The Best Dumbbell Workouts You Can Do At Home

Looking for a free dumbbell workout routine you can do at home? If so, you’ve come to the right place.

I’ve created a ton of different workouts for a variety of goals, schedules, and preferences over the years, but most were designed with a gym in mind. That’s why they often contain a mix of dumbbell exercises, barbell exercises, machine exercises, and body weight exercises.

This is great if you actually have all of this equipment available to you… but what if you don’t?

What if you’re working out at home and there’s:

  • No fancy machines.
  • No barbell with hundreds of pounds of plates.
  • No squat rack.
  • No cables.
  • No adjustable bench.

What if all you have available are dumbbells? In that case, this one is for you.

Here Are Two Dumbbell Workouts

I’ve taken two of my most popular workouts and redesigned them so they can be done at home with practically nothing but dumbbells.

They are:

  1. The Beginner Dumbbell Workout Routine
  2. The Muscle Building Dumbbell Workout Routine

Let’s take a look at both…

The Beginner Dumbbell Workout Routine

Just like my original beginner workout, this dumbbell-only version uses the same 3-day full body split with the same alternating “ABA BAB” format.

Here’s what that looks like…

Week 1

  1. Monday: Workout A
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Workout B
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Workout A
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

Week 2

  1. Monday: Workout B
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Workout A
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Workout B
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

As you can see, even though there are 3 training days per week, there are just 2 actual workouts.

The first is the “A” workout and the second is the “B” workout. You then alternate between them each training day so that you end up doing ABA one week, and then BAB the next, and so on.

Also note that the exact days of the week you choose to train on is up to you and your own schedule. All that really matters is that you keep the same every-other-day format intact with 2 consecutive days off at the end (as shown above).

Now let’s look at the workouts themselves…

Workout A

  1. Dumbbell Squats, or Goblet Squats, or Split Squats, or Lunges (choose one)
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    2 minutes rest between sets.
    Notes: This was barbell squats in the original routine, so in this workout, we’re simply replacing it with a dumbbell squat variation. You can pick whichever one you like best.
  2. Dumbbell Bench Press, or Dumbbell Floor Press, or Push-Ups (choose one)
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    2 minutes rest between sets.
    Notes: This was originally flat barbell bench press, so here we’re changing it to flat dumbbell bench press (if you have a bench), dumbbell floor press (if you don’t have a bench but still want to do a pressing movement), or push-ups (if you don’t have a bench, don’t like floor presses, or just happen to prefer push-ups in general). Just keep in mind that in order to progress with push-ups, you’ll eventually need to find a way to add resistance (by wearing a weighted vest or backpack filled with weight, using a band, etc.).
  3. Bent Over Dumbbell Rows, or Inverted Rows (choose one)
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    2 minutes rest between sets.
    Notes: Bent over dumbbell rows can be done with both arms simultaneously, or one arm at a time. If preferred, some form of inverted row can be done in this spot instead, although it will require some additional home-friendly equipment, such as TRX. Band rows can also work in this spot if you have bands.

Workout B

  1. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts
    3 sets of 6-8 reps.
    2 minutes rest between sets.
    Notes: This was conventional deadlifts in the original routine, but the problem with doing a conventional deadlift with dumbbells is that it turns into more of a squat/deadlift hybrid exercise due to the line of pull, so my preference is to do dumbbell Romanian deadlifts instead to keep the emphasis on the hamstrings and glutes rather than the quads.
  2. Pull-Ups, or Band Pull-Downs, or Bent Over Dumbbell Rows (choose one)
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    2 minutes rest between sets.
    Notes: This was pull-ups in the original workout, so if you have a way to do them at home, that’s perfect. If not, you can get a set of bands (super cheap and not going to take up any space) and do band pull-downs (just like lat pull-downs, but with a band). If neither of those exercises are doable, the next best option would be another type of rowing movement (e.g. bent over dumbbell rows, band rows, etc.). To place more emphasis on your lats (like pull-ups and lat pull-downs would), do these rows with your elbows tucked in close to your sides and pull the weight more toward your hips/lower stomach rather than your upper stomach/chest.
  3. Dumbbell Shoulder Press
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    2 minutes rest between sets.
    Notes: This can be done seated or standing, whichever you prefer.

Beyond the changes in exercise selection that were made to suit a home-friendly dumbbell workout, everything else about the original version of this routine (the method of progression, the importance of focusing on proper form first, etc.) applies here just the same.

Check out the original program for all of those details: The Beginner Weight Training Workout Routine

On to the next one…

The Muscle Building Dumbbell Workout Routine

And now for the dumbbell version of my intermediate muscle building routine. Just like that original program, this one is built around the 3-4 day upper/lower split.

