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You can do some version of most weight lifting exercises with dumbbells. Dumbbells make sure both arms do their share of the work, so a stronger arm cannot take over for a weaker one, as with some equipment. You can use dumbbells to supplement machine exercises or you can use them for your whole workout. Dumbbells are easier to control than barbells, so may be better for free weight beginners. On the other hand, some bodybuilders have built great physiques with little equipment besides dumbbells and weight benches.