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
Beginner
8 weeks
3
30 minutes
Bodyweight, Dumbbells
Male & Female
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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.

Monday
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
Wednesday
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
Friday
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

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1.7K Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Wed, 06/21/2017 - 02:18
Jeff

Is there a phase 2 after this 8 weeks is completed? Thx

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 06/21/2017 - 09:20
JoshEngland

Hi Jeff,

One just might be coming out soon, so stay tuned! In the meantime, you can make this program more difficult by adding sets, reps, exercises, or even increasing the weight you use for each exercise.

You can also browse our entire workouts database here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workout-routines

Hope this helps!

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Posted Sun, 06/18/2017 - 07:12
Dominic

Hi,
I wonder if only one chest exercise (bench press: 3 sets x 8-10 reps for example) is gonna be enough to make this body part bigger within 2 months consuming enough protein. What do you think?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 06/19/2017 - 10:07
JoshEngland

Hi Dominic,

Sure, if you're not used to working out your chest with weights, performing 3 sets of bench press every 48-72 hours will make your chest grow over time.

With that said, doing so is best done in part of a complete workout program that also trains the other muscle groups of your body.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Wed, 06/14/2017 - 23:14
Rich

Hey Josh.

I see here the workout time is listed as 30 minutes. I am always way over that, can you give me a breakdown of how long I should be resting between sets and exercises, for example on a Monday?

Thanks!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 06/15/2017 - 10:11
JoshEngland

Hi Rich,

Rest should be limited to between 30-90 seconds. For 18 sets, you'll be looking at 27-30 minutes if you limit rest to 60 seconds in between sets.

Grant it, rest is highly individualized. Some may be able to rest for only 30 sec, while others may need the whole 90 seconds. The 30 mins is just a guesstimate, but your workouts should be falling pretty close to that time frame.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Tue, 06/13/2017 - 13:30
Adam

Hi,

Is it ok to use the rowing machine as my form of cardio during this routine...likely just after the resistance exercises or on the "rest" days?

thanks!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 06/14/2017 - 09:51
JoshEngland

Hi Adam,

Sure, so long as you do not feel it affects your recovery negatively, I don't see why not.

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Posted Sun, 06/11/2017 - 17:11
Ali

Hey

I'm planning on starting this program within the next week but I had a quick question. Since I don't have access to a bench can I just do dumbbell floor presses instead of the dumbbell bench press or is there some other variation that you would recommend for me to do instead?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 06/14/2017 - 09:50
JoshEngland

Hi Ali,

That should be fine, or you could incorporate pushups instead.

You're also more than welcome to check out our exercises database to find suitable alternatives for exercises that you can do with the equipment you do have: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/exercises

Hope this helps!

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Posted Fri, 06/09/2017 - 16:29
Atox

Hey

I have just started this program about a week ago. I was wondering, would it be advisable to add some barbell exercises either in the program or during the off days? For example, I have a bench at home where I can do bench presses as well as squats and deadlifts.
What do you recommend?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Fri, 06/09/2017 - 16:36
JoshEngland

Hi Atox,

Definitely! You can do that for sure. This program was written for those with only dumbbells to use in mind. You can check out our exercise database here to find suitable barbell alternatives that target the same muscle groups: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/exercises

Hope this helps!

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Posted Tue, 06/06/2017 - 15:01
Didier

Hi,
i'd like to know what weight i should choose for the dumbbells. I weight 75kg.

Thank you : )

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 06/07/2017 - 10:10
JoshEngland

Hi Didier,

Individual strength differs from person to person. I'd recommend starting out with a weight you know you can get for the prescribed amount of reps. If it is too easy, move up in weight from there. If it is too hard, move down in weight.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Sat, 06/03/2017 - 08:23
Ubay

Hi.. what is the next level fbw only with dumbell?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 06/05/2017 - 09:18
JoshEngland

Hi Ubay,

One just might be coming out soon, so stay tuned! In the meantime, you can make this program more difficult by adding sets, reps, exercises, or even increasing the weight you use for each exercise.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Thu, 06/01/2017 - 19:33
Gab

Hi do you think this is good example for a dumbbell workout other than the one above?

