Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Heavy Dumbbell Training - Anthony Ditillo

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Earle Liederman


Otis Smith
Maryland Penitentiary, 1959



Heavy Dumbbell Training For Size and Strength
by Anthony Ditillo


Since the beginning of training with barbells, heavy dumbbell movements have played their part in developing the majority of the world’s strongest men. The forerunners of today’s powermen used dumbbells in their training routines to the point of obsession.

Heavy dumbbell training coupled with an all-around effective barbell routine will literally revamp your physical ability and muscular development both quickly and adequately, given enough training time and training energy. Dumbbell work really adds the finishing touches on the already massively developed physique and the over-all strength development effect of such dumbbell work will easily incorporate itself into the average all-around training routine, with the end result being a more effective training mode for all of you to follow. The muscular development afforded with this kind of training will aid both the power trainee and the would-be bodybuilding champion in their search for the more densely developed physiques.
Dumbbells really mold the physique, both in its muscular development and in its ability to aid the trainee in gaining further increases in lifting proficiency. This twofold ability will see most of you men quite far in your particular lifting and/or bodybuilding aspirations. All that is necessary for you to do is to incorporate this methodology into the proper balance with regular barbell work. This is because of the simple fact that this dumbbell work must be coupled with sufficient barbell work for irs developmental value to really show itself, since most of the recognized lifts today are performed with a barbell. If we were to try to develop sufficient strength without barbell work incorporated into our routine, we would not be able to carry over the strength potential which the dumbbell work would normally afford us. The two must be combined for best results.

What makes dumbbell work so effective is its ability to intensify and isolate the effort put forth from the affected muscles. ability to “home in” on precise sections of various muscle groups can be most effective from both the standpoint of strength training and muscle training. The developmental aspect of this kind of training is most complete in its ability to thoroughly congest and “pump” up the involved muscle groups. Along with this ability to localize the developmental effect of the working muscles, these movements will also stretch out the muscle groups somewhat, which will allow for a more powerful contraction when lifting limit or close to limit poundages.

The ability of dumbbell work to isolate the affected muscle groups which in turn will increase their strength and development potential is accepted fact not training theory. This ability of isolation is one of the major reasons for the increases in development of today’s physique men, who literally form the brunt of their training solely on the use of heavy dumbbells. When looking at the development of today’s muscle men, remember that their physiques were shaped primarily through the use of a combination of heavy barbell and assistant dumbbell movements.

While we are on the subject, there is an unmistakable difference in the quality of the champion powerlifters over the past few years and along with the physique men, the reason (drugs) for the majority of these increases is through the use of properly performed and properly balanced dumbbell movements and training programs. This method is one of the quickest ways of isolating the involved muscle groups which will be used on the lifting platform and the intensity of such work will greatly develop the muscles along with an overall increase in the lifting strength.

What separates the lifting champions of today and yesterday is their muscular appearance as bodybuilders, coupled with the lifting proficiency of the great strength champions that they are. This hearty combination of development and super strength is impossible without a scientific application of techniques and styles as well as pertinent training equipment and it is this last point which we will be thoroughly discussing.

While discussing dumbbell training in general, we must also mention the fact that such training offers greater muscle fiber stimulation through greater range of movement. This means that the greater range involved with this type of training will stimulate greater amounts of muscle fibers and this, in a round about way, will cause a greater growth of muscle size. There is a world of difference between the kind of dumbbell work we are going to describe here and the type usually utilized by the average trainee the lifting world over. For most of us, the weight of the dumbbells we usually handle comes nowhere near the amount we could handle if we really so desired to specialize on this type of training for any length of time. In fact, one of the chief reasons thy such training has not grown in popularity to the extent that its effectiveness warrants, is the difficulty in handling such heavy dumbbells without having two helpers to give the weights to you, to lighten your burden, as it were. Most men begin to incorporate this work for a brief period of time and when it becomes obvious that they will be shortly handling much heavier weights than ever before, the problem of getting these weights into position becomes quite a problem and for most men, there ends the period of dumbbell specialization.

For the men who are truly interested in reaching the zenith of their powers with this type of training, it will be necessary for helpers to get the dumbbells into position when anything really heavy is to be done on either a flat or an incline bench. For the other movements, if there is any real problem, then only one arm can be worked at a time, thereby giving both arms the opportunity to get the weights into position, thereby not requiring the assistance of anyone.
The difficulty of such work with heavy dumbbells will astound you! There is a world of difference between using two one hundred pound dumbbells and using a barbell weighing two hundred pounds. First of all, the balance is more precarious ad this will develop in you better motor pathways for the heavier lifts, and also, a better degree of muscular conditioning and finesse through the balancing of these heavy short-handled weights for reps and sets of the various exercises. The extra stretch provided from the use of these short bars will undoubtedly develop additional muscle size due to the increase of range of exercise motion and this is a fact, not mere unfounded opinion: anyone who has used heavy dumbbells for any length of time will agree with me!

