Dumbbell Only Workout: 4 Day Upper/Lower Dumbbell Workout Routine

This dumbbell only upper/lower workout program only requires dumbbells and is perfect for those looking to build lean muscle mass at home or on the go!

Workout Summary

Build Muscle
Split
Beginner
12 weeks
4
45-60 minutes
Bodyweight, Dumbbells
Male & Female
download pdfDownload Workout

Workout Description

The following workout is for those who only have access to a set of dumbbells.

It can be performed by those who work out at home, have to travel frequently and want to get a good workout in with limited equipment at a hotel gym, or as a progression from my 3 day dumbbell only routine.

This workout can be performed as a full workout routine for up to 12 weeks.

After 12 weeks you may want to consider altering the volume, weight you use (i.e. invest in a new pair of dumbbells), or even venture out and join a local gym that will have more of a variety of equipment for you to use.

The program calls for you to work out 4 days per week. What days you decide to workout is completely up to you. With that being said, it’s best to have 48-72 hours of rest in between your two upper body workouts and 48-72 hours of rest in between your two lower body workouts.

An example would be to perform the workouts in the order they are listed and take your rest days on Wednesdays and the weekends. Your rest days are the perfect opportunity to incorporate cardio training, flexibility training, foam rolling, or a combination of the three.

The goal of this workout is to help you build muscle. However, it can also help you with your fat loss goals depending on your calorie intake.

Rest periods for this workout program should be limited to 30-60 seconds.

If you have any other questions regarding this upper/lower dumbbell only workout program, please be sure to leave them in the comments section below!

Editor Note: Ready to progress from this workout? Try the 5 Day Dumbbell Only Workout Program

Day 1: Dumbbell Upper Body Workout

Exercise Sets Reps
1. Bent Over Dumbbell Row 4 8-10
2. Dumbbell Bench Press 4 8-10
3. Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 8-12
4. Dumbbell Pullover 3 8-12
5. Dumbbell Bicep Curl 2 8-12
6. Dumbbell Tricep Extension 2 8-12
7. Dumbbell Shrug 2 12-15

Day 2: Dumbbell Lower Body Workout

Exercise Sets Reps
1. Goblet Squat 4 8-10
2. Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift 4 8-10
3. Dumbbell Plie Squat 3 8-12
4. Dumbbell Hamstring Curl 3 8-12
5. Standing Dumbbell Calf Raise 3 8-12
6. Plank 3 20 Secs

Day 3: Dumbbell Upper Body Workout

Exercise Sets Reps
1. One Arm Dumbbell Row 4 8-10
2. Dumbbell Shoulder Press 4 8-10
3. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 3 8-12
4. Chest Supported Dumbbell Row 3 8-12
5. Dumbbell Hammer Curl 2 8-12
6. Dumbbell Floor Press 2 8-12
7. Seated Dumbbell Shrug 2 12-15

Day 4: Dumbbell Lower Body Workout

Exercise Sets Reps
1. Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift 4 8-10
2. Dumbbell Rear Lunge 4 8-10
3. Dumbbell Hip Thrust 4 8-10
4. Dumbbell Split Squat 3 8-12
5. Seated Dumbbell Calf Raise 3 8-12
6. Planks 3 20 Secs

If you give this program a try, be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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!

127 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Wed, 01/16/2019 - 15:09
Logan

I started out following the excellent 3-Day dumbbell work out posted by Mr (Josh) England's mid August of 2018. Prior to that I had been using a well known calorie counting app. The combination of Mr England's strength and muscle exercises and calorie counting have led to a drastic and massive change, not only in my body but also in my mental well being.

I am stronger, in significantly better shape (night and day people!), I feel absolutely fantastic all of the time and I am now able to constantly push myself.

Thank you Strength and Muscle and thank you Josh! As a father, getting in shape was incredibly important to it. You fine folks provided the road map and I can't thank you enough.

I will send some photos when I am ready, which hopefully will be soon. My goal is to be in amazing shape by August and I am well on my way to it (217lbs -> 150~ (fluctuates due to muscle gain, what little fat I have melting away)).

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 01/16/2019 - 16:54
JoshEngland

Hi Logan,

That is AWESOME! So happy to be a part of your fitness journey. Great to hear about your great results!

Keep it up!

