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Fitness 11 Moves You Can’t Do With Dumbbells

a woman kneels strong on her knees with her back to us as she performs a lat pull down with her muscles visible

When it comes to strength training, dumbbells can only take you so far. Ultimately, to get stronger, you need to lift heavier, and that’s not always easy to do with dumbbells that might only go up to 30 or 40 pounds.

There are also certain lifts and movements that don’t work as well with dumbbells. Without those movements, you miss out on the benefit of many exercises, and trying to replicate them with your home gym equipment could potentially increase risk for injury. 

Digital weight is Tonal’s revolutionary approach to solving this problem. With one sleek device, you can do hundreds of moves, all from the comfort of your home — no dumbbells required.

Tonal versus dumbbells

To keep building strength, you need to work your muscles in innovative ways, and that’s exactly what Tonal’s digital weight will help you do.

  • Tonal’s AI knows how exactly strong you are and can personalize weight recommendations to deliver your optimal resistance for every single rep.
  • When you use digital weight, you don’t have to jump weights based on what dumbbells are available. Tonal increases resistance in one-pound increments. 
  • Progressive overload is an essential part of getting stronger. Tonal will give you resistance of up to 200 pounds, and if you think that’s not enough, think again. Find out what Paul Sklar — a former athlete and professional trainer — has to say for anyone who thinks they are too strong for Tonal! 
  • Instead of struggling to get in position under load, our Smart Handles and Smart Bar enable you to get in place safely, and then turn on resistance with the touch of a button. 
  • Strength training with digital weight also engages stabilizer muscles which helps you grow strong, powerful, and more resistant to injuries. 
  • You can also use Tonal’s dynamic weight modes to challenge yourself with every rep, build explosive power, and break through plateaus. Learn more about our dynamic weight modes. 

Finally, you will have access to hundreds of moves that should be part of your strength training routine that you can’t always do with home gym equipment. Here are 11 for starters.

1. Front Squat

This lower-body movement engages and strengthens your legs and hips, especially your quads and glutes. Unlike the more popular back squat, the barbell sits on the front of your shoulders in this lift. This shifts some of the load from your glutes to your quads and challenges your core to help keep your upper body balanced. 

2. Heavy deadlift

This full-body compound lift strengthens the entire posterior chain. While you can certainly deadlift using  dumbbells, if you want to lift heavy, you’ll need to find dumbbells upwards of 100 pounds or invest in a barbell and plates. 

3. Heavy bench press

If you want to strengthen your upper body muscles, adding bench presses to your strength training routine is essential. This compound lift works the chest, biceps, triceps, and anterior deltoids. Like the heavy deadlift, performing a heavy bench press at home would require you to stock up on a pair of hefty weights and a barbell. 

4. Pallof press variations 

These anti-rotation exercises help you build a stable core and are especially useful for athletes and sports enthusiasts. Some people manage them with a resistance band, but they are much easier with a cable machine — so unless you have access to one, they likely aren’t part of your strength training routine. With Tonal, you can do pallof press variations at the touch of a button. 

5. Half-kneeling single arm row 

This mighty move stabilizes your core, is excellent for balancing out your upper body strength after pushing movements like bench press and push-ups.  Plus, single side movements help to address imbalances in your body. 

6. Pulldown variations

If you love to work your upper body with overhead presses, pulldown variations are a great way to work towards balancing out pressing movements. Performing pulldown variations will improve your strength in movements like pull-ups and chin-ups while strengthening the lats. Many daily activities are linked to lats, for example, opening doors and lifting bags of groceries. 

7. Kneeling cable crunch

If you have a strong and stable core and want to add some definition, adding resistance to your core strengthening routine with movements  such as the kneeling cable crunch will help you build strong abs. 

8. Cable pull through

This lower body move strengthens your posterior chain, improves your glute strength and is a stable way to prepare your body for heavy deadlifts. 

9. Pullover cable crunch 

A challenging core exercise that recruits both the arms and the legs , this weighted movement can be used to add definition to your abs and improve the strength and function of your core. 

10. Resisted dead bug

Dead bugs are an effective and safe way to build core strength while improving stability. Adding resistance to this essential movement will increase its difficulty and enhance your strength. 

11. Seated cable row 

Improve your posture by strengthening your back, lats, rhomboids and biceps with seated rows. 

Want to know what it feels like to lift with digital weight? Find a Tonal near you and experience the strength training revolution in person with a workout and demo.