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's Note: Make sure you’re doing all the right things you need to be doing to build lean muscle mass. For those looking for a more in-depth resource to teach them how to build muscle, we’ve created a FREE 5 day Muscle Building Email Course.

The course will teach you how your body builds muscle, how to utilize workout plans on our website to maximize muscle growth, how to eat to build muscle, how to supplement to build muscle and how to track your progress.

Sign up below today to learn and ensure you get the most out of this workout program.

Need help building muscle? Take our FREE 5-part email Muscle Building Course!

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!

338 Comments+ Post Comment

No Profile Pic
Posted Wed, 08/05/2020 - 23:31
Lautaro

Dear Josh, hope this message find you well. Here's my situation: i've been working out with dumbbells for the first time in my life since february of this year, preety much doing a full body workout, at first 3 days a week going all the way to 5 weeks by the time present. I made great progress form nothing to have something of a fissique, neewbie gains i suposse. Anyway, right now i'm feeling like going nowhere, and y have the need to try something more advance, do you think a split like this could be the right answer? I am very confuse with where to go from here and specially with what kind of weight corresponds to each exercise. Right now im usually working with 15 kg dumbbells... But i believe is not a good idea to do each exercise with the same weight... if you find the time, please lend me a hand with this concerns, that would be of great help. Thanks for your time and godsped (excuse me for my bad english, i have done my best writing this down)

No Profile Pic
Posted Thu, 08/06/2020 - 09:56
Yoshi_M&S

Hey Lautaro

This program is a great step up from a 3-day split. If you have access to other weights then adjust for each exercise. If all you have is 15kg dumbbells then I recommend modifying your technique for different exercises. For example, when performing "heavier" compound exercises, slow down your reps and focus more on squeezing the targeted muscles at the peak of each rep.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions!

No Profile Pic
Posted Wed, 07/29/2020 - 05:45
Stuthi

Finished the awesome 3 day program and progressing to this. Cpl of quick questions pls
A. Have a bench but not adjustable, whats an alternate for the incline press ?
B. Is there some % increase benchmark you can share for weight progression over this 12 week program ?
C. Am kickboxing on the other days, and some yoga the weight day evenings. Does that sound ok ?
Many thanks for these great programs and your thoughtful responses to comments below.
- a 47 yr old newbie !

No Profile Pic
Posted Wed, 07/29/2020 - 09:22
Yoshi_M&S

Hey Stuthi

If you don't have an adjustable bench for incline press then you can just double down on standard bench press instead. kickboxing is a fantastic exercise for your "rest days". Rest days don't need to be completely lacking of any exercise, giving your muscles a break from lifting but getting your heart rate up a little is encouraged. There's not so much a "benchmark" for progression, as everyone's body progresses at different rates. There are several methods to looking at progression listed in this article: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/principle-progressive-overloa...
I recommend you check out "Progression Approach 1"

Let me know if you have any other questions!

No Profile Pic
Posted Wed, 07/29/2020 - 11:52
Stuthi

Super thanks !

No Profile Pic
Posted Wed, 07/22/2020 - 22:35
Rod

Does each seperate type of activity work in different ways? I've noticed I can get more of some workouts that target a particular muscle group than others due to the equipment I have access to.

If it doesn't really matter, am I able to take (for example) some chest workouts done in day 1 (of the 4 day) or some of the hamstring workouts in day 2 and do them instead of the others assigned on days 3 and 4?

Thanks

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 07/28/2020 - 16:59
Yoshi_M&S

Hey Rod

If I'm understanding your question correctly, you're asking if you can repeat exercises to make up for lack of equipment. If that's correct then yes that's completely fine. I would however try to tweak the exercise to hit your muscles from a different angle the second time. For example, if you perform the DB flat bench press on day 1 then on day 3 instead of hitting DB flat bench again you should hit DB incline bench.

I hope this helps!

No Profile Pic
Posted Fri, 07/17/2020 - 10:32
Theodoros Kollias

Dear Josh, I am used to doing upper body in different days (e.g chest 1st day and back 2nd day and shoulders with triceps 3rd day and lower body 4th day). Do you believe there is much difference in doing it as you specified.

