Stuck at home with only a single pair of light dumbbells? This 6-week program utilizes unilateral training and bodyweight exercises to help you achieve results!
Workout Summary
  • Main Goal
    Lose Fat
  • Workout Type
    Split
  • Training Level
    Beginner
  • Program Duration6 weeks
  • Days Per Week
    4
  • Time Per Workout30-60 minutes
  • Equipment Required
    Bodyweight
  • Target Gender Male & Female
  • Recommended Supps
  • Workout PDF Download Workout

Workout Description

Whether your gym is closed or a busy schedule has left you unable to go through your normal workout plan, it can be tough to come up with the motivation to exercise at home with limited equipment.

For example, you may have that one pair of light dumbbells that are collecting dust in your closet or garage. Yeah, you could do something with those for a pump, but it’s not like you can get a serious workout with those, right?!

Wrong!

They may not be heavy weights, but you can make the most of what you do have and push yourself through a workout that is more challenging than you think. As a matter of fact, this six-week program can help you achieve measurable and noticeable results!

Recommended: Need help losing fat? Take our Free Fat Loss Course

3 Benefits of Using Lighter Dumbbells

No, the light dumbbells won’t feel like a challenge in the beginning, but if you train correctly, those dumbbells will make you work harder than you expect. There are a few benefits to taking on a program like this.

1. Unilateral Training

You can focus on one side of your body at a time, and the other side can’t assist. So if you find yourself being weaker on one side than the other, start with that side on all unilateral exercises so you can help bring it up and balance out your strength.

2. Less Toll on the Joints

Your muscles will feel challenged as you go through this series of training sessions, but since the weight won’t be very heavy, your joints and tendons won’t feel nearly as much impact. So, this could serve as a recovery program even though you’re still training.

3. Muscular Endurance

Performing higher reps make your muscles work longer than you’re accustomed to, and that translates into a higher rate of endurance. You'll also burn a few extra calories as well.

Related: Unilateral Training: Building Muscle & Strength Without A Barbell

About the Program

This program will have four training days in your week. They are push, pull, legs and abs, and full-body. You can perform this routine in any way that your schedule allows, but this recommended split of two days on, one day off could be a solid option to consider.

The exercises here should be simple to follow for anyone that is familiar with training. If you’re new to the iron game, then check out the exercise section here on M&S for easy to follow instructions on how to perform these exercises effectively.

  • Day 1 – Pull
  • Day 2 – Legs and Abs
  • Day 3 – Rest
  • Day 4 – Push
  • Day 5 – Full-Body
  • Day 6 – Rest
  • Day 7 – Rest

Keep in mind that this workout is based only on using one pair of dumbbells and your bodyweight. So there is no rack or bench, no bands, and no other options like a pull-up bar or dip station. If you have those at your disposal, by all means, add other movements into this or make substitutions.

Blonde woman doing forearm plank on yoga mat.

Pull Day

The focus here is going to be on the upper back (including the rear delts), biceps, and traps. Every dumbbell exercise is to be performed unilaterally. The reason why is because while one side is resting, the other is working. This will challenge your cardiovascular ability and minimize the overall training time. For unilateral exercises, the reps listed are the reps per side.

So let’s start with the first exercise, the one arm row, as an example. You can start with the side you feel needs help, and perform your first set. As soon as you finish, switch sides and perform the same number of reps. Your first side isn’t working after you switch, so that is your rest time for that side. Upon completion, switch back to the side you started with and immediately begin set number two. Continue following this training style with every unilateral exercise you do in this program.

As for the bodyweight movements, you get 30 seconds of rest in between. Use this time wisely to rest, sip your water or Intra-workout drink, and get back to work.

Pull Day Workout

Exercise Sets Reps
One Arm Row 5 30, 25, 20, 15, 10
Bent-Over Rear Lateral Raise 3 30, 20, 10
One Arm Upright Row 3 30, 20, 10
Seated Dumbbell Curl 3 20, 20, 20
Hammer Curl 3 20, 20, 20
Single Arm Dumbbell Shrug 3 30, 30, 30

Legs and Abs

The lower body and core can withstand a little more intensity, so this day is going to be a little more serious. That’s why it’s recommended that you take a day off after this one. If you need to take a breather after your sets here, you can rest for around a minute, but don’t waste time on your phone or sitting around. Make the time you commit to training count. The final exercise is for your lower back and is more of a stretch or isometric movement, but it will be of service after you do a workout like this.

