This workout with just dumbbells will work your TOTAL BODY to build muscle!
I’ve got some good news for you, friend. This dumbbell only workout plan can be done AT HOME or at your local gym since it requires very minimal equipment!
You will only need a pair of dumbbells and a yoga mat (or anything to lay down on).
When choosing a weight, try to find a pair that is neither too light nor too heavy. Instead, you want to pick weights that will challenge you!
For this workout plan, I will teach you the structure of the workout, what exercises you will be doing (AND with pictures), and what muscles will be targeted!
How the Dumbbell Only Workout Plan Works
Alright, let’s talk about how this workout routine will be done, shall we?
There will be a total of 7 exercises.
Now, if you know me at all, you’ll know that I LOVE combination exercises. Not only do they make time go by faster, but more muscles will be able to be worked as well! We are all about killing two birds with one stone here 😉
Each muscle building workout exercise will be done based on reps, sets, and rest intervals.
What are these, you ask?
“Rep” is short for “repetition” and is defined as the completion of one exercise (such as a bicep curl or deadlift).
A “set” is the total amount of repsdone sequentially! So for example, doing 8 bicep curls in a row would count as 1 set.
The “rest interval” is simply the amount of time you take to rest between each set.
For this dumbbell only workout routine, you will perform 12 reps and 3 sets of each exercise with a rest interval of 30 seconds! Your workout flow should look something like this:
Exercise #1: 3×12
Rest 30 seconds
Exercise #2: 3×12
Rest 30 seconds
Exercise #3: 3×12
And so on!
Okay, so now that you know how many reps and sets you will be doing, let’s get into the fun stuff: the workout exercises!
While some workout names are relatively straightforward, such as single-arm rows or a chest press, you’ll occasionally get some with a name like a skull crusher.
But don’t let the name scare you! When done properly, these will give you a GREAT workout for your triceps.
If you are a beginner, I suggest you only start with the skull crushers or use one dumbbell. Once you feel more comfortable and have practiced the exercise more, you can add the leg raises in or both dumbbells!
To do this dumbbell only workout, start by laying on your back with your legs straight up and perpendicular to the floor.
Hold both dumbbells perpendicular to the floor as well with your palms facing towards each other.
Slowly lower the dumbbells towards your skull while keeping the biceps and triceps stable.
Try to only think about moving from the elbows instead of the whole arm to engage the triceps!
The key to skull crushers is to have control. Without it, you could hurt yourself (your skull in particular). This is why choosing a dumbbell weight that is challenging but not too heavy is VERY important! We don’t want to see any crushed skulls here!
Once you come back to the starting position, lower your legs, and try to keep them as straight as possible to perform a leg raise.
It’s very important to only lower your legs as far as you can WITHOUT lifting your lower back off the floor! Doing so could harm or injure your lower back (and we don’t want that).
Bonus Tip: This exercise also works well with a barbell! So don’t feel like you are limited to dumbbells only!
What Muscles It Works
Triceps | Rectus Abdominis (Abs) | Hip Flexors
As you have probably guessed, the skull crushers are working out your triceps when done correctly!
Now, when most people think of leg raises, they think this exercise works the ab muscles. While it is a GREAT core exercise, it also works and strengthens the hip flexors!
This is a major bonus since most of our hip flexors are naturally tight from sitting down a lot. But doing leg raises can help to improve your hip flexor strength!
Exercise #2: Squat with Shoulder Press
Okay, on to exercise #2: a squat with shoulder press!
Start by placing your feet shoulder-width apart. Bring the dumbbells next to your ear with your palms facing towards your head.
Lower into a squat, making sure your knees don’t go over your toes.
As you come up from the squat, press your dumbbells up to the sky, performing a shoulder press. Make sure your palms don’t rotate while doing this!
When you come back down from the shoulder press, go ahead and lower into a squat again. This will be 1 rep of the set!
Alright, as you can see, this exercise combination works 7 DIFFERENT muscle groups! And these aren’t small muscle groups either.
This is why I LOVE combination exercises. You are able to hit so many muscles in one set!
When you do the squat, you are mainly working out your quadriceps, hamstrings, glute, and calves.
As you do the shoulder press, you are mainly working on the shoulders (of course) BUT also your triceps and chest! They are the accessory muscles that aid in moving into the press. So while they aren’t the main muscles getting worked, they are still strengthening!
Exercise #3: Push Up With Single-Arm Row
This exercise is exactly what it says. You will be doing a push up with a single-arm row!
For this dumbbell only workout exercise, start in a high plank position. Instead of your hands being on the floor, hold the dumbbells in your hands.
A common mistake most people have with a plank is the raising of their hips. We DO NOT want this.
So make sure your hands (or dumbbells in this case) are directly under your shoulders and keep the rest of your body as straight and flat as possible! Keep your head in line with your spine as well.
Alright, so you’re in the high plank position. Next, lower yourself into a push up, getting your chest as close as you can to the floor without compensating your form.
Now, don’t worry. If you can’t do a full push up yet, that’s OKAY! Go ahead and go on your knees instead to get more practice.
Once you come back up to the high plank position, do a single-arm row.
Typically, when we think of single-arm rows, we think about doing these on a bench. But for this exercise, no bench is required!
To do this, bring the arm backward while bending the elbow. Keep your arm close to your side and squeeze the back muscles to guide your arm backward.
Avoid rotating your hips for this exercise!
It might feel tempting, but when you start to rotate the hips, you don’t use your back muscles anymore. You begin to rely on your hip and core muscles, which are not the target muscles for this dumbbell only workout.
The key to doing this is to ENGAGE THE CORE and go at your own pace throughout the whole dumbbell only arm workout! Your core is going to help keep your body stable which will do the following things:
Engage the correct muscles targeted for each exercise
Stabilize the whole body to make movement smoother
Another important thing to note is that when you do one rep, you will be doing one full push up with a single arm row on EACH side! So one rep should look something like this:
Okay wow, I thought the last exercise had a lot of muscles but this one WINS! For this workout exercise, you workout 8 DIFFERENT muscle groups!
As you can see, this combination workout mainly targets the upper-body muscles.
When doing the push up, you work out your chest, shoulders, triceps, abdominals, and serratus anterior (the “fish gill” muscles on the sides of your ribs). This is why it’s super important to have the correct form when doing so!
Now, when you perform the single-arm rows, you work the lats (the huge back muscle), traps, and rotator cuff muscles!
Exercise #4: Side Lunge Into Reverse Lunge
Lunges have to be one of the best exercises for your glute and hamstring muscles when done correctly!
To do the first part of the workout exercise (the side lunge), start in a standing position with one dumbbell in each hand.
Take one foot and step directly to the side, pushing your glutes and hips backward while reaching for your foot with the dumbbells.
Keep your back straight when lowering the dumbbells to the floor!
To come back up, drive power from your glutes and hips to push your foot off the ground and come back to standing position!
Now, to do the next part of the combination routine, take the same leg you stepped out with for the side lunge and bring it back to do a reverse lunge.
Keep your chest up and your back straight as you lower both legs into a 90-degree angle. The back knee should just barely come off the floor.
The lower you go in the reverse lunge, the more you will be able to work out the glute muscles!
Squeeze your core TIGHT while doing both the side and reverse lunge! This will help you balance and ensure you don’t fall over or injure yourself!