Full-Body Dumbbell Workout

The Ultimate Full Body Dumbbell Workout for a Muscular Sculpted Body

Using dumbbells in your strength workouts has always been a favorite among many, thanks to their great versatility. Dumbbells are an incredible investment for your body and even for your budget, that’s why I’ve put together some of the most important things you need to know to perform a full body dumbbell workout. 

They are perfect for challenging the muscular system; they increase lean muscle mass and boost metabolism. So ultimately, you get to enjoy functional strength.

In particular, exercising with dumbbells helps balance your strength. This equipment offers an equal load to the two sides of your body.

They are also an optimal external resistance when you perform isolation exercises for certain muscle groups, like your biceps. They’re also perfect for multi-planar movements to engage more than one muscle group all at the same time. 

These are just some of the reasons why the dumbbell is on my go-to list for workout equipment and why you should invest in them too.

Even if you can’t head to the gym, a set of home dumbbells will help bolster up maintenance and progression. A full-body dumbbell workout awaits you at the end of this article to support you in your upper body, lower body, and core exercises.

Related: 10 Best Home Dumbbell Sets

Strong male doing dumbbell lat raise.

Fixed dumbbells are a bit more expensive, and heavier dumbbells typically cost more.

Adjustable dumbbells reach maximum weight at around 90 to 100 pounds. This topped out weight should be the main source of progressive overload.

If you don’t have a complete set at home to continue your progressive strength training, you can always make use of other strategies to aid in progressive overload.

These include switching up your rep scheme and increasing the work-to-rest ratio in your dumbbell workouts. Check out the following strategies to balance your loading limitations and ensure an effective workout:

Go for a higher number of reps.

Give way for a lot more volume. For hypertrophy training, you need to increase the number of sets and reps while slightly reducing the intensity. Also, getting close to failure is essential for hypertrophy.

A pair of heavy dumbbells may take about 10 reps before reaching failure while a lighter pair may take about 20.

You will experience the advantage of near-failure training for building muscle by simply increasing the reps. It will be tough and intense but being able to do so will separate you from the mediocre lifters when it comes to dumbbell training. 

Male doing seated dumbbell shoulder press.

Increase The Number Of Sets

Adding more sets is one of the best, if not, the best approach to increasing the overall workload. However, make sure these sets are explosive, hard, and do not rely on crappy junk volume.

A higher volume of tough sets is one of the optimal metrics for productive dumbbell training.

For trained people, being able to perform multiple sets that lead to more total volume is far more superior compared to single sets. It’s already been found that multiple sets are more likely to impact muscle size than a single set. How so?

We’re not 100% sure but researchers have a reason to believe that more time under tension increases the chances of your muscles to experience microtrauma.

Multiple sets in dumbbell training also increase the ability to put pressure on the entire spectrum of muscle fibers. As such, the muscles will have to engage in more work, generating more disruption. As such, there’s increased adaptation. 

Reduce the tempo.

Look at slowing down the tempo of each rep you perform to increase the time your muscles are under tension. To slow down, take 3 seconds for the concentric phase and 5 seconds for the eccentric phase.

Also, as you’re maintaining proper form, lift the weight as forcefully as possible while lowering it in a controlled manner.

As you perform more reps in your dumbbell workouts, your eccentric (lowering) speed should be maintained relatively the same. On the other hand, your concentric (lifting) speed should slow down even if you lift with forceful intent because of fatigue.

Increase density.

Go for shorter breaks or rest periods with your dumbbell workouts. This will increase the level of difficulty as well as metabolic stress.

Your work capacity and overall conditioning will improve as compared to pure strength and muscle growth. 

Muscular man with tattoos doing dumbbell curl.

Several things are happening by the time you reach the final stages of your set in dumbbell training. With your muscles continuously contracting and relaxing, this brings on cell swelling, or the pump effect, within your muscles.

The metabolic stress experienced by your muscles will have an anabolic effect. In turn, this will result in building and strengthening muscles. 

Work on maintaining proper ROM (range of motion) and control. 

These are all fundamental factors in ensuring that you’re making improvements in performing dumbbell workouts. One or even all of them often go unnoticed during workouts.

Keep them always in mind as proper form, control, and ROM will result in increased strength.

Full-Body Dumbbell Workouts

Now, once you’ve used one or more of these dumbbell training strategies I’ve mentioned, you’re likely to trigger hypertrophy as you push your muscles in the best way.