Legs and Abs Workout

Exercise Sets Reps
Split Squat 3 30, 20, 10
Single Stiff-Leg Deadlift 3 30, 20, 10
Walking Lunge 3 30, 20, 10
Seated Calf Raise 3 30, 30, 30
Weighted Crunch 3 20, 20, 20
Superman 3 30 seconds

Push Day

Now we shift our focus to the chest, shoulders, and triceps. If you don’t have a bench for the exercises you would normally do on one, use your floor. The range of motion won’t be as profound, but it can still be effective for the primary muscles being targeted.

Remember to follow the same principle for this workout as you did for your pull session. One side rests while the other works. If you are on a time crunch and must be done quickly, then go ahead and perform both sides simultaneously with 30 seconds rest in between sets.

Push Day Workout

Exercise Sets Reps
Floor Dumbbell Press 5 30, 25, 20, 15, 10
Floor Dumbbell Fly 3 30, 20, 10
Lateral Raise 3 30, 20, 10
One Arm Overhead Extension 3 20, 20, 20
One Arm Kickback 3 20, 20, 20
Close Grip Push Up 3 20, 20, 20

Full-Body Day

This isn’t only a workout to train the entire body – it’s a cardio workout as well. Your goal is to get your heart rate up, sweat, and feel like you did serious work.

Instead of performing a rep range target, you will perform as many reps as possible (AMRAP) within a time limit. The amount of time you work is the amount of time you rest when you finish. So if your set calls for 60 seconds of exercise, rest for 60 seconds when you finish. 30 seconds of work calls for a 30-second break.

You will start with the lower body and work your way up. There is no more unilateral work here either. Work both sides at the same time. Beginners should complete one cycle of this workout to start with. If you consider yourself an intermediate trainer, then go for two rounds. Longtime training veterans could push themselves to do three if they feel the need.

Full-Body Workout

Exercise Sets Working Time Rest
Dumbbell Standing Calf Raise 1 60 seconds 60 seconds
Stiff-Leg Deadlift 1 30 seconds 30 seconds
Bodyweight Squat Jumps 1 60 seconds 60 seconds
Lying Leg Raise 1 30 seconds 30 seconds
Plank 1 60 seconds 60 seconds
Dumbbell Pullover 1 30 seconds 30 seconds
Push Up 1 60 seconds 60 seconds
Arnold Press 1 30 seconds 30 seconds
Dumbbell Curl 1 60 seconds 60 seconds

How to Progress Further

If you finish this program and need a way to challenge yourself further, then you have a few options to consider.

Slower Rep Speed - Instead of performing the reps as you normally would, concentrate on longer negatives and contractions at the top. This could cause your muscles to fatigue faster.

Less Rest – Try to cut down the rest time on some exercises. If you have been resting for one minute, shoot for 45-second breaks. You may be surprised how much a quarter of a minute could make a difference.

Flex in Between Sets – When you finish a set, take a few seconds to contract and flex that muscle group. Perform a bodybuilding pose and squeeze the muscles as hard as you can before taking your break.

Related: How to Change Your Workout Program for Non-Stop Gains

Conclusion

You won’t always have optimum preferences when it comes to training, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the best out of your available options. Even with a pair of light dumbbells and your bodyweight, you can make gains and see improvements. A workout like this can serve its purpose until you are able to resume your normal training life.

101 Comments
William
Posted on: Sat, 12/23/2023 - 23:30

What weight dumbell should I use I can't seem to find the weight anywhere

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 12/27/2023 - 20:29

No recommended weights because everyone's strength levels are different. Find what allows you to complete the reps with proper form and adjust accordingly.

donny
Posted on: Tue, 11/14/2023 - 03:21

Can i do runs as well to lose more weight.

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 11/27/2023 - 19:30

Sure can, Donny.

Tom
Posted on: Tue, 08/15/2023 - 10:01

Hi there! I am 6ft, I weigh roughly 320-340lbs. I am good with lifting weights but I worry that I may to too heavy from some of the leg exercises(the ones that involve squatting and lunges)I like the look of this workout, but I am wondering if it is the workout for me? I should I just be doing anything I like the look of to get me working out.

I am just looking to lose my belly fat and hopefully tone up a bit afterwards.

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 08/26/2023 - 21:47

I think the squats and lunges would actually serve you well, Tom. The effort it takes to do those can help you burn calories as well as train the legs effectively. Nonetheless, we do have other options for you to consider.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/how-to-choose-your-next-train...

