The dumbbell, as I’ve mentioned before, is probably one of the most versatile and underrated pieces of gym equipment.
If you’re kitting out a home gym, where space is most likely limited, then a pair of dumbbells, together with a weight bench, is the ideal minimalist setup if you’re on a tight budget and limited on time. Besides saving on space and money, you can get in a full body dumbbell workout at home that will challenge anything you can do at a commercial gym – without having to share your space with a load of sweaty gym goers and having to wait for that gym bro to finish his superset.
Which Dumbbells Should I Go For?
If you’re working out from home and space and time is at a premium then a pair of adjustable or selectorised dumbbells are your best bet. A good pair will prevent you having to fork out for an entire rack of fixed dumbbells and keep costs down but there’ll be enough weight spread (the difference between the lowest weight you can adjust them to and the highest) to continue to challenge you and ensure you get in a full body workout in minimal time. Check out my post on the types of dumbbells that are perfect for a home gym together with my reviews on what I feel are some of the best options.
As I mentioned in my intro, you may also want to consider a home gym weight bench to give you a few more options in terms of the type and number of dumbbell exercises you can perform to really switch up your workouts. The full body dumbbell workout below does include some exercises that utilise a bench and, again, I’ve posted about the types of weight benches available, and recommended some of my favourites. If you haven’t got a bench however, don’t worry, you can improvise with a sturdy chair or low table instead – just make it work for you and the space and budget you have!
How This Full Body Dumbbell Workout At Home Works
In addition to saving space, dumbbells will give you a complete body workout in the shortest possible time. This particular workout will have you building muscle, increasing strength and burning fat all at the same time and contains seven exercises in a circuit. You should perform each circuit three times in total. Perform each exercise one after the other and then rest up to 60 seconds before starting the circuit again – the aim being to keep your heart pumping hard to maximise calorie burn.
This workout contains both pushing and pulling exercises and alternates between your upper and lower body to ensure you’re not fatiguing one muscle group over time whilst providing some nice aerobic benefit.
Exercise One: The Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
What it does: Romanian Deadlifts, or RDLs, are great for activating your hamstrings and glutes while strengthening the back. We’ll start with this one as it will warm your lower body up nicely to perform some of the other exercises later on in the circuit.
How to perform it: You don’t want, or need, to go too heavy with the dumbbells on this one as good form is the key to getting the full benefit of the move. Begin to bend your upper body forward but try to sit back as you do this to ensure your activating your hamstrings and glutes as well.
Number of reps: 12-15
Exercise Two: The Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press
What it does: This exercise stabilises the shoulders more than a barbell bench press. The additional extra push at the end of the rep ensures you’re completing a fuller range of motion to work the shoulders harder to help stimulate muscle growth.
How to perform it: Lie on your back on a bench (if you don’t have a bench a sturdy low table, stool or even a chair will suffice) and hold the dumbbells shoulder width apart with palms facing your thighs. Then extend your arms to lift both dumbbells over your chest. Keeping one arm straight, lower the other arm down towards your chest and then push it back up. When you’re back at the top of the movement, push a little further upwards as if you’re trying to touch the ceiling and then bring it back level with the other arm. Repeat on the opposite side so you’re alternating between both arms.
Number of reps: 8-10
Exercise Three: The Farmers Walk
What it does: The Farmers Walk improves your overall core strength and benefits your posture – forcing you to think about your form. It also helps to create stability.
How to perform it: Hold a pair of dumbbells in each hand and walk about 10 yards forwards before turning and walking back to your start point (as you’ll be performing this at home you may have to walk between rooms). As you walk make sure you don’t hunch over so keep your shoulder blades back and down and really squeeze your glutes as you walk. You may want to use slightly heavier dumbbells here – but only enough to make this challenging – don’t sacrifice good form for heavier weight. This may start out difficult but you’ll very quickly adapt and be able to increase the weight or distance further.
Number of reps: 3-5 (count one walk forward ten yards and one walk back to the start position as one rep)
Exercise Four: The Dumbbell Skull Crusher
What it does: This is a great triceps exercise and builds coordination between the triceps and upper back.
How to perform it: Lie on your back on a weight bench (or your alternative) and lower the dumbbells so your elbows are bent 90 degrees before returning to the start position. Keep your arms close to your body and your shoulders still so you are only moving your forearms. This will ensure you’re putting maximum tension on your triceps to get the most out of this exercise.
Number of reps: 8-10
Exercise Five: The Dumbbell Chest Fly
What it does: This will really challenge the pecs whilst hitting the shoulders and biceps at the same time. It’s also a good one to do after the skullcrusher as you’re already in the right position.
How to perform it: You should still be lying on your back on the weight bench. Hold the dumbbells over your chest and slightly bend the elbows whilst keeping the palms facing each other. Pull your hands apart and lower the dumbbells to the sides until you feel a stretch in the chest. Your palms should now be facing the ceiling. Now push your arms back up to the starting position – almost like you’re hugging a barrel.
Number of reps: 8-10
Exercise Six: The Goblet Squat
What it does: This full body exercise will challenge the quads, taking the pressure off your back and is easier to perform than a barbell squat. With the weight in front of your body, the counterbalance you create will allow you to sit back, encouraging proper form.
How to perform it: Hold a dumbbell with both hands and bring it in close to the centre of your chest. Squat down, pushing your knees out to enable your elbows to fit in-between them as you come down, as low as you can, before returning to the start position.
Number of reps: 10-12
Exercise Seven: The One Arm Bent-over Row
What it does: This challenges you to work each side separately and will engage your entire back, shoulders and arms, with some secondary benefit to the pecs. You’ll also work your hamstrings here too as you lower the dumbbell deeper.
How to perform it: Place your left leg on the weight bench and grab the far side with your left hand. You’ll now want to bend over so your upper body is parallel with the ground. Reach down and pick up the dumbbell with your right hand, palm facing you and then hold it with your arm extended. Make sure to keep your back straight. Then bring the dumbbell up to your chest – keeping the chest still as you lift. At the top, squeeze your shoulder and back muscles before lowering the dumbbell back to the ground. Do all prescribed reps on your left side before switching sides and repeating on your right.
That’s it, you’re done for the day!
This full body dumbbell workout should take you around 25-30 minutes to complete and will smoke both your upper and lower body whilst building core strength and cardio endurance at the same time. There’s often a misconception that long hours in the gym are the only way to get results, but with the right routine and some basic equipment it’s really about the quality of your workout over quantity every time.
Try this workout at home and let me know how you get on, or let me know if you’ve got a full body dumbbell workout routine you follow and what results you’re seeing, I’d love to know!