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The Dumbbell-only Upper-body Workout to Add More Muscle

All you need are some DBs to knock out this killer, upper-body onslaught.

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  • 60 min

  • 10

  • Yes

One-Arm Dumbbell Row
gradyreese / Getty
One-Arm Dumbbell Row
gradyreese / Getty

Maybe you work out at home and have a limited amount of equipment. Perhaps you’re traveling and the hotel gym has nothing more than a beat up Universal machine, treadmill, and a rack of DBs. Or maybe you just want to switch things up and try something totally different.

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If exercise machines and barbells are not an option, there’s still an exceptional way to get in a solid, upper-body, muscle-building workout. All you’re going to need are a few dumbbells. Don’t think you can get an effective workout using just a couple of dumbbells? Think again. Thanks to an array of highly effective, targeted moves that can be performed pretty much anywhere, DBs offer a host of exceptional ways to strengthen and build most every muscle throughout your body. 

In addition to their convenience of use, some other advantages of training with dumbbells include:

  • Increased use of stabilizer muscles.
  • Exercises can be done bi- or unilaterally.
  • Each side of body is forced to perform equally.
  • Better for fixing strength imbalances.
  • Easy to perform supersets and dropsets. 

With that in mind, we’ve created the ultimate dumbbell only workout to target your upper body. So grab a few DBs and get to work. 

Note: Lifting Tempo is the phrase used to describe how fast you lower, lift, and pause with the weight in each phase of a repetition. It is expressed in seconds and begins with the negative (lowering) portion of an exercise, then the midpoint (stretch) portion, then the positive (lifting) portion, and if there is a forth number used it will be the peak contraction (squeeze) portion. Although some exercises begin with a negative contraction (such as the DB bench press) and some with a positive contraction (such as the DB curl) the way “tempo” is approached remains fixed.

Routine

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The Dumbbell-Only Upper-body Workout

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Equipment
Bench
Sets
3
Reps
8-10
Rest
30 sec
4/1/X tempo
Exercise 2 of 10

Dumbbell Flye

Equipment
Bench, Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8-10
Rest
30 sec
2/2/1 tempo
Exercise 3 of 10

Dumbbell Bentover Row

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
10-12
Rest
30 sec
3/1/1 tempo
Exercise 4 of 10

One-arm Dumbbell Row

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
10-12
Rest
30 sec
2/1/1/1 tempo
Equipment
Bench, Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8-10
Rest
30 sec
4/1/X tempo
Exercise 6 of 10

Dumbbell Upright Row

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
2
Reps
8-10
Rest
30 sec
2/1/1/1 tempo
Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
2
Reps
6-8
Rest
30 sec
3/1/1/1 tempo
Exercise 8 of 10

Hammer Curl to Press

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
2
Reps
6-8
Rest
30 sec
3/1/1/1 tempo
Equipment
Bench, Dumbbells
Sets
2
Reps
6-8
Rest
30 sc
3/2/1 tempo
Exercise 10 of 10

Crunch

Equipment
No Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
20-25
Rest
30 sec
Perform while holding DB on chest
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