We’ve already shared our “top” overall strength exercises for basketball players, and given you options for how to best replace those exercises if you have absolutely no equipment at all.  But what if you have ONLY dumbbells?  

Well, first off, if you only had dumbbells you would have WAY more options than if you were restricted to only bodyweight exercises.  In fact, if I had to recommend the first piece of equipment to get for your home gym I would 100% say a set of dumbbells – probably an adjustable set.  That alone would let you do tons of effective functional exercises to get stronger! 

If you only had a set of dumbbells and no other equipment, then below are the exercises we would focus on – assuming you have developed competence in the prerequisite exercises (more on that in future posts). 

Top Dumbbell Strength Exercises for Basketball Players


Horizontal Push

For push, I would prioritize horizontal push at first over vertical push.  A great exercise is the Incline Dumbbell Bench Press – it’s harder than flat bench so your weights will take your further, and it’s also often more friendly on your body.  Can’t go wrong with that!

Of course since this post is for someone that only has dumbbells I guess it’s safe to assume you wouldn’t have an incline bench let alone a bench, in which case I would recommend the Dumbbell Floor Press:

Vertical Push 

For vertical push with dumbbells I would start with the ½ kneeling Alternating Overhead Press:


For the pull category, with dumbbells you are really looking at only the horizontal push category.  The Big Rock exercise with dumbbells would be the Single Arm Bent Over Row.

For the vertical pull category simply continue doing the top exercise variations we recommended in the bodyweight exercise article. 


If you are a real beginner to strength training, then assuming you mastered the prerequisites then the Goblet Squat to Box (use a sturdy bench or chair if you have no box) is a great option. 

Once you develop some competency with the bilateral squat pattern, the weights you have will likely be too light to challenge you.  If that’s the case then start to priorities unilateral exercises.  Start with the Goblet Split Squat: 

Progress to Goblet Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (RFESS) 

Eventually you will be able to progress to the Farmer (2 DB) RFESS: 


For hinging/hip dominant exercises, with only Dumbbells I would first develop some good form and strength in the bilateral exercises.  Start with a single Dumbbell RDL:

When the weights don’t challenge you anymore, progress to a Double Dumbbell RDL:

Once you develop some good foundational strength in the bilateral variations start introducing unilateral RDLs (shown here with a KB but can use DBs too)

The single Dumbbell RDL are often really hard for athletes to do, so we will share how to progress to these in another video. 



For anti-rotation core, for basketball players one of my favourite exercises to progress to is the anti-rotational halo: 

If you do these right, you’ll REALLY feel these in your core while developing real functional core strength that translates to the court – it helps you develop strong and explosive rips and sweeps. 

For anti-extension core, to be honest, my initial recommendations in the body weight exercises article still holds true.  I probably wouldn’t change anything just because I have a set of dumbbells. 


OK, here’s a bonus!  All of these posts recently have been focusing on top STRENGTH exercises – i.e. we didn’t touch on other elements such as:  power, speed, conditioning, etc.  But with dumbbells I would DEFINITELY add some “heavy implement’ power – i..e explosive movements under a load.  The Dumbbell Jump Squat is a highly effective exercises that’s also easy to learn.  I would implement that as soon as possible into my program if I had only Dumbbells: