For full transparency: This post contains affiliate links. If you buy through a link I would earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Only personally used or thoroughly researched products are recommended. Learn more.

Basic But Brilliant – Full Body Dumbbell Workout

Photo of author
Last Update

I love dumbbells. 

I love their simple nature.

I love how effective they are.

As much as we like to overcomplicate fitness, there’s a purity to a full body dumbbell workout…

Pick up heavy dumbbells. 

Put them down. 

Repeat, using different body parts until tired.

In this article, I’m going to share an incredibly effective full body dumbbell workout with you. It’s a two-part workout – one of them is a strength workout, and the other is a conditioning workout.

They’re designed to compliment each other, helping you build all round fitness and a great physique. 

It’s the kind of workout plan you could follow in between other programs, providing your body with a different challenge. 

It’ll make you work hard and will remind you of just how effective dumbbell training is. It’s the kind of training I do every few months just to freshen things up – like many people, I’m guilty of using a barbell too often.

This is a step change and offers unique benefits, as you’ll experience.

Dumbbells have been a staple of my fitness training approach for my entire career, and they’ll remain so. They were one of the first items I bought when I opened My Gym.

A wide choice of dumbbells on display

Performing full body dumbbell workouts challenges you in a new way. As the title says… they’re basic but brilliant. This workout program could be followed for anything between 4 and 12 weeks, just whatever you require.

Onto the full body dumbbell workout article…

Basic But Brilliant Full Body Dumbbell Workout Infographic

Benefits of the Basic But Brilliant Full Body Dumbbell Workout

With the dumbbells, we’re not trying to be fancy. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. In fact, we’re going back to basics. We’re limiting the equipment you’ll use to just dumbbells (and a bench), squeezing the most from them.

It’s a basic workout, but a brilliant one. Here are three of the benefits of following the full body dumbbell workout program…

Basic But Brilliant Full Body Dumbbell Workout Benefits

Benefit 1: You’ll challenge and practice new movements

With dumbbells you benefit from almost complete freedom to move in whichever direction your body allows you to. This is a benefit we don’t often appreciate at first. Barbells, although great, govern your movement and grip options to an extent.

This doesn’t happen with dumbbells, which allow you freer movement.

It means you can tweak technique slightly (change grip type such as pressing or rowing with a neutral grip), and it allows you to sometimes perform exercises you’d otherwise avoid.

I know of plenty of occasions where people have avoided barbell bench pressing because of discomfort in their shoulders or elbows, but are fine with dumbbells.

Although anecdotal evidence, it’s still powerful.

Benefit 2: Dumbbell workouts are tight space friendly

If you train in a home gym, or a commercial busy gym then space might be at a premium. If this is the case, a full body dumbbell workout is your greatest ally.

You don’t need a big squat rack, you’re not carrying a 7ft bar, you don’t need acres of space either side of you… you need a couple of feet of ‘courtesy space’ around you – mostly to stop you dropping heavy dumbbells on other gym users!

A bench, a few pairs of dumbbells and a little space is all you need to get a great workout in.

Benefit 3: A change is as good as a rest…

We know that the dumbbell and barbell versions of an exercise are not exactly the same, and in fact there’s research that shows the different stimulus may help development of particular lifts and athleticism.

In their 2008 study titled Biomechanical comparison of unilateral and bilateral power snatch lifts, Lauder and Lake concluded that:

Unilateral variations of weightlifting movements may provide a different training stimulus to athletes’.

This suggests that these differences may enhance training value for athletes.

When you consider that a lot of athletic actions – throwing a ball, punching, kicking, lateral movements, etc require the use of a single side at a time, it shows there’s value in unilateral exercises for developing sporting abilities.

5 Steps to get the most from the Basic But Brilliant Full Body Dumbbell Workout

To maximize the effectiveness of these workouts, follow these simple tips. This section is your main how-to guide for the program…

Step 1: Train 4 days per week

For a workout of this intensity, I like 4 days per week as a training pattern. It allows you a midweek rest and a weekend rest. If you want to supplement this with additional very light cardio (walking), you can.

Generally though, you want to train hard on the workout days, so you can really rest on the rest days.