Dave
Posted on: Thu, 09/28/2023 - 15:27

You could also do these exercises initially with just your bodyweight. Then in weeks 2 add 5lb dumbbells and so forth. There's a lot to be said for just 'bodyweight' for a lot of exercises, so don't let that be a deterrent for you - just easy does it and work up.

Poon
Posted on: Thu, 07/20/2023 - 06:08

I am overweight, and my main objective is to burn fat. However, I cannot complete a push up, and I have trouble with single leg deadlift and walking lunge because of my weight and balance. Is there good replacement for those exercises?

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 07/22/2023 - 12:17

You can do partial pushups going halfway down and up until you get stronger with them. If you need to do bodyweight squats or lunges while holding onto a chair or table, it beats not doing them at all. As long as you're moving and making the muscles work, you're going in the right direction. Keep us posted on your progress.

Dave
Posted on: Thu, 09/28/2023 - 15:33

I totally agree - start with bodyweight. If you struggle with 1 pushup as an example, you could leverage the rest/pause approach where you do 1 pushup, rest 1-2 seconds, do a 2nd pushup and so forth. It'll take longer to complete the set and entire exercise program for the day, but it'll be better for you in the end.

Eileen
Posted on: Thu, 07/13/2023 - 14:33

Hi,

I am currently on week 6. My weight has remained the same but I have lost 3% of body fat, which is exciting. I notice I'm slowly getting more toned.

I'm wondering if I could continue to use this split but introduce progressive overload each week? to keep my body challenged. If you recommend changing my workout entirely I'm wondering why that is - I've heard it's best to do the same exercises each week, but perhaps your body adapts to that routine over time?

Ultimately I was looking for something I could do consistently for a long period of time and this work out feels realistic for me. But I'm not sure if it's a bad idea to keep using this schedule. I walk a lot but I was also thinking I could be more consistent with cardio after each circuit in the next two months as an add on. Curious what your thoughts are.

Thanks for any advice!

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 07/22/2023 - 12:19

Sure you can! You can change the program if you like, and we got plenty of options here on M&S, but introducing PO can definitely keep the routine from getting boring and provides new opportunities to improve. If this is working for you, run it as long as you like!

Dave
Posted on: Thu, 09/28/2023 - 15:36

This program was introduced in 2020 and I continue to use it (and I'm more of an advanced lifter) at the end of my building phase programs as it's absolutely perfect for a cutting/pre-contest phase paired with a great diet.

I always use progressive overload principals to any program to prevent muscle memory of doing the same exercises/weights/reps.

I honestly can't say enough good things about this program that Roger put together!

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 09/30/2023 - 21:14

That means the world to me, Dave! Thank you so much and we appreciate you reading M&S!

Steve
Posted on: Sat, 07/08/2023 - 12:55

Hi - total beginner here. How do you recommend choosing a suitable starting weight for this workout? Thanks!

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 07/22/2023 - 12:15

Go by trial and error, Steve. If you can lift within two reps of the suggested reps or rep range, you're good.

Eileen
Posted on: Sat, 07/08/2023 - 11:38

Hi,

I am also entering week 6 of this program. In the interest of being consistent I made some adjustments along the way, such as subbing steps ups for walking lunges. I have both a lower back injury and previously dislocated both knees so I need to be careful about certain things. I also subbed some of the bent over exercises when and if I'm feeling tension in my back.

Once I'm done with this week I'm going to move into a few more subs. I'm wondering though, if I want to continue with this routine, or a version of it could I introduce progressive overload each week to keep my progress moving.

Also I wanted to share some results:

Age: 33
Gender: Female
Weight (before): 153
Body Fat Percentage (before): 28%
Weight (after): 155
Body Fat Percentage (after - at end of week 5): 25.7%

BFP was measured using an iBody machine at my gym.

Keep in mind that I track my macros and have been eating on average 80-110g of protein a day with the aid of plant based protein powder. I roughly eat anywhere from 1500-2000 calories a day (I use myfitnesspal). I also live in a city and walk 5-10K steps a day, and eat pretty healthy - lots of fruit and veggies along with protein. But I don't restrict myself obsessively. For example I hit my 100g yesterday around 4pm and had some calories left over so I had a couple beers and a slice of pizza with friends. I believe as long as your nutrition is decent 90% of the time when left to your own devices you should and can still enjoy things like pizza here and there.

