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the total

dumbbell workout
Trade secrets of a personal trainer

Steve Barrett

Dumbells_9781408142288_001.indd 3 02/08/2011 17:41


contents
Disclaimer and advisory 4

1 the basics of exercising with dumbbells


The S.A.F.E. trainer system (Simple, Achievable, Functional, Exercise) 6
How to use this book 10
FAQs 15
Find your starting point 19
Assess, dont guess 21
Isolation vs integration 28
Learn it, then work it 31
First you need stability 33
Add some strength 36
Power beats size 37

2 the portfolio of moves


Which moves should I do? 39
The classic moves 45
The best of the best 72
Dull, but dependable 107
Trash! Dont waste your time 114

3 training with dumbbells


How to use the dumbbell training sessions 120

And finally 141


Fitness glossary 142
About the author 157
Index 158

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the total dumbbell workout

exercise 1 bicep curl, under grip


l stability l strength l power l isolation

a b

l Stand with your feet together, i.e. as wide as your pelvis or you will hit the sides
of your legs with the dumbbell.
l With your palms facing forward and your upper arm hanging vertically*, lift
the weight up until you have closed your elbow joint as far as it will go.
l Then, lower the dumbbell back to the start position.

* Some personal trainers tell you to keep your elbows in, to encourage you to
isolate the bicep muscle, but thats not really how the body works. Personally, if a
little bit of additional muscle is recruited in a move, I dont mind and its natural.

!
tricks of the trade
What can you possibly do to a bicep curl to make it more interesting?
With my clients, if their attention starts to wander I make them change
their foot position every couple of reps, so they shift their weight from
one foot to the other and stand in a slightly split stance (one foot
forward). This has no adverse effect on the curl and is also beneficial
for coordination.

46

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the portfolio of moves

exercise 2 bicep reverse curl, over grip


l stability l strength l power l isolation

a b

l Stand with your feet no wider than your pelvis and hold the dumbbell so that
your knuckles are facing forward.
l Keep the upper arms hanging vertically, then using your biceps lift the dumbbell
up until you have closed the elbow joint completely.
l Then, lower the weight back to the start position.

!
tricks of the trade
There is a huge temptation to lean forward during this move. When
my clients cheat in this way I make them touch their butt cheeks and
shoulders against a wall (touching, not leaning), and then do the the
curls you simply cant cheat.

47

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the total dumbbell workout

exercise 3 bicep curl 21s


l stability l strength l power l isolation

a b c

These are deceptively hard! The aim is to perform the three sets of seven reps
immediately after each other. Why do we do this? Mainly because the biceps are
very resilient muscles that do not often have to function through their full range
every time they are used, so this approach is very good at creating a reaction.

l For the first seven reps, lift the dumbbell through the first half of your range of
motion.
l Follow with the second set of seven reps, where you should lift the weight from
halfway to the end of your range of motion.
l Finally, for the third set of seven reps lift the weight through the complete
range of motion.

!
tricks of the trade
Whatever weight my clients think they can lift during this move, it will
usually be 25 per cent less in reality. A nice personal trainer will tell you
this, a nasty one will let you suffer and potentially fail the set.

48

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the portfoliosection head
of moves

exercise 4 overhead triceps press


l stability l strength l power l isolation

a b

This exercise is best done in front of a mirror so you can see where the
dumbbell is.

l Stand with your feet a little bit wider than pelvis width.
l Lift the dumbbell above your head and hold the shaft with both hands.
l Start at the top and lower the dumbbell behind your head, bending at the
elbow.
l As soon as it touches your body push it back up to the start position.

!
tricks of the trade
The mirror is good because you should be able to look at yourself
throughout the move. As a personal trainer, I act as the mirror and
make my clients aware of when they are in the wrong position. The
best solution is simply to stand in front of my clients, as this means they
naturally keep their head up to maintain eye contact.

49

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the total dumbbell workout

exercise 5 single-arm triceps press


l stability l strength l power l integration

a b

This exercise is also best done in front of a mirror so you can see where the
dumbbell is. If you start with your right arm, have your right foot slightly in front
of the left. The nice thing about doing one arm at a time is that you will get some
work out of the pecs as well because you naturally shift your weight forward as
you drive the dumbbell into the air.

l Hold the dumbbell in one hand and lift it above your head, with your arms fully
extended.
l Bend your arm at the elbow and lower the dumbbell.
l Push it back up again using the triceps.

!
tricks of the trade
Shift your bodyweight around from foot to foot and also to the ball of the
foot and heels try it, you will find that you actually stay more focused
on the arm movement than when you were standing still.

50

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the portfolio
section
of moves
head

exercise 6 wrist curls, over grip


l strength l power l isolation l bench

a b

The muscles used in this movement tend to be weaker than the under grip version
if you look at your wrist this is understandable because you have more flesh
on the underside than you do on the top. This exercise can also be performed
standing or sitting on a bench.

l Stand up and hold your wrist in a position that allows it to move like a hinge
above your knee.
l Keep your palms down and lower and lift the dumbbell.

!
tricks of the trade
This is the weakest range of motion for most people, so leave this move
until the very end of a workout otherwise your grip will be affected for
the rest of the exercises.

51

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the total dumbbell workout

exercise 7 wrist curls, under grip


l strength l power l isolation

a b

l Stand with feet apart, elbows at right angles and palms up.
l You need to remember that the range of motion here is determined by bones
rather than flexibility, so dont force the joint to go further than it wants to.
l Relaxing the fingers at the end of the down phase will create work for the hand
muscle as well as the wrist, but dont relax the grip too much as you are likely
to drop the weight.

