Dumbbell Only Home Or Gym Full Body Workout

Short on equipment? No worries! This dumbbell only workout can be used at home or in the gym for building muscle mass. You can also use this as a muscle shock workout to mix things up.

Workout Summary

Build Muscle
Full Body
Bodyweight, Dumbbells
Male & Female

Workout Description

Stuck at home and only have dumbbells? Maybe you're in a rut and what to try something different?

The dumbbell only home or gym full body workout focuses on the use of heavy compound lifts, and allows you to maximize muscle gains with minimal equipment. This workout can be run for an extended period of time. As long as you are experiencing strength and muscle gains, stick with this routine! Here are some key elements to maximizing progress:

  1. Progression. Never waste a set. Always push for more reps on every set using good form. When you can hit the top level of the recommended rep range on your first set of an exercise, add weight! This means that if an exercise calls for 3 sets of 6 to 12 reps, and on your first set you can perform 12 reps, add more weight the next time you perform this exercise.
  2. Failure. Do NOT train to failure. Train to the point where you believe you might fail if you attempt another rep.
  3. Food. You MUST eat more then it takes to maintain your bodyweight to pack on muscle mass. If you do not do this, you may add strength, but it will be very difficult to add muscle.

A note for women: Women can perform this workout. Recommend rep range is 10 to 15 for most sets.

You will be working out 3 days per week - Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Do not add additional exercises into this workout. Cardio can be performed first thing in the morning, or post-resistance training.

Full Body
Exercise Sets Reps
Dumbbell Squat 3 6-12
Dumbbell Bench Press 3 6-12
One Arm Dumbbell Row 3 6-12
Standing Dumbbell Curl 3 6-12
Two Arm Seated Dumbbell Extension 3 6-12
Sit Up 3 10-25
Full Body
Exercise Sets Reps
Dumbbell Step Up 3 6-12
Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift 3 6-12
Seated Dumbbell Press 3 6-12
Standing One Leg Dumbbell Calf Raise 3 10-20
Dumbbell Shrug 3 10-15
Dumbbell Side Bends 3 10-15
Full Body
Exercise Sets Reps
Dumbbell Lunge 3 6-12
Dumbbell Floor Press 3 6-12
Wide Grip Pull Up 3 6-12
Standing Hammer Curl 3 6-12
Lying Dumbbell Extension 3 6-12
Lying Floor Leg Raise 3 10-25
About The Author
Muscle & Strength's Content Team is a group of fitness industry experts dedicated to publishing the highest quality articles, workouts and guides on the M&S Website.

1.7K Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Mon, 02/06/2017 - 18:25

I've seen a lot of stuff lately about how sit-ups aren't very good for your back. What's a good replacement for the sit-ups? Would 'planks' work?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Tue, 02/07/2017 - 09:06

Hi Karl,

Planks or Swiss ball crunches would be great substitutions if you're experiencing back pain during situps.

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Posted Sat, 02/04/2017 - 19:57

Hi, I am wanting to lose the weight around my stomach, about 14lb ideally, this was the weight I was when I could see my abs much more clearly.
If I were to do this program but eat calories to put muscle on, would I still lose the fat around my stomach? Or would you suggest sticking to Cardio until I lose the 14lb? I don't mind staying at the same weight as long as my stomach tones up more and I can see my abs again.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 02/06/2017 - 09:33

Hi Ash,

To lose fat you must be in a caloric deficit. A deficit of ~250-500 calories is recommended with a goal of losing .5-1lb per week. Below is our fat loss expert guide, it should be pretty helpful in answering any of your fat loss questions.


Hope this helps!

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Posted Tue, 01/31/2017 - 16:58

hi, i started to give this a go because i only have a pair of 14kg dumbbells to work with. with that weight i can see myself exceeding 12 reps on some of the exercises pretty soon, like the bent over rows and shrugs for example. if that happens i know i can increase intensity by reducing my rest time and increasing time-under-tension, but should i do more reps or add a set if i can finish 12-15 reps on all sets? by the way i'm 47 and have been lifting weights periodically. i just liked the full body workout you presented and hopefully i can see new gains.
please could you suggest an alternative to pull ups because there's not even a monkey bar at the playground in my area now. thanks!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 02/01/2017 - 11:14

Hi Kevin,

All of those adaptations sound fine as you continue to progress. It might be worth investing into heavier dumbbells if you ever feel like your not making enough progress.