Here’s a pattern I think will work for most people…

Monday: Basic But Brilliant Full Body Dumbbell Workout (Strength)

Tuesday: Basic But Brilliant Full Body Dumbbell Workout (Conditioning)

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Basic But Brilliant Full Body Dumbbell Workout (Strength)

Friday: Basic But Brilliant Full Body Dumbbell Workout (Conditioning)

Weekend: Rest

Do the workouts at a full intensity and this pattern will work well for you. Just make sure when you’re training, you’re going hard!

Step 2: Stick to the workout goal

These two workouts are designed with separate (yet complimentary) goals in mind. When you’re performing the workouts, make sure you stick to the goal of that workout. Don’t get distracted and tweak your weights or your rest periods, because you’ll lose the focus of the workout.

The strength workout is where you’re hitting big exercises with big weights. The sets are high and the rep numbers are low. You can rest as long as you need to here – there’s no time limit on rest.

You rest as long as you need to in order to get the next good set out. It’s only big, compound exercises here.

With the conditioning workout, we’re hitting big exercises for longer sets. The rest periods are strictly monitored, the exercises aren’t designed to be performed with big weights and the intensity should start high and remain high throughout.

We’re trying to maximize workout volume, intensity and calorie burn here, so we have to stay on top of things. 

Step 3: Wear a heart rate monitor

I’ve personally been a fan of heart rate monitors since my university days (many moons ago), when we used them to assess work output and intensity during physical tests.

Although the technology was basic at the time, the fact that you had live data from training was obviously a huge advantage.

I’ve worn a heart rate monitor in my training ever since, and honestly believe it has helped me stay on top of workout quality better than any other single addition to my training. 

With live data of effort and intensity, calorie burn data and the ability to monitor progress, it’s a massive advantage. By wearing a monitor, you’ve got no hiding place.

You know how hard you’re working, how much you’ve done and how effective the workout was. This is particularly useful when you’re doing your conditioning work. 

With a strength workout, monitoring progress is more basic and obvious – can you lift heavier than you could at the start of the program?!

Conditioning is a little more nuanced, which is where the monitor comes in…

A sports watch displaying heart rate, time elapsed, and calories burnt

Step 4: Warm up with bodyweight exercise

The warm up for the Basic But Brilliant program is the same for both workouts – a bodyweight workout designed to prepare the body for what’s about to happen.

In line with the other benefits of a dumbbell workout, the goal is to keep the warm up simple and effective. We’re practicing movement patterns in a way that enables the body to exercise effectively, without being too tired during the session.

These exercises warm the body, without demanding too much from it.

Here’s the warm up I like to follow for a bodyweight approach…

5 minutes gentle cardio – ideally running or skipping.

Once you’ve done that, it’s on to…

3 Air Squats

2 Push Ups

1 Burpee

Repeat this circuit 10 times.

Basic But Brilliant Full Body Dumbbell Workout Warm Up

At that point, you’re ready to train. You’ve performed different exercises in different planes of movement, the joints are mobile, the muscles are primed and the connective tissues are elastic. You’re firing and ready to go.

Step 5: Seek steady progression

Any program is successful as measured by the progression you’re making. In the case of this full body dumbbell workout program, you’ve got two main outcome measures to focus on…

  1. The weights you’re lifting on the strength day
  2. The time/rounds you’re managing on the conditioning day

The beauty of this is that progress is measured simply. In the strength workouts, we’re looking to lift heavier weights each week. A strength increase of around 2-5% per week is accepted as good progress in established lifters. In new lifters, it can be up to 10% per week!

Don’t expect these jumps to last forever, but enjoy them whilst you can!

In the conditioning workout, your progress can be measured in how long it takes you to complete a set amount of rounds per workout, or how many rounds you manage at all.

In the early days of the program, you might only manage 3 or 4 circuits of the workout. As you progress, that number should creep up as your fitness and capabilities improve. Done properly, the conditioning workout will push you hard, so you’ll see some rapid fitness improvements. 

It’ll mean you’ll be able to do more circuits per workout, and each circuit will take less time.

Basic But Brilliant Full Body Dumbbell Workout – Training notes

In this section I explain my thinking behind the program design. It’ll help you to understand why the program is put together the way it is, and how that will impact your training (and results).

The strength workout is ALL compound exercises

If resistance training takes up too much of your time it’s probably inefficient, or you’re not working hard enough. I generally program extreme strength workouts that last no longer than 90 minutes.