Here’s what the 4-day version looks like…

4-Day Upper/Lower Split

  1. Monday: Upper Body A
  2. Tuesday: Lower Body A
  3. Wednesday: off
  4. Thursday: Upper Body B
  5. Friday: Lower Body B
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

If you have the available schedule and recovery capabilities to handle 4 weight training workouts per week in this format, this is the split you should use. And while this is probably the most common way to schedule it (many people like having weekends off), the exact days you choose doesn’t matter as long as a similar template of training days and rests days is kept intact.

3-Day Upper/Lower Split

Week 1

  1. Monday: Upper Body A
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Lower Body A
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Upper Body B
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

Week 2

  1. Monday: Lower Body B
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Upper Body A
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Lower Body A
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

If you can’t work out 4 days per week, or have issues with recovery when training 4 days per week, or if you just prefer training 3 days per week instead of 4, then this 3-day version of the split is perfect for you. Yet again, the exact days you choose isn’t important as long as a similar structure is kept intact.

Now for the workouts themselves…

Upper Body A

  1. Dumbbell Bench Press, or Dumbbell Floor Press, or Push-Ups (choose one)
    3 sets of 6-8 reps.
    2-3 minutes rest between sets.
    Notes: This was originally flat barbell bench press, so here we’re changing it to flat dumbbell bench press (if you have a bench), dumbbell floor press (if you don’t have a bench but still want to do a pressing movement), or push-ups (if you don’t have a bench, don’t like floor presses, or just happen to prefer push-ups in general). Just keep in mind that in order to progress with push-ups, you’ll eventually need to find a way to add resistance (by wearing a weighted vest or backpack filled with weight, using a band, etc.).
  2. Bent Over Dumbbell Rows, or Inverted Rows (choose one)
    3 sets of 6-8 reps.
    2-3 minutes rest between sets.
    Notes: Bent over dumbbell rows can be done with both arms simultaneously, or one arm at a time. If preferred, some form of inverted row can be done in this spot instead, although it will require some additional home-friendly equipment, such as TRX. Band rows can also work in this spot if you have bands.
  3. Incline Dumbbell Press, or Any Chest Compound Exercise (choose one)
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.
    Notes: This was incline dumbbell press in the original routine, so if you have an adjustable bench, it would still be ideal in this spot. If you don’t, the next best option would be pretty much any other chest compound exercise (dumbbell floor press, any sort of push-up variation, band chest press, etc.), preferably one that is different in some way from the one you’re doing earlier in this workout.
  4. Pull-Ups, or Band Pull-Downs, or Bent Over Dumbbell Rows (choose one)
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.
    Notes: This was lat pull-downs in the original workout, so pull-ups would be a great replacement if you have a way to do them. If not, you can get a set of bands (super cheap and not going to take up any space) and do band pull-downs (just like lat pull-downs, but with a band). If neither of those exercises are doable, the next best option would be another type of rowing movement (e.g. bent over dumbbell rows, band rows, etc.). To place more emphasis on your lats (like pull-ups and lat pull-downs would), do these rows with your elbows tucked in close to your sides and pull the weight more toward your hips/lower stomach rather than your upper stomach/chest.
  5. Dumbbell Lateral Raises
    2 sets of 10-15 reps.
    1 minute rest between sets.
    Notes: This can be done with both arms simultaneously, or one arm at a time.
  6. Overhead Dumbbell Triceps Extension
    3 sets of 10-12 reps.
    1 minute rest between sets.
    Notes: This can be done with both arms simultaneously (holding a single dumbbell), or one arm at a time.
  7. Dumbbell Curls
    2 sets of 12-15 reps.
    1 minute rest between sets.
    Notes: Any form of dumbbell curl variation could be done in this spot. For example, standing curls, alternating curls, seated curls, concentration curls, hammer curls, or anything similar. Pick your favorite.

Lower Body A

  1. Romanian Deadlifts
    3 sets of 6-8 reps.
    2-3 minutes rest between sets.
    Notes: This was the barbell Romanian deadlift in the original program, so replacing it with the dumbbell version works perfectly.
  2. Dumbbell Squats, or Goblet Squats, or Step-Ups, or Lunges (choose one)
    3 sets of 10-12 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.
    Notes: This was leg presses in the original, so pretty much any quad-dominant compound exercise that can be done with dumbbells would be fine in this spot.
  3. Home Leg Curl, or Hip Thrust Variation, or Glute Bridge Variation (choose one)
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.
    Notes: This was leg curls in the original workout, so the closest replacement here would technically be some type of similar hamstring isolation exercise involving knee flexion. There are a few home-friendly ways to do leg curls (like this, this, or this). Or, if you’d simply prefer to have more glute emphasis in this program, you can do some type of glute bridge or hip thrust variation in this spot instead.
  4. Standing Calf Raises
    4 sets of 6-8 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.
    Notes: This was standing calf raises in the original routine as well, only now you’ll need to do them off of a step (or something like it) while holding a dumbbell for additional resistance.
  5. Abs
    x sets of 8-15 reps.
    1 minute rest between sets.
    Notes: Just like in the original version of this workout, I don’t have any specific recommendations for ab exercises. Just spend about 10 minutes or so doing a few sets of whatever you want.

