CrossFit Dumbbell Exercises You Can Do At Home

Stuck at home with no chance of getting near a CrossFit box for some time? Don’t worry! It doesn’t mean the end of your workouts. In fact, think of it as a way of spicing up your current training regime. Incorporate some new movements and refine exercises that you’re already familiar with. All you need is a single dumbbell (no barbells needed) to create a WOD to be proud of. Let’s take a look at some home CrossFit dumbbell movements you can do in your own living room, hotel gym, or backyard with just a single dumbbell.

Get the heaviest dumbbell you can manage. Lift with your weakest movement and see what your limit is. Let’s say single-arm dumbbell snatch is one of your weaker exercises. Whatever weight you can manage 10-12 reps with should be the dumbbells category you buy, borrow, or make.

We like the Rogue Fitness Rubber Hex dumbbells. A solid, quality CrossFit dumbbell that will last a lifetime.

Rogue Hex Dumbbells

You’ve probably already used these items of equipment if you’ve worked out in a few CrossFit gyms.

The rubber means that you won’t destroy the floor of your home or chip the concrete of your backyard. Of course, if you have a garden or someone on grass to workout, this is less important. 

If you're looking for an alternative dumbbell and would like a selection of different weights, the Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Dumbbell is a good choice. It's expensive but you won't have to buy any additional equipment or make room to store them.

Let’s look at some exercises you can do today to get a great dumbbell workout no matter how much space you have.

Dumbbell Exercise Movements You Can Do Anywhere

Exercises are rated from easy to hard and everything in between.

Dumbbell rows

Crossfit Single Dumbell Rows Exercise 1

Difficulty: Easy / Beginner And Hard / Advanced

This is a classic dumbbell exercise that not only works the large muscles of the back but the biceps and forearm. Most people can handle a lot of weight with this exercise but make sure to use dumbbells that lets you pull the elbow back past your back and as high as possible.

Young Woman Flexing Muscles With Dumbbell In Gym
  • Start with the dumbbell on the floor beside a low bench where you can place one hand. Your back should be close to parallel with the ground. Check the photo to see the ideal position.
  • Start bringing the dumbbell towards you. Think about sending your elbow skywards and not just pulling the dumbbell towards you. 
  • Engage the lat muscles and send the elbow upwards. Squeeze and hold for a second at the top.
  • Slowly return.
  • Do 5-10 on each side and change arms. 

Advanced level: Perform the movement from a press-up position. This will force you to really engage your core muscles and take you from easy to difficult in one minor but significant change.

Single Arm Row With Pressup

Goblet Squats

Goblet Squats

Difficulty: Easy / Beginner

Want to add some fire to your air squats? The goblet squat is a great exercise for working the legs, the lungs, and the core stabilising muscles. You’ll also need flexibility and good posture to make sure the dumbbell stays close to your body. 

Hold the dumbbell close to your chest. Tuck it under your chin. The easiest way to hold the dumbbell is by grabbing it on one end of the dumbbell and letting the other end hang below. You can also clasp the bottom end with your elbows and keep it even closer to your chest.

  • Squat down to below parallel while maintaining a straight back. 
  • Stand back up. 
  • Repeat for 10 to 30 reps depending on your level.

The further from your body that you hold the dumbbell (the distance from the centre line), the harder this exercise will be. The most difficult option would be holding the dumbbell at arm’s length, but we don’t recommend this unless you have deltoids of steel and a big tolerance for pain.

Goblet Squat

Dumbbell Clean

Single Dumbbell Clean Execise

Difficulty: Medium-hard / Intermediate

A movement you can do with one or two dumbbells. If you’re limited to one dumbbell, don’t think you’re getting off lightly. You might be using less weight, but the unilateral movement calls for a bit more balance and coordination. In fact, we like to do single side cleans regularly to keep the body guessing and get those fitness improvements and gains.

Bottom Of Squat Snatch Movement
  • Start with the Dumbbell on the floor right in front of your feet. Maintaining a straight back, squat and grab the dumbbell with one hand. 
  • As you begin to stand and extend your legs, engage your core to keep a straight back and let the dumbbell move up. Keep the arm doing the work close to the body. Keep the other arm out to the side or in front for balance. 
  • Extending your legs should happen explosively so that the dumbbell moves upwards fast and with momentum. 
  • At the point where your about to extend your legs fully, pull the dumbbell with your arms, shrug your shoulders and use the momentum to keep the weight moving upwards. 
  • Dip down and catch the dumbbell underneath before it begins to drop.
  • Stand up straight. 
  • Repeat by lowering the dumbbell to the floor and starting again.
  • Try for 10 to 15 reps per set or round.

To make this exercise more challenging, substitute cleans for squat cleans. The squat clean movement will fatigue your quads and lower back must faster so you might need to reduce the reps initially.

Catch Position Clean And Press Single Arm
Standing Position Overhead Dumbbell

Dumbbell Hang Clean

Hang Clean

Difficulty: Hard / Advanced

The difference between the dumbbell hang clean exercise and the dumbbell (power) clean is that the dumbbell does not touch the floor between reps. 