If you can’t get through all of your workout in that time, it’s probably a bloated workout and should be split into smaller, shorter sessions. 

To make sure the strength workout doesn’t exceed 90 minutes, it’s only compound exercises. There are no isolation exercises in the strength workout at all – it’s all focussed on putting up bigger numbers.

Conditioning workout is flexible on purpose

There are two ways you can approach the conditioning workout in this full body dumbbell workout…

  1. You can set a timer and complete as many rounds as you can within a set time (let’s say 45 minutes)
  2. You can aim for a specific amount of rounds of the circuit, regardless of how long it takes.

This is so you’ve always got a challenge on your hands and it prevents boredom from setting in with the program. You can adjust the way you do the workout within the week if you like, just to keep your motivation up high. 

The body responds well to new challenges, so keep challenging!

We do a lot of unilateral work to take advantage of dumbbells

It’ll be no surprise to you by now that I love dumbbells because of the unilateral (both sides working individually) nature of them. In order to maximize the benefits of this being a dumbbell only program, we use a lot of unilateral exercises.

You may wonder why we’re doing split squats rather than standard dumbbell squats for example… The answer is because there are unilateral exercise benefits. Same with gorilla rows over both arms at the same time etc.

If you have a disproportionate benefit from an exercise, make sure to use it!

Why strength and conditioning? Why not more hypertrophy-specific work? 

Done properly, these two workouts will compliment each other and there’ll be plenty of stimulus for muscles to grow. The high weight, low rep workout will stimulate the fast twitch muscle fibers into growth.

The conditioning workout with its high volume, lighter weight and full intensity will trigger growth in the slow twitch muscle fibers. These are the ones that respond best to the higher rep workouts. 

Not sure this combo works? Look at the physique of CrossFit athletes. I rest my case.

Basic But Brilliant Full Body Dumbbell Workout – The Exercises

As I’ve already mentioned, we’re splitting the workouts into two. The strength workout and the conditioning workout. I could labor the point with coaching notes, but I’ll start with this one… go hard.

Seriously, leave it all out there. Push yourself in each and every workout, then enjoy the benefits.

Strength workout

This is what a basic but brilliant workout looks like. Straight to the point. Get your warm up done and get busy. Five sets of everything, aim to hit failure at around 8 reps. Go hard each time, rest as long as you need. 

Focus on quality of movement with each rep. If you go beyond the 8 reps, increase the weight for the next set. If you manage any less than 5 reps, either rest for longer or drop the weight slightly.

Basic But Brilliant: StrengthSetsReps
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press56
Dumbbell Split Squats56-8 (per side)
Dumbbell Shoulder Press56
Gorilla Rows58 (per side)
Dumbbell Walking Lunges516 (8 per leg)
Dumbbell Fly58
Dumbbell Deadlifts58
Dumbbell Deficit Sumo Squats58
Dumbbell Shrugs510

Basic But Brilliant Full Body Dumbbell Workout (Strength) Infographic 1

1. Incline dumbbell press

An incline dumbbell bench press is a great variant of the bench press exercise for a number of reasons… It stimulates the upper chest more. It forces each side to work independently, so you don’t bias one side. It allows a greater range of movement.

It’s easy to learn. In short, it’s a great exercise and ideal in any strength program. It’ll push you harder than a barbell bench press in many cases. 

Equipment needed for incline dumbbell bench press:

  • Dumbbells
  • Bench

SMRFT Nüobell 80LB Adjustable Dumbbells

SMRFT Nüobell 80LB Classic
Read our best adjustable dumbbell guide here

These are the dumbbells we recommend for ‘most people’.

We have spent over 50 hours of research and compared over 100 dumbbells. Adjustable dumbbells make sense for most home gyms as they save space.

The Nüobell dumbbells go all the way to 80lbs per hand. This means they are much more versatile than most 50lbs adjustable dumbbells. You can use these for heavy shrugs, squats and bench press etc.

The main reason they are the top pick is because of their shape. They actually feel like real dumbbells and are not awkward to lift like some others.