When you isolate a muscle and work that muscle from a greater range of motion than ever before and when that muscle is subjected to further stress than it has ever had to compensate for in the past, common sense will tell you that this muscle has to grow! Furthermore, when attempting to strengthen any particular muscle group for competitive lifting, the addition of this assistance work is sure to make itself felt when this additional work is cut down and the main lift is specialized for any length of time. We should also mention that one other good point of dumbbell training is the intensity of the movements and how they stimulate muscle size while at the same time the actual amount of weights lifted in these dumbbell movements is actually much lighter then what could be registered in the barbell method of performance. In other words, because the dumbbell moves are so much harder and more intense, they will aid you in increasing your physical development although the actual weight of these dumbbells will be much lighter than the actual amount of weight you will be capable of lifting in the barbell version of the lift worked upon with this method. You are almost getting something for nothing, or so it would seem. Actually, your sweat and time exertion will pay your ease of accomplishment with these advanced methods of training.

Bench presses may be fine for all-around massiveness in the upper body, but for further development of the pectorals, without additional bodyweight being gained, you would have to go far indeed, to find a more effective movement than the Flat Bench Flying Motion With Dumbbells. For the deltoids, the Press Behind Neck is fine if what you are primarily going after is bulk or size, but to further deltoid development, the Heavy Standing Laterals to the Front and to the Side and the Rear will work wonders for fully capping out the deltoid muscles with additional muscular shape and density. Heavy Dumbbell Rowing will localize the stress of the movement and will further the development of the latissimus muscles without interference of the muscles of the hips and lower back, which can become a problem with the barbell version this lifting motion. Made no mistake about it, heavy dumbbell training will literally transform your physique if given enough time and patience and work on your part.

One only has to look at the development of today’s bodybuilding champions to see the developmental value of dumbbell work in the acquisition of muscular size and shape. This effect is not localized to bodybuilders only, but the entire lifting world, with powerlifting in general, can gain immediate benefits from adapting this method of training, coupled with the basic, heavier barbell movements so used and cherished for so long. The reason for the popularity of this training in the bodybuilding field is because barbells spread the stress of an exercise throughout the various muscle groups and throughout the various muscle groups and throughout the entire body, to a certain extent, whereas with dumbbell work the movements are quite localized and the intensity of effort is not spread out, but on the contrary, it is precisely positioned wherever you wish to feel the tension the most. This alone would lead to further degrees of muscle stimulation, but when you combine this with the fact that such will work the muscles from previously untouched areas due to the limited range of movement barbell work brings with it, you can then plainly see as to just why this kind of training is felt to be so indispensable to the majority of bodybuilding champions who utilize it. For the power men who are somewhat hesitant to try dumbbell work in their training routines, I can only mention that some of the strongest lifters the world has ever known have used and still are using heavy dumbbell training interspersed throughout the regular training periods of the lifting year. Men like Paul Anderson, Steve Marjanian and Melvin Hennessey have done a great amount of dumbbell work in their training careers. And what about Bill Kazmaier and the immortal Chuck Ahrens? Their strength borders on the unbelievable and both men have used dumbbells for quite some time. The first man to bench press 600 lbs. officially, the immortal Pat Casey, would do set after set of unbelievably heavy Incline Dumbbell Presses during his great lifting career and this assistance work gave him and Incline Barbell Press of over 500 lbs. Quite a bit of weight wouldn’t you say?

It is a mistaken notion to feel that this dumbbell work is for the bodybuilder alone, for nothing could be further from the truth. Dumbbell training can be satisfactorily utilized by anyone who is interested enough to break away from incorrect preconceived opinions which have no real basis in fact.

At this point in our discussion, I would like to list for you the various dumbbell movements which will offer you the most return in additional strength and muscular development, when combined with regular basic barbell training routines. These listed dumbbell movements are not solely the only dumbbell movements that exist but I feel they are among the very best we have to offer you and when utilized as assistance work for the basic barbell movements, the results will be quick, regular and quite impressive. While it would not be complete madness to substitute with these dumbbell movements for a short period of time, and during this period of training to use solely dumbbell work in place of the barbell kind; however, I would not recommend this to anyone interested in future or present competition in powerlifting, for let’s admit the truth – to be a good powerlifter you must perform the power lifts. Therefore, try to maintain somewhat of a balance between the barbell work and the specialized dumbbell work, for guaranteed overall best results for your sweat and exertions.

Since dumbbell training will, for the most part, be limited to the muscles of the upper body and the lower back, we will not at this time be discussing any work for the thighs, or recommend any methods for squatting proficiency. The use of dumbbells for leg work, while possible, is quite impractical due to the necessity of handling such heavy poundages that the total tonnage prohibits the use of this work for any real length of time. However, there will be more than enough work to discuss for the entire upper body and you should have quite a workload to choose from, in finally formulating your particular assistant dumbbell training routine.

