Dumbbells and Compound Sets

This article will review using dumbbells for back strengthening. We will challenge you to complete the exercises using the compound sets training program. As you know, dumbbells are a versatile training modality. They can be used to train for strength, cardio, and rehabilitation. Using dumbbells to complete compound sets will help increase strength and muscle size.

During a compound set, you will combine 2 different exercises for the same muscle group. Typically, you will do one exercise with a heavy weight followed by the second exercise with a lighter weight. Compound sets force your muscles to stay under tension for long periods of time. Because you are challenging the muscle with heavy and light weight, you tax both slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers.

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Exercise Descriptions

Deadlift: Start in a standing position with moderate to heavy weight dumbbells on the outside of your feet, next to your ankles. Bending at the ankles, knees, and hips, reach down and grasp the dumbbells. Try to maintain your chest tall, butt down, and dig into your heels as you stand up with the dumbbells. Keep your abs and your back tight throughout the movement.

Push Up Position Row: Assume a pushup position. Instead of having your hands on the ground, grasp a pair of dumbbells so that they are on the ground and your knuckles are facing the floor. Keep your hands (and the dumbbells) shoulder width apart. Lean your weight to towards your right hand, and perform a rowing motion with your left hand. Your left elbow should point towards the ceiling and your body should remain in the pushup position. 

Supported Row: Use a incline bench and lay down so that your chest rests on the bench, your arms hang down and your face is above the bench. Grasp a set of dumbbells, and start with your arms extended. Perform a dumbbell row by squeezing your back muscles, moving your elbows back and bringing the dumbbells towards the bench.

Dumbbell Pullover: Lay face up on a bench. Grasp one (1) dumbbell with both hands and hold it with straight arms so that the dumbbell is directly above your face. Try to maintain your arms straight as you move the dumbbell back toward your head. Attempt to position your arms so that your biceps are touching your ears. With a focus on keeping your arms straight, bring the dumbbell back to the starting position over your face.

Kneeling Row: Place your left knee and left hand on a bench. Ensure your left hand is under your left shoulder and that your left knee is under your left hip. Grasp a dumbbell from the floor with your right hand and perform a rowing motion. Keep your elbow close to your body as you move it towards the ceiling. Focus on maintaining your abs tight throughout the movement. Control the speed so that it takes 2-3 seconds to lift the weight and 2-3 seconds to lower it.

Back Flys: Start the exercise by bending at the waist and grasping a pair of dumbbells from the floor. Carefully lift your upper body so that your back is straight and at the level of your hips. Keep your palms face down as you move the weights from near the ground, up toward the ceiling until your arms are level with your shoulders. 

The Routine

  • Warm up: 3 sets of 10 of Forward Arm Swings, Backward Arm Swings, Arm Rotations (making circles with your arms), and 3 sets of 15 jumping jacks.
  • Combo #1: Dumbbell Deadlift 8 reps, weight should feel heavy. Immediately followed by Push Up Position Row, 10 on each side. Repeat this combo for 4 sets.
  • Combo #2: Supported Row 8 reps, weight should feel heavy. Immediately followed by Dumbbell Pullover, 12 reps. Repeat this combo for 4 sets.
  • Combo #3: Kneeling Row 8 reps, weight should feel heavy. Immediately followed by Back Flyes, 12 reps. Repeat this combo for 4 sets.