There’s also a good chance of preparing yourself to maximize a full-body dumbbell workout. 

Male sat on bench holding dumbbells on his knees.

Check out this complete full body dumbbell workout with which you can find two exercises per muscle group. Switch things up across session 1 exercises, followed by a recovery day, then session 2 exercises, followed by a recovery day, and then repeat.

Shoulders Muscles: Dumbbell Shoulder Press Variations

Do these moves while in a standing or kneeling position, or you can use a sturdy chair or box. Your scapula should be able to upwardly rotate as you go through the movement. Engage your core and keep your spine from arching.

Session 1. Dumbbell Press (seated)

  • Go for the best angle for your arms. You can also choose between a wide and a neutral grip.
  • In a controlled manner, press the dumbbell upwards until you’ve fully extended your arms. By slowing down your lifting tempo, you’re increasing time under tension.
  • Lower your hands back to your shoulders.
  • Repeat movement and complete 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps.

Session 2. Arnold Press

  • Start with your palms facing you while tucking your elbows forward.
  • As you rotate your elbows outward, press up until your palms are facing forward at the top. Make the upward movement happen at the same time as the rotation.
  • Repeat movement and complete 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps per side.

Hamstring and Glute Muscles: Romanian Deadlift (RDL) Variations

It’s simple and quick to focus on your arms and chest. But, well-committed lifters aim to maintain powerful hips and strong glutes in their workout programs. This should always be the case even if you’re left to train with limited equipment.

Session 1. Dumbbell RDL

Position the dumbbells 45 degrees to transfer more of the weight towards your center of gravity. This will reduce pressure on your lower back without reducing the training effect for your hamstrings and glutes.

  • Begin with a gentle knee bend and bend forward at your hips. Make sure you maintain a neutral spine and a tight core as well as your feet flat on the floor.
  • Lower dumbbells in a controlled manner as far as your flexibility will allow.
  • Contract your hamstrings and glutes to go back to starting position.
  • Complete 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps. 

Session 2. Sumo RDL

This variation of the RDL works your hamstrings from a different angle.

  • Assume a wide foot stance and firmly grasp your dumbbells close with a neutral grip.
  • Begin with a gentle knee bend and bend forward at your hips. Again, maintain a neutral spine and a tight core as well as your feet flat on the floor.
  • Same with the previous dumbbell RDL, lower dumbbells in a controlled manner as far as your flexibility will allow.
  • Contract your hamstrings and glutes to go back to starting position.
  • Complete 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps. 

Chest Muscles: Floor Press Variations

Even if you don’t have access to a bench, the floor press is an incredible solution to chest training.

It can be difficult to load heavy dumbbells into position on the floor. You might also risk dropping your adjustable dumbbells and breaking them. Using moderate weights to increase reps, create tension, get a good pump is your best option.

Session 1. Floor Dumbbell Press

  • Lie down on the floor and bend your knees roughly 45 degrees from the ground while moving your feet up slightly.
  • Set your dumbbells into position with your upper arm around 60 degrees from your body.
  • Press the weights up to full extension and engage your triceps and chest.
  • Slowly draw the weights back down by retracting your shoulder blades until both your elbows touch the ground.
  • Pause your elbows on the floor for 1 to 2 seconds, then repeat the entire move. The floor cuts the range of motion so go for a controlled pause at the bottom of the movement. It should still be a smooth motion and not one that will cause unnecessary risks to your shoulders.

Do 3 to 4 ramping sets of 12 to 15 reps using ascending-pyramid style. Switch from lighter weight to a heavier weight and then back down.

Session 2. Bridge Dumbbell Press

  • Maintain a glute bridge throughout your set. As you elevate your hips and bend your knees at 90 degrees, you’re forming a decline pressing angle.
  • Extend your hips fully as you keep your abs engaged and maintain a neutral lumbar spine. Although you can always perform your bridge press just like the floor press, the extra glute training helps create a different angle for chest training. 

Try to complete 3 to 4 ramping sets of 12 to 15 reps using ascending-pyramid style. Switch from lighter weight to a heavier weight and then back down. If you can’t change the load, slow down the rep tempo as necessary and bring your set to near-failure.

