HOME DUMBBELL WORKOUT
You can build muscle at home with the dumbbells you have now if you know how to train properly with them.
Not all of us have access to entire sets of dumbbells or a gym membership. I’m going to show you a full-body dumbbell workout to get the most out of the dumbbells you have at home, including the exact exercises to do, the sets, reps, and rest times.
One dumbbell, a pair of dumbbells, lighter weight, heavier weights, or adjustable dumbbells…it doesn’t matter.
The great thing about this home workout is that you’ll be training your entire body with no additional equipment outside of your dumbbells, not even a bench!
There are 6 total lifts. The first 4 hit your shoulder muscles, arms, chest, back and legs, and the last 2 are optional direct arm work thrown in for a killer workout.
HOME DUMBBELL EXERCISES
This workout allows you to select a single or pair of dumbbells for each exercise. Reps and sets are easy to remember.
Rest times vary depending on how heavy your weights are.
The first 4 exercises are going to be done in sets of three in the 6 to 8 rep range. If the dumbbells that you have allow you to fail within that range, then you’ve got the right dumbbells.
But what happens if you don’t?
If you have heavier weights, perform the single dumbbell exercise variation. If you have lighter weights, use a pair of dumbbells, or simply do the set until you reach failure with dramatically decreased rest time to increase the metabolic effect.
Rest between sets for 90 seconds to 2 minutes if you’re able to fail within the 6-8 rep range.
If you have lighter weight dumbbells that don’t allow you to fail before 8 reps, perform the exercise to failure followed by 45-60 seconds of rest. Adjusting recovery time helps equalize the workout program for everyone, no matter what weight you’re using.
Explosively clean the dumbbell up to one shoulder, press it up and overhead to the other side, bring it back down to the floor and repeat.
Proper form is important here. Keep your core tight. Catch the dumbbell on your shoulder at the same time you plant your feet flat so that you’re in contact with the ground, ready to absorb the dumbbell weight eccentrically, which prepares you for an explosive overhead clean to the opposite shoulder.
If you’re using a pair of dumbbells, do the Dumbbell Clean and Press.
Clean and press the left dumbbell to your left shoulder and right dumbbell to your right shoulder, dip down into the press-up position, then press, lower, and repeat.
These clean variations work the same muscles, but use slightly different techniques, depending on whether you have one, or a pair of dumbbells. If you have limited weight, choose the single dumbbell option.
Do 3 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions, choosing a weight that would allow you to fail within that range. Rest time in between sets would be 90 seconds to 2 minutes if you’re doing higher reps using lighter weight.
Perform these to failure and simply decrease recovery time to 45-60 seconds rest to turn this into a metabolic burnout.
2) DUMBBELL GOBLET Lunge / dumbbell lunge
The second exercise will brutalize your leg muscles, whether you use one dumbbell or a pair of dumbbells.
This single move combines reverse lunges and goblet squats.
Raise a single dumbbell into the starting position for goblet squats. Step backward into a reverse lunge, then back up and then perform a goblet squat.
If you’re using two dumbbells, choose the weight you can do for 6 to 8 repetitions on each leg for 3 total sets.
Maintaining a slightly wider stance is key to this exercise. Starting position is the goblet squat stance for a wider base of support when you go back into your reverse lunge.
People too often lunge directly backwards, narrowing the base of support too much, so you wind up losing your balance. When the goal is building muscle, balance should not be your focus. Keeping your legs a little bit wider will provide you with the stability you need to focus on new muscle growth.
3) DUMBBELL T-BAR ROW
The T-Bar Row is a classic lift you can do with a single dumbbell. Use a crush grip to mimic the mechanics of the T-Bar Row form.
If you have access to a pair of dumbbells, you can do this variation.
Utilize your legs for the first quarter of the motion to help you to move bigger weights and to move them more explosively.
Focus on correct form as you perform the exercise. Tilt the heels of your hands downward for extra range of motion so the dumbbell is less likely to hit your torso at the top.
Bend enough at the waist to create a greater load on your lats but do so without compromising your low back and rounding it.
Do 3 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions.
4) DUMBBELL CRUSH GRIP FLOOR PRESS / FLOOR PRESS
No bench, no problem. The Crush Grip Floor Press is a great upper body pushing exercise that’s going to hit your chest muscles, shoulder muscles and triceps.
If you’re only using one heavy dumbbell, squeeze both hands as hard as you can on the handle with an inward force to create that isometric abduction to really light up your chest.
Extend the dumbbell up and over your body to work your shoulders and triceps like you would with any other bench press.
If you have a pair of dumbbells, the traditional floor press is an option. Choose a weight that’s going to cause failure in the 6 to 8 rep range for 3 sets.