What makes the dumbbell hang exercise difficult is the coordination and the extra effort required to gain momentum with the weight.

  • Start with the weight in one hand, close to the body, and your legs fully extended. 
  • Dip with your knees and send the weight backwards slightly between your legs, like you would with a kettlebell swing. 
  • Explosively extend your legs, pop the hips, and pull at the same time to move the dumbbell upwards.
  • When the weight reaches maximum height, dip and catch. 
Hang Clean Start Position

Dumbbell Thrusters

Single Arm Dumbbell Thrusters

Difficulty: Medium-hard / Intermediate

If you’ve been around CrossFit for any time, you’ll know that nobody likes thrusters. That’s probably a reflection of the fact that to do multiple thrusters requires a lot of willpower. It’s an exercise that tests the fitness and stamina of even the most hardcore athletes. One thing’s for sure: thrusters will get you in shape and get you sweaty. 

Single-dumbbell thrusters make this movement a little more difficult to do from a “balance” point-of-view. Using two 22.5 kg bells for this exercise is far from easy, however. Start with one (or a much lighter set) and progress from there.

CrossFit athlete performing dumbbell snatch
  • Starting from a standing position with the dumbbell resting on one shoulder supported by your arm.
  • Squat down to just below parallel and quickly explode back upwards.
  • When you reach standing position, use the momentum to power the dumbbell upwards until your arm is outstretched.
  • Make sure to push your head through and straighten your arm overhead just like you would with a barbell exercise.
  • Lower the weight to your shoulder and repeat the exercise.
  • Do 5 to 10 dumbbell repetitions and switch sides.
Bottom Of The Single Arm Squat Clean And Press

Dumbbell Power Snatch

Power Snatch

Difficulty: Medium-hard / Intermediate

A fantastic dumbbell exercise for building explosive power, core strength, and improving balance and coordination. This movement also builds muscle in the quads, glutes, calves, traps, deltoids and upper back. 

Start with the dumbbell on the floor in front of you close to the feet.

  • As with the clean movement, begin by squatting and hinging at the hip.
  • Grab the dumbbell and begin extending the legs while pulling the weight upwards.
  • When you reach almost full standing height, shrug your shoulders and pull hard on the weight so that it continues to move upwards.
  • Dip and catch the dumbbell with a straight arm.
  • Stand up to full height while keeping the weight firmly overhead and close to the centreline of the body.
  • Bring the weight down to your shoulders, your hips, and back to the floor in a smooth motion.
  • Repeat 5-10 times on each arm.

For added difficulty, use two weights (if you have them). Note that this is a highly technical movement and in some respects, is even harder than the barbell snatch.

Dumbbell Squat Snatch

Squat Snatch

Difficulty: Hard / Advanced

This exercise is similar to the previous one but with one major difference that adds a whole new level of difficulty. Catching the dumbbell in a squat position not only requires strength but a high degree of flexibility. It’s not easy to catch and maintain a heavy dumbbell overhead. While many people can complete the first part of the movement (the pull), they struggle with the catch and the overhead squat. Dumbbell squat snatches are tricky. Heavy unilateral dumbbell snatches are killer.

Crossfit Dumbbell Snatches

Dumbbell Overhead Lunge

Overhead Lunge With Dumbbell

Difficulty: Hard / Advanced

This exercise is tricky to get right but it’s one that will work every muscle in the leg as well as the stabilising muscles in the core, upper back and shoulders. It’s one of our favourite movements because it not only builds strength but it adds big stability and balance factors. Not to mention the cardio effects of walking 20 steps with a heavy weight overhead. Yes, you will breathe deeply on this one.

Don’t try this over concrete or any hard surface unless you’ve got knee pads to protect the knees at the bottom of the lunge.

  • Start by doing a power clean and jerk or a power dumbbell snatch to get the weight overhead.
  • Maintaining good posture, step forward with one leg.
  • Let the trailing knee touch or come close to the floor
  • Push through the trailing leg and press through the leading leg and step forward with the opposite leg.

To make this exercise easier you can come to a standing stance in between each step. But the true way to do this exercise is with continuous steps.

Lunge Position Of Overhead Dumbbell Walk

Dumbbell Exercises Summary

Using dumbbells only is a great alternative to a traditional CrossFit workout. If you want to add some supplementary exercises to this workout, try some air squats, dumbbell pushes, burpees, pull-ups (you'll need a pull up bar), and handstand pushups. Create your own WOD based on the exercises but don't skip the hard ones!

Level 2 would be completing some WODs based on rounds for time. Maybe set a 10 minute clock to see how many rounds of each of the exercises in this list you can complete. A single round is still pretty good.

Don’t forget to do your mobility exercises beforehand as you’ll need flexibility and mobility in the shoulders for some of these exercises.

There are plenty of mobility drills on the CrossFit Inc website, as well as Kelly Starrett’s The Ready State, and Romwod.

No dumbbells? Check out our No Equipment CrossFit WOD list.
Looking for some Home Dumbbell Workouts? We got you covered.
Want to avoid the most common home workout mistakes?

Crossfit Dumbbell Exercises For Home

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