We shall begin with the muscles of the chest and shoulders. There will be two lists of dumbbell movements to choose from, depending upon whether you are working towards a heavier bench press through the use of these movements as assistance to your heavy lift, and the second situation in which you will primarily be interested in knowing which movements to choose from for developing additional muscle size throughout the chest and shoulder region. This way, both the powerlifter and the bodybuilder will have more than enough work to choose from, in order to gain at the quickest rate possible for him with applied work and intelligent choices.

For those of you interested in increasing the amount of your bench press, I would recommend the following heavy dumbbell movements:

Dumbbell Bench Presses: this movement is best handled with both light and heavy weights with the repetition scheme going from high to low with each set.

Flat Bench Flyes: this movement seems to be best performed with very heavy weights and the rep scheme fairly low, with the sets medium to high.

Incline Dumbbell Press: this movement should be done with both light and heavy weights and a mixture of repetitions will both pump and strengthen the muscles into a greater developmental state.

Standing Dumbbell Press: this movement will really build strong deltoids with power to spare! Try to work into very heavy weights for sets of threes and fives after a suitable warm-up.

Forward Dumbbell Raises: using relatively heavy weights, you can develop a bit of useful muscle with this movement which will have a carrying-over effect on the strength of the entire shoulder girdle.

Side Lateral Raise: while this movement is primarily a muscle builder, not a strength builder, with high sets and low repetitions the deltoids get both a growth stimulus and a strength stimulus all in one.


The following movements, whole not primarily for building additional strength into the upper body, will develop quite a bit of muscle size in the affected muscle groups:

Flat Bench Laterals: using relatively straight arms this movement will work wonders for the pectorals, using medium resistance and a high number of sets and repetitions.

Incline Laterals: using strict, straight arm style, using medium resistance and high repetitions, this movement will reshape the upper pectorals to a new degree of development for you.

Decline Laterals: this is a great movement for reshaping the lower pectorals with new size and density and for overcoming the flabby, hanging pec look.

Bentover Laterals: this movement will reshape the entire rear deltoid area, giving a pleasing shape throughout this area, using medium resistance and high repetitions with a moderate amount of sets performed regularly.


For those of you interested in developing additional back power, I would recommend the following movements incorporated into your present training routine:

Dumbbell Bentover Rowing: using two dumbbells, work into fairly heavy weights after a thorough warm-up with lighter poundages. This will add size and strength throughout the upper back area.

Dumbbell Upright Row: this movement, while clumsy and difficult in the beginning, will greatly add to your size and strength in the trapezius muscles and the muscles of the upper back and shoulder girdle. Begin with relatively light weight and in time work into fairly heavy dumbbells with heavy resistance.

One Arm Dumbbell Row: by using only one arm at a time, you can really handle some heavy weights and this should stimulate additional growth and strength with persistence and time. Keep the weight heavy and the repetition scheme rather low for best results in power.

Dumbbell Shrugs: for this movement you will have to use lifting straps to hold onto the bars for any length of time, since the weight potential of this movement is immense and the amount of weight you will ultimately be handling will be very heavy. Keep the repetition scheme rather high so as to be able to congest the muscles without undue strain due to the over-bearing heaviness of the weights involved in this exercise movement.

Dumbbell Deadlift: using primarily the muscles of the back without bending the legs to any great degree will allow you to work the back muscles without the inclusion of the muscles of the thighs. The freedom of movement in this exercise due to use of the dumbbells will make it quite a successful movement for building additional size and strength in the lower back muscles. Be sure to use lifting straps in this exercise due to the amount of weight capable of being lifted with time and patience.


For building of shapely muscle without the thought of the strength aspect of the exercises being performed, I would recommend the following movements for you to use:

Bentover Lateral Raise: while this is primarily a deltoid movement, it will also shape up the entire upper back with emphasis on the middle section. Keep the repetition scheme rather high and the resistance rather light, depending upon proper execution of the movement for best results.

Prone Laterals: by lying face down on an exercise bench and raising the dumbbells sideways out to the side, you will also be working the entire musculature of the upper back without the lower body or torso muscles coming into the picture and this will localize and intensify the effort of such work for additional muscle growth.
These two movements coupled with a few of the dumbbell movements for the shoulder girdle and the upper back will work wonders for your muscular development as well as your lifting strength, if followed correctly for any length of time. This is not mere conjecture, it is pre-accepted reality.


It is not my purpose or intention to formulate for you particular routines in which these dumbbell movements could be incorporated, for this would be taking away from your creativity in formulating your choices and preferences, and such a situation would not be constructive for you in the long run, for in order to become the ultimate of which you can become, you must learn to think and to decipher for yourself. This applies to all of us trainees, no matter how advanced we may become. What I would advise you to do is first of all decipher first what your particular goals are and then formulate the routines you will be using

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