Build Functional Strength in 20 Minutes With This 5-Move Dumbbell Workout

Five move dumbbell workout routine for better aging
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Focus on these functional moves to build strength, balance, and coordination as you age.

Building strength is a key part of working out, especially in the later years. But how you build strength can set you up for better daily functioning, more balance, and less injury.

This is why, it’s important to focus on building functional strength if you are looking to age well. Functional strength training is more than simply aiming to increase muscle mass or power a muscle group can produce.

Rather, it’s about improving the movements humans perform and enhancing strength to carry on those activities. It’s exactly the kind of strength-building you need as you age to stay active, mobile, and independent.

They not only help you fight against natural age-related muscle loss but also help make your daily living easier with less injury.

The way to build functional strength is quite simple.

It’s done through the use of compound movements that engage multiple muscle groups at the same time to mimic typical human movements.

Lunges, get-ups, and squats are some examples of functional, compound moves. Their movements mimic everyday movements like walking, getting out of bed, sitting, and walking up the stairs. They are the perfect exercises to support your active life while building a stronger body that’ll sustain you for years.

Ready to build functional strength? Start with this 20-minute 5-exercise workout to start moving, building strength, and aging well.

Five Move Dumbbell Workout Routine to Build Functional Strength As You Age

Five Move Dumbbell Workout Routine to Build Functional Strength

1. Dumbbell Front Squats

Dumbbell Front Squats

Squats are an amazing exercise that can help the body in myriad ways. The front squat variation also helps to incorporate some shoulder work, and the nature of this squat kicks your quads into overdrive.

How to Perform:

  • Start standing, holding one dumbbell in each hand.
  • Bend your elbows and place the dumbbells on the front of your shoulders, resting them there, if possible, with your hands supporting them.
  • Squat down as deeply as you can without your back collapsing forward or your heels coming off of the ground.
  • Once you’ve reached the bottom of your range, stand back up to complete the rep.
  • Perform 10-15 reps for 3 sets per session, 2 sessions per week.

2. Dumbbell Bench Press

Dumbbell Bench Press

This exercise emphasizes the chest, triceps, and shoulders. If you have a bench, this will help you to achieve a greater range of motion and more muscle activation during this exercise. However, if you don’t have a bench available, lying on the floor works just fine.

How to Perform:

  • Grab one dumbbell in each hand and sit down on your bench.
  • Safely and carefully, transition into lying on your back with the weights on either side of your chest.
  • Keeping your elbows tight, press the weights up towards the ceiling.
  • Slowly, return the weights to the starting position to complete the rep.
  • If you are new to this exercise, you should consider having a spotter with you while you perform the movement.

3. Dumbell Split Squats

Split Squats

Split squats, also known as Bulgarian squats, are another tricky exercise to master. This move requires a fair bit of balance and strength. So, don’t be discouraged if you don’t master it on your first try!

How to Perform:

  • Hold a dumbbell underneath your chin with both hands.
  • Extend your right leg behind you, placing your right toes on a bench or other elevated surface.
  • Slowly, squat down until your right knee comes close to the floor.
  • Once you’ve reached the bottom of your range, stand back up to complete the rep.
  • Perform 10-15 reps per side, per set, for 3 sets per session, 2 sessions per week.

4. Dumbbell Renegade Rows

Dumbbell Renegade Rows

One of my favorite dumbbell exercises. This move is awesome, especially at the end of a tough workout. The pushup position row will challenge your shoulders, triceps, biceps, and, most of all, your core.

How to Perform:

  • Place two dumbbells on the floor, spaced out equally.
  • Assume a pushup position, with your hands on the weights.
  • Next, pull the right weight up toward your chest by performing a row.
  • Then, return this weight to the ground and repeat on the left side.
  • Complete 10-15 reps per side, per set, for 3 sets per session, for 2 sessions per week.

5. Dumbbell Alternating Shoulder Press

Dumbbell Alternating Shoulder Press

Overhead presses are a critical piece of every successful training program. This move works the deltoids, traps, triceps, and various other muscles all at once.

How to Perform:

  • In standing, hold a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Position the weights on your shoulders, with your palms facing one another. Press the dumbbell in your right hand toward the ceiling. Next, return this weight to your right shoulder as you simultaneously press the left dumbbell up. 
  • Continue to alternate in this pattern until you have completed 10-15 reps on both arms, for 3 sets per session, 2 sessions per week.

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Bennett Richardson, DPT, PT, CSCS
Bennett Richardson, DPT, PT, CSCS

Bennett Richardson is a physical therapist and writer out of Pittsburgh, PA. He has maintained certification as a strength and conditioning coach (CSCS) since 2014. He then went on to earn a BS in exercise science and a doctorate degree in physical therapy, both from Slippery Rock University. In his free time, Bennett likes to read and exercise.

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