Monday:

Dumbbell bench press (Chest)
Warm up 1 x 15 reps
3 sets of 8 reps

Incline dumbbell press (Upper Chest)
3 sets of 8 reps

Dumbbell squats (Quadriceps - Front Of The Thighs)
4 sets of 10 reps

Alternate dumbbell curls (Biceps)
3 sets of 12 reps

Dumbbell Pullover (Back / Chest)
3 sets of 12 reps

Ab Crunches (Abdominals)
4 sets of 15

Wednesday:
Arnold press (Shoulders)
Warm up 1 x 15 reps
3 sets of 10 reps

Alternate front dumbbell raises (Shoulders)
3 sets of 12 reps

Dumbbell rows (Mid Back)
3 sets of 10 reps

Dumbbell stiff legged deadlifts (Hamstrings / Butt)
3 sets of 12 reps

Ab Crunches (Abdominals)
4 sets of 15

Friday:
Dumbbell deadlifts (Mid Lower Back)
4 sets of 12 reps

Incline dumbbell press (Upper Chest)
3 sets of 10 reps

Dumbbell Lunges (Legs)
3 sets of 12

Alternate dumbbell curls (Biceps)
3 sets of 12 reps

One arm dumbbell extensions (Triceps)
3 sets of 12 reps

Ab Crunches (Abdominals)
4 sets of 15

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

Hi Gab,

Yes, I'd say this is a good dumbbell only program. I wouldn't say one is better than the other. Both will help you with building muscle and/or fat loss depending on your diet and sleep schedule.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Sun, 05/28/2017 - 22:20
Steve

Hi there,

I am beginning to do this workout routine and just wanted to ask if these exercises will provide a sufficient core workout? I don't mean just getting nice abs but actually strengthening my entire core?
If not is there anything you would recommend we add or substitue to ensure the core is getting enough of a workout? New to working out and it is hard to find real info on core workouts, thanks!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Tue, 05/30/2017 - 09:52
JoshEngland

Hi Steve,

Yes, this workout provides enough indirect core work from your body needing to stabilize itself while performing the exercises to build core strength.

You're also more than welcome to add additional core work to the tailend of these workouts or on your rest days. I've provided a link to our ab workouts database below as well as an excellent article on core training that I think you'll find very useful.

Abs databse - https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/abs

Understanding Core Training - https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/understanding-core-training

Hope this helps!

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Posted Sun, 05/28/2017 - 13:44
Ben

Hey! I'm 16 years old 6 ft tall and weight 73 kg (160 lbs). I started going to a public gym 2 months ago but I got tired of it so i bought i pair of dumbbells and decided to workout from home. I was wondering if this is enough intensity for my workout. Is 3 workouts a week enough? Can I build muscle without any powdered protein or protein shakes/drinks etc. fast enough. If there is another weekly workout routine you would recommend your help would be grately appreciated.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Tue, 05/30/2017 - 09:49
JoshEngland

Hi Ben,

Yes, 3x a week is enough to build muscle. You can build muscle without protein powder so long as your whole foods protein intake is adequate enough (.6-1.2g of protein per lb of lean mass is the recommended sweet spot) - protein powder does make it a lot easier to meet this need. This workout is an excellent program based on what it appears you have available to use.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Fri, 05/26/2017 - 07:14
Joseph

Hey

I know this going to sound silly i have just started lifting weights and im just wondering for each exercise are you supposed to complete them in one go. For an example the dumbbell squat would i do 6-12 reps then wait 30 seconds and then do another 6-12 until i complete the 3 sets or would i do one set of dumbbell squat the move on to bench press and work my way back round to the first exercise.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Fri, 05/26/2017 - 09:09
JoshEngland

Hi Joseph,

You can actually do either or and it'll be beneficial in providing different stimulus. The first scenario you've explained is called horizontal loading and the other is called vertical loading (aka circuit training).

The first does well with a focus on hypertophy (or muscle building) while the latter is beneficial for increasing endurance and cardiovascular health.

This program is written for you to perform all the sets at once before moving on to the next exercise, but that doesnt mean you cant adapt it to be more of a circuit if you prefer and feel it will help you reach your goals better.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Mon, 05/22/2017 - 11:32
Cheryl

How much cardio should I be doing along with this to optimize results? I'll be using this program to lose weight, if that changes anything. Also, I won't be able to do cardio first thing in the morning - when should I do it? How many days a week?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 05/22/2017 - 11:45
JoshEngland

Hi Cheryl,

Sure you can add cardio to this program if you'd like, but when it comes to weight loss the most important thing is being in a calorie deficit. That is burning more calories than you consume in a given day. Ideally, to lose weight, you want to be in a deficit of ~250-500 calories a day, although it will differ from person to person. See how many calories you should be eating in a day with our BMR calculator below, and then subtract your target calorie deficit (more isn't necessarily better, you want to make sure this deficit is something that is sustainable).

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/bmr-calculator

Now, you can do cardio to increase your calorie expenditure. As to what, when, and how many times a week, that is up to you and will also depend on how well you recover from these workouts and those cardio sessions.