I would love to get to 20% body fat and be at 145lb but I'm not going to pressure myself in terms of the scale. If I were to end up staying at 155lbs but gain 10lbs of muscle that would also put me at about 20% fat. Ultimately it's all trial and error and I've had a lot of fun just seeing how the body reacts to nutrition and exercise. If I decide to do a lean cut I would probably attempt in the cooler months, since summer is a bit hard with social obligations.

Hope this is helpful to someone + thank you everyone for this thread its been super helpful for me!

Happy to post my subs if anyone is interested :)

Best,
Eileen

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 07/22/2023 - 12:16

Eileen, thank you so much for sharing this so others can benefit. If there is any other info you wish to add, feel free. We appreciate you being a part of the M&S community!

Mohamed Abaza
Posted on: Sun, 06/04/2023 - 08:16

Hey, this is my sixth and final week with this workout plan. I have achieved great results. I am wondering what should I move on to? I am restricted to working out at home with a pair of dumbbells, I still have plenty of fat to lose, though. Do you suggest a different workout plan, and if so, what is it? Or should I continue with this plan and add on more weights?

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 06/05/2023 - 06:57

I would suggest making a switch, and this link can help you do that. Thanks for reading M&S, and congrats on your progress. We're glad you're a part of our community.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/how-to-choose-your-next-train...

Jon
Posted on: Thu, 06/01/2023 - 12:36

My goal is fat loss and muscle maintenance, this looks a suitable program. I’m just wondering if you would suggest using super sets to increase pump and make the session fit into a lunch break ?

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 06/02/2023 - 06:26

If I was on a time crunch, that is what I would do, Jon. Try to find ways to get the workout in as is a couple of times a week, but if you need one or two days to do it during the lunch break, then feel free to do the supersets.

Nick W.
Posted on: Fri, 05/19/2023 - 12:08

I am going to try this routine! Would it be recommended to add any cardio? And does it matter if it is before or after the workout?

Thanks!

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 05/31/2023 - 08:40

Yes, cardio would be a solid addition and do it after you train with the weights. Cardio first will negatively impact your strength, whereas training with weights first will not affect your cardiovascular workout. Good luck!

Matt V
Posted on: Wed, 04/05/2023 - 11:41

Silly beginner question -

When a specific exercise says ‘5 sets’ should I do all 5 sets before moving on to the next exercise? Or, do I do one of each exercise and follow the number of reps for that specific set rotation?

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 04/22/2023 - 13:48

Do all five before moving on. Hope this helps. We're here to help you along the way. No silly beginner questions here. We got you!

Charlie
Posted on: Sun, 03/26/2023 - 02:47

Hey there, I am looking to build sprinting speed, so do you think that the leg day delivers that. If not, could you please give me a leg day workout that will increase speed.
Loving the workout, keep it up!

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 03/30/2023 - 15:47
Thomas
Posted on: Sun, 02/12/2023 - 00:57

I wanted to add in more calisthenics exercise into the workout. Can I replace the dumbbell floor press with push ups, the one arm rows with inverted row or pull up and the dumbbell kickback with dips?

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 02/24/2023 - 08:12

Go for it, Thomas. Let us know how that works for you. Thanks for reading M&S!

Tim
Posted on: Sat, 01/28/2023 - 10:12

Just starting this routine now. For the leg exercises - split squat, lunge, calf raise, etc. - should those be done with just one weight? If so, for the split squat which side is the weight on - the front leg side or back leg?

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 01/28/2023 - 10:37

Yes, Tim, one weight. Weight on the front leg. Hope this helps!

Marc D
Posted on: Tue, 01/10/2023 - 16:28

Good afternoon, and Happy New Year!
I have a question about one of the leg exercises. If this is a dumbbell / bodyweight routine, how are you supposed to perform lying leg raises?
I also saw an answer in this forum where you stated the "pulley or handle should be elevated". Again, I thought this was a dumbbell / bodyweight routine?

Thank you, have a great week!
Marc

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 01/22/2023 - 11:11

You can do the lying leg raise with your bodyweight only or with a dumbbell between your feet. If you choose the dumbbell, be careful with the weight and make sure it is light.

Ann
Posted on: Sun, 12/25/2022 - 22:09

I have one week left to finish this workout. I added 30 - 45 mins of cardio each day (5x’s a wk) I can already tell I lost inches but I didn’t get the results I was expecting. Yes I was diligent & gave it 100% I’m no stranger to w/out. I’m sure it was my diet but I’m a very picky eater. Anyways my question to you is. Is doing cardio + weight lifting too much to do everyday? Thx

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 12/30/2022 - 16:24

Hi, Ann. Curious what your results were and what you had in mind. Diet does play a factor in it, so glad you acknowledged that.