Thanks

No Profile Pic
Posted Thu, 07/23/2020 - 16:07
Yoshi_M&S

Hey Theodoros

When you only hit each body part once a week you're leaving it with much more time that needed for recovery. That's why you'll see in several programs for example, chest and triceps are worked on Monday and again on Thursday.

No Profile Pic
Posted Fri, 07/03/2020 - 12:45
Mike Schulze

No idea if this will still get a reaction since this is a few months older, but why isn't there more triceps stuff in here? I see one exercise. I am trying to get a better pump on since this whole covid thing started, but I only have my 2 17.5 kg dumbbells I've been using for the last year. I wanna get further, so I found this routine and thought it sounds good until I can finally go to the Gym again. Also what's the difference between seated and standing shrugs? Wouldn't standing shrugs be better by comparison?

No Profile Pic
Posted Thu, 07/23/2020 - 16:10
Yoshi_M&S

Hey Mike

You can definitely add another triceps exercise on day 3 if you're looking to focus more on them. Since you're working strictly with dumbbells I would recommend doing "tricep kickbacks" as your additional exercise.

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 05/04/2020 - 22:18
Zachary

Hi Josh. Does this workout target each muscle at least twice a week ?

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 05/05/2020 - 06:32
Daniel_M&S

Yep!

No Profile Pic
Posted Fri, 04/17/2020 - 19:05
Trevor

Love this workout ill the bench press workouts I replaced with push-ups I also bike and do abs on my off days looking forward to the 5 days work out

No Profile Pic
Posted Wed, 03/25/2020 - 02:16
Mohannad

I am excited to start this program but I am just a little confused on progressive overload. Do I use one specific weight for 12 weeks then start over with more weight or do I progress during the 12 weeks for example every 2 weeks if form is not affected

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 05/05/2020 - 15:41
Daniel_M&S

Hey Mohanned - always use the maximum weight you can do for the prescribed rep range. If you feel like you have reps in the tank at the end of your set, increase the weight. After about 12 weeks you'll probably find your strength gains will plateau. Then it's time to move onto a new workout.

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 03/24/2020 - 23:18
Austin

Hi Josh,
Thanks for the workout, I was looking for a program that I could do at home with just a set of dumbbells and this seems to be perfect. I do only have a light pair of dumbbells, do you think I should raise the number of reps for exercises that seem too easy? Also, do you recommend super setting any of the upper body workouts? Thanks again.

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 05/05/2020 - 15:45
Daniel_M&S

Hey Austin - one way to increase difficulty if you're limited by the weight of the dumbbells have is to increase the time under tension by lowering the rep tempo. For example, you could do something like 2-1-2. 2 seconds on the way down, pause for 1, 2 seconds on the way up. Another option could be pre-exhausting the muscle group before the movement. Ie, you could do 10 push ups then immediately move onto dumbbell press. Hope his helps!

No Profile Pic
Posted Fri, 03/06/2020 - 03:14
James

Hi, I've been doing these workouts for a while now. I finished the 3 day and now doing 4 day upper lower. Although I love these programs I'm feel I'm not not progressing as I should be. The problem is this, when I am lifting I don't feel I am activating/stimulating(getting a good pump/bloody flow) the muscle I'm working on. I lift to the point of almost failure (1or2 sets away) and I feel I am working with intensity. Should I perhaps incorporate warm up sets (if so how and when) or am I doing something else wrong? Kind regards James.

No Profile Pic
Posted Thu, 03/05/2020 - 00:56
Alyssa

Hi,
Does this incorporate abs, or would we have to add them? How often per week, and is there an abs routine you would recommend?

Thanks!

No Profile Pic
Posted Thu, 03/05/2020 - 12:25
JoshEngland

Hi Alyssa,

Any direct ab work would need to be added. Most can get by without training their abs directly though. It depends on their goals and genetics.

No Profile Pic
Posted Fri, 04/03/2020 - 21:13
Chris

Day #4 has planks for abs ( a good isometric exercise), but doing single side, or unilateral exercises in this program, you are incorporating good functional core work.

