Book Review: “Dumbbell Training for Strength and Fitness” by Fred Fornicola and Matt Brzycki

Fred Fornicola and Matt Brzycki are two of the most popular strength coaches in America today. They have been training clients together since 1991, when they first met at their local YMCA gym. Since then, they’ve trained thousands of people from all walks of life, both men and women.

Their goal?

To help everyone get stronger! And it’s working!

In fact, their clients are so strong that they’re able to compete with some of the world’s strongest athletes. You might even see them competing against professional bodybuilders someday!

Here’s how they do it…

The Dumbbell Method

Here’s what makes these guys different than other trainers out there: They don’t just use dumbbells; they use the right kind of dumbbells! They call their system the “dumbbell method.” Basically, they train using only dumbbells (or barbells if you prefer), but they use them correctly.

They start off by teaching you how to properly grip a weight. Then, they teach you how to perform various exercises like pull ups and dips.

Finally, they show you how to apply proper form while performing compound lifts such as squats and deadlifts. They don’t just throw you into the deep end either. You start off with the basics and learn as you go.

The best thing about their system is they always tailor it to your goals. For example, if you’re a woman training to improve her figure, you’ll use lighter weights with more repetitions.

If you’re an athlete trying to increase your strength for your sport, you’ll use heavier weights with less repetitions. Either way, you’re guaranteed to see results!

The Dumbbell Training Bible

Now we’re going to share some of their best tips for proper dumbbell training. Just remember that these are just the basics; you’ll get more advanced options as you go along in the program.

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1. Grip

This might sound silly, but your grip can make or break your lift! Always grab the bar or dumbbell with both hands in the position that allows you to lift the most weight.

This is called your “strongest grip.”

For most exercises, this will mean holding the weight with one hand facing up, and the other facing down (over-under). This applies to both the bench press, as well as the squat.

If you’re performing a standing bicep curl, then hold the weight in an overhand grip. If you’re doing a seated press, then hold the weight in an underhand grip. It’s really that simple.

2. Warm Up Properly

Before you start any heavy lifting, you should always warm up a bit with some light cardio and stretching. Even if you’re taking the day off, you should still go through the motions.


Because your body remembers how it moves, and if you skip the warm up, you could still get injured.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about actual lifting form. First of all, you should maintain a natural stance when performing any exercise.

What do I mean by this?

When standing, your weight should be equally distributed on both feet. If it’s not, then adjust your feet until it is.

Doing this will help prevent injury and increase overall stability. It also helps to engage more muscles, which means you’ll be able to lift more weight.

It may feel slightly unnatural at first, but your body will quickly adapt to this new “stance.”

3. Always Use Proper Form

Did you know that many common exercises have a much greater risk of injury than most people assume?

It’s true; improper form can cause long-term injuries (sometimes even paralysis), so it’s important that you master correct form first.

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Below, you’ll find some common mistakes to avoid while lifting and specific tips on proper form for various dumbbell exercises. Always remember to maintain the natural stance we talked about earlier.

Common Mistakes to Avoid:

Bending your arms when performing bicep curls (keep those elbows straight!);

Leading with your face when performing a squat (put the weight back on your heels!);

Holding your breath (take deep breaths and exhale at the bottom of each rep!);

Any sort of jerking movements. (Perform each rep smoothly).

Proper Form for Common Exercises:

Overhead Press: For this exercise, you’ll need a barbell and a seat to sit on. Begin by sitting on a bench with the barbell over your lap.

Grasp the barbell with both hands, and then lift it off your lap. You’ll want to position your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. This will be your starting position.

To perform the exercise, lift the weight using your arms until your arms are extended overhead, but keep your back straight and do not use any momentum to lift the weight (this means no swinging or throwing the weight up with force). Slowly allow the barbell to return to the starting position, and repeat.

Bicep Curls: Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, and hold the dumbbells in your hands with your palms facing out (so that your pinkies are on the back side of the dumbbell). Allow the dumbbells to hang down at your sides.

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To perform the exercise, you’re going to do a simple curl using only your biceps. Starting with your arms at your sides, curl the dumbbells as you draw them up to your shoulders.

Squeeze and contract your bicep muscles when you reach the top of the movement. Slowly allow the dumbbells to return back to their starting position. That’s one repetition.

Tricep Extensions: This exercise is also for your triceps, and it’s one of my favorites because it really helps me focus on form and technique. All you’ll need is a dumbbell for this one, and you may want a bench to sit on.

Your face should be right in the middle of the long side of the bench.

Sit down on one end of the bench with the weight in your lap. Place your upper arm parallel to your body so that your upper arm is resting on your thigh.

Grasp the weight with your palm facing up and your elbow pointing out toward your knees. This is your starting position.

Slowly lift the dumbbell until your arm is straight, but don’t allow your arm to move away from your body or far away from your thigh. Slowly return the weight to the starting position and repeat.

Calf Raises: This one is really easy! All you need are either a machine or something to step on and raise up on (for example a short stair).

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Make sure you have enough room in front of you to take a few steps forward and backward.

I prefer to do this one with my toes pointed slightly outward since this puts less strain on your knees. Place your toes on the edge of whatever you’re using and lift up so that you’re standing on the very tips of your toes.

Slowly lower yourself down, but don’t let your heels touch the ground. After you’ve lowered yourself as far as possible, push back up for one rep.

Stretches: Static stretching (holding a stretch for a period of time) isn’t recommended before working out, but what you can do is go through a few stretches after you’re done with your routine to make sure your muscles stay loose and ready for the next time you train. After I’m done training, I’ll lightly stretch whatever muscle group I’ve been focusing on that day.

That’s It!

Only ten minutes a day, three days a week. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

And even though it’s a small amount of time, over time it really adds up.

You can absolutely make progress with this program, so why not give it a shot?

I’d be interested to hear about your results if you do decide to try it out.

Thanks for reading, and best of luck in your training!

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