The dumbbell is getting more and more love in the CrossFit world these days – and rightfully so, we’d say. It all started somewhere around 2013 when Dave Castro programmed ‘The 100s’ at Regionals; the workout consisted of 100 alternating one-arm dumbbell snatches at 70 lbs for the men and 50 for the women. Now, every Open since 2017 has included at least one workout with dumbbells. So, why all this growing love for dumbbells?

The Benefits
Highlight imbalances in muscle strength
We all have one arm that is naturally stronger than the other. Until you do a dumbbell strict press, for example, you might not have known how much stronger—or how much weaker your other arm is. After a few reps of heavy weight, your right arm will still be able to move the weight upwards, while your left arm is shaking and struggling to complete the rep. If you haven’t experienced this yet I suggest you try out a few heavy dumbbell presses, or better yet, dumbbell thrusters. It’s a strange feeling to tell your body to do something, and have one group of muscles refuse to work as your others perform the desired movement. Since CrossFit is about balance, you want to eliminate any disparities and weaknesses you have in strength, just as you would for specific flexibility issues you may have.

Useful alternate exercise if injured
If you’ve badly hurt a muscle that’s only affecting one arm, then dumbbells are your best friend, allowing you to still get a workout in with some weight without risking further damage to an existing injury.

Dumbbell training is a complex motor activity
When training with dumbbells you have to control two independent instruments rather than controlling a barbell or heavy kettlebell with both arms simultaneously. As such, it takes a greater degree of control, strength, and coordination to execute a movement efficiently with two independent weights rather than one—skills you can develop with consistent dumbbell use.

Dumbbells are useful for sport-specific training
For many athletes, alternating-arm exercises and single-arm exercises provide a more sport-specific way to train, as many activities in sports involve single-arm movements (e.g., throwing a punch, spiking a volleyball, swinging a racket) rather than both arms moving simultaneously through the same movement pattern. In addition, athletes rarely apply force against a balanced resistance during competition (just look at water polo, rugby, football, etc.). Both alternating and single-arm movements provide a unique training stimulus compared with typical barbell training.

Great way to learn OLY lifts before progressing to the barbell
As I have mentioned, training with dumbbells helps to improve an athlete’s coordination, balance, and strength— important elements in Olympic Weightlifting. In fact, many coaches admit that many people grasp the foundations of OLY lifts easier with dumbbells than barbells.

The Workouts
For Time
600 Meter Row
30 Alternating Dumbbell Snatches
25 Dumbbell Suitcase Deadlifts
20 Toes-to-Bar
100′ Double Kettlebell Overhead Walk
20 Toes-to-Bar
25 Dumbbell Suitcase Deadlifts
30 Alternating Dumbbell Snatches
600 Meter Row
Dumbbell Weight: 50/35
_____

Every 3 Minutes for 4 Rounds
12 Dumbbell Thrusters
In the Remaining Time, Max 4/3′ Broad Jump Burpees
Dumbbell Weight: 40/25
_____

4 Rounds For Time
10 Dumbbell Overhead Squats (5 per side)
10 Calorie Bike
10 Handstand Push-ups
_____

15-Minute AMRAP
400-Meter Run
14 Hang Dumbbell Clean & Jerks (7 per side)
80 Double-unders
4 20′ Rope Climbs
Dumbbell Weight: 70/50
_____

2 Rounds For Time
200′ Heavy Sled Push
24 Toes-to-Bar
20 Dumbbell Thrusters
10 Ring Muscle-ups
Dumbbell Weight: 50/35
_____

13-Minute AMRAP
200′ Dumbbell Overhead Lunges*
15 Burpee Box Jumps (24/20)
20 Alternating Dumbbell Hang Snatches
*Use 1 Dumbbell
Dumbbell Weight: 50/35
_____

21-15-9
Dumbbell Squat*
Calorie Row
*Use Two Dumbbells
Dumbbell Weight: 50/35
_____

12 Deadlifts @60%
16 Strict Dumbbell Presses*
Rest 2 Minutes
2 Rounds
8 Deadlifts @ 70%
12 Strict Dumbbell Presses*
Rest 2 Minutes
2 Rounds
4 Deadlifts @ 80%
8 Strict Dumbbell Presses*
*Use 2 Dumbbells
Dumbbell Weight: 40/25
_____

Every 2.5 Minutes for 6 Rounds
15 Wall Balls (20/14)
5 Dumbbell Man Makers (30/20)
_____

16 Alternating Dumbbell Front Rack Step-ups (24/20)
50 Double-Unders
18 GHD Sit-ups
50 Double-Unders
20 Push-ups
_____

Need 400 more workouts to incorporate in your training? Get the book trusted by over 15,000 coaches and athletes!

The workouts are broken down into eleven different categories, each of which is intended to have a unique physical and mental stimulus.

WOD Chapters
Chippers
Interval/EMOMs
Running
Couplets
Triplets
AMRAPs
Bodyweight
Gymnastics
For Time
Partner
Long Interval Running
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