No Profile Pic
Posted Sun, 03/01/2020 - 05:24
CosminJon

Hello, thanks for sharing this program it looks great, can't wait to start. I have two questions tho, first I suppose this is not a circuit like program so I have to do each exercise and finish all the sets, and secondly what warm up routine would you recomend?
Thanks!

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 03/03/2020 - 12:31
JoshEngland

Hi CosminJon,

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

And yes, perform all of the sets before moving on to the next exercise.

No Profile Pic
Posted Wed, 03/04/2020 - 07:29
CosminJon

Tnx a lot for your answer, if you could answer one more question that would be terrific. I am fairly skinny, but during my lifetime I've been doing push-ups and bench dips so my shoulders and triceps are somewhat prominent, but my biceps and forearms not so much, do you suggest this program is right for me or should I try something more specific for my biceps and forearms?

No Profile Pic
Posted Wed, 03/04/2020 - 10:32
JoshEngland
No Profile Pic
Posted Wed, 02/26/2020 - 18:27
Chai

Do you have any substitutions for the dumbbell hamstring curl? I'm using powerblocks dumbbells at home and I don't think it's possible. Doesn't have good feet grip.

No Profile Pic
Posted Thu, 04/23/2020 - 10:47
David

I'd like to see the answer to this as well. I also use Powerblocks, and it's a little dangerous to do if they are very heavy!

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 02/25/2020 - 12:02
Liz

Hi, I'm on week 3 on this routine and I'm really enjoying it. I have two questions. My first is, does it compromise the routine to do some of the individual exercises out of order? For example, I like to get all the exercises that require a bench out of the way so I don't hog it (working out at PF). Second question can you recommend a different exercise to replace the chest supported dumbbell row? This exercise hurts my breasts. On week two I used the row machine instead.

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 02/25/2020 - 12:59
JoshEngland

Hi Liz,

Sure, that is absolutely fine to do. Any row variation will do the trick. Pick whichever one you feel most comfortable performing.

No Profile Pic
Posted Sun, 02/16/2020 - 11:05
John Baker

First off, thank you for a through program!! It’s been a long time since I was in the gym so I’m basically starting fresh. My question is should I keep increasing the weight as I get stronger through this program (as long as form doesn’t suffer) or should I wait till I complete it then increase?

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 02/18/2020 - 09:53
JoshEngland

Hi John,

Yes, feel free to progress so long as it doesn't come at the expense of good form.

No Profile Pic
Posted Thu, 02/06/2020 - 18:27
Dietrich Stella

Any recommendation on substitutions for the day 4, rear lunge and split squats? Knee problems make motions that rely heavily on a single leg almost impossible for my right leg.

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 02/10/2020 - 20:34
Steve Spaulding

I was having a similar issue with rear lunges. I'd recommend looking into step ups but I'm no expert.

No Profile Pic
Posted Wed, 01/29/2020 - 19:05
Steve Spaulding

Any suggestions as far as alternating exercises/resting between sets? It'd also be nice if there was a baseline weight amount for each exercise; obviously this wouldn't be accurate but it'd help to understand how the "normal" amount of weight scales between different exercises.

No Profile Pic
Posted Thu, 01/30/2020 - 10:09
JoshEngland

Hi Steve,

Both of these things are highly individualized based on the person training.

Weight selection is different for everyone. Genetically, we all have different strengths and weakness when it comes to bodypart. Finding out the best weight for you will take a lot of self-experimentation, or working with a trainer in person. Generally, you can begin by selecting a weight for each exercise and performing a set. If it's too easy move up. If it's too light move down.

Anecdotally, for most of my workouts, I don't time my rest periods. I simply wait until the muscle feels recovered (which is generally 45-75 secs) and then perform my next set.

Hope this helps,

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 02/10/2020 - 20:32
Steve Spaulding

Thank you Josh, that was helpful/I appreciate the response. At the end of the day, once you start doing it, you figure it out.