How to do incline dumbbell bench press:

  • Set the bench to an incline – the steeper the incline, the more you involve the shoulders
  • With a dumbbell in each hand, lie back and position them over your chest
  • You can use either an overhand or neutral (palms facing each other) grip
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells towards your chest, bending your elbows outwards until you reach a good stretch
  • At full depth, pause and push the dumbbells back up to a full extension
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

2. Split squats

The rear foot elevated split squats allow for great squat depth, plus the single-limb nature of the exercise reduces strength imbalances between limbs. It’s a great way to focus a lot of work on the glutes, taking weight off the lower back.

This is a lower body exercise that will really challenge you, so start lighter than you think you’ll need to and build up from there. Arguably, split squats are more functional than standard back squats.

Equipment needed for rear foot elevated split squats:

  • Weight bench
  • Dumbbells

REP AB-3000 Bench

REP AB-3000 Weight Bench
Read our best weight bench guide here

This is the weight bench we recommend for ‘most people’.

We compared over 70 benches against 12 criteria. This is our highest-ranked flat, incline & decline (FID) bench.

Some adjustable benches can be a bit wobbly when on the incline. But the AB-3000 is very sturdy.

With a height 18mm it’s comparable to benches that cost twice as much.

How to do rear foot elevated split squats:

  • Place the back foot on the bench behind you and hop your front foot ahead
  • Hold the dumbbells at your sides and engage the core
  • Keeping the chest up throughout, bend your back knee towards the floor and lower the front thigh until it reaches parallel to the floor
  • Drive your front foot into the floor and stand back to the start position
  • Repeat as many times as required.

3. Dumbbell shoulder press

The dumbbell shoulder press is the perfect overhead press – it’s unilateral, so trains both sides. It’s an exercise that has huge crossover benefits in sports too.

It helps to develop strength, power, hypertrophy and upper spinal stability, so there’s much more to the movement than pure aesthetics – it’s a functional movement too. A must when training shoulders.

Equipment needed for dumbbell shoulder press:

How to do a dumbbell shoulder press:

  • With a dumbbell in each hand, stand upright and hold the dumbbells at shoulder height
  • Use either a neutral (palms facing each other) grip
  • Press the dumbbells directly overhead, maintaining the neutral grip throughout
  • At full extension, pause and lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

4. Gorilla row

The gorilla row is a real favorite of mine and features heavily in my training and that of the programs I write. I like it for a number of reasons…

It’s a single limb exercise, it’s a variation on a row, you can lift big weights, it’s functional and useful in both low and high rep workouts and it trains anti-rotation, which is a big bonus.

Overall, they’re a fantastic back exercise. There’s an added obliques benefit too, so it’s bonus ab work!

Equipment needed for gorilla rows:

How to do gorilla rows:

  • Hold the weights with a neutral (palms facing) grip
  • Set your body position – straight, stiff back. Chest pointing towards the floor, perhaps with a slight incline, slight knee bend
  • Pull one of the weights up towards your chest, squeezing the shoulder blade in at the top
  • At the top of the movement pause then slowly lower the dumbbell, but don’t let it touch the floor
  • Repeat the same movement on the opposite side, alternating for as many reps as required

5. Dumbbell walking lunges

Lunges are a fantastic quad exercise. They’re unilateral, meaning both legs are trained the same. They’re functional (one of the 7 human movements). They’re easy to set up, easy to learn and super effective.

They’re one of the staple leg exercises in any program for good reason. The dumbbells just make it even more of a challenge, especially for balance and for the core. Again, hidden core training is a big win.

Equipment needed for lunges:

How to do lunges:

  • Take a dumbbell in each hand
  • Keep your chest up and your core tight
  • Lunge forward, so you have one foot in front of your body and one behind
  • Keeping your chest upright, bend the front and back leg at the same time
  • When the back knee almost touches the floor, switch the legs over, making the back leg lunge forward to start the next rep
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

Basic But Brilliant Full Body Dumbbell Workout (Strength) Infographic 2

6. Dumbbell flyes

The dumbbell fly is a great way of challenging the chest. It includes a pectoral stretch, an eccentric contraction of the muscles and controlled internal rotation at the shoulder.

The dumbbell fly is a very popular exercise in bodybuilding circles because it’s a perfect way to add variety and stress the muscle fibers in a new way. It’s a prehab exercise for shoulder health too.