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Posted Mon, 01/14/2019 - 07:49
Gabriel

I want to give this program a try but I was wondering how often I should increase the weight and the amount of weight I should increase them in order to build muscle. My apartment gym has weights that range from 1 kg to 50 kg so I feel like I could do this routine for a while progressively overloading.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 01/14/2019 - 13:44
JoshEngland

Hi Gabriel,

I'd suggest increasing weight whenever you feel it is necessary. It'll be different for everyone. As long as you are moving up in weight you could do this program for the foreseeable future.

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Posted Tue, 01/08/2019 - 14:55
Gigi

The whole week you're only doing one bicep exercise and one tricep exercise ? Am I missing something ?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 01/09/2019 - 09:26
JoshEngland

Hi Gigi,

Nope! Your bis and tris are indirectly targeted on a lot of the compound movements within this program. You should be fine.

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Posted Sat, 01/05/2019 - 12:15
Mike

Is this a good workout for my wife also? We want to start a program together and just have dumbbells.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 01/07/2019 - 12:56
JoshEngland

Hi Mike,

Sure! This program can be performed by both men and women.

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Posted Sat, 01/05/2019 - 09:40
Schmitty

Hi Josh, I have been using the 4 day program for a period of about 4 weeks now and I’m enjoying the workout and results. Can you share any insight or perspective on how I can further alter the workout to accelerate results? I’m 54 and just looking for any ideas to accelerate results give my age. Thanks, Schmitty

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 01/07/2019 - 12:57
JoshEngland

Hi Schmitty,

Results take time. And long-lasting results take sustainability. Personally, acceleration tactics don't hold up well in my book because a lot of them follow strategies that aren't sustainable.

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Posted Fri, 01/04/2019 - 23:03
Steffano

Hello Josh! I’m going to start this Monday. I’m new to working out so forgive me for my ignorance.

Should I stick to one weight like 10 pounds for every single exercise until I need to increase it or do I do separate lbs for different workouts? It adds more time having to change out the weights and I don’t know if that takes away from the 44-60 minutes I have to do it.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 01/07/2019 - 12:59
JoshEngland

Hi Steffano,

I'd recommend using different weights for each exercise based on your own personal ability. Even so, it shouldn't make the workout any longer than 45-60 mins.

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Posted Fri, 01/04/2019 - 17:00
Chris

As I am relatively new to working out I have been doing this routine for about a month now and the only problem area I currently have is the thighs. This may be a nonsensical question but when you put 4 reps for rear lunges and 3 for split squats I assume it is that amount for each leg or was I reading that wrong?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 01/07/2019 - 13:00
JoshEngland

Hi Chris,

Yes, that would be for each leg.

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Posted Tue, 12/18/2018 - 09:05
Ryan

Since I really only have time to squeeze in workouts at my company gym during a 1hr lunch, I was going to superset some of this program. Would that still be as a effective, and what advice do you have on workouts I should and shouldn’t superset? Thank you,

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Tue, 12/18/2018 - 12:27
JoshEngland

Hi Ryan,

Sure - you could superset some of these exercises no problem. I'd recommend pairing antagonist muscle groups so like a row with a press and a squat with a deadlift.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Wed, 12/12/2018 - 15:40
Fintan

Hi Josh,

First off, thanks a lot for the great workout routine, seems very complete!
As I'd like to learn how to to do the deadlift properly first, could you recommend another exercise for the same muscle group? Also I don't have a proper bench for the hamstring curl, what else could I replace this with?

Once again thanks for the workout, looking forward to more!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 12/13/2018 - 14:43
JoshEngland

Hi Fintan,

You should get plenty of work in if you start off light and learn the deadlift movement pattern. No need to add in additional work.

For the hamstring curl, it depends on what you have available to use. You can do bodyweight hamstring curls or add in additional deadlift variations once you get the hang of it.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Wed, 11/28/2018 - 09:35
Matt

Hi Josh,

If our apartment gym only has dumbells going up to 50lbs, and this is too light to do 8-10 reps with, can we just increase the rep range for the exercise?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 11/28/2018 - 09:37
JoshEngland

Hi Matt,

Yes, that'd be a great way to modify the workout. Alternatively, you can slow down the tempo of each rep to keep the target muscles under tension longer.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Sat, 11/24/2018 - 09:08
Robert N