The workout is going well/I'm on my 3rd rotation. I'm sure MaS has tons of content, but any specific flexibility/stretching routine/guide you'd pair with this workout? I have tight hamstrings/calves and my hip flexibility is.. not great. :)

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 02/11/2020 - 13:03
JoshEngland

Hi Steve,

You might find this to be a helpful read: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/warming-up-for-dummies

No Profile Pic
Posted Sat, 01/25/2020 - 22:49
Lorenzo

Hii Josh,

I'm excited to start with this program! However I don't have an incline bench but a flat utility bench. Could you recommend any substitutions for the excersises where I'd need to use an incline bench? Sorry if this is a stupid question, but I'm quite new to this and would love to do it right from the start. Will this workout plan also train my abs or should I throw in any other excersises to train them? If so could you perhaps recommend any?
Thanks in advance!

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 01/27/2020 - 15:37
JoshEngland

Hi Lorenzo,

I'd recommend adding in more flat presses or push up variations. This will accomplish the press movement pattern. IF you'd like to mimic the incline as closely as possible, I'd suggest feet elevated pushups - however, this is a more advanced variation of the push up.

You can do core work if you wish. Honestly, I don't include much of it in my programs bc most people develop a strong core simply by bracing their core when lifting weights. If you'd like to add some in, I'd suggest plank variations and dead bugs.

No Profile Pic
Posted Sat, 01/25/2020 - 15:49
Edgar Salazar

I have a couple of weeks with this workout, and it's being great as I don't have much time to go to the gym so I can only workout at home, just have a question, I have a pull up bar which I think would be good to use so I wanted to know if I just should add the pull ups to the upper workout, or if I should substitute some of the back exercises. Thank you!

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 01/27/2020 - 15:39
JoshEngland

Hi Edgar,

You can do either or depending on your ability to recover from the additional sets from the additional exercise. If you feel it is too much, you can certainly sub it in for one of the back movements.

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 01/27/2020 - 23:13
Edgar Salazar

Hi Josh,

Thank you very much for your response, this will help a lot!

No Profile Pic
Posted Sat, 01/25/2020 - 09:37
Christiaan Lips

Hi josh,

I am currently using this program on monday, tuesday, thursday and friday. in the wednesdays i usually do some kind of ab workout or cardio. I want to build as much muscle ass possible and was thinking that maybe i could do some kind of arm and shoulder workout on saturday aswell. Do you advise against this? and should i just stick to the program? or are there ways for me to maximize muscle gain.

Yours sincerely,
Chris Lips

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 01/27/2020 - 15:41
JoshEngland

Hi Christian,

Slow and steady wins the race. Utilize a minimum amount of volume for as long as possible. You won't add mass any faster by doing more than necessary (this program has plenty as is). Once progress halts (should take a while honestly), then look to add more.

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 01/21/2020 - 12:31
Christiaan Lips

Hi Josh,

I have now been doing this program for 4 weeks and its great! Do have some questions though:

1. The hamstring curl on day 2 is very hard to do with my type of weights. Is the 1 leg hib extension a good replacement? if not, what is?

2. Some exercises have become quitte easy now, is it okay to up the weight on those or increase the reps?

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 01/21/2020 - 12:33
JoshEngland

Hi Christian,

1. Try exercise ball leg curls, or if you have hardwood floors and socks, bodyweight hamstring curls.

2. Yes, absolutely move up in weight if you can.

No Profile Pic
Posted Sat, 01/18/2020 - 21:04
Mark Grant

Dumbbell Only Workout. But "Dumbbell Hip Thrust" (Day 4) links to Barbell Hip Thrust. I don't have a barbell. Dumbbells only. Nothing comes up in Search except products.

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 01/20/2020 - 09:02
JoshEngland

Hi Mark,

It is the same movement pattern. Instead of the barbell, you'd place the dumbbell across the hips. We do not have an example video for the dumbbell hip thrust in our exercise database at the moment, so the barbell hip thrust was the best example that could be provided.

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 01/06/2020 - 19:04
Jacob

When should I throw in forearm workouts?what days would I run to train for track?