has been cheaper than a commercial gym.