Whether you are training at a home gym or a commercial fitness center, you won’t always have access to all of the equipment that you want.
If you are looking for alternatives to dumbbells, you have a handful of options. Any of the equipment below could be a good choice depending on what exercise you are doing and what you need from it.
Most barbell exercises that you do with a dumbbell can be done with a barbell. Big exercises like squats, bench press, and deadlifts can be just as advantageous or more with barbell substituting for a dumbbell.
It’s also can be easier to adjust the weight on a barbell, particularly if you are moving something heavy. The main drawback to barbells is that it would obviously be much tougher to do single arm work, as you will almost always have to have 2 hands on the barbell.
Kettlebells are a versatile tool and many experienced lifters are able to replace almost all of their dumbbell work with kettlebells. They are probably the closest implement in basic feel to a dumbbell, although they are very unique. They are much more challenging to grip for some traditional exercises, but easier to grip for others. They are also great for storing away in your home, because they are quite small. If you are skilled enough, you should be able to do single or double arm work with most kettlebell exercises.
Medicine balls might not be your first choice as a replacement, but they can come in quite handy. While you can’t do most of the traditional exercise with them, they are great for plyometric exercises or anything where you want to throw or slam the weight around. For instance, in place of the bench press, you could try partner chest passes. This works the same muscle groups, but in a plyometric fashion. They also allow you to do exercises with 1 or 2 arms at a time.
The easiest solution? Just use your own body weight as resistance. Obviously this wouldn’t make sense for some exercises, such as the bench press. However, you could do push ups in place of dumbbell bench press. While this might not be a perfect replacement, if you are creative, you can probably find body weight substitutes for all of your exercises. Obviously, your body might not be enough resistance for many exercises, but you will probably can do a better workout than you with with no external resistance.
Resistance bands can be tricky for some people to get a hang of, but they can make a very good replacement for exercises where you don’t need a lot of weight to be used as resistance. If you are using a home or garage gym, the make a good, cheap replacement because they are inexpensive and versatile enough to be used for upper and lower body movements. These take some getting used to but can certainly be worth it for lighter exercises.
There are machines for isolating almost any muscle group in fitness centers today. While you won’t get the free weight work that you would from a dumbbell, they do allow you to isolate muscles. This can be very helpful if you want to work a specific muscle group without using any others.
Any of these alternatives to dumbbells could be a great choice for you, depending on what exercise you are looking to do and what your goal of your workout is. With some minor tweaks, you can do almost anything you can with a dumbbell with something else.