Build muscle at home or in the gym with this 8-week workout routine! This program is designed with extra emphasis on the lower body and can be done in as little as 30 minutes.
Workout Summary

Workout Description

One of the more popular workouts of 2020 here on M&S was our 4 Day Upper/Lower Women's Dumbbell Only Workout. This program offered a solution for the ladies out there that wanted to train the entire body effectively but were limited to using dumbbells.

If you were someone who followed and completed that eight-week program, you may be wondering what to do next. Wonder no more because we now have a more advanced program to take your training and results to a new level.

Recommended: Need help building muscle? Take our Free Muscle Building Course

Introducing the 5 Day Program

The workout routine that follows is another dumbbell only program, but this one is for five days a week. The split breaks up the bodyparts into different groups, and extra emphasis will be placed on the lower body, which has been split up into two groups. One day focuses on the quadriceps and calves. The second day, which is three days later, emphasizes the hamstrings and glutes.

The other muscle groups are paired up so that you can train each area with greater attention to detail than the four-day per week version. There are days for chest and shoulders, back and abs, and biceps and triceps.

5 Day Women’s Dumbbell Only Workout Split

  • Day 1 – Chest and Shoulders
  • Day 2 – Quadriceps and Calves
  • Day 3 – Off
  • Day 4 – Back and Abs
  • Day 5 – Hamstrings and Glutes
  • Day 6 – Biceps and Triceps
  • Day 7 – Off

Before You Begin

If you’ve finished our 4 Day Upper/Lower Women's Dumbbell Only Workout or any other program for that matter, don’t jump straight into this one. Take a deload week that focuses on you working with less volume and intensity before starting this one. If you want to take a full week off, that would work as well.

Also, a word about the sets and reps. The prescribed workout below calls for you to perform the reps for both sides. So if you see an exercise that starts with “single”, that means you should do the recommended reps on each side.

There are some exercises that may require a bench. If you have one, then you should use it. If not, make the best accommodations you can. If you need to use the floor or a mat, go for it.

Related: How to Make Muscle Gains Using Isometric Training

Benefits of Dumbbells

The dumbbells may not appear to be much, but they are a very versatile tool for training. You can isolate areas specifically, they require you to work harder to stabilize the weight, and you don’t need a big area to use them. You can hold one with both arms or work with one in each hand.

If you have adjustable dumbbells or enough pairs that you can challenge yourself effectively, use what you need to push yourself for each set. If you only have one or two pairs, then do the best you can to challenge yourself. Try using longer negatives and contracting the muscles for longer periods of time. This should help until you’re able to get your hands on some bigger weights.

Related: Lower Body Alternatives to Your Favorite Gym Machines (Plus Free Workout!)

Cardio and When to Do It

Aside from these workouts, cardio activity is also important. Fortunately, you don’t need to commit to hours of running. 20-30 minutes of activity a day would suffice nicely. You can do these sessions first thing in the morning so it is behind you, or you can opt to do your cardio after your workout when your glycogen levels are decreased. Moderate level intensity can be beneficial if it will help you stay consistent. You may also try a HIIT workout (alternating brief bursts of high effort with periods of lower effort) if endurance and serious fat burning is the goal.

Woman doing dumbbell squats in studio gym with wall ball on the ground in front of her.

Chest and Shoulders

The chest and shoulders are paired up because the delts are involved in a lot of your chest work anyway, especially the anterior head of the deltoid. The goal with the rep schemes should be to reach failure within that range. If you’re able to perform three sets of 15 during your first workout, attempt to get at least 16 next time. Once you reach three sets of 20, go heavier if possible, or increase the time under tension of each rep.

There are some people that may not like doing upright rows because of shoulder issues they have. If this applies to you, then opt for the rear delt fly instead.

Day 1: Chest and Shoulders

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Dumbbell Fly 3 15-20 60 seconds
Incline Dumbbell Press 3 15-20 60 seconds
Push Up 3 15-20 60 seconds
Arnold Press 3 15-20 60 seconds
Single Arm Lateral Raise 3 20 each arm 60 seconds
Dumbbell Upright Row 3 20 60 seconds

Quadriceps and Calves

The legs are split up into two days so you can focus on different portions with greater effort. Give yourself a little extra time to warm up before starting these workouts because you want to be fully prepared to go on your first work set. You also don’t want to risk an injury.

One exercise you may need to work on for a little longer is the dumbbell leg extension. Sit on the edge of a bench with your knees bent and a dumbbell between your feet. Keep your feet pressed together tightly. Slightly lean back on the bench, and hold on to the sides so you can stay on the bench. Straighten your legs while keeping your feet tight. Contract the quads when your legs are straight. Return to the starting position slowly. This is one rep. Repeat for the recommended rep range.

