Workout Routines

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

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

One-Arm Dumbbell Row
gradyreese / Getty
gradyreese / Getty
Duration 60 min
Exercises 10
Equipment Yes

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.

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.

The Dumbbell-Only Upper-body Workout

Exercise 1

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press You'll need: Bench How to
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press thumbnail
3 sets
8-10 reps
30 sec rest
4/1/X tempo

Exercise 2

Dumbbell Flye You'll need: Bench, Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Flye thumbnail
3 sets
8-10 reps
30 sec rest
2/2/1 tempo

Exercise 3

Dumbbell Bentover Row You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Bentover Row thumbnail
3 sets
10-12 reps
30 sec rest
3/1/1 tempo

Exercise 4

One-arm Dumbbell Row You'll need: Dumbbells How to
One-arm Dumbbell Row thumbnail
3 sets
10-12 reps
30 sec rest
2/1/1/1 tempo

Exercise 5

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press You'll need: Bench, Dumbbells How to
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press thumbnail
3 sets
8-10 reps
30 sec rest
4/1/X tempo

Exercise 6

Dumbbell Upright Row You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Upright Row thumbnail
2 sets
8-10 reps
30 sec rest
2/1/1/1 tempo

Exercise 7

Standing Alternating Dumbbell Curls You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Standing Alternating Dumbbell Curls thumbnail
2 sets
6-8 reps
30 sec rest
3/1/1/1 tempo

Exercise 8

Hammer Curl to Press You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Hammer Curl to Press thumbnail
2 sets
6-8 reps
30 sec rest
3/1/1/1 tempo

Exercise 9

Seated Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension You'll need: Dumbbells, Bench How to
Seated Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension thumbnail
2 sets
6-8 reps
30 sc rest
3/2/1 tempo

Exercise 10

Crunch You'll need: No Equipment How to
Crunch thumbnail
3 sets
20-25 reps
30 sec rest
Perform while holding DB on chest
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