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

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.

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

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

Post your post-workout swolfies in M&S gear on IG and tag @muscleandstrength, #muscleandstrength, or DM them to us to get a shoutout on Muscle & Strength stories!

Posted on: Tue, 04/12/2011 - 06:19

plz tell me the exercises better for making muscels cuts with the help of dumbels.....

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 04/12/2011 - 07:41

Hi Sajawal,

Weight training does not help reveal or cut the muscle. Only a good cutting diet can do that.

Posted on: Thu, 04/07/2011 - 06:53

Hey Steve,
I'm new to lifting and just started this workout routine and was wondering how long in between sets do i wait or should i do another exercise and then come back to the previous to complete the next set?

Posted on: Sun, 04/03/2011 - 04:32

Hi Steve
I've just turned 16 and am 170cm/65kg and i want to gain more muscle on mainly arms but also chest and legs to increase my sprint speed and vertical jump. All i have is a 25kg set of dumbbells and a barbell. Could you link me to any workouts that i should do or tell me what i should do?
Thanx :D

Sam Carey
Posted on: Fri, 04/01/2011 - 17:26

Thanks so much for posting this routine. I sprint a mile before each session and have been doing it for a few months now. I am in the best shape of my life!


Posted on: Tue, 03/29/2011 - 12:06

If I don't have an actual weight bench for any of my workouts what would be a good substitution?

Posted on: Mon, 03/28/2011 - 19:35

If I don't have an actual bench for working out what would you recommend for a replacement?

Posted on: Sun, 03/27/2011 - 01:49

im 16 and i was wondering what workout i sould do as a beginner to loose weight and get toned, should i use any supplements? and what should i drink to replace my soda habit

Posted on: Fri, 03/25/2011 - 00:47

If I want to do more ab work, would it make sense to do like 45 minutes of abs on the off days (tuesdays & thursdays), get rid of the abs during the actual workouts above, and then have saturday & sunday for full rest? Or is 5 straight days of workout (even with different muscle groups) not good?

I just really want to get more ab work in so that when I decide to cut later I will have more muscular abs. THANKS!

Posted on: Fri, 03/18/2011 - 18:55

Hey im 15 years old and im just starting to try this and i was wondering,what if i cant reach twelve i keep doing as much as i can until i reach it and when im doing dumbell bench press and floor press i instead of almost failing at twelve i dont fail until 20 but when i add more weight i can go past 6.what do i do?

Posted on: Mon, 03/07/2011 - 21:06

is it ok if i run on the rest days?

Posted on: Mon, 03/07/2011 - 16:59

hi steve i want to add muscle mass and lose weight at the same time, if im eating the rights cals to add muscle mass is it possible to burn bodyfat while getting big gains??

Posted on: Mon, 03/07/2011 - 10:32

How long must u do this program 2 get big muscles that show?

Posted on: Sun, 03/06/2011 - 08:34

hi steve, im 20 and around 15 stone at around 6ft2, im not fat but not skinny either, i want to get rid of a bit of belly fat while toning my muscles, will this work out? also would a bit of jogging help loose the weight?

Posted on: Sun, 03/06/2011 - 00:44

2 questions: long should it take to see results? 2. what exactly should my diet be?

Posted on: Sat, 03/05/2011 - 23:56

How long will it take for me to start seeing gains? And should I be using hevier weights and less reps? Thanks Steve

Posted on: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 23:20

How long do you have 2 do this workout routine, to get your muscles big and showing?

Posted on: Sat, 02/26/2011 - 00:40


Is it good to do a routine 2 days in a row and take no breaks during the day? Its what I have been doing and want to know whether it is right.
E.g: On monday/tuesday, i do mondays routine then on wednesday/thurday i do wednesdays routine etc.

Sheikh Zakir
Posted on: Sun, 02/20/2011 - 14:21

hi.. do i have to complete 3 sets of one excercise than move to the next or complete 1 set of each excersie and repeat the cycle 2 more times?

Sheikh Zakir
Posted on: Sun, 02/20/2011 - 14:16

I am overweight, 5'3" with 85kg. I just bought a pair of dumbbell weighing 10kg each. I like to loose weight n at the same time gaining muscle. can this workout help me? or...which goal should i focus on first...loosing weight or gaining muscle?

Posted on: Fri, 02/18/2011 - 21:55

hey steve i do 50 push ups and sit ups a day should i do them 2 times a week or just keep doing what im doing?

Posted on: Thu, 02/17/2011 - 22:07

hi steve

i was wondering that with the form in the video for dumbbell floor press that it would hit more of the shoulders as opposed to the chest?

