- Main GoalBuild Muscle
- Workout TypeSplit
- Training LevelBeginner
- Program Duration12 weeks
- Days Per Week4
- Time Per Workout45-60 minutes
- Equipment RequiredBodyweight, Dumbbells
- Target Gender Male & Female
- Recommended Supps
- Workout PDF Download Workout
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!
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Day 1: Dumbbell Upper Body Workout
|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
|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
|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
|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!
If I were to do half of these workouts in the morning, and the other half in the afternoon, would that drastically reduce my gains?
It depends on the person, but for most people it would. Training once and devoting more time for recovery is better than training twice. That said, you could certainly try it and see for yourself. Some athletes train twice a day, but they have more time to devote to recovery than the average person.
Really enjoying this workout, but I just wondered if I should be increasing the weight each weekly cycle or is it ok to stick with the same weight and reps etc for multiple weeks? Apologies if this has been asked before.
Hope you're well, John. Thanks for reading M&S!
If you feel you're ready, add weight each set. If you find that the weight you're using is a challenge, stay where you are. Play it by feel. Hope this helps.
Can I switch the exercise order so that I don't have to adjust the plates on dumbbells rods frequently? (Back and Chest go first)
Go for it, Haris. I train at home with adjustable dumbbells and do the same thing, myself.
Would it be beneficial to replace some of the exercises with their barbell variant? Which ones?
I have a pair of adjustable dumbbells (30 kg each) but I can't seem to progress on some of the moves. That's why I'm considering buying a barbell.
Hey Mariusz. Can you not progress because you're maxing out on the weights, or are you not feeling the muscles working properly?
Either way, the training game will change if you get that barbell, so I say definitely do that, but I'd like to help you with the dumbbells if possible.
Thank you for your answer! I've always had a weak upper body. I'm training with those dumbbells for a long time (a year) and on some exercises I'm stuck with certain weights. I've been working on my mind-muscle connection, I've been trying rest-pause and drop sets, but my progress seems to be non-existent (curls) or laughably slow (chest press). I've read somewhere that while dumbbells are better for building aesthetic muscle mass, the barbell would be better for strength development. To tell you the truth I'm at a low point in my life and I could really use a win. Breaking those plateaus would be a nice one.
I'm just starting week 3 of this program and I really like it, but the way I see it I have four options:
1. stick with the program (no changes)
2. stick with it but replace some exercises with barbell variation (which ones?)
3. stick with it but alternate: one week with dumbbells, another with barbell
4. ditch the program and try your dumbbar program (it'd be difficult for me to exercise for 6 days a week, but I'll manage)
Which would you recommend?
First off, sorry you're at a low point, but please have faith that better days are ahead. Let your training fuel that fire.
Not going to lie, I'm partial to DumbBar, so that is what I would go with, but choice #3 would be solid as well. Whichever one gets you more excited, go with it.
Thank you for the excellent guide! I don’t own a bench unfortunately. Are there exercises I could use to replace the incline/bench exercises with similar muscle building results? I’m new to muscle training.
We have this for you, Dave. Hope this helps.
I do martial arts 4x per week (45 min classes) but would love to incorporate a lifting routine as well. Can I lift on the same days I do my classes or is it better to lift on days I do not have class and then take 1 day per week completely off?
Hi, Greg. Thanks for reading M&S!
I suggest lifting on different days and take a complete day off. If the schedule requires you to do both, do one at a separate time of the day, or train before the classes and give yourself a small break in between the two at least.
I do not have an incline bench at the moment; can I just keeping doing the Day 1 routine for my upper body workout days until I get myself a bench?
You can, or you can simply do the flat version on the floor until that bench comes along.
I only have a flat bench. I use a short (12") foam roller from Amazon under my upper back and it works great for dumbbell work. I don't think it's stable enough for heavy barbell work.
Are the 3 and 4 day workouts considered compound? That is what I want to focus on
Compound refers to multijoint exercises such as squats, bench presses, and other movements that require more than two joints to be working.
Isolation movements are single-joint exercises like a curl, tricep extension, etc. Hope this helps!
Good evening, I hope you are well. I am contacting you because I hope for your help. During this period I am running this program, however the next 1-2 days after the workouts I feel a fatigue in my arms, neck and legs (at the same time I also do bicycle for about 4 hours a week, usually every Saturday when I don't run any of the workouts of the program). I would like your advice in order to effectively deal with the problem of fatigue as well as your suggestions for proper warm-up and recovery before and after the workouts respectively. Thanks in advance.