Day 2: Quadriceps and Calves

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Dumbbell Jump Squat 3 15-20 60 seconds
Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat 3 15-20 each leg 60 seconds
Dumbbell Leg Extension 3 20 60 seconds
Standing Single Leg Calf Raise 3 20 60 seconds
Seated Dumbbell Calf Raise 3 20 60 seconds

Upper Back and Abs

For the upper back workout, you can individualize portions of the workout to benefit your individual needs. For example, if you think your upper back can benefit from isolation, then do the dumbbell rows one side at a time. Just remember to reach the rep ranges for each side here if you do so.

The Knee In exercise is a simple one to perform, but the dumbbell will make it more challenging. Position yourself on the end of a bench with a dumbbell between your feet. Your legs should be straight. Slightly lean back while maintaining balance on the bench. Hold the sides if you need to. Bring your knees into your chest without dropping the dumbbell. Contract the abdominals when you do so. Lower your legs back to the starting position. This is one rep. Repeat for the recommended rep range.

Day 4: Upper Back and Abs

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Two Arm Dumbbell Row 3 15-20 60 seconds
Dumbbell Pullover 3 15-20 60 seconds
Bent Over Rear Delt Fly 3 15-20 60 seconds
Dumbbell Shrug 3 15-20 60 seconds
Weighted Crunch 3 20 60 seconds
Dumbbell Knee-In 3 20 60 seconds

Hamstrings and Glutes

As you go into your hamstrings and glutes workout, give yourself more time to stretch the hamstrings out and prepare your hips. This will be very beneficial in feeling the muscles working. Try to flex them occasionally between sets as well, so you can maintain the mind-muscle connection with this area.

The dumbbell sumo squat is similar to a goblet squat, except with a wider stance. The focus should be on contracting the glutes as you come up from the bottom position. Yes, the quads are involved. However, the benefits for the glutes are too good to not add this exercise to the program.

Related: Courtney King's Full Glute Workout

Day 5: Hamstrings and Glutes

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Stiff Leg Deadlift 3 15-20 60 seconds
Dumbbell Hamstring Curl 3 15-20 60 seconds
Walking Lunge 3 15-20 60 seconds
Dumbbell Glute Bridge 3 15-20 60 seconds
Dumbbell Sumo Squat 3 15-20 60 seconds

Biceps and Triceps

Training the biceps and triceps together can help make the entire upper arm look stronger and better developed. You can notice an increase in size, but don’t be concerned about your arms getting too big on a program like this.

If you start to fatigue before the end of the set, concentrate on working one arm at a time. You can also take 3-5 second pauses before continuing until you reach the end of the set.

Day 6: Biceps and Triceps

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
One Arm Overhead Dumbbell Extension 3 15-20 each arm 60 seconds
Dumbbell Tricep Kickbacks 3 15-20 each arm 60 seconds
Neutral Grip Dumbbell Press 3 15-20 60 seconds
Incline Dumbbell Curl 3 15-20 60 seconds
Standing Hammer Curl 3 15-20 60 seconds
Zottman Curl 3 15-20 60 seconds


Having minimal equipment and space may not be optimal, but that doesn’t mean your progress has to be. You can make great improvements with the right program and consistent dedication. Go all-in with this program and measure your results each week for the next couple of months. You’ll be sure to see improvements that you will be proud of and can motivate you to propel forward.

Posted on: Wed, 08/16/2023 - 10:38

Why do no comments address that the 5 day workout lists 6 days worth of activities. What am I missing?

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Posted on: Thu, 08/17/2023 - 22:07

Day 3 is an off day. So, they are listed as Days 1,2,4,5 and 6.

Posted on: Tue, 09/05/2023 - 00:07

Because days 3 and 7 are rest days they're not shown that shows which days are the workouts.

Posted on: Tue, 05/30/2023 - 23:24

this is awesome so far but the dumbbell leg extension links to a machine exercise? i switched back to an extension with ankle weights i was doing before, is this comparable? thanks!
(it links to this:

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Posted on: Wed, 05/31/2023 - 08:56

It is comparable, BB. Go for it. Hopefully we can get more videos and exercise demos up in the future. Thanks for reading M&S!

Posted on: Wed, 02/15/2023 - 11:04

Hi there! Can this workout be done Monday - Friday with Sat and Sunday as rest days?

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Posted on: Sat, 02/25/2023 - 14:28

If you're at an intermediate or advanced level, then you can so long as your recovery isn't impacted. Beginners may want to wait until they gain more experience before taking on that kind of volume without rest in between.

Posted on: Sat, 02/04/2023 - 17:07

My goal is to build muscle and have more stamina for my four kids.
How many grams of protein and carbs and fat should I aim for to build muscle? I do not need to lose any weight. I am 5 foot 10 inches and weigh about 140. Also, what is a good way to track grams of protein and carbs? Do you have an app you like?