Posted on: Thu, 02/17/2011 - 17:36

Hi there steve,

Just started doing this training to gain muscle and its really impressive but i want to know is... Im 16 and i think i have a high metabolism because when i eat i put nothing on? I use whey protein and eat lots of protein such as chicken and eggs but what should i do?


Posted on: Wed, 02/16/2011 - 18:33

Hey there im 6'3 215 lbs and im on a supplement called superpump 250 and im on whey protein and im going to the gym 4 days a week. I have a frame and i want to fill it out as in bulky ripped not toned ripped. I want to know possible routines for my daily workout. I would also like to know if i do 3 sets of 12 at a comfortable weight as in i strugle at the end or should i go more weight with a spotter and fewer reps?

Posted on: Wed, 02/16/2011 - 13:17

Hi Steve, just wondering if this method will help me gain muscle. If it won't please suggest a better way and tips would be great :)

I am 16 around 5ft 7", im not sure on my weight but I am skinny for my age and height. I do eat a fair amount and I never watch what I eat but I never put weight on. I am going to eat a can of tuna everyday and a whey protein shake everyday, and lots of fruit and oatmeal for calories and complex carbohydrates.

I have decided to use your workout as you say Mon Wed and Fri with 2 5kg dumbbells, 12 reps, 3 sets, is this enough? Just thinking of adding squats again to Wed and Fri because everywhere I read say they are the most important exercise.

I am not looking to get massive but I need to put some weight on and I'd rather muscle than fat lol. Like I said, will this work? And how much do you expect me to put on in how long?

Posted on: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 16:20

what would be the best way to take this workout and make it so that i can workout on mondays tuesdays and wednesdays to gain the muscle and lose the fat in the stomach. i would like to do both legs and arms but do not know how to fit them in on the three days. should i do arms on mondays and wednesdays and legs on tuesdays or all on all three days? if so what exercises should i do on each day? and how much cardio should i be doing and on what day, as well as what kind of cardio.
just want to let you know typical workout is 30 mins of cardio on stairmaster or bike then workout both legs and arms on all the mahcines as well as simple dumbell exercises like lawn mower pull as they call it.

if there is one for threee days in a row that will be good. hoping i can workjout legs and arms all three days but robably will not work

Posted on: Mon, 02/14/2011 - 23:23

Hey Steve,
I currently don't have a bench, so what do you recommend doing instead of the dumbbell bench press on monday or is there a substitution for the bench? Also, is it possible to do cardio on the off days (something like running or basketball)?

Posted on: Mon, 02/14/2011 - 20:58

I've been doing this workout since early January and really enjoy it. I recently bought a new adjustable bench and would like to incorporate incline and decline bench press into it. I was thinking of doing one on Wed and one on Fri, since regular bench press is on Mon. Would this be recommended?

Posted on: Mon, 02/14/2011 - 14:19

Hi Steve, I am 16, skinny for my age and never seem to put on weight lol, I never ever watch what I eat either.

Decided to try and build up some muscle and weight. I'm now eating very high energy (complex carbohydrate) and protein foods, (a can of tuna daily, and lots of oatmeal and fruit and thinking of buying some whey protein). I am also doing this work out with 5kg per dumbbell, with 12 reps, 3 sets. Only been going one week, but I am wondering, does this sound like a good method? Will I put on some muscle (not talking about being massive haha, just gaining muscle steadily so I do become a bit bigger than average, but need to be bigger than I am now.

If this method will not work please say why and what I should do.

PS: If anyone has any extra tips they would be great :)


Posted on: Sun, 02/13/2011 - 15:56

Hey just did the first day today killer workout man. im 145 pounds 6 foot 1 with 12% body fat been doing p90x for a year now but looking to really pac on some muscle now. the one thing i was wandering would it be fine t do yoga on the off days? I think wouldnt it help with muscle growth more? Just wandering cuase im one of those people that want to work out every day but I now you cant with weight lifting so just wanted to no your opinion thanks.

Posted on: Sun, 02/13/2011 - 14:01

How long till you start seeing results from this workout?

Posted on: Sun, 02/13/2011 - 11:05

I don't have a bench, could I use a pilates ball instead?

Posted on: Sat, 02/12/2011 - 18:11

Hi Steve,
I've been doing this 3x week fullbody workout for a couple of weeks now and I noticed that I don't seem to recover quick enough. I worked out on Monday but I was still sore on Wed. I was told for muscle mass that you should never workout when your muscles are sore. For the last couple of weeks I have only been able to get in 2 workouts a week due to soreness. Should I stick with this workout or move to a split routine since I don't seem to recover quick enough?

Posted on: Fri, 02/11/2011 - 14:45

Hey steve amazing workout, love it. i just wanted to ask why not to train to failure? sometimes i times -i think i got an extra rep in me but i dont and i end up doing about half a rep, pause half way, push as hard as i can but then just fail. but i mean doesnt this mean im giving everything i got even if it is just half a rep? further encoroging muscle growth?