Also, I'd highly recommend purchasing a pullup bar. They can be very cheap (~$20) and the pullup is a staple exercise. You can remove it from your program until you have one, or preform extra sets of bent over rows.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Thu, 01/26/2017 - 15:04

Regarding the diet part. Since my work schedule isn't really flexible, can I eat 3 big meals instead of small ones throughout the day? As long as I eat more than it takes to maintain my weight it's fine right?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 01/26/2017 - 16:00

Hi Tim,

Yes, that should be fine as long as your overall calorie consumption and macronutrient intake is in line with your goals.

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Posted Mon, 01/23/2017 - 13:24
Rev Bob

Would it be okay to do cardio (treadmill) on the off days? I'm trying to lose the "love handles."

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 01/23/2017 - 13:56

Rev Bob,

It's definitely ok to do some additional cardio work on your off days. In fact, I'd highly recommend doing some form of cardio on the daily to make sure your heart and lungs remain healthy and in good working fashion throughout your life.

In terms of fat loss, the best way to get there is through being in a consistent caloric deficit over time, You have to burn more calories than you are taken in to lose fat around your problem areas.

Below is our fat loss expert guide, it should be a pretty good resource to help you out with your goals.


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Posted Sun, 01/22/2017 - 22:05

Can I lose weight with this workout?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 01/23/2017 - 13:53


It can help by increasing your caloric expenditure through increased activity as well as increasing your metabolic rate. The more lean muscle you have the more calories you will burn at rest.

With that said, the thing that will help you most with your weight loss goals is being in a caloric deficit consistently overtime. You have to burn more calories than you are taking in, otherwise your weight will either remain the same or increase (that's not to say an increase in weight is bad, it can actually be quite good if it is an increase in lean muscle mass).

Check out this reference, it should be a good guide to help aid you in your weight-loss goals.


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Posted Mon, 01/23/2017 - 21:10

Thank you so much! I'm excited to begin this journey and transform this body I have. I think this then will be a good starting place for me. I was in the gym last year for about 5 mos and lost 25lbs. I was getting bored with the elliptical and treadmill and eyed the weights very often but was a bit intimidated. I have been out of the gym for at least the last 6 mos and have gained 8lbs :-( Again, thank you so much for the information and I will check out the reference you provided and continue to follow Muscle&Strength!

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Posted Sun, 01/22/2017 - 05:48
Lee k

Can cardio be done after each of these workouts as i want to lose a lot of body fat.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 01/23/2017 - 13:50

Hi Lee,

Of course! I'd highly recommend doing some form of cardio (either very light such a walking or more strenuous) every day. It will compliment your weightlifting efforts greatly.

Just be sure that you're giving yourself enough time to recover in between workouts. Also, a consistent caloric deficit overtime is what will really aid in your fat loss efforts. So be sure that your nutrition is on point as well and you should have no problem accomplishing your goals.

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Posted Sat, 01/21/2017 - 08:20

I'm wanting to lose weight and plan in a lot of cardio. I also want to build strength as well. Will This get me there ?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 01/23/2017 - 13:41

Hi Dave,

Sure, it will help. However, losing weight and gaining strength is just as much about diet and nutrition as it is about exercise. Don't forget to eating accordingly to your goals.

Another often overlooked element to fitness is sleep and recovery. You got to be sure to get plenty of sleep each night and have plenty of rest in between exercise bouts to recover and grow.

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Posted Sun, 01/15/2017 - 12:07

Can I have have weight gain shakes and eat as much protein as I can or is there a limit?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 01/16/2017 - 09:16


This completely depends on what your goals are. Short answer, you can, but it's probably not the best idea. You always want to have some sort of knowledge about how many calories you're putting into your body to avoid gaining fat. And if your goal is fat loss, you'll want to make sure you're in a caloric deficit.

Check out the BMR calculator link before. If you're trying to gain lean muscle mass, aim to eat 250-500 cals more per day than the amount of calories the calculator gives you.


Hope this helps!