Equipment needed for dumbbell flyes:

How to do dumbbell flyes:

  • Set the bench to the incline of your choosing
  • Pick the dumbbells up, lie back and hold them directly in front of you
  • Lower them slowly out to the sides, maintaining an almost-straight arm throughout the movement
  • When you feel a full stretch, pause and push the dumbbells back up under control
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

Note: check out our chest fly alternatives or our alternatives section if you want to explore exercise alternatives.

7. Dumbbell deadlifts

Deadlifts are the ultimate hinge movement. They’re a foundation human movement with huge crossover into other patterns and physical abilities. Used properly, they can build strength, reduce injury risk and ofer huge variety to a program.

Deadlifts are often seen as the king of exercises, and it’s a claim with plenty of support. You probably won’t be hitting crazy numbers here, but it’s a good variation on an exercise.

Equipment needed for dumbbell deadlifts:

How to do dumbbell deadlifts:

  • Assume an overhand grip on the dumbbells, about shoulder width apart
  • Bend your legs, keep your back straight and your chest up
  • Drive through your legs, keeping your arms straight as you lift – this will lift the dumbbells to hip height
  • At the top of the movement squeeze the glutes together and push the hips forward slightly
  • Reverse the movement on the way down – start by pushing the hips back and lowering the weights down by bending your legs, keeping your chest up and back straight throughout
  • Repeat as many times as required

8. Dumbbell deficit sumo squat

This is a way of combining both a squat and deadlift movement pattern in one go. It’s very effective for maximizing muscle contraction as well, because the deficit increases the time under tension.

The way you grip the dumbbells also means you are challenging your forearm and grip strength. It’s a simple squat technique to learn and one that helps challenge your legs in a new way. There’s very little to not like here!

Equipment needed for dumbbell deficit sumo squats:

How to do dumbbell deficit sumo squats:

  • Set plates on the floor, around 18 inches apart (wide enough for a dumbbell to fit in)
  • Stand with one foot on each plate and hold the dumbbell by the end 
  • Keeping your back straight and your chest up, drive through your feet and stand up straight
  • The arms should stay straight throughout – all of the work should be done by the legs
  • When the legs are straight, pause for a second and return to the start position
  • Repeat as necessary

9. Shrugs

Shrugs are a great way to train the upper back and shoulders, making them helpful for developing strength and preventing injury in the area. They’re a very simple exercise to learn and execute, but the payoff is huge.

The shrug itself is an exercise that has a lot of athletic carryover, and a carryover into techniques of other lifts. Shrugs help with upper back stability in pull ups, deadlifts, carries and all of the olympic lifting movements.

It’s a real bang for your buck exercise. Plus, who doesn’t want bigger traps?

Equipment needed for shrugs: 

How to do shrugs:

  • Stand upright with a dumbbell in each hand – the arms should be straight either side of your body
  • Keeping the dumbbells by your sides, shrug your shoulder up – visualize trying to touch your ears with your shoulders!
  • When the shoulders are as high as possible, squeeze them together and lower back down
  • Repeat as required

Done properly, this is a tough workout. It’s a full-body strength beasting, so execute each movement carefully and effectively, but with maximum engagement of the muscle. Keep your concentration on technique when lifting heavy to ensure safety.

Conditioning Workout

My advice is to approach this in two different ways, as I mentioned earlier. The first way is to set the clock and complete as many rounds as you can in the time. I’d suggest a minimum of 30 mins, a maximum of 60 mins.

The other way is to repeat the circuit a set number of times, and look to add a whole other one each week of the program. So if you start with 5 rounds in week 1, 6 rounds in week 2, 7 in week 3 etc.

The workout is simple – complete 12 reps of each exercise before moving onto the next one without a break. Once you’ve done all 7 exercises, rest for as long as you need to (but be aware the longer you rest, the lower the intensity) and then repeat.  

Basic But Brilliant: ConditioningReps
Dumbbell Thrusters12
Alternating Dumbbell Power Snatches12 (per side)
Dumbbell Burpees to Overhead Press12
Dumbbell Alternating High Pulls12 (per side)
Dumbbell Jump Squats12
Dumbbell Pushup to Row12 (per side)
Dumbbell Russian Twists12 (per side)

Basic But Brilliant Full Body Dumbbell Workout (Conditioning) Infographic 1

10. Dumbbell thrusters

Thrusters are synonymous with CrossFit, but they’ve made the transfer into the mainstream now because they’re so… damn… good! They combine two excellent exercises – the front squat and the shoulder press, but they include core stability too.

