Working out at home doesn’t have to be a limitation.
If you have a pair of dumbbells you can get an excellent home workout.
Keep reading to find out to get a full-body workout using just dumbbells.
Don’t have any dumbbells? Read our guide to the best types of dumbbells for a home gym or go with our Best Adjustable Dumbbell recommendations.
How to Get a Full-body workout with Dumbbells
Every good full-body workout, at home or the gym, focuses on four simple types of movements:
- Lower Body Pushing
- Lower Body Pulling
- Upper Body Pushing
- Upper Body Pulling
We’re using these groups because it’s important to use the types of movements.
Suppose you don’t have a heavy enough dumbbell for a heavy floor press, for example. In that case, you need to have an alternative – a different upper body pushing – movement.
We’re also recommending this series of exercises. Again, this is important to give yourself proper time off of a single muscle group so that your pulling and pushing exercises interfere with each other as little as possible.
Suppose you know which types of exercise you need and have good examples for them. In that case, you can make sure that your home workout is effective no matter what weight or equipment you have available!
1. Lower Push Exercises
These are the exercises you’d usually use to build up the quadriceps muscles – like squatting and lunging. These are the main exercises we’re using here – as well as some simple jumping exercises.
A. Dumbbell Squat
Squats – either with two dumbbells or just the 1 in a goblet position – train the legs, hips, and core. We can get real value from them with higher reps (10-20) using a dumbbell or medium reps (6-12) with two heavier dumbbells.
We want to focus on posture, keeping the whole foot flat to the floor, and getting as deep as possible. This should be a starter for your workout if you’re going heavy and a finisher if you’re going light!
B. Dumbbell Lunge
If you’re using light weights or you’re working on conditioning, lunges are great. They work the legs, hips, and core – but they are more challenging at any given weight. This means better results with less equipment.
Try heavy lunges for 8-12 reps or lighter walking lunges in the goblet or overhead position for 12-20 reps. These are going to develop single-leg strength and remove imbalances in your hips.
C. Dumbbell Step-Up
These are like walking lunges, but you can progress your height, which is great if you’re struggling to add more weight during home workouts.
If you’re using a single dumbbell in the goblet position, you’re going to get tons of postural training. With two dumbbells, the reps will add up quickly.
Step-ups will get tiring fast, so stick to the mid-range of 8-12 reps to make sure you’re not getting sloppy. Then, add dynamic movement – like a jump – as you become stronger to keep progressing.
2. Upper Push Exercises
Upper body push exercises include classics like the bench press, overhead press, and even things like push-ups.
These are really common, and you’re probably going to be familiar with these exercises. They suit single- and 2-arm versions, depending on what weight you have and your strength levels.
A. Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press
A classic – sit down, keep your core tight, put it over your head. Easy.
The seated overhead press will make most dumbbells feel heavy. Depending on the weight of your dumbbells, you should be in the 6-12 rep range, but up to 20 if you’re using light dumbbells.
These are a great way to start (for pre-fatigue) or end (as a finisher).
B. Floor Dumbbell Chest Press
A better alternative for heavier dumbbells, these put you in a stronger position than the overhead press.
They train the chest and triceps – in the 5-8 rep range for heavier dumbbells and 8-20 for lighter.
Do as many as you need for it to start feeling difficult!
The chest press is a classic, especially combined with the other upper body pushing exercises we’re discussing.
C. Lying Tricep Extensions
Tricep extensions make light weights feel heavy. If you’ve got a heavy dumbbell, you might want to try a single-dumbbell seated tricep extension. For two light dumbbells, you can practice lying tricep extensions.
Tricep extensions should come at the end of the pushing section of your workout so you can push nearer to failure. In addition, it’s a “small” movement, so you can recover from it relatively quickly.
3. Lower Pull Exercises
These are some of the most important but overlooked movements. We need to practice hip hinging, and we can build hamstring, lower back, and glute strength with these crucial movements.
It will not be like a heavy deadlift in the gym, but the lower body pulling movements help your hips, core, and spine stay healthy and strong.
A. Goblet Good Morning
Good mornings are a great exercise, and the goblet version might even be better.
When we put the weight in front, we force the upper back and core to work hard while we hinge. The hinging itself builds strength in the hamstrings at long ranges, builds up glute strength, and helps us develop the hip extension that’s so important in sports, squatting and other movements.
Don’t just add weight. Instead, add difficulty: pauses, slow-eccentrics, and raised toes all add up to make good mornings more effective.
Stay in the 6-12 rep range for heavier weights, but don’t shy away from high-rep work (up to 25ish reps) if you’re using lighter weights.
B. Romanian Deadlift
The Romanian Deadlift – or RDL – is the perfect hip hinge for most people. If you’ve got a moderate to heavy dumbbell, this is the way to go.
The RDL teaches you to lengthen the hams, keep your core strong, and builds a better deadlifting technique. It also strengthens your whole posterior chain and improves coordination.
The RDL can be performed across the whole spectrum of reps. You can go heavy if you have the dumbbells for it, but most of the time, we see people in the 8-15 rep range for the RDL.
C. Stiff-Legged Dumbbell Deadlift
This is like a version of the good morning we can do with heavier dumbbells since the loading is further away. It’s a great way to feel the stretch in the hamstrings and learn to move your hips better. We take the RDL and lengthen it to the floor.
The stiff-legged deadlift adds up quickly, so use slightly lower reps than in the RDL. Whatever you RDL, try and get two fewer reps in your SLDL, focus on pauses, etc., to keep your hams happy!
4. Upper Pull Exercises
These are rowing movements – we don’t have tons of options for the pull, but we can put together a good workout with the classics. These help keep your shoulders healthy and build a bigger, stronger back.
A. Dumbbell Row
This is the classic – one-arm dumbbell row. It’s going to develop the lats, lower traps, rhomboids, biceps, and forearms. It’s all the stuff that most people need, most of the time.
We use dumbbell rows regularly to combat the pushing movements and build a strong, healthy upper body.
Rows should be based around your equipment availability. If you can go heavy, you absolutely should – sets of 8 at a minimum, though – and super-high-rep (25s) work for very light dumbbells.
Try adding a pause at the end if you’re working with light dumbbells and lower the weight slowly.
B. Reverse Flyes
This is a great “pulling” movement that helps build upper back strength and control. You retract your shoulder blades, which improves your pulling strength and keeps your shoulders healthy when you’re overhead and chest pressing.
Flyes are always a high-rep exercise – you should use 12s and 15s as your main rep range. You can also superset these with Lu raises to get a ridiculous upper back pump.
C. Bicep Curl
It’s not a workout without a bicep curl.
A classic. Dumbbell bicep curls – hammer, normal, incline, whatever – are timeless for building bigger guns and keeping your elbows healthy. This is the kind of exercise where you may as well curl until you can’t keep curling.
Go to failure on bicep curls to get a sweet pump and end your session with a fun, simple little exercise.
For more information, check out our guide to Barbell Curls Vs. Dumbbell Curls.
More At-Home Workout Ideas
Check out our other at-home workout guides –
- Full-Body Sandbag Workout
- Full-Body Barbell Workout
- Full-Body Kettlebell Workout
- Full-Body Battle Ropes Workout
- Full-Body Resistance Band Workout
You don’t need a lot of equipment to get a good workout. If you have a pair of dumbbells you are good to go.
1 thought on “The Best Dumbbell Workout You Can Do at Home”
great article, really helpful, thanks.