Back Muscles: Dumbbell Row Variations

If you don’t have a bench at home, you can try these two alternatives. For both exercises, don’t forget to keep your spine neutral throughout the movement. Allow your shoulder blades to fully protract and retract throughout every rep.

Session 1. Single Arm Dumbbell Row

  • Look for something you can brace yourself against with like a sturdy table or a solid counter. Or this can be done on a bench if you have one.
  • Set up by supporting one hand on the bench (or your table or counter, etc.) and keep your back as neutral as you can. 
  • Form a slight bend in your legs to maintain the tension in your hamstrings and glutes, and not on your lower back. 
  • Reach down and grasp the weight by its handle. At the same time, squeeze your shoulder blades while pulling the weight back towards your abs. 
  • After a slight pause, return to the starting position. 
  • Complete 3 to 4 sets of 12 to 15 reps. 

Session 2. Bent-Over Dumbbell Row

  • Begin with a standing position as you hold a dumbbell in each hand. Keep your grip neutral. 
  • Bend over at roughly 45 degrees while keeping your back straight throughout the movement. Engage your abs and breathe in. 
  • Lift the weights up as you exhale. While lifting, your arms should move no higher than parallel with your shoulders. Even slightly lower than your shoulders is good. 
  • During the lifting movement, the wrists should be kept from moving too much down or to the side. There’s also no leg movement throughout this exercise.
  • With proper control, lower your weights as you inhale. 
  • Maintain the bent position until you complete your reps. 
  • Complete 3 to 4 sets of 12 to 15 reps. 

Quads And Glute Muscles: Squat Variations

Although dumbbells will keep your load within the limits, they can still provide that much-needed tension in your training for muscle growth. It’s a great opportunity to exert pressure on your muscles and push them hard while giving your joints and spine their much-needed break.

Session 1. Dumbbell Goblet Squat

Goblet squats are a powerful exercise to work your quads, abs, and upper back. This will ultimately enhance your training capacity.

  • Hold your dumbbell firmly in a vertical position using both hands under each edge of the weight. 
  • The dumbbell should be positioned at chest height. It should remain there throughout the full movement. 
  • Inhale and start to squat as you sit back in your hips, engage your core, and keep your torso upright.
  • As soon as your thighs are parallel with the floor or you’ve gone as deep as you can while keeping a neutral spine, start to reverse the movement. 
  • Keep pressure on your feet and drive them through the floor as you go back to the starting position.
  • Complete 4 to 5 sets of 20 to 25 reps using ascending-pyramid style.

Session 2. Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat

Even more intense goblet squats, this type of squat will limit spinal loading and get your quads fired up. This movement also brings on a loaded stretch for your glutes that will produce much more soreness.

  • Begin with a lunge or stride position with your back foot onto a bench or, if you’re at home, on a chair, couch, or any other object at knee height. 
  • Bend your front knee to lower yourself into a lunge until your thigh is parallel to the ground. Keep your front knee behind your toes. Your spine should remain neutral and your torso should pivot forward when you descend. 
  • Extend your hip and knee when driving up the starting position.
  • With dumbbells in each of your hard or one dumbbell held in goblet position, complete 12 to 15 reps per side before switching.

Arm Muscles: Curls and Skull Crushers

Dumbbells are so versatile that they offer multiple (let’s say countless) training options for your arms. Never use a lazy and poor form or a load that’s excessively heavy to control. Say goodbye to your bad habits and start using the strict form.  

Session 1. Dumbbell Bicep Curls

  • In a standing position, hold a dumbbell in each of your hands with your arms hanging by your sides. 
  • Make sure your elbows are close to your torso while your palms face forward. 
  • Keeping your upper arms stationary, flex your elbow and curl the weights up to shoulder level without too much shoulder movement as you contract your biceps.
  • Keep the tempo slowed down for that extra mechanical tension. Slightly pause on each side before alternating arms. 
  • Complete 3 to 4 sets of 12 to 15 reps.

Session 1. Dumbbell Skull Crusher (bench or floor)

  • Lie on your back as you keep your knees bent. 
  • With a dumbbell in each hand, raise your arms and extend them towards the ceiling so they’re now above your chest. Your elbows should be straight but not locked. 
  • Lower both weights to the sides of your head by bending your elbows to 90 degrees. Keep your shoulders stable as the dumbbells reach the mat.
  • Complete 3 to 4 sets of 12 to 15 reps.

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The ultimate full body dumbbell workout

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