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The Dumbbell Workout Designed for Full Body Fitness

You don’t need a ton of gym equipment to attain a good body physique. You can do a solid workout with just one piece of equipment- the dumbbell. This article teaches different dumbbell workouts designed to attain total body fitness. 


If you are only interested in resistance training, then bodyweight exercises like squats, reverse lunges, spider-man mountain climbing, donkey kicks, and plank jacks should be sufficient for you. However, if you want to reach better fitness goals, such as building bigger muscles, you may want to consider adding external weight lifting to your workout routine.


Weight lifting is not as intimidating or complicated as it seems. If you have mastered your basic, functional body exercises like pulling, squatting, pushing, and hip hinging, weightlifting would be much easier for you. 


Dumbbell Workout

For your dumbbell workout, you will need just a set of light to medium dumbbells for your upper body workouts and a set of medium to heavy dumbbells for working out your lower body.


Dumbbell workouts typically involve different moves that work multiple muscle groups. Dumbbell workouts designed for total body fitness also include different unilateral moves, which help build strength and balance all through the body. 


The total body dumbbell workouts below work the entire body, with each targeting specific parts of the body. They also include some basic exercises with moves that hit all the body’s major muscles, such as the arms, chest, shoulders, legs, abs, and back muscles. Combined with dieting, dumbbell workouts are great for people that want results in a faster time. 


Getting Started For Your Dumbbell Workout

Dumbbell exercise can cause extreme soreness, particularly for a beginner. Also, if you have injuries or some medical conditions that might interfere with your workout, it would be best to see your doctor first before trying out this workout. 


You will need different sizes of dumbbells for your workouts, and depending on the exercise, you might need a stepping platform or a bench. 


Before exercising, it is always recommended to stretch. Then you can warm up with light cardio exercises. If you are a beginner, go for the lightweights. However, if you are experienced, go for the weights you can complete their desired/required number of reps and sets.


Dumbbell Workout For Abs and Chest 

How about starting your total body workout by working your abs? These exercises will work your chest muscles while requiring you to engage your abs for stabilization and proper execution. A larger group of muscle lines the chest region, so you might want to use a medium to a heavier weight for this exercise. However, the weight to carry will also depend on your experience. Find more information regarding the best weight for dumbbells in the last section of this article. 


Below are workouts that primarily target the chest and ab muscles.


Chest Press

The chest press is one of the best ways to work your upper body as it targets muscles of the chest while also working the triceps and shoulder muscles.


How To:

  1. Lie on a bench
  2. Hold the weights up over your chest region
  3. Bend your elbows lowering the weights at about 90-degree angles
  4. Press the dumbbell weights back up and repeat the motion


Bench Press

One of the advantages dumbbells have over barbells is that they offer a wider range of motions, allowing you to build strength on specific parts of the body. The bench press workout targets the pectoralis muscles in the chest, therefore, building strength in this area. It also works the triceps and shoulder muscles. 


How To:

  1. Lie back on a bench with the weights in each of your hands
  2. Bend your arms to the side of your shoulders and have your palms facing upward
  3. Extend your elbows and press the dumbbells above your chest
  4. Keep extending your elbows until your arms are positioned right above your chest but don’t allow the dumbbells to touch each other
  5. Bring the dumbbells back down just past your shoulder level, then repeat


Dumbbell Workout For Arms

When working the arms, the muscles specifically targeted are usually the triceps and biceps muscles. The following exercises work the biceps and triceps muscles of the arm.


Hammer Curls On One Leg


This exercise targets the bicep muscles. You can also use this exercise to work on your balance by standing on one leg while doing it.


How To:

  1. Hold the dumbbells in both hands with your palms face in. 
  2. Lift one of your feet off the ground (try holding this position).
  3. Lift the weight, curling towards your shoulders
  4. With your palms still facing in, squeeze the biceps, lower your arms and repeat in a slow and controlled manner.



Working your arms doesn’t end with the biceps; the triceps, which are the muscles at the posterior part of the arms, need to be worked too. In this exercise, you can move only one arm at a time or both arms simultaneously. 


