Full-Body Exercises

The Ultimate Dumbbell Training Routine

No barbells? No worries. Get strong, get ripped, get swole with a set of adjustable dumbbells.

josh bryant thumbnail by CSCS, MFS, PES

One-Arm Dumbbell Curl

Four score and seven years ago, gyms catered to folks with serious strength and physique goals. Barbells, dumbbells and lifting platforms were the norm and the catalyst of choice for building massive powerful men. Nowadays, some popular chain gyms have pizza night, alarms that go off from dropping weights and the floors are filled with pristine, chromed out machines. 

This has caused a revolt—many serious trainees are setting up home gyms. These “garage gorillas” and “cellar dwellers”, in the words of Brooks Kubik, are making great gains and finding their “pig iron” nirvana. Still, in this economy, many home gyms are still seriously limited on space and only have room for dumbbells and a few other modest pieces of equipment. You may not realize this but with adjustable dumbbells or power blocks, you have everything you need.

With nothing more than a pair of dumbbells and a burning desire, you can build world-class strength and the physique to match. Give the following workout a shot to build strength and muscle – no barbell required.

Dumbbell incline press

Day 1: Chest + Back

Exercise

Sets

Reps        

Tempo

Chest-Supported Dumbbell Row - Superset w/

5

12

3111

Reverse-Grip Dumbbell Bench Press

5

8

3111

Dumbbell Row (to Hip) - superset w/ 

3

6 (each side)

5111

Dumbbell Incline Bench Press

3 10 5111

Dumbbell Pullover - superset w/

3 12 3121

Dumbbell Flye

3 8 3121

 

incline dumbbell curl
Day 2: Legs + Biceps

Exercise

Sets

Reps        

Tempo
 

Dumbbell Bulgarian Split-Squat Superset w/

3

8

3111

Zottman Curl

3

10

3111

Dumbbell Keystone Deadlift1

4

12

3111

Dumbbell Reverse Lunge - superset w/

3 10 (each leg) 3111

Incline Dumbbell Curl 

3 10 3111

Standing Dumbbell Calf Raise

3 15 3111

1 The Keystone Deadlift looks exactly like a Romanian deadlift, only with a shorter range of motion. Keeping a slight arch in your lower back, slowly lower the dumbbells to mid-thigh before explosively reversing direction back to the start.

 

dumbbell shrug

Day 3: Shoulders + Triceps

Exercise

Sets

Reps        

Tempo
 

Dumbbell Military Press - Superset w/

3

6

3111

Dumbbell Shrug 

3

12

3111

Incline Lateral Raise - superset w/

3

8

5111

Dumbbell Decline Triceps Extension

3 12 3111

IDumbbell Inverted Flye - superset w/

3 15 3111

Tate Press2 

3 20 3111

2 Start lying back on a bench with the dumbbells at full extension above you, palms pronated, as they would be in a bench press. From that position, bend the elbows to allow the dumbbells to travel in an arc toward your chest. When they touch your chest, forcefully contract your triceps to extend the dumbbells back to the start position. Keep your palms pronated and try to keep the dumbbells touching throughout the move.

TEMPO CHEAT SHEET

Use this guide to get your rep speeds right for max gains. Using 30X1 as an example, here’s how it shakes out.

The first number is the time in seconds to lower the weight after you've reached the top of the lift. This is the eccentric or negative phase.

The second number '0' is the pause at the completion of the exercise or at the start of the lift.

The third character 'X' represents the concentric phase. This could be the lifting of the dumbbell in an arm curl in the concentric phase, for example. X just stands for explosive movement. The third number just stands for the time on the positive.

The fourth number '1' is the pause at the top of the lift, or the peak contraction.

 

Josh Bryant, MFS, CSCS, PES, is the owner of JoshStrength.com and co-author (with Adam benShea) of the Amazon No. 1 seller Jailhouse Strong. His new book, Built to the Hilt, is now available at Amazon and EliteFTS. He is a strength coach at Metroflex Gym in Arlington, Texas, and holds 12 world records in powerlifting. You can connect with him on Twitter and Facebook or visit his website at www.joshstrength.com

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