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Posted Tue, 01/10/2017 - 09:18

Here is my workout plan (im a newbie)

1. 20 pushups
2. 10-15 crunches
3.20 leg raises
4. 20 squats
5. Rest
6. Repeat all the steps(done this much in the first week.3days)

7.then added pull ups
8. Next week added front and side planks,some bicep workouts (i forgot what they are called) and dumbles

Are these enough for building muscles? I have been through this workout for like 2 weeks (3 days each). If this is a proper way,how long might it take to see the result? If its the wrong way,any mods?

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Posted Sun, 12/25/2016 - 19:14

I wanted to ask if i can add an exercise to every single day workout of these (monday,tuesday,friday) i have an ab machine called "ab prince pro" i was wondering if i can use that in these workouts as well.
Also i wanted to ask should i do the exercises like 3 sets of each and move on to the next one or do all of the exercises, and then do them all again like 3 times like that.
All answers are welcome, thank you.

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Posted Fri, 12/23/2016 - 10:55

For leg raises can i hang legs off bench for fuller range?

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Posted Sun, 12/11/2016 - 13:18

I recently started this program and I'm wondering if I could increase my reps on some of the exercises? will it be a good idea for a beginner? Thanks

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Posted Thu, 01/12/2017 - 03:17

You'll want to increase weight, not reps

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Posted Tue, 11/22/2016 - 11:41

How many weeks is this?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Tue, 11/22/2016 - 12:54


You can run this for however long you want. Especially if you're still seeing progress and find it enjoyable. The minute you see progress halt, or if you get bored, you may want to look for another program.

Personally, I like to give each workout program I do 8 weeks to see the results. If after 8 weeks I still enjoy it and am seeing results, I continue it until it's no longer the case.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Thu, 11/03/2016 - 06:03
Julian A

Going to start this workout soon (just need to get myself a bench. Already ordered one, takes a few days to get shipped).

So far I'm probably able to do most of the workouts....except one. The Pull-up ain't happening.

2 Reasons.
a) I don't have anywhere to do it. Might be able to find a spot, but then there's
b) I'm currently at a weight of 169kg/373lbs (startet at 182kg/401lbs). There is no way in hell I could pull my weight up.

Soo, what's the best alternative I can do? Really don't want to just scratch that one part of the workout.

Really looking forward to it. The limited workouts I've been doing with my dumbbells are fun surprisingly enough. Way more fun than the cable machines in the gym years back (new workplace, no gym in the area).

So yeah, any advice would be great. I'm tired of carrying around weight that's not made out of iron.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 11/03/2016 - 10:44


If you have access to a pulldown cable, you could substitute pull ups with a pulldown variation. If not, you could purchase some resistance bands and perform banded pulldowns.

Eventually you'll want to progress yourself to doing assisted pullups whenever you're more comfortable in your capabilities. This can be done either using a partner or with a resistance band.

Once you've mastered all of that, you should find yourself capable of doing pullups :)

Hope this helps!

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Posted Thu, 11/03/2016 - 11:03
Julian A

I have an old cable machine that I could use. That might work! Thanks, didn't even think about that one (our "workout room" has been turned into the "stuff where we put stuff we don't need every day-room"......so it's not something that you remember instantly^^

my goal is to be able to do pullups one day. for now, one step after the other. the next big one is breaking through that 160kg barrier....that one stopped me multiple times so far. not this time. it's not really about building muscle and strenght and more about loosing weight, but hey, a few more muscles never hurt ;)

thanks for your reply :) hope you have good day.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 11/03/2016 - 12:18

You're welcome! Oh yeah, you've got it this time!

Just remember, building muscle and increasing your strength will only aid in your fat loss attempts (a lot actually considering lean muscle mass increases your metabolism). Keep up the good work!

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Posted Mon, 10/31/2016 - 14:10
John B

It's not so easy regarding progression. Dumb Bells go up 2kg or 4g per dumb bell - that's a big jump.

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Posted Fri, 10/28/2016 - 20:09

Roughly how long should this take to complete each day, assuming you keep your rests short?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 10/31/2016 - 09:13


Should take about 1 hour to complete.

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Posted Wed, 10/26/2016 - 11:09

I am a beginner and im quite skinny. I have 3kg dumbells and i want to know if they are to light... What weight do u guys propose? (I am new to weight?

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Posted Thu, 10/06/2016 - 18:15

what kind of protein or food i need to take in between the workout????