How To:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each of your hands.
  2. Bend at your waist with your back flat while you engage your abs.
  3. Pull your elbows upwards to your torso and hold that position.
  4. Gradually straighten your arms while squeezing your triceps at the same time.
  5. Lower your hands and repeat the step.


If doing both arms is too difficult, you can do one arm at a time instead. Keep your elbow close to your body all through it, just as if you are holding on to an envelope snuggled under your armpit.


Shoulder Press

Your shoulders are part of your upper limbs, and it is important to have strong shoulders. Strong shoulders allow you to prevent injury not only in the gym but while also completing daily tasks. The shoulder press is a popular dumbbell exercise that focuses primarily on the shoulder’s deltoid muscles and works other muscles such as the triceps, trapezius, and rotator cuff muscles found in the arms, neck, and shoulder, respectively.


How To:

  1. Hold a pair of dumbbells on either side while standing upright.
  2. With your arms slightly bent and your palms facing towards your body, move the dumbbells so they are more or less even with your shoulders.
  3. Press upwards, twisting your wrists while at it.
  4. You should have your palms facing forward as you get to the top.
  5. Gradually lift the weights until they are directly over your shoulders and your arms are straightened.
  6. Lower the weights and repeat.


Dumbbell Workout For Legs

Transitioning from the upper part of your body means moving from focusing on upper limb muscles like biceps, triceps, trapezius, pectoralis, etc. to focusing on core muscles on the buttocks and the legs such as the gluteus muscles and the hamstring muscles. 


Here are some dumbbell exercises to target the lower portion of the body.

Athletic young woman fitness model doing squats exercise, concept sport healthy lifestyle


Total body fitness is hardly obtained without a full-body workout. This exercise works all the muscles you use daily- for standing, sitting, and walking. 


How To:

  1. Hold a dumbbell weight in each hand
  2. Stand with your feet hip-width apart
  3. Bend your knees and go low into a squat position
  4. Your knees should remain behind your toes while you squat down to 90 degrees
  5. Go back up, restart and repeat

Emphasize your thighs and glutes instead of your knees while doing this workout. One way to achieve this is by sending your buttocks back behind you when you are squatting.



Deadlifts work the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. It complements exercises that target the back. While this workout might be challenging, it is a good option for transitioning from the upper body to the lower body portion.


How To:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart
  2. Hold the weights on both hands in front of your thighs
  3. Tip from your hip joint and lower the dumbbells towards the floor 
  4. Keep your back flat as you lower the weights
  5. Return to the standing position and repeat consecutively


The Best Weight For Your Dumbbells

Choosing the right dumbbell for your workout might pose a challenge. There is no precise ‘best weight for dumbbells’; however, the best dumbbell weight for you will depend on different factors such as:

  • Your workout experience level
  • Your weight-lifting goals
  • Your health status
  • The type of exercise

Black metal dumbbells in one row in the gym

Dumbbell Weight For Beginners

Beginners should start their workouts with light dumbbells (about 5-pound dumbbells for each hand). They can go 12-15 repetitions of the arm, leg, and abs exercises with these weights. When the weights start feeling too light, you increase your number of repetitions and gradually increase the weights as well.


As you gain strength, you go from 5lb to 10lb and then 15lb. The top weight for even experienced exercisers should be at about 40lb.

Test Your Strength


Use the bicep curl to help you determine the dumbbell weight to use for your exercise. This dumbbell test involves standing with dumbbells in each hand, elbows, and shoulders against the wall, and palms forward; then, you curl the weights up until they are shoulder level. Lower and repeat. If you can’t make up to 14 repetitions in this form, pick a set of dumbells about 5 pounds lighter.


Tips For Choosing The Right Dumbbell Weight

Here are tips to help you figure out the dumbbell weights to choose for your workouts.

  • Test your strength first
  • Choose a safe weight 
  • Consider your training goals
  • Choose the weight that corresponds to the exercise
  • Get a personal trainer or join a workout program



Picking the right weights is one of the first steps to a proper workout. If you don’t use the right dumbbells, you increase your chance of incurring injuries. Consider your overall health, exercise experience, and the number of repetitions you want to go when choosing dumbbell weights.

Also, it would be best to have a range of different weights in line with the types of exercise you perform.

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