I'd recommend finding a form of cardio that you enjoy doing (for me it's long walks preferably in nature). If it's low impact such as walking, you could do it every day. If you enjoy sprinting or something a little more intense, then you'll want to account for having to recover from those sessions. Maybe aim to do those 2-4 times a week.

Weight loss is more so about finding a consistent plan of attack. It takes time so you have to find something you can do consistently. Consistency is sustainable and will help you get the results you desire.

I hope this helps!

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Posted Sun, 05/14/2017 - 17:22
bashar

Hi
For how long should I do the plan???
4 weeks or more

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 05/15/2017 - 09:39
JoshEngland

Hi Bashar,

For as long as you'd like so long as you are seeing progress, it's helping you achieve your goals, and you are enjoying doing it.

With that said, I'd give it at least 6-8 weeks of consistent effort to determine whether it is or not.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Mon, 05/01/2017 - 18:01
Felix Mak

Is there anything else I can change for the workout for the wide grip pull ups. I live in a small space and many of the doors don't allow me to use my iron gym anymore

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Posted Sun, 04/30/2017 - 14:33
JOE

Thanks for this workout, it has really helped me get back into the workout routine. I've lost weight with exactly what you've said in other posts, caloric deficit. I'm about 9 lbs from my weight goal but have focused on the protein intake to build muscle. With that said, my calorie intake has increased to hit my protein goal - 1g of protein per lb of body weight. I eat clean for the most part meaning I have some ice cream once a month but the extra calories has me a little concerned. Feels like I'm eating a lot, is the school of thought these days still 1 g of protein per lb of body weight? Other question is I tend to workout late and I have a protein shake right after I'm done. Then about an hour later I go to bed, is it ok to down some casein protein before bed that close to my after workout shake? Or should I try to space out my workout earlier? Thanks for your help.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 05/01/2017 - 09:26
JoshEngland

Hi joe,

Congrats on your progress!

A good amount of protein to consume over the course of the day is between 1.6-1.7g per Kilogram of bodyweight and you can go up to 2g per kg . You can certainly eat more than that, however the benefit of increasing protein intake after that amount doesn't necessarily increase as well.

Typically, there is more of a benefit in eating the 1g per bodyweight or 2g per kilogram of bodyweight when you are in a calorie deficit to preserve muscle mass,

As far as consuming a protein shake and a casein shake within an hour of each other, so long as you are in good health, you should be fine.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Sat, 04/29/2017 - 23:30
Nat

Is this workout suitable for really skinny guys to start with to gain mass?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 05/01/2017 - 09:12
JoshEngland

Hi Nat,

Yes, paired with a sound and solid diet that puts you in a slight caloric surplus, overtime this program will help you put on mass.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Sun, 04/23/2017 - 16:27
Joe

I'm usually busy on mondays so sometime I do this workout on sunday, tuesday and either thrusday or friday. Im just wondering if the workout on friday is special in the terms of that I have to rest two days before doing another workout, or if I can rest two days between any workout

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 04/24/2017 - 09:32
JoshEngland

Hi Joe,

These are full body workouts. So, ideally you'd want to have atleast 1 full day of rest from resistance training between each workout. The 2 rest days can be before any workout. It's more set up this way for those who want to have weekends off from weight training.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Tue, 04/04/2017 - 13:58
Frank DeVita

I have a herniated disc in lower lumbar,is this routine back friendly? If not could you please send a dumbbell routine that is back friendly? Thank you so much.....

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Tue, 04/04/2017 - 15:23
JoshEngland

Hi Frank,

I'd recommend working with a professional in person. I know it's probably not the answer you wanted to hear, but it is the best advice I can give.

Plenty of people could blindly make a program for you to follow, but they wouldn't understand the state of your prior injury or how it has affected your movement patterns. Thus, they may come up with a program that will result in re- or further injury and that's not fair for you.

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Posted Wed, 03/22/2017 - 18:17
James

Does this help you arm become bigger and your abs show more

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 03/23/2017 - 09:13
JoshEngland

Hi James,

Yes, if paired with a proper diet aimed towards fat loss (meaning you are in a calorie deficit), you could see those goals as a result of performing this workout.

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Posted Sat, 03/18/2017 - 21:23
Mike

Been doing your workout for two weeks and it's been working great! But I'm wondering if I can do my cardio on the rest day or if I should do them on the days I work out

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 03/20/2017 - 09:55
JoshEngland

Hi Mike,

You can do either or. Personally I like to perform LISS cardio in the mornings before work as a means to wake up, but also as a form of recovery.