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Posted on: Tue, 02/21/2023 - 20:29

I suggest 1 gram protein, 2 grams of carbs, and .5 grams of fat per pound of bodyweight. I don't have an app preference, but hopefully other folks can drop their recommendations.

Posted on: Sat, 01/28/2023 - 00:27

My Goal is to lose weight and get toned is it a good a idea to start doing this workout ?

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Posted on: Sat, 01/28/2023 - 10:35

Sure is! It would be a great starting point for you. Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

Madlyn Apodaca
Posted on: Tue, 11/08/2022 - 16:25

Hi, if I want to focus on fat loss, would I do these workouts as a circut? Or should I just do them as is?

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Posted on: Sun, 11/13/2022 - 21:34

Hi, Madlyn! Thanks for reading M&S. If you have the energy and ability to handle the intensity of doing circuits, it's a good idea. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

Posted on: Mon, 07/25/2022 - 12:49

Hi Roger, I've been looking to add structure to my workouts and this will be a huge help. Thank you! I am 5'9" and 138 lbs. I recently lost 90 lbs after having a baby and did it through intermittent fasting and a high fat low carb diet. I now want to build muscle, so I know I need to increase calories (specifically carbs and protein). How many grams of carbs and protein should I eat in a day? Can I still fast on rest days?

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Posted on: Sun, 07/31/2022 - 11:31

Hi, Abby! Thanks for reading M&S and the question. Congrats on the baby and the weight loss! That is incredible.

Go for 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. As for carbs, 2 grams per pound should serve you well. Don't forget your healthy fats as well. 50-60 a day is a good range to shoot for.

Fasting isn't the best way to build muscle, but I do understand that some folks feel better mentally when they do it once a week, and that is obviously important. So, if it serves you, do it once a week, but make sure you eat big to grow those other six days a week.

Posted on: Wed, 08/31/2022 - 16:36

Thanks so much for your response! I'm five weeks into the program, and feeling stronger every day!

Posted on: Tue, 07/12/2022 - 23:59

What program should i start next after this one. Should i switch to the intermediate dumbbell workout for both men and women. I couldnt find a more advance one for women

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Posted on: Fri, 07/22/2022 - 14:54
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Posted on: Fri, 07/22/2022 - 14:54
Rhonda Smith
Posted on: Thu, 10/27/2022 - 11:13

I will be starting the next workout soon, what do I do if I don't have a bench at home?

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Posted on: Fri, 10/28/2022 - 18:47

Go with floor presses. The range of motion won't be as long, but you can still train the chest effectively.

Nicole Ash
Posted on: Thu, 04/14/2022 - 15:51

Where can I find the advance version on this workout or is it just increasing dumbbell weight

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Posted on: Thu, 04/28/2022 - 10:09

Hi, Nicole. You can increase weight, slow the reps down, or perform supersets by pairing exercises together. All of those ways will make the workouts more challenging!

Ashley Visconti
Posted on: Sat, 03/12/2022 - 22:00

Is there any recommended weights to start with

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 03/16/2022 - 20:58

Hello, Ashley. You will have to find the weights that challenge you, Ashley. Start with something you're confident in, and work your way up from there.

Posted on: Fri, 07/30/2021 - 15:59

I just started doing this program and I love it :) On day 5 of Hamstrings and Glutes, my legs were still sore from Day 2's Quadriceps and Calves. I still did the workout but I felt like I half-hearted it. If I am still sore next week on Day 5, what would you suggest to do? Thanks in advance.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 08/04/2021 - 19:50

Hey VC -

What does your warm-up look like? Additionally, let us know how your weekly training schedule looks like. When are you taking your 2 rest days?


Posted on: Mon, 08/09/2021 - 13:24

Thank you for getting back to me. I follow the schedule as it is laid out, so day 1 workout is Monday, day 2 workout is Tuesday, day 3 rest day is Wednesday, etc. I do some light stretching for maybe 2 minutes. Is there a stretch routine you can suggest for the upper and lower body days? Thanks in advance.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 08/10/2021 - 08:34

VC -

Check out this article for some dynamic warm ups:

Posted on: Mon, 05/17/2021 - 07:25

Is the rest period for between sets or at the end of all sets for that exercise?

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Posted on: Mon, 05/17/2021 - 10:44

Hey Aarushi - the listed rest is for between sets.

Posted on: Fri, 04/16/2021 - 06:05

Been doing this workout for 2 weeks now. How long should I keep this routine? Also, what's next set should I do next after?

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Posted on: Fri, 04/16/2021 - 10:21

Hey Pb - this is an 8 week program. You can repeat this program if you enjoy it and have seen positive results from it.

Posted on: Mon, 04/05/2021 - 21:34

Can this workout be done as circuit training - doing one set if each exercise after another with a rest between sets?

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Posted on: Tue, 04/06/2021 - 10:01

Hey Libby - it's best to follow the program as written, but you can do it in a circuit style.