Doing cardio and weights every day is going to lead to issues because your body needs time to recover. You could do four days of both if you focused on recovery for those other three.

Gracie
Posted on: Sat, 12/03/2022 - 10:10

Hello! I've just come across this program and am going to try it, but I know that I should include some form of cardio/ HIIT training. I know that I've got the 4 days of dumbbell workouts a week so I know that I'm set there, but I need like 2 days of cardio, and so I'm not exactly sure if high intensity, moderate or low intensity is good. If I walked too would that work as well? I know in my lifting class at school we don't incorporate weights and cardio at the same time, even though it benefits the process so I was just wondering about that.

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 12/04/2022 - 10:59

HIIT cardio and walking would be suitable cardio for you, Gracie. Good luck with this one and let us know how it goes.

nina
Posted on: Wed, 11/02/2022 - 15:29

Hi, Im hoping to loose fat/size all over, especially on my legs. I'm 5'5, 143lbs and have a tendency to bulk on legs and arms after training them. I want to jump onto this program as its quick and dumbbells are easily accessible but i fear i my bulk slightly. What is the best program to loos fat without bulk.

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 11/08/2022 - 06:56

This is a good one as long as your nutrition is also focused on fat loss and you're doing cardio regularly.

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 06/15/2023 - 06:28

Talk to your doctor about that lower back. In the meantime, elliptical would be great and go as you feel you can. If HIIT is too hard on the back, then go with LISS. Anything beats nothing. As far as sessions, 3-4 a week at 20-30 minutes is solid to start with as long as you can do it. Once that back gets better, then you can add HIIT into the mix.

Nina
Posted on: Tue, 06/13/2023 - 17:28

Thank you. Have finally started, on week two now. how much cardio and what type of cardio do you recommend? is eliptical good/ LISS or HITT/ how many days/ how long each seeion?i was running on treadmill (3x 10k a week) but have started to gain injury in lower back.

Danny cook
Posted on: Sat, 10/15/2022 - 18:49

Beginner here. Is 20 pound dumbbells to heavy to start with? Trying to build muscle and loose fat...use to do a lot of calisthenics back in the day but I'm trying to get back into it after a few years....

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 10/16/2022 - 19:43

If that is challenging enough for you, but you don't have to sacrifice form, then it isn't too heavy. Once it gets light, slow the reps down to keep it challenging until you can buy more weights.

Good luck and thanks for reading M&S!

Jeremy
Posted on: Sat, 07/30/2022 - 13:15

What's a good exercise to replace the superman with? Your own site warns multiple times against doing it on the exercise guide page:

"One can risk injury through over extending the spine with this exercise."

"There are better ways to target your back (indirectly) to strengthen your lower back and build lean muscle mass."

"This movement is fairly outdated and there are much better options given the high level of compression that is generated within the spine itself during the course of the movement."

There's about as much text warning against it as there is for the description and tips for that exercise. What are the better options mentioned there?

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 08/09/2022 - 08:42

Different writers have different opinions, Jeremy. I personally feel the Superman is good if you have no issues and do it right. That said, I got an alternative for you. If you have a loop resistance band, you can do good mornings.

Stand on one end of the band and wrap the other around your shoulders. Stand tall. Hinge at the hip and bend over as far as you safely can while keeping your back as straight as possible. Slowly return to the standing position. The band will increase tension as you stand so be prepared. You can also do dumbbell deadlifts if you don't have a band.

Jake
Posted on: Sun, 02/27/2022 - 01:00

Hi
I was wonder I would like to lose some fat gain some muscle is this a good work out, even though I don’t stick to a strict diet.

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 02/27/2022 - 19:39

There is no program that will help you if you don't follow a sound nutrition plan.

David
Posted on: Thu, 01/20/2022 - 13:10

If I want to incorporate your 20-minute HIIT workout (muscleandstrength.com/workouts/20-minute-hiit-workout) into this program, am I better off doing that on the dumbbell workout days or on off days from the weights? Also, either way, how many days should I do the HIIT without it being too much?

Thanks!

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 01/21/2022 - 18:06

Hey David, do the HIIT workouts on the same day you do the workouts on this program. You can either do them after the dumbbell/bodyweight session is over, or at another time of the day. I think this is a great combo. Good choices!