Dumbbells are a fundamental part of CrossFit training. You’ll see them pop up in daily classes (WODs), team events, and competitions. Dumbbells are effective, easy to get started with and offer the potential for truly challenging workouts. We love them. And they are perfect for home workouts.
If you can’t make it to the Crossfit box, consider investing in a set of dumbbells. They’re a great supplement to any CrossFit home workout. Dumbbells are small, compact, and reasonably priced. You won’t have to worry about breaking the bank or turning your living room into Mat Fraser’s basement.
Although they appear pretty simple, dumbbells are a versatile piece of kit. They provide strength gains in a way a barbell can’t. Unlike a barbell, we can use dumbbells for unilateral exercises, i.e. using one limb. Single limb training helps build stability around the joint and develops our coordination. This technique is also used to counter muscular imbalances.
Dumbbells can also be added to your regular workouts. Throw them into a MetCon to improve your muscular endurance. Or add dumbbell exercises to your accessory training to improve your strength and stability. They can be used in compound lifts such as cleans and thrusters, or isolation exercises. Basically, dumbbells are multipurpose tools that are, well, just awesome.
Now, at the risk of stating the obvious, you’re going to need at least one dumbbell to get started. There are three main things to consider when buying dumbbells:
- Weight – Get the right weight for your ability and body size
- Design – High quality and comfort means better and safer workouts
- Price – It doesn't have to cost the earth, but you get what you pay for
For CrossFit fans, the standard dumbbell competition weight is 22.5kg (50lbs) for the guys and 15kg (35lbs) for the girls. If you’re an Rx athlete doing MetCon-focused home training, I would suggest investing in 22.5/15 kgs. For isolation exercises, you’ll want a range of weights.
But buying a bunch of different weight ‘bells isn’t in most people’s budget plans. And it’s certainly not space-friendly. While adjustable weight dumbbells are popular, they’re not always the most practical for workouts and are not really compatible with CrossFit or HIIT-style workouts. The best thing we've found is Rogue's Loadable Dumbbell.
In general, adjustable products are bulky and difficult to handle when performing movements like alternating dumbbell snatches. Hex style dumbbells are better because the flat edges stop them from rolling around. The last thing you want when working out at home is the furniture getting damaged or weights rolling down stairs, or worse.
There’s no need to spend a fortune on your equipment but try to choose a reputable manufacturer. The last thing you want is bits of equipment coming apart in your hands.
We like Rogue dumbbell products.
Now you’ve got your equipment, let’s take a look at some tough CrossFit dumbbell workouts you can do at home.
Open Workout 18.2: Dumbbell Style
1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 Reps For Time:
- Dumbbell Squat (2 x 50/35lbs)
- Dumbbell Facing Burpees
A take on the second 2018 open workout. Instead of performing bar-facing burpees, you’ll be doing dumbbell facing burpees.
This workout is all about speed, you’ll want to go fast without blowing up at the start. Remember, it’s an ascending ladder of repetitions – it’s going to get harder. You’re going to be performing more reps while under fatigue, so you need to work smart.
I recommend working through rounds 1-7 at around 70% maximum effort. Rounds 8-9 are going to be the worst, you’ll be physically and mentally fatigued. Try to pick up the pace to 75% maximum effort. Round 10 is your final stretch, go as hard as you can and keep holding on.
This is a tough workout and if you go out too hard at the start, expect to feel gassed pretty quickly.
If you can, perform the dumbbell squats unbroken. Each time you break you’ll have to pick up the dumbbells again, which means wasting valuable seconds. If you do need to rest, pause at the top of the squat. Squats are performed with the dumbbells held in the front rack position. For the burpees, stay low. You don’t need to reach full extension with each jump – save your hip flexors for the squats. Make sure you are jumping over the dumbbell, not around it.
Full Body Hypertrophy
30 Minute EMOM (5 Rounds):
- Minute 1: Shoulder Press
- Minute 2: Split Squat
- Minute 3: Push Ups
- Minute 4: Cyclist Squat
- Minute 5: Bent Over Rows
- Minute 6: Rest
Our full-body hypertrophy workout focuses on building muscle and getting that pump. Inspired by the bodybuilding industry, this workout combines muscle-building principles with a CrossFit style EMOM.
Set a timer for 30 minutes. Every minute on the minute, complete as many reps as you can for the designated exercise. Stop at the 50 second mark to give yourself enough time to set-up for the next movement.
You’ll only need one light-moderate dumbbell for this workout. During the shoulder press, split squats, and bent over rows, spend 25 seconds on each side. If you want a bit of a challenge, use two dumbbells for each movement.
5 Rounds For Time:
- 800m Run
- 15 Dumbbell Thrusters (2 x 45/35lbs)
- 15 Pull Ups
“Frelen” is a benchmark WOD inspired by two of the CrossFit “girls”, Fran and Helen. Unlike Fran, this is not a sprint workout. Pacing is important and you’ll need to play to your strengths. The run should be used as a rest, or a chance to make up some ground – depending on your running ability. Break the thrusters and pull-ups as required, ideally, you’ll want to hit similar sets each round.
“Frelen” includes movements that don’t suit everyone’s home training environment. If you can’t run, perform single-unders for four minutes, or butt kicks if you don’t have a rope. Pull-ups can be substituted with dumbbell bent-over rows.
20 Minute AMRAP:
- 10 Overhead Squats
- 25 Air Squats
- 50 Double Unders
The leg builder is a long conditioning piece designed to increase muscular endurance. Set your timer for 20 minutes, and start chipping through the workout. Your aim is to complete as many rounds as possible within 20 minutes. Work through this workout slowly and consistently, there’s no need to take any long breaks.
Overhead squats are a challenging movement that requires good mobility. If you can’t perform an overhead squat yet, do goblet squats. Double unders are a complex skill that requires a lot of practice. If you spend more time tripping than you do skipping, perform 100 single unders instead.
5 Rounds For Time:
- 12 Dumbbell Deadlifts (2 x 50/35lbs)
- 9 Dumbbell Hang Power Cleans (2 x 50/35lbs)
- 6 Dumbbell Shoulder to Overhead (2 x 50/35lbs)
Dumbbell “DT” is a variant of the hero WOD “DT”. It’s a deceptively difficult workout and will burn your lungs as well as your muscles. The goal is to complete the workout as fast as you can. A good score is around 8-9 minutes.
Working smartly will help you perform well in this workout. Here are some tips to help you with each movement:
- Maintain good form to save your back from blowing up.
- Don’t drop the dumbbells on the 12th rep. You’ll need to perform another deadlift to pick up the dumbbells for the cleans. Save yourself the effort and drop on the 11th rep if needed.
- Hang Power Cleans:
- Remember, the dumbbell power cleans are from the hang position, not the floor.
- Focus on getting your elbows under the dumbbells as quickly as possible.
- Don’t drop the dumbbells on the 9th rep.
- Shoulder to Overheads:
- Perform push presses or push jerks. Strict shoulder to overheads will burn out your shoulders fast.
Dumbbells are a versatile piece of equipment and are great for home CrossFit dumbbell workouts. Whatever your fitness goal, dumbbells have a place in your training. If you'd like a break from dumbbells, check out our guide to the best CrossFit-style home bodyweight workouts.
CrossFit fan. Ex-personal trainer, triathlete, and cross-country mountain biker. Masters Competitive CrossFit athlete. Writer and blogger.