Firstly I would like to thank Josh for kicking my butt the past 3 months and providing this routine, I can officially say that as of an hour ago I have completed all 3 months, all 48 6am drag myself out of bed when I don't want to workouts from home haha. As far as gains I have gone from 126lb to 132lb. I'm 24, very active, 5'6" and a half and am an ectomorph, I'm also Vegan but have put on some mass and my wife and those around me have certainly noticed my bulking up. Nothing dramatic but for 3 months i'm happy and know that If I just stay consistent these results multiplied will get me to where I want to be. My thought on the workout itself? The Deadlifts felt useless because of my flexibility being so poor but I read josh responding to another comment saying to stick with it so I did and after 3 months I can report that they are far easier and my flexibility has improved so stick with it! I hate hips trusters because its just an awkward position to get into and wish I could take them off but I have a feeling they are there for a reason so I stuck with them. The only other thing I thought was kinda meh was the planks, I stuck with them but it was so easy I wasn't sure it did much so I have been doing leg raises on the floor and adding extra ab workouts a couple days a week. Ok!! SO! Josh I plan on doing another 3 months of this crazy thing because I see it working however I have some questions. #1 Can I remove planks and add a leg raise workout I find more effective? I build a pullup bar and bought rings and have been messing around with calisthenics so I was thinking of swapping out the one armed rows for ring rows? and maybe kicking all the 2 set workouts up to a 3 and the 3 set workouts up to a 4? My biggest thing is I want to actually stick with it and not overload myself. My workouts have been taking exactly between 45-60 mins so you hit the nail on the head there. Anyway with all that said I would like to do another 3 months and am curious if I should do the whole thing the same again or up some stuff, substitute? Thank you again I know this was a long comment!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 11/26/2018 - 10:32
JoshEngland

Hi Robert,

These kinds of comments make my day! Thank you very much for giving my workout program a try! I'm happy to hear you've seen the results you were hoping for and were able to find it enjoyable enough to stick with it.

I'll answer your questions in order:

1. Yes, feel free to remove planks for a different workout you find more challenging. I'd also highly recommend getting an Ab Wheel and performing those as a progression from planks.

2. Feel free to add in both pull ups and ring rows. The only reason those types of movements weren't added is bc this program was designed for strictly dumbbells. Both of those movements will be beneficial in place of other back movements.

3. Yes, adding in more sets would be a great way to progress here - especially if increasing your weight is not an option. Those changes sound fine to me, but feel free to drop some of the sets back down if you find it too much.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Wed, 11/14/2018 - 05:38
Tony

Hello,

The equipment I have at my disposal is: a simple bench, a pair of 32.5kg dumbbells, 40kg, 24kg and 16kg kettlebells, and a barbell with 170kg worth of plates.

A couple of questions: I don't have squat stands so I'm unable to perform squats or bench press with the barbell. I would, however, like to incorporate some barbell work into my routine with a little switching around. How, for example, would I go about including deadlifts while still adhering to the basic template of the routine?

I've been doing the workouts for three weeks and I'm already exceeding the prescribed rep range for a couple of the leg exercises. Yesterday I did 4 sets of 12 reps of the goblet squat with my heaviest kettlebell. Would you recommend that I push on to 4x15 or swap for something like the dumbbell front squat? Likewise I hit 3x15 for the plie squat and was wondering what you'd suggest I replace it with - or do I push on for 20 reps?

My goal at this time is hypertrophy. I plan to change to a strength-based routine next year.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Fri, 11/16/2018 - 11:08
JoshEngland

Hi Tony,

You can substitute any barbell variation of a lift for any dumbbell variation you wish. That is no problem.

Increasing the weight is one way you can make the exercises more challenging. You can also adjust the rep tempo. Give these articles a read;

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/4-ways-to-get-stronger-withou...

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/4-ways-achieve-progressive-ov...

Hope this helps!

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Posted Mon, 11/05/2018 - 15:21
Hado

How much muscle can we gain from this program

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 11/05/2018 - 16:25
JoshEngland

Hi Hado,

Tough to say as results will be highly individualized based on experience level, genetics, diet adherence, quality of life, and many other factors.

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Posted Wed, 10/10/2018 - 07:49
Rithu

Can I build muscles with this program?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 10/10/2018 - 12:14
JoshEngland

Hi Rithu,

Yes, you absolutely can.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Tue, 10/09/2018 - 13:40
Daniel

Hi

Is there any warm-up plan you recommend for this workout?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 10/10/2018 - 12:21
JoshEngland

Hi Daniel,

For warm ups, start here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/warming-up-for-dummies

Hope this helps!