Hi, Peter. Not sure how long you've been training, but that sounds like Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Doing the bicycle with sore legs is only compounding the issue because you're not fully recovered from the training. Your arms are getting even more taxed as well by having to control the bike. I would suggest cutting that four hours until you get more acquainted with training.
Thank you very much for the advice, I have already applied some corrections according to your instructions and I am seeing results. I have 1 more question: Can I add abs exercise at the end of each workout?
You sure can. Feel free to do that. We have many to choose from here.
I did a very similar workout to this while in technical training for 2 months about 2 yrs ago. Integrated a diet of lots of pasta and chicken and it worked amazing! I gained 15lbs of muscle mass and felt great. Starting this one tonight. Thanks for laying it out so nicely.
My apologies if this has been asked before:
Are we targeting the lats or the upper back when it comes to the rows?
Could I replace the pullovers and one set of rows with pull-ups? Will that yield the same results or should I stick to the plan as outlined?
Good question, James. You're going after the upper back. The pullovers will do the work for the lats.
If you got a way to do pullups, then by all means, do so. You should be fine with results.
I am currently in the third week of this program, however, my goal is to lose fat as I am on the moderately obese side when measuring my BMI.
Should I continue with this program or change to the fat loss program that you also have on this website?
Please advise as soon as you can.
We always advise as soon as we can.
If your diet supports fat loss, you can still use this program.
Hello I have trouble getting enough sleep. Is it ok if I get around 4-5 hours of sleep when I do the workouts, and I get around 11 hours the days I don't? I don't feel any kind of sleep deprivation the days after I sleep less. How much will this lack of sleep hold me back?
It could hold you back significantly, John. You may feel ok in the moment or even that day, but your recovery will be altered so you don't reach your full potential. Minimum 7 hours of sleep on training days. All for sleeping in on the off days, too.
Instead of adding weight within 12 weeks (cuz I dont have enough dumbells to increase the weight), is it okay if I can just add more reps instead? Please respond. Thanks
It may take time, Seph, but we will respond.
Slow the reps down first. Once you can do each rep for five seconds easily, then add reps. Hope this helps!
Hey! I am a 15 year old wanting to bulk. Would I be able to bulk with this routine? And please give me some tips regarding bulking as I have no access to supplements.
You can grow on this plan, and this guide can help with the bulking. Just skip the supplement part of the article I am linking.
Thanks so much bro :)
Any alternative for DB hamstring curl?
Unless you have ankle weights that you can do leg curls with, you can do dumbbell lunges.
im about to start your 4 day system i have dumbells that vary1 from 10 lb to 50 lb what would you recommend me to start and off with and how much weight should i add each week or should i stay with a set amount of weight for each workout the entire 12 weeks
Depends on the exercise and how strong you are. Once you can do more than two reps over the prescribed rep range, go up in weight. You should NOT be the same for the entire 12 weeks.
Should I do 10 reps each leg for dumbbell rear lunge or 8-10 means 5 left 5 right (if 10 reps)?
8-10 per leg.
Starting this schedule today for the next few weeks as recommended.
I have a question though.
At home, I have dumbbells but they are 10kg max (each) and I can certainly do heavier but I do not have the equipment as yet.
Should I be increasing the reps or increasing the sets to get a proper workout of it?
You can increase reps or slow the reps down. Slower negatives, slower lifts, flex in between sets, rest less between sets. There are ways to make it more challenging.
Is this workout a waste of time if you've been lifting for 10+ years. Just wanted to switch it up and do a complete dumbbell workout.
Not a waste of time at all, Peter. Run it for a while and let us know how it goes.
I have been at it for a couple of weeks. Done no lifting in the past, by the last rep I can start to feel it and my form is dropping, so I’m using the right weight. But the day after I don’t feel sore (apart from legs) does that mean I’m not exerting enough.
Not everyone gets what is known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), Roys. Don't gauge that as your success measurement. If you leave the gym feeling like you did your best, then the job is done.
Does this 4 day split have guaranteed results for toning and mass gaining?
You should see improvement by doing this program, Gabriel. Your effort, nutrition, recovery, and commitment determines how much progress you will see.