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Posted Wed, 10/05/2016 - 19:37

Will I be able to see changes in my body if I do this workout for 8 weeks?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 10/06/2016 - 09:11


Definitely! You should seem some good changes in your physique by doing the workout. Especially if your diet is on point as well.

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Posted Mon, 10/03/2016 - 16:03

Hi, I'm a skinny-fat person and as I learn from articles I should do 4 sets of 4-6 reps. What should I do ? 4-6 reps or 10-12 reps ?

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Posted Fri, 09/30/2016 - 06:20
John B

I think dumb bells are better - better range of motion, targets your muscles more effectively, less injury and reduces imbalances.

Progression can be tricky. You need to use rep and set changes and not just increasing weight.

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Posted Sun, 09/25/2016 - 18:56

Hi I've been doing this workout for about ten weeks and have seen improvements. I feel like I have plateud now. Do I need to do different routines for awhile? If so are you able to direct me to some please? I have been increasing weights and doing max reps.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 09/26/2016 - 09:28

Hi Sally,

You may benefit from a deload week or active recovery week. A deload week is where you do half the sets of your routine or half the weight you're used to using.

If you are ready to move on to another workout program (although not necessary if you opt to deload for a week), we have several great one's you could try out. Check them out in the link below.


JoshEngland's picture
Posted Fri, 09/30/2016 - 13:14


We have a couple other dumbbell only workouts on the site. I've provided a couple below that you can look at.

Yes, after any extended period of working out your body can always use a deload or active recovery week. This enables them to grow back fast and also allows you a mental break. I try to take one every 8-12 weeks or whenever I feel I need one (could be more or less frequent).

I'd definitely recommend trying to purchase slightly heavier dumbbells if you feel you are too use to the ones you currently use. Your muscles need progressive overload to continue to develop. This can be done either via adding more sets to this workout or (the less time consuming way) performing the lifts with heavier weight.



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Posted Thu, 09/29/2016 - 21:57

Thanks for getting back to me Josh. I love what I've been doing as working out from home using dumbells. I can do deload week then recommence? Do I need to keep increasing weights though right? May need to buy heavier dumbells as mine only go up to 10kg. Are there any other new specific routines for dumbells I could use to mix it up?

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Posted Thu, 09/22/2016 - 16:18
Dan R

I am new to this workout. I have a question about how much weights I should be doing. The instructions say that if I can do a full reps on first set, then I should add more weight. So does that mean the first set should be a struggle? Also, how often do you add more weight?

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Posted Sun, 09/25/2016 - 03:25

Hi Dan,
You want to either fail or nearly fail in the number of reps suggested for the set. So f it says 10-12 reps, then you should choose a weight where you can complete at least 10 reps, but not quite 13. So if you fail on rep 10,11, or 12 then you are just right. If you fail on rep 9, then less weight, if you do rep 12 and know you can do more then add weight. The first set is the tester. Make your best guess, then adjust from there. Write it down so you know what weight to do next set and next time you workout, so you don't have to keep guessing the first set.

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Posted Thu, 09/22/2016 - 16:10

Hi everyone,

Is this workout suposed to be done without any rest between series? I'm at intermediate level (around 2 years working out, but not training since July) and I really like this workout routine but I need to know if I have to do all the series of each exercise without resting or not.

Thanks in advance,

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Posted Sun, 09/25/2016 - 03:27

You definitely want to rest to allow your muscles (anaerobic system) to recover before the next set. You have to determine the time, usually it is about 45-60 seconds, but can be whatever feels right. I personally like to do aerobic exercises between sets. So, for example, I will bench press my set, then run in place or jump on the eliptical for 45-60 seconds, then do my next set, etc. This gets in some great cardio between sets, but it is tiring.

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Posted Sat, 09/03/2016 - 10:47

Should i perform al 3 sets of one workout, then move on to the next or do i go thru the entire routine, then repeat?

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Posted Fri, 09/16/2016 - 15:59

I go through the entire routine, and then rest for a few minutes, and do the next set of the routine.

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Posted Wed, 08/10/2016 - 11:22

Is there a substitute for the pull up on Friday? I don't have access to a pull up bar, and I don't trust my door to support me (as suggested further down in the comments)