I love Thrusters as a conditioning exercise (medium to low weight, higher rep ranges) because it’s where they come into their own. They use so much muscle and demand so much from the lifter.

Like so many versatile exercises, they’re fantastic with barbells, but in this case I want you to perform them with dumbbells.

Equipment needed for dumbbell thrusters:

How to do dumbbell thrusters:

  • Hold the dumbbells up by your chest
  • Keeping your chest up and back straight, squat down to a full front squat depth (thighs parallel to the floor)
  • Stand back up by driving hard through the feet
  • At the top of the squat, without pausing press the dumbbells overhead with a full extension of the arms
  • When the arms have reached full extension, drop the dumbbells back down to the chest
  • Repeat as many times as required

Note: Check out our cable crunch alternatives if you want more ideas on how to strengthen your abs and core.

11. Alternating dumbbell power snatches

A dumbbell power snatch is a complete upper body exercise that combines strength, power and stability. As well as being unilateral, it’s functional dynamic and will also help to build overhead range of movement if you need it to.

It’s a great addition to any full body dumbbell workout and tests the shoulder through a full range of motion. If you’ve never done these before, you’re about to learn an awesome new exercise…

Equipment needed for alternating dumbbell power snatches:

How to do alternating dumbbell power snatches:

  • Set a dumbbell between your feet
  • Take an overhand grip, squat slightly and drive up with the legs, putting upward momentum into the dumbbell
  • Use the momentum to carry the dumbbell up, then lift it the rest of the way overhead
  • Once the dumbbell is overhead, drop it to the floor under control
  • Switch sides and repeat
  • Continue for as many reps as required

Like putting timeframes on your workouts? Check out our 12 week dumbbell workout plan or our 5 day dumbbell workout.

12. Dumbbell burpee to overhead press

I don’t buy into the burpee hate – a lot of it is scare-mongering from coaches who are looking for clicks. A burpee, performed safely and appropriately is a perfectly acceptable exercise. It’s no more risky than many other exercises we already use.

The dumbbell burpee to overhead press is an incredible conditioning exercise. Using a simple pair of dumbbells, it’s a way to challenge your whole body, improve your cardio conditioning, build some muscle and torch calories.

Perfect to program for time or reps, it’s a versatile and effective exercise.

Equipment needed for dumbbell burpee to overhead presses:

How to do dumbbell burpee to overhead presses:

  • Start in a push up position, legs outstretched, straight arms with a dumbbell in each hand
  • Hop the feet in by bringing your knees to your chest and balancing on the balls of your feet
  • Holding the dumbbells throughout, stand upright quickly
  • Keeping the momentum from standing up fast, lift both of the dumbbells overhead in one smooth movement
  • When the arms are outstretched, return them down to your sides, then back to the floor
  • When you’re crouched on the floor, jump the legs back so they’re outstretched, just like the start position
  • Repeat as necessary

13. Dumbbell alternating high pulls

This is another excellent conditioning exercise, and one of the best dumbbell power movements. It’s designed to work on explosive power, the kind of which you’d use in a sporting context.

It’s also a perfect way to combine several body parts in a single movement, with the shoulder doing most of the work. Finally, it’s a vertical pull movement from the ground up, which is unique in a shoulder training concept. A great movement for lots of training outcomes. 

Equipment needed for single arm dumbbell snatch high pull:

How to do single arm dumbbell snatch high pull:

  • Place the dumbbell between your feet, slightly in front of you
  • Take hold of the dumbbell with an overhand (palms facing towards you) grip
  • Keep your back straight and pull directly upwards
  • Pulling the elbow up high and wide, but squeeze the shoulder blade of the lifting arm in towards the middle
  • Emphasize the elbow traveling upwards and keeping the dumbbell close to the body
  • Lower the dumbbell under control
  • Repeat as many times as required

Basic But Brilliant Full Body Dumbbell Workout (Conditioning) Infographic 2

14. Dumbbell jump squats

The dumbbell jump squat is a safe and effective way to build explosive power in the lower body. It’s also excellent for building knee stability, because the knees have to work hard to control the descent of the body’s mass (and that of the dumbbells) on the way down.

Make sure you keep the weight in a low-medium range so you don’t fatigue yourself too quickly.

