When I started, my hamstrings were so tight that I couldn’t get into the bottom start position, let alone try to lift the weight. Along with some hamstring stretches, I used this exercise to help train my hips to get into position.
The top-down mechanic of the dumbbells dead lift can help you to easily progress your mobility and hip mechanics to a full dead lift.
Instead of standing up with dead weight, you work the exercise in reverse to focus on the technique and patterning without requiring too much strength. When you or a workout buddy start to notice your back round or your knees shoot forward, fix the form or reset the movement.
Remember to keep your back straight during a dead lift. It will do wonders for your core strength and teach you what a straight spine feels like. The dumbbell dead lift is also a good way to weather the spine. Learning to keep it straight and gently increasing load over time can help to increase bone density.
As if the burpee wasn’t hard enough. Now we get to add weights. If you can do 15 to 20 burpees without stopping, then you may be ready for this variation. This one will test your endurance and even your mechanics.
Most people can do a few dumbbell Burpees with good form. Like clockwork, as an athlete fatigues the form starts to deteriorate. Try your best to hold it all together for every repetition. Use a trainer or workout buddy to watch you. If they say that your reps are getting ugly then stop and rest before continuing on.
Being able to make the last repetition look just a pretty as the first says a lot about your conditioning level.
There are a few things to watch for when doing burpees. The first is to avoid landing on the toes. This adds unnecessary knee shearing and low-back strain. If you can’t land with your feet flat, scale this by doing the box variation with no dumbbells. (See my earlier column on the box modification of the burpee at www.lvrj.com/trainer.) This allows for the feet to land flat when mobility is an issue. Getting the range of motion down is more important than progressing with weights.
The second is the foot position to set up for the stand out of the burpee. Land with the feet between the dumbbells so the weight is in line with the body during the stand. If the weight is too far in front of the body, it has to compensate.
Knowing when to scale back this kind of burpee is key. Adding weight to a total-body movement takes it up a few notches in intensity. If you or your gym buddy see your form deteriorate, decrease the weight and/or scale the burpee.
Be careful with the kind of weights you use for this exercise. Weights with round plates may roll away from you as you apply pressure on them to perform a pushup. Many gyms have the hexagon-shaped dumbbells to prevent rolling; these are ideal for dumbbell burpees.
If you are stuck with round weights, modify the movement by letting go of the dumbbells upon setting them on the floor. Then perform the pushup and return jump. Before standing, pick up the weights and complete the exercise.
Chris Huth is a Las Vegas trainer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.