!
tricks of the trade
Despite the small amount of muscle bulk in the wrist area you will be
surprised how much you can lift on this move. However, be sure to start
light and progress slowly because the wrist is full of ligaments and
tendons that take longer to condition than the blood-rich muscle tissue.

52

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the portfolio
section
of moves
head

exercise 8 dead lift


l stability l strength l power l integration

a b

My mantra learn it, then work it is key here, so practise this movement without
any weights before you add extra load to your muscles and joints.

l Stand with your feet as wide apart as your armpits.


l Let the weights just hang in front of you then lower them towards the floor
(thats the easy part because gravity is in charge).
l When your hamstrings reach the point that they want to stop you going any
lower, stand up.
l Watch the line that the dumbbells go through they should be going straight
down and straight up again, any swing forward or back suggests the weight is
too light or that you have a tight spot somewhere in your hamstrings or glutes.

!
tricks of the trade
The smart people practise the dead lift without a weight so that they
almost pre-programme the move into their muscles and brain. An
excellent practice tool is a wooden pole, because if the pole hits your
knees you are too stiff or unstable to do this move with heavy weights.

53

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the total dumbbell workout

exercise 9 deltoid raise front


l stability l strength l power l integration

a b

Just to clear one thing up here. When we work the deltoids we dont isolate the
anterior, middle or posterior section of the muscle. Each of the sections works all
of the time, but depending upon the movement each section will take on variable
amounts of the load.

l Except for when using really heavy weights on this exercise, stand with you feet
in whatever position is most comfortable, which means either with your feet
hip width apart or in a split stance (one foot forward). If you are braving a very
heavy dumbbell then a wide stance will be better.
l Before you start the lift you must retract your scapular (in other words, pull
your shoulders back) otherwise your deltoids (one of the shoulder muscles)
cant function as well as they should.
l Lift the dumbbell up to chin height. Any higher and you will again be asking the
slightly isolated anterior deltoid to move in a way that it isnt designed to. I find
that lifting slightly off centre is kinder on the shoulder joint than lifting straight
up in front.
l And please, lower the weight under control the eccentric phase is more than
half the reason for doing this move.

54

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the portfolio
section
of moves
head

!
tricks of the trade
This exercise needs to flow. In the past you would have been coached
to keep the rest of the body very still as you lifted the weight up, but I
encourage my clients to think about and feel the muscle activity that is
occurring through the upper back and all the way down to the buttocks.

55

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disclaimer and advisory
Before attempting any form of exercise, especially that which involves lifting
weights, always ensure you have a safe working environment. Ensure that the floor
surface you are on is non-slip and do not stand on any rugs or mats that could
move when you exercise. Also, clear your exercise space of items that could cause
you harm if you collided with them; this includes furniture, pets and children. Pay
particular attention to the amount of clearance you have above your head and
remember that for some of the exercise moves you will be raising your hands and
the weights above head height, so keep away from doorways and light fittings.
The information, workouts, health related information and activities described
in this publication are practiced and developed by the author and should be used
as an adjunct to your understanding of health and fitness and, in particular,
strength training. While physical exercise is widely acknowledged as being
beneficial to a participants health and well-being, the activities and methods
outlined in this book may not be appropriate for everyone. It is fitness industry
procedure to recommend all individuals, especially those suffering from disease
or illness, to consult their doctor for advice on their suitability to follow specific
types of activity. This advice also applies to any person who has experienced soft
tissue or skeletal injuries in the past, those who have recently received any type
of medical treatment or are taking medication and women who are, or think they
may be, pregnant.
The author has personally researched and tried all of the exercises, methods
and advice given in this book, on himself and with many training clients. However,
this does not mean these activities are universally appropriate and neither he nor
the publishers are, therefore, liable or responsible for any injury, distress or harm
that you consider may have resulted from following the information contained in
this publication.

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Trade Secrets of a Personal Trainer

Packed with a wide range of tried and tested exercises


Note
Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the content of this book is as technically
accurate and as sound as possible, neither the author nor the publishers can accept
responsibility for any injury or loss sustained as a result of the use of this material.

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc


4951 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3DP
www.bloomsbury.com

First edition 2011

Copyright 2011 Steve Barrett

ISBN 978 1 4081 4228 8

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any
means graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping
or information storage and retrieval systems without the prior permission in writing
of the publishers.

Steve Barrett has asserted his rights under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act,
1988, to be identified as the author of this work.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Acknowledgements
Cover photographs Grant Pritchard, central image Shutterstock
Inside photographs: All inside photographs Grant Pritchard with the exception of the
following: pp. 1, 57, 9, 112, 16, 20, 32, 38, 41, 55, 69, 712, 77, 93, 107, 109, 114, 120
Shutterstock; pp. 14, 22, 27, 36, 103 courtesy and Copyright of Escape Fitness Ltd.
Illustrations by David Gardner
Designed by James Watson
Commissioned by Charlotte Croft
Edited by Kate Wanwimolruk

This book is produced using paper that is made from wood grown in managed, sustainable
forests. It is natural, renewable and recyclable. The logging and manufacturing
processes conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin.

Typeset in 10.25pt on 13.5pt URWGroteskLig by Margaret Brain, Wisbech

Printed and bound in China by C & C Offset Printing

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