Keep the weights light to begin with, because if you go too heavy you’ll definitely gas out quicker than you think – especially after all of the work you’ll already have done to reach this point!

Equipment needed for dumbbell jump squats:

How to do dumbbell jump squats:

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand
  • Stand bolt upright, initiating the movement by driving the hips back
  • Lower yourself into a deep squat, until your thighs break parallel with the floor
  • Keeping your chest up, drive your feet into the floor powerfully, forcing the jump
  • When you land, absorb the impact with your knees bent, lower back down
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

15. Dumbbell push up to row

The dumbbell pushup to row is a complete all upper body exercise… It’s a chest and triceps exercise with the push up. It’s a back exercise with a row. It’s a core exercise with the push up plank position, and the push/pull element trains all of the shoulders. 

As exercises go, it’s hard to beat. As well as the upper body challenges, it’s also a skills test. You have to engage the core to prevent rotation, all whilst balancing on one side at a time. This is an exercise that will challenge you beyond what you’re used to.

Equipment needed for dumbbell push up to row:

How to do dumbbell pushups to row:

  • Get into the push up position, with hands balancing on dumbbells and feet balancing on your toes
  • Keep your legs apart to help with balance
  • Lower your chest down into a full deficit push up
  • As you push back up and reach the top of the movement, row one of the dumbbells up to your chest
  • Perform another push up, then repeat on the other side
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

16. Dumbbell Russian twists

The dumbbell Russian twist is the go-to rotational exercise for many. The other good thing about it is that the position of the torso forces abdominal engagement as well, meaning there’s a double win.

It’s training the rectus abdominis and the obliques at the same time. It’s a simple, but very challenging exercise when performed correctly.

Really focus on the technique here – don’t just ‘throw’ your weight from side to side, really control the rotation with the core muscles.

Note: some may find the dumbbell Russian twists too big of a challenge. If that’s the case, consider switching it up with the regular Russian twists or some of our Russian twist alternatives instead.

Equipment needed for Russian twists:

How to do dumbbell Russian twists:

  • Hold a dumbbell in both hands, slightly away from the body
  • Lean your torso back around 45 degrees, extend your legs in front of you with slightly bent knees
  • Lift your feet off the floor and keep them there
  • Keeping your legs in front of you, twist your torso around to each side, holding the dumbbell throughout
  • Make sure your chest moves with you – don’t just move your arms from side to side
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

If you do this workout correctly you’ll push yourself to an incredible level of fitness and physique. It’s seriously tough and it leaves no stone left unturned. A proper tough conditioning session, designed to melt fat, build muscle and give your cardio a real boost.

Basic But Brilliant Full Body Dumbbell Workout: The bottom line

If you take anything away from this article and program, I hope it’s to not overlook dumbbells. They’ve been around for a long time. They’ll still be around in the future. You don’t last that long unless you’re seriously effective.

Your next steps from here is to get these workouts printed, get them put up on the gym wall and get busy. You don’t need much equipment, just a serious work ethic and patience. 

Within 4 weeks your fitness will be transformed. Within 8 weeks your strength will. By the 12 week mark, you’ll have a new body. I’m not even joking – that’s not a clickbait claim.

Dumbbells have the power to rip up everything you thought you knew about training. 

Get yourself a dumbbell set (light, medium and heavy dumbbells) then get out there and enjoy it!

SMRFT Nüobell 80LB Adjustable Dumbbells

SMRFT Nüobell 80LB Classic
Read our best adjustable dumbbell guide here

These are the dumbbells we recommend for ‘most people’.

We have spent over 50 hours of research and compared over 100 dumbbells. Adjustable dumbbells make sense for most home gyms as they save space.

The Nüobell dumbbells go all the way to 80lbs per hand. This means they are much more versatile than most 50lbs adjustable dumbbells. You can use these for heavy shrugs, squats and bench press etc.

The main reason they are the top pick is because of their shape. They actually feel like real dumbbells and are not awkward to lift like some others.

Photo of author
Steve Hoyles is a certified personal trainer and gym owner. Since graduating with his Sports Science degree in 2004 he's worked in the fitness industry, helping thousands of people reach their health and fitness goals. His writing has been read by millions of people in over 200 countries as he inspires to help as many people as possible live a healthy lifestyle.

Leave a Comment