The important thing isn't when you do cardio, It's making sure you actually do cardio and the form of cardio you do doesnt negatively affect your performance in the gym.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Wed, 03/01/2017 - 23:13
Ben

Thanks so much for this!

I'm a very obese 40 year old man (6' , 410 lbs). I'm currently on a 2300 cal diet that leans a bit towards carbs and protein over fat. So far I've been making some great progress losing weight. But I don't want to lose lean mass while I'm at it so I'm blowing the dust off my dumbbells and plan on integrating some weight training into my workout. I plan on starting slow and easing into it.

Some of these I just won't be able to do for a while in my current shape - can you recommend any alternatives? Namely sit-ups, floor press, pull-up and lying floor leg raise - basically anything on the floor will be difficult. I see Alper asked already for alternatives for the Pull Up. Any suggestions for the others?

Thanks again for your excellent workout! For someone like me getting to the gym is a bit of a nightmare so being able to do something in the privacy of my own home without having to spend big money is a huge win.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 03/02/2017 - 09:18
JoshEngland

Hi Ben,

Congrats on all of your progress thus far!

You're right, it's not advisable for obese trainees to start out with floor exercises. I'd recommend investing in some resistance bands to use alongside your dumbbells. They can be pretty cheap and they will help you add variety into your workouts.

For example:

You could substitute floor press with standing band chest presses. -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqzVVl6cPAI

You could sub pullups with resistance band pulldowns - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZA2NEQGPfpU

You could substitute core work with standing trunk rotations - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vbj54X5pPT4

Just a couple of options. It might also be worth investing in a couple of training sessions with a professional to work with in person. They'll be able to give you so many more viable options that are more constructive for you personally than I (or anyone else) can blindly over the internet.

I hope this helps and best of luck on your fitness journey!

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Posted Mon, 03/06/2017 - 09:40
Craig

Keep up the great work!

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Posted Thu, 03/02/2017 - 10:45
Ben

Thanks for the tips, Josh!

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Posted Wed, 06/07/2017 - 03:23
Ben

Josh, I just wanted to thank you again and let you know of my progress after 3 months.

I have been following this workout 3x a week and partnered it with a healthy meal plan of 2300 kcal and an hour of cardio per day. I am now down 50 pounds. I still have a ways to go, but I'm pretty excited about the progress so far.

All of my research pointed to the importance of including strength training in your weight loss program and I'm feeling such a difference. The toning is definitely there - I can feel it! It's just unfortunately kind of hidden under a fair bit of fat still. But I feel better, stronger, more energetic... just all around healthier.

I've always been a little worried about the "excess skin" problem, and I'm told that keeping up with weight training can help there too. So, keeping my fingers crossed on that one!

Your earlier tips to substitute some of the exercises with resistance bands has been working great. I'm still a bit too big to get on the ground comfortably so I anticipate I'll be using the bands for some time yet. But they're so handy anyway. I take them with me when I'm away on business or vacation so even if I'm somewhere with no gym I can get some training in. And it really doesn't take much: 30 - 45 minutes so it's easy to fit into the schedule.

I also picked up a fitness tracker to help with my step count per day, calorie burn and to set goals. I'm now actually able to make it to the top of Mount Royal here in Montreal -- something I never would have been able to do even just 3 months ago.

Oh, and I have worked with a trainer prior to this. He's awesome. Unfortunately I can't afford him as often as I'd like but I would be remiss not to mention his value to this project. He taught me a lot across the board - from fitness to nutrition. A valuable part of the team!

Anyway, thanks again Josh. I'm keeping at it. I'll swing by again in another few months to let you know how it's going. Heck, maybe by the end of this I'll even be so bold as to show some before and after pics!

Cheers!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 06/07/2017 - 15:24
JoshEngland

Hi Ben!

Wow! Way to go man!!!!

That is very impressive and thank you so much for sharing. Keep after it! It sounds like you've found a way to be very consistent in your approach, while enjoying yourself at the same time. Maintaining that consistency and sense of enjoyment is key to long term success.

Looking forward to hearing back from you in a couple of months! If you need any help in the meantime, you know where to find us!

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Posted Tue, 02/28/2017 - 07:35
Alper

Good workout thank you. But i can't make Wide Grip Pull Up at my home. Is there an alternative?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Tue, 02/28/2017 - 09:07
JoshEngland

Hi Alper,

The easy fix would be adding dumbbell rows or pulldowns with a resistance band if you have any of those. However, I'd highly recommend purchasing a portable pull up bar. They're fairly reasonably priced, easy to assemble, and the pullup is a staple muscle building exercise.

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

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?