How You Can Train With Nothing But a Set of Dumbbells

If you could only use one piece of gym equipment for the rest of your training days, your best pick would probably be dumbbells.

The versatile weights allow your to do just about every exercise imaginable, while giving you the ability to adjust for your own capabilities and training needs. You can train light for volume or heavy for powerful, low-rep sets.

You can be just as effective using them in fully-stocked gyms with racks of weights as in your bedroom with an adjustable pair to save space. The sky is the limit with dumbbells, since they allow you to isolate one distinct muscle group or pull off high-octane full body routines without having to adjust anything.

If you’re dead-set on training with nothing but a set of dumbbells, check out these workouts as a jumping off point. You’ll need other equipment like benches for some of them, while others can be completed with just the two weights and your determination to sweat. If you’re stuck at home in a small space, check out these routines, which are specifically designed to be more minimal.

Chest: Dumbbell Hell

Grab a timer and a pair of light dumbbells for this volume-based chest crusher from Bobby Maximus (via Westside Barbell). You’ll still get a ton of work in the 5 minute period—the real question will be whether or not you’ll be able to keep up with all those reps.

Arms: Biceps, Triceps, and Core Circuit

When most people think of dumbbells, the first move they imagine is probably the bicep curl. There are few better ways to work your guns—but you can use smart programming to hit your other arm muscles, too. This circuit from Andy Speer uses some dumbbells, your body weight, and a ticking clock to give your arms and core a good once over. Perform each move for 40 seconds, then rest for 20 seconds to complete 1 round. Do 3 rounds to finish the workout.

Core/Shoulders: Delt-Defining Planks

This circuit of delt-smashing plank variations highlight just how versatile a pair of dumbbells can be in the right hands. Use a light weight to hit all three of these exercises with both arms for 8 reps, then rest for 1 minute to finish 1 round. Repeat the series twice for 3 total rounds.

Back/Lower Body: Dumbbells Are for Deadlifts

You have to use your hands to hold dumbbells, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck doing only upper body work. Try a few of these deadlift variations on your next lower or full body lifting day, starting with medium weight for 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.

Lower Body: 25s Leg Workout

Take on this workout to get a lower body burn with nothing but a pair of 25-pound dumbbells. Beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels give everyone a good challenge to work their legs.


3 to 5 rounds, 1 minute rest between rounds


3 to 5 rounds, 1 minute rest between rounds


3 to 5 rounds, 1 minute rest between rounds

Full Body: 7-7-7 DB Complex

This complex hits just about every muscle group to make it a true full body dumbbell workout. Make sure you use weights that you can handle for a wide range of exercises for an extended period of time—this one gets tough. Perform 7 reps of each exercise consecutively, then rest for 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat up to 7 times, depending on how much dumbbell punishment you can handle.

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