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.

69 Comments
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?

M&S Team Badge
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

M&S Team Badge
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

M&S Team Badge
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.

M&S Team Badge
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.

M&S Team Badge
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.

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....

M&S Team Badge
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?

M&S Team Badge
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.

M&S Team Badge
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!

M&S Team Badge
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!

Aaron
Posted on: Tue, 01/18/2022 - 20:03

Hi,

Would I be able to build a significant amount of muscle with this program? I want to take a few months off from the gym and do at home workouts because of the pandemic.

M&S Team Badge
Roger
Posted on: Fri, 01/21/2022 - 17:51

Putting on a few pounds of quality size would be a realistic goal on this program. Unless you're brand new to training, you're not going to add a crazy amount of muscle.

Aaron
Posted on: Tue, 01/18/2022 - 03:00

Hi coach,

I have a pair of adjustable dumbbells, but I wanted to start of light. Would it be okay if I adjust the weight 2.5-5lbs every week?

M&S Team Badge
Roger
Posted on: Tue, 01/18/2022 - 18:21

Absolutely! Adjust as needed based on the exercise you're doing!

Faqih
Posted on: Sat, 01/15/2022 - 05:59

Hi coach, i wonder if i can change the workout to Push-Pull-Cardio-Push-Pull-Cardio-Rest?

M&S Team Badge
Roger
Posted on: Mon, 01/17/2022 - 17:44

Hi, Faqih! You wouldn't see the best results without training legs. Any particular reason you don't want to include them?

Jeff
Posted on: Tue, 11/23/2021 - 20:39

I have diastasis recti so I can't do any overhead stuff or anything that stretches the abdominals. What do you suggest I replace the Arnold press and the dumbbell pullover with?

M&S Team Badge
Roger
Posted on: Wed, 11/24/2021 - 19:39

Hi, Jeff. Replace the Arnold Press with front raises, stopping at shoulder height. Replace the pullover with a high single arm row. The pulley or handle should be elevated, but not so high that you would have to stretch the abdominals. Outside of those suggestions, speak to your physician about what else you can do. Hope this helps!

M&S Team Badge
Roger
Posted on: Sat, 11/27/2021 - 14:28

Good question. This is where you can make the program your own. If time isn't on your side, then do both sides at the same time when possible. If you want to focus on each side independently, then go with the unilateral option. This really is a matter of personal preference.

Jeff
Posted on: Wed, 11/24/2021 - 22:11

Thank you. Are all of the exercises performed unilaterally? Or are some done with both sides at a time?

PG
Posted on: Fri, 10/08/2021 - 11:07

Can teenagers do this

M&S Team Badge
Roger
Posted on: Mon, 10/18/2021 - 20:54

Hey, PG. IF you're 16 or older with training experience, than you can do this one. IF you're under 16, you should consider a more basic program.

Dray
Posted on: Wed, 09/08/2021 - 22:35

How is this workout different from the 4 day dumbbell workout.And which one is better?

M&S Team Badge
Roger
Posted on: Thu, 09/23/2021 - 13:35

Hey Dray, aside from the incorporation of bodyweight training, they are similar. Try both and figure out which one suits you better. They can both be very beneficial.

Chris
Posted on: Fri, 09/03/2021 - 04:38

Hi!
Im struggling with balance on Split Squat and Single Stiff Leg Deadlift. Could You tel me please with what excersises could I replace it?

M&S Team Badge
Roger
Posted on: Thu, 09/16/2021 - 15:44

Hi, Chris. You could perform lunges and single leg curls instead. Even if you add those, keep working on the split squat and single stiff-legged deadlifts, even if it is without weight. Those movements are great for overall performance and athletic ability.

Daniel manning
Posted on: Thu, 07/22/2021 - 08:02

Hi. On the legs and abs circuit should you use dumbells when performing the squat and lunge movements? Thanks

M&S Team Badge
Abigail
Posted on: Thu, 07/22/2021 - 09:12

Hey Daniel - depending on the weight of your dumbbell, yes you can use a dumbbell with those movements.

Jenn
Posted on: Thu, 07/08/2021 - 05:16

Hi! What's the resting time between reps? When it isnt an unilateral excercise. Thank you!

M&S Team Badge
Abigail
Posted on: Thu, 07/08/2021 - 09:13

Hey Jenn - there is no rest time between reps. They should be done back-to-back.

Siva
Posted on: Wed, 06/02/2021 - 22:13

What is an ideal dumbell weight for a 190lb male with 5’9” height.

M&S Team Badge
Abigail
Posted on: Fri, 06/04/2021 - 09:45

Hey Siva - weight will vary from person to person. You should use a weight that you can move safely and with proper form for the given number of reps.

Fiebe Op de Beeck
Posted on: Fri, 05/21/2021 - 17:24

Hey, I really like the workout program but can I somehow make it a little less longer? Because now it usually takes me 50 minutes but sometimes I don’t ha e enough time to workout longer than 40 minutes or less.

M&S Team Badge
Abigail
Posted on: Mon, 05/24/2021 - 10:07

Hey Fiebe - you can reduce the number of sets per exercise. That should help reduce the overall workout time.

Stephen
Posted on: Wed, 05/05/2021 - 06:35

Can I do this program everyday instead of exercising for 2 day and then resting?

M&S Team Badge
Abigail
Posted on: Wed, 05/05/2021 - 11:48

Hey Stephen - it's best to follow the program as written.

Brian
Posted on: Tue, 04/13/2021 - 17:44

Are all movements done unilaterally? Such as the walking lunge?

Net
Posted on: Mon, 04/05/2021 - 11:50

I'm trying to get under 20% bodyfat. Would this routine work better than the 5 day dumbbell routine?

M&S Team Badge
Abigail
Posted on: Tue, 04/06/2021 - 10:02

Hey Net - losing weight is highly dependent on your diet and eating in a caloric deficit. The 5 day program will have you working out an extra day per week which will most likely burn more calories.

Net
Posted on: Tue, 04/06/2021 - 10:56

I would like to pretty much maintain the weight but lower the body fat percentage

Marco Dieguez
Posted on: Mon, 03/29/2021 - 07:18

So my wife and I are going to start this today. I have two questions. We have adjustable dumbbells that go from 10-50lbs. Will that work? Second question, why are there no bench press movements for chest?

M&S Team Badge
Abigail
Posted on: Mon, 03/29/2021 - 10:36

Hey Marco - yes, those dumbbells will work. For chest, there is a floor dumbbell press on push day.