The 3 biggest mistakes everyone makes with dumbbells

Struggling to see gains from your dumbbell workouts? Avoid these 3 mistakes to grow your muscles faster

Muscular man curling a dumbbell while sitting on the sofa in a living room
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We always recommend dumbbells as the first piece of equipment when setting up a home gym because they take up very little space and enable people to build full-body strength. Dumbbells are also great for toning and burning fat when used correctly; however, they are often used wrong which can stall progress.

The best dumbbells are more than just rubber weight plates connected with a metal rod. Modern dumbbells, especially the best adjustable dumbbells, can effectively replace a whole bunch of home gym equipment, making home workouts an effortless ordeal. Well, you'll still have to put the work in to see results, but at least the weights won't take over your home completely.

We collected three of the biggest mistakes everyone makes with dumbbells, including – but not limited to – using them only for arm workouts and forgetting about the wrists' position when working with dumbbells. Why are these the biggest dumbbell mistakes? Let us explain.

1. Only using dumbbells for arm workouts

The biggest mistake people make when working out with dumbbells is thinking they are only suitable for arm workouts. To some degree, this makes sense; after all, dumbbells are usually held in hand, and the most natural thing to do with them is lift them by bending the elbows.

Make no mistake: dumbbells can provide a full-body workout. In fact, there aren't any exercises that can be performed with another type of home gym equipment but not with dumbbells. You can deadlift, bench press and even squat using dumbbells.

Granted, it's harder to 'go heavy' using dumbbells compared to barbell workouts, but it's not impossible to work the muscles just as hard. You can use slower reps, increase the rep count and time under tension, to name a few possible workarounds.

So next time you plan a dumbbell workout, make sure you take this into account and don't neglect any body areas just because you 'only' have dumbbells.

Person performing the pecs fly exercise using two dumbbells and a weight bench

(Image credit: Getty Images)

2. Not utilising the full range of motion

Another great thing about dumbbells is that they don't restrict your range of movement. You can hold them any way you want and move your body as you wish when doing dumbbell workouts – your imagination is the only limiting factor.

Knowing this, it's strange to think that people don't utilise the full range of motion when using dumbbells. Full range of motion is bending your knees and elbows all the way and allowing the limbs to travel as far as they can without forcing them.

Using the full range of motion increases the time the muscles are under tension and helps flexibility; not to mention, Arnold Schwarzenegger swore by it and believed that ultra-wide pecs flys helped him grow enormous chest muscles. That's all the reasons we need.

3. Forgetting about the wrist 

Speaking of limitations: let's talk about wrists. The shoulder joint is most prone to workout injuries, but wrists are not far behind. 99% of people ignore, and 99.9% of people never stretch their wrists. The result? Wrist pain during push-ups and inflexible joints that will surely result in broken bones later on.

To add insult to injury, people also ignore their wrist position when lifting dumbbells. Often, you'll see hands dropped back and wrists at a dangerous angle. Holding the weights wrong puts a lot of pressure on the joint, which can compromise performance and may even result in injury.

Make sure the weight is held above the forearm and that the wrist is in a natural position at all times during the motion. If it feels too challenging to hold the weight like this, they are probably too heavy for you to hold. Consider using lighter dumbbells and focus on clean reps and the muscle-mind connection.

Matt Kollat
Fitness Editor

Matt is T3's Fitness Editor and covers everything from smart fitness tech to running and workout shoes, home gym equipment, exercise how-tos, nutrition, cycling, and more. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar (opens in new tab) and Fit&Well (opens in new tab), and he collaborated with other fitness content creators such as Garage Gym Reviews (opens in new tab).