Do you want to improve your performance of routine tasks and overall fitness levels? Then you need to start doing functional exercises. These exercises utilize free weights such as dumbbells and combine movements that we use in daily life. By engaging multiple muscles, they have been proved to increase strength, balance, and reduce the risk of injury.
Here are some functional exercises that you can try out:
Dumbbell Goblet Squat
Squats are a great exercise because they work the hips, glutes, quads, hamstrings, core and upper body. They also improve balance, coordination, and bone density. Adding a dumbbell to the mix helps to stabilize the back while working the shoulders too.
- Hold the end of a dumbbell in front of your chest with both hands.
- Make sure the dumbbell is light enough to perform 10-12 reps of squats.
- Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your knees and slowly squat, making sure your back and shoulders are straight.
- Touch your elbows to your knees. Then slowly stand back up.
This exercise engages the quads, glutes, calves and hamstrings and improves posture by strengthening the shoulders and back muscles. Lunges also require a good amount of balance.
- Grab two dumbbells that are not too heavy. Hold a dumbbell in each hand by your sides.
- Step one foot forward. Bend the back leg so that it is slightly parallel to the floor while keeping the front leg perpendicular to the floor.
- Keep your torso and back straight.
- Retract the front leg back to standing position, then repeat the process with the opposite leg.
- Repeat 10-12 reps on each leg.
Romanian Dumbbell Dead Lift
Dead lifts strengthen the hamstrings and lower back, and improve balance.
- Start by standing shoulder-width apart. Keep your toes forward, knees slightly bent. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, with your hands hanging in front of you, knuckles facing outward.
- Look ahead and slowly bend down to the waist level, pushing your buttocks behind you while keeping your back parallel to the floor.
- Slowly rise back up, and repeat for 10-12 reps.
Targeting the quads and glutes, this exercise will train you to use the stairs rather than the elevator or escalator and will improve athletic performance.
- Start by standing six inches or so in front of a raised platform such as a bench.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand; keep your arms by your sides.
- Bend and raise one leg up to the platform, followed by the other leg so that you are standing on the bench with both legs slightly bent at the knees.
- Lower your legs back to the floor one at a time, keeping the chest up and eyes forward.
- Repeat the procedure with the opposite leg. Do this exercise for 10-12 reps.
Russian Dumbbell Swing
This exercise uses a swinging motion that incorporates the lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and shoulders.
- Leaving a dumbbell on the floor in front of you, stand shoulder-width apart.
- Perform a squat and pick up the end of the dumbbell with both hands, and stand straight back up, swinging the dumbbell over your head in a full range motion.
- Make sure the weight is light.
- Perform the exercise for a total of 10-12 reps, keeping the back straight.
Swinging Arm Dumbbell Snatch
The Snatch is one coordinated, continuous movement executed with speed. It improves overall power and uses the shoulders, legs and back.
- This is a slightly advanced move, which uses a quick small jump. Start by standing shoulder-width apart and toes pointing forward.
- Hold a dumbbell in one hand in front of the thighs with knuckles facing outward.
- Bend your knees slightly as if you are squatting, but don’t go down too far.
- In one movement, explosively jump into the air, raising your arm with the dumbbell over your head, while leaving the other arm at your side or slightly bent at the elbow.
- Bring the dumbbell back down in front of your thigh.
- This needs to be a quick fluid movement, make sure you don’t pause in between.
- Perform 10-12 reps with each arm.
Dumbbell Bent-Over Row
This exercise focuses on the lats, the largest muscle group of the back, and the biceps.
- Place a dumbbell on the floor next to a bench. Using the bench as leverage, place your left hand and bent left leg on the bench.
- Pick up the dumbbell with your right hand, keeping the palms facing toward your body.
- Bending your elbow, pull the dumbbell upward to your right side.
- Squeeze your back so that your muscles react to the lift, then lower the arm back down, but make sure you don’t drop the weight.
- Continue the exercise for 10-12 reps with each arm.
Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Weight lifting while standing is more effective than doing so in a sitting position. It stabilizes the body by maintaining balance, while simultaneously utilizing the abs along with the shoulders and back.
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your toes pointing forward.
- Bend your knees slightly, keep your head and back straight and relax your chest.
- Hold the dumbbells in each hand by your side with your palms facing your body.
- Raise the dumbbells up to your shoulder while twisting your wrists so that the palms are now facing outwards.
- Press the dumbbells forward so that your arms are extended above your head.
- Slowly drop your arms back to the starting position in one motion.
- Repeat for 10-12 reps.
This is a total-body exercise that will torch calories and boost your power, while targeting your thighs, hips, shoulders and triceps.
- Start by standing shoulder-width apart with your toes forward, holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides with your palms facing your body.
- Bend your elbows, raising the dumbbells to your head.
- Keeping the dumbbells at the height of your head, squat down, while maintaining a straight back and looking straight ahead.
- Explosively stand back up and raise your arms above your head.
- Lower the dumbbells back to the height of your head, and repeat the exercise for 10-12 reps.
Dumbbell Renegade Row
This is a power move that works the core, shoulders, upper back, biceps and triceps. It allows for better posture and a healthy back.
- Grab a pair of dumbbells and put them on the floor in front of you.
- Get into push-up position, holding the dumbbells as support rather than the floor as in a traditional push-up.
- The palms should be facing inward. Keep the back flat and similar to a bent-over row, bend your right elbow and raise the dumbbell toward your side.
- Your other hand on the dumbbell in front of you will act as support. Lower the dumbbell back down and repeat with the other arm.
- Do the exercise for 10-12 reps with each arm.
This exercise will engage the oblique muscles of your abs, while targeting the glutes, quads and hamstrings.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold one dumbbell in front of your torso with both hands.
- Squat down, and rotate your body to the right side, making sure you don’t move your legs.
- When you rotate your body to the right side, you are also moving the dumbbell to the right.
- Make sure you keep your chest and back straight.
- Rotate your body back to the front and stand up.
- Now do this exercise rotating to the left side.
- Rotate your body each side for 12-15 reps.
Dumbbell Russian Twist
This is an effective exercise for developing abs and is performed by rotating the body from side to side. Using a dumbbell adds increased resistance to the movement, which makes it all the more challenging.
- You need to maintain perfect posture and positioning for this move to work effectively.
- Start by sitting on a mat with your legs in front of you and knees bent.
- Hold a dumbbell with both hands in front of your chest.
- Lean back slightly but not so far that your back is touching the mat. You need to be slightly elevated.
- With your dumbbell in hand, twist your chest and abs to the right.
- Come back to the center, and then twist your chest and abs to the left.
- Repeat this twist 15-20 times.
Lying Dumbbell Pullover
This move will give you a solid workout for the lateral muscles of the back, the pectoral muscles of the chest, and your abs.
- Start with lying down on a bench so that your feet are firmly on the ground and your back is at a perpendicular angle to the bench.
- Holding the end of a dumbbell in both of your hands, and slowly extend the dumbbell over and behind your head, with your elbows slightly bent.
- Return the dumbbell to the front of your chest, making sure your back is still flat on the bench.
- Repeat the move for 10-12 reps.
Are You Ready to Take Your Fitness Up A Notch?
Free weight functional exercises are a good way to get an intense workout and raise your heart rate. They engage multiple muscles to improve your physical fitness. Make sure you find a weight that is light enough for you to perform the exercises with, but heavy enough to make a difference. If you are physically fit enough to do so here’s an advanced workout for you: skip the number of reps we mentioned and do each move for 30 seconds each. Pause for 30 seconds and then perform the exercise for another 30 seconds.