Keep those reps higher if you’re using lighter weight dumbbells and decrease rest time to no more than 45 to 60 seconds.
ADD THESE EXERCISES FOR JACKED ARMS
If you’re looking for bigger, jacked arms add these two additional exercises: direct lifts for biceps and triceps.
The direct triceps exercise of choice here is one I’ve done myself and it is very challenging.
5) DUMBBELL TRICEPS FLOOR EXTENSIONS / diamond grip floor extensions
It can easily be done with a pair of dumbbells or converted into a single dumbbell option by simply using an open palms-up diamond grip.
Use a hammer grip if you’re using a pair of dumbbells. Let all the motion be at your elbow joints. Don’t drive too much with your lats.
Concentrate instead on your triceps by bending at the elbow joints, limiting the range of motion to elbow flexion–not shoulder extension. The upper arm should remain pretty still and the forearm should be what moves. The shoulders shouldn’t be moving much at all.
Do 10 to 12 reps to failure for 3 sets.
6) DUMBBELL WAITER CURLS / ALTERNATING DB CURLS
Our biceps exercise–the Dumbbell Waiter Curl–is tailor made for a single dumbbell.
This is the dumbbell waiter curl. Because you can go pretty heavy with this curl variation, you can really build up your biceps. This is one of my favorites, so I hope you try it.
Hold the dumbbell on one end, using the palms up grip. This decreases the mechanical advantage of the biceps by lengthening the lever arm an inch or two. Be sure to keep your core braced, as the weight will be a little farther in front of you than it is with classic dumbbell curls.
As with our triceps extension, do 3 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions.
If you have a pair of dumbbells and don’t want to utilize this option, use the classic biceps lift, Standing Dumbbell Curls. It’s another great way to target your biceps. Use alternating form so you can make sure the biceps are doing all the work here, and I’m not limiting yourself by either strength or core weakness.
Here’s a recap of the “Jacked” home dumbbell workout. Remember to select the exercise variation that’s best depending on light dumbbells or heavy dumbbells, and adjust rest times for the weights you have available.
If you know how to train with dumbbells, there’s always something you can do no matter how many dumbbells you have: one dumbbell, a pair of dumbbells, a whole rack of dumbbells. I predict this will be one of the most challenging dumbbell workouts you’ll find.
This dumbbell exercise routine will hit your entire body utilizing no extra equipment, making it the perfect option to help you get jacked at home.
If you’re looking for a complete training program that you can do at home with just dumbbells, look no further. Check out our ATHLEAN-X programs to see which of our programs best fits your needs.
- You don’t need an entire rack of dumbbells or a commercial gym membership to get a full-body workout.
- This workout can be done in your home with just one dumbbell or a pair of dumbbells.
- There are 4 lifts that hit your entire body: shoulders, chest, back, and leg muscles, and two optional exercises that work biceps and triceps.
- Exercise selection can be tweaked based on whether you have one, or a pair of dumbbells.
- The first 4 dumbbell exercises are performed for 6 to 8 reps for 3 sets with 90 seconds to 2 minutes’ rest time in between. If your dumbbell option doesn’t allow you to fail before 8 reps, perform the exercise to failure then drop rest between sets to 45-60 seconds.
- The optional biceps and triceps exercises are performed for 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps, applying the same rules for rest between sets.
HOME DUMBBELL WORKOUT FAQS
Yes, you can definitely build muscle with just dumbbells. It’s possible to train the entire body with no additional equipment outside of your dumbbells, not even a bench.
Yes, you can work out at home with just dumbbells and no other equipment. It’s possible to work all of the muscles in the body with just the dumbbells you have at home.
Yes, it is possible to get ripped with only dumbbells. To build muscle over time, you will need a set of adjustable dumbbells that will allow you to adjust the weight upward as you become stronger.
You can do this home dumbbell workout regardless of what size dumbbells you have at home. If your dumbbells allow you to fail in a 6-8 rep range, you have exactly the correct weight. But if your dumbbells are heavier you can use the single dumbbell exercise variation. If your dumbbells are too light, you can use the pair you have and either do the set until you reach failure and/or reduce rest time.
Jeff Cavaliere M.S.P.T, CSCS
Jeff Cavaliere is a Physical Therapist, Strength Coach and creator of the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and ATHLEAN-Rx Supplements. He has a Masters in Physical Therapy (MSPT) and has worked as Head Physical Therapist for the New York Mets, as well as training many elite professional athletes in Major League Baseball, NFL, MMA and professional wrestling. His programs produce “next level” achievements in muscle size, strength and performance for professional athletes and anyone looking to build a muscular athletic physique.