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Posted Tue, 10/09/2018 - 13:31
Daniel

Hi

I don't currently own an adjustable bench so I can't do the incline row nor the chest supported row.
Any exercise that could replace those?

Also if my goal is to build muscle and bulk up, am I better off doing the exercises as a circuit, or should I stick to completing them individually?

Thanks

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 10/10/2018 - 12:22
JoshEngland

Hi Daniel,

Perform a variation of the exercise you do have the necessary equipment for - even if that means repeating an exercise on the same day or the day before.

Yes, keep them individual if your goal is to build muscle.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Sat, 10/06/2018 - 00:29
Bina

Hi
Can I do yoga in addition to this workout ?
I usallly do 3 yoga sessions per week
How would you set up the schedule
Thanks

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 10/08/2018 - 14:10
JoshEngland

Hi Bina,

Yes! Absolutely!

You could perform Yoga on whichever days best fit your schedule - whether that be rest days or workout days.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Thu, 10/04/2018 - 14:36
Justin H

Would it okay to add dumbbell flys to the upper body workout days or would the flys be unnecessary? Thanks

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Fri, 10/05/2018 - 11:08
JoshEngland

Hi Justin,

They may or may not be necessary depending on your own individual goals. Feel free to add them in if you feel they are necessary.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Wed, 09/26/2018 - 07:33
Arlind

Hi josh i want to know how much weight do i have to lift for beginning in 3 day full body ?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 09/27/2018 - 09:20
JoshEngland

Hi Arlind,

Pick a weight you think you can use for the prescribed reps. If too heavy, move down. If too light, move up. You should finish each set feeling as though you have 1-2 reps left in the tank. A good rule of thumb is 75-85% of your working max for the prescribed rep ranges.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Thu, 09/20/2018 - 06:00
dannyboy

Hi, I had minor Knee surgery 3 days ago and am looking at 2 weeks before I see the physio and 6-9 weeks before I can get back into serious training, my question is can I use the upper workouts only? I am stuck at home unable to get to the gym and I want to minimise muscle loss, I have a bench and a dumbbell set at home to tide me over.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Thu, 09/20/2018 - 11:16
JoshEngland

Hi Dannyboy,

I'd recommend consulting with your physio when you meet with them. You don't want to risk further injury.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Tue, 09/18/2018 - 21:15
Chris M

I've nearly completed this and would love to either add a 5th day or increase the intensity of the exercise. Since there hasn't been a progression past this written yet, do you have a recommendation? I like that it's dumbbell only as I use an apartment complex gym and outside of a few basic machines the main item I have is dumbbells.

Thanks!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 09/19/2018 - 14:08
JoshEngland

Hi Chris,

You can make this a 5 day program by cycling through them. Below is an example:

Day 1: Upper
Day 2: Lower
Day 3: Off
Day 4: Upper
Day 5: Lower
Day 6: Upper
Day 7: Off

Day 8: Lower
Day 9: Upper
Day 10: Off
Day 11: Lower
Day 12: Upper
Day 13: Lower
etc

Hope this helps!

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Posted Mon, 09/17/2018 - 16:13
Kaleigh

Hi Josh, I am wanting to tone up and I was just wondering with this workout do I need to be doing the exact reps and sets that it is telling me to do? Or what do you recommend for someone who wants to become more toned and lean?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 09/17/2018 - 16:55
JoshEngland

Hi Kaleigh,

This workout as written can help with those goals.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Tue, 09/11/2018 - 18:23
Isaac

I only have access to my complex gym Thursday through Sunday so could I do this workout 4 days in a row? So for example I would do the upper body one on Thursday and Saturday and the lower body one on Friday and Sunday

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 09/12/2018 - 08:33
JoshEngland

Hi Isaac,

Sure, you could set up your weekly schedule that way.

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Posted Tue, 09/11/2018 - 04:31
Rama

Where is abs exercise ?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Tue, 09/11/2018 - 11:02
JoshEngland

Hi Rama,

If you'd like to add in ab isolation work to this program, you are more than welcome to.

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Posted Sat, 09/08/2018 - 23:33
Jose Ian Allado

Okay, so now my friends are starting to notice how I lost my belly fat. But my scale still says I'm 89 kgs. This is concerning. Any advice? :O

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 09/10/2018 - 08:56
JoshEngland

Hi Jose,

Scale weight isn't always a good indicator of progress. Muscle tissue is denser than fat. So while you get leaner (and build more muscle), the scale may remain the same even tho you're dropping inches from your waist.