Posted on: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 23:46

quick question, what is the usual time frame when someone would see results? results as in mass gain

Posted on: Wed, 02/09/2011 - 21:03

Solid workout, I think I will impliment this in my routine. I love dumbells and kettlebells, they are versitile and inexpensive. Kudos

Posted on: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 21:07

hi steve workout is great do you think it is okay if i do workout at night before i sleep

Posted on: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 20:50

hi steve, i'm currently in week 2 of the c25k program, my goal is to lose weight and build muscle at the same time so i was wondering if this workout is suitable for the other 3 days where i'm not running.

i also have a fat butt (i'm a dude btw) as a result of years of having fast food for dinner and being a couch potato, this may sound stupid, but i once heard that dumbbell squats enlarges one's butt by building butt muscle and its the wrong thing to do in my case so is that true?

2 more things: what am i supposed to do for warm up? and i'm going to purchase dumbbells for this workout so whats the right weight for a beginner? thanks a lot

Posted on: Tue, 02/08/2011 - 14:01

I just started this yesterday and today my arms are really sore, specifically triceps. Is there something I can do after the workout to reduce this, like a specific stretch or something?

Posted on: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 15:12

Having a gap from Friday until Monday can cause serious atrophy of the muscles... Also dumbbell decline bench press works all parts of the pectorals

Thomas Borbeli
Posted on: Mon, 02/07/2011 - 13:44

Hello. Is there a risk to stop you from growing up by doing these? I've just started today(Monday) and i will do as you said for at least 4 weeks from now. Are the Deadlifts and some others dangerous for your height? I'm a beginner and i wish to know and other tips as well if you could, :D. Thanks

Posted on: Sat, 02/05/2011 - 16:56

What do I do if I don't have access to a bench or pull up bar? Please give some alternatives.

Carlos Duarte
Posted on: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 00:59


I was wondering if this routine has enough exercises for the chest? I am a beginner so I was curious, thanks!

Best regards,

Posted on: Sat, 01/29/2011 - 16:19

I've been doing a modified routine of yours since June of 2010. I weighed 154, 6'3" had a bit of a middle (for my frame size) I could pinch a little more than an inch. I'm 53 smoked for 33 yrs but in two weeks I will have quit for 3 yrs. I started with 10 lb dumbbells and have now worked my way up to 40 lb dumbbells for the biceps. I do pushups, squats, dips, situps, and a couple others. I dropped down in weight to about 145 two months after I started so I upped calories, by using whey protein, creatine and eating more meat, veggies, etc. (no sugar candy or snacks). I also had to use a weight gainer for a month and am now also taking xtend and t-boosters. I am back up to 153 lbs, looks like all muscle add-on. I notice it a lot on my frame. Thats my background so far. When is the optimum time to join a Gym and what exercises should I do there and do I need any other supplements? I also take fish oil, multivitamin and glucosamine. What weight can I expect or shoot for this body frame(been skinny all my life) and age? I have a four pack but the two bottm packs don't wanna show. Any ideas? Sorry so long but I bet others would like reading the above info and your answers. Thanks Steve!!

Posted on: Fri, 01/28/2011 - 17:28

I would like to start using some of the workouts but would like to know where I could get diagrams etc. online that show how to do the exercises that you state in your routines such as the hammer curl etc.. I am new to exercise so I don't know the terminology etc. yet

Posted on: Tue, 02/22/2011 - 19:51

Click the name of the exercise and it will show you a how-to video.

Posted on: Fri, 01/28/2011 - 16:36

Hey Steve; I am a small guy to start with. I am 5'7" and weight about 144 lbs and i am 22 years old. I really wants to get big specially my arms and torso. But when ever i start lifting weights my arms gets tired really fast. What should i do for my problem? And is this program right for me if not can you suggest any other programs you guys have. Thanks.

Posted on: Fri, 01/28/2011 - 14:28

For exercises like lunges is it 6-12 on each side or 6-12 in total?

Posted on: Fri, 01/28/2011 - 12:07

My Brother and I been doing this workout 5 weeks today.. Feel much stronger and 29lbs lighter.. thanks for a great workout.

Posted on: Thu, 01/27/2011 - 15:46

Hey Steve; I am a small guy to start with. I am 22 and I am 5'7'' and weight 144 lb. When ever I start lifting weights my arms gets tired very fast. Specially when i am working on my biceps. I want to get bigger and gain some mass in my arms and in my torso. Is it physically possible for guy like me or not. So can this workout can give me what I am looking for? Please let me know. You look like a person to talk when it comes to this kind of questions. Thanks man.