Upper Body B

  1. Pull-Ups, or Band Pull-Downs, or Bent Over Dumbbell Rows (choose one)
    3 sets of 6-8 reps.
    2-3 minutes rest between sets.
    Notes: This was pull-ups in the original workout, so if you have a way to do them at home, that would still be ideal. If not, you can get a set of bands (super cheap and not going to take up any space) and do band pull-downs (just like lat pull-downs, but with a band). If neither of those exercises are doable, the next best option would be another type of rowing movement (e.g. bent over dumbbell rows, band rows, etc.). To place more emphasis on your lats (like pull-ups and lat pull-downs would), do these rows with your elbows tucked in close to your sides and pull the weight more toward your hips/lower stomach rather than your upper stomach/chest.
  2. Dumbbell Shoulder Press
    3 sets of 6-8 reps.
    2-3 minutes rest between sets.
    Notes: This can be done seated or standing.
  3. Bent Over Dumbbell Rows, or Inverted Rows, or Band Rows (choose one)
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.
    Notes: Bent over dumbbell rows can be done with both arms simultaneously, or one arm at a time. If preferred, some form of inverted row can be done in this spot instead, although it will require some additional home-friendly equipment, such as TRX. Band rows can also work in this spot if you have bands.
  4. Dumbbell Bench Press, or Any Chest Compound Exercise (choose one)
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.
    Notes: This was flat dumbbell bench press in the original workout, so if you have a flat bench, it would still be ideal. If you don’t have a bench, then pretty much any other chest compound exercise you’re able to do (dumbbell floor press, any sort of push-up variation, band chest press, etc.) would be fine here.
  5. Dumbbell Fly, Dumbbell Floor Fly, or Band Chest Fly (choose one)
    2 sets of 10-15 reps.
    1 minute rest between sets.
    Notes: This was dumbbell flies in the original routine, so if you have a bench, that would still be a good choice here. If you don’t have a bench, dumbbell floor flies or some type of band fly (which is basically cable flies with a band instead of a cable) would be the next best options to choose from.
  6. Dumbbell Curls
    3 sets of 10-12 reps.
    1 minute rest between sets.
    Notes: Any form of dumbbell curl variation could be done in this spot. Pick your favorite.
  7. Dumbbell Skull Crushers
    2 sets of 12-15 reps.
    1 minute rest between sets.
    Notes: This can be done on a bench if you have one, or on the floor if you don’t. If skull crushers bother your elbows, you can do tricep kickbacks instead, or some type of overhead dumbbell extension, or some type of band push-down if you have bands.

Lower Body B

  1. Dumbbell Squats, or Goblet Squats, or Step-Ups, or Lunges (choose one)
    3 sets of 6-8 reps.
    2-3 minutes rest between sets.
    Notes: This was barbell squats in the original routine, so we’re replacing it with some other quad-dominant dumbbell exercise. Pick whichever one you like best.
  2. Dumbbell Split Squats 
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.
    Notes: This was split squats in the original version, so doing dumbbell split squats here works perfectly. If you’d prefer to use split squats as your primary exercise in this workout and do one of the other variations in this spot instead, that’s perfectly fine.
  3. Home Leg Curl, or Hip Thrust Variation, or Glute Bridge Variation (choose one)
    3 sets of 10-12 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.
    Notes: This was leg curls in the original workout, so the closest replacement here would technically be some type of similar hamstring isolation exercise involving knee flexion. There are a few home-friendly ways to do leg curls (like this, this, or this). Or, if you’d simply prefer to have more glute emphasis in this program, you can do some type of glute bridge or hip thrust variation in this spot instead.
  4. Seated Calf Raises, or Standing Calf Raises (choose one)
    4 sets of 10-15 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.
    Notes: This was seated calf raises in the original routine, so if you’re able to safely recreate that with dumbbells, it’s doable. If not, or if you’d just prefer not to, you can simply do standing calf raises again like you did in the Lower Body A workout.
  5. Abs
    x sets of 8-15 reps.
    1 minute rest between sets.
    Notes: Just like in the original version of this workout, I don’t have any specific recommendations for ab exercises. Just spend about 10 minutes or so doing a few sets of whatever you want.

Beyond the changes in exercise selection that were made to suit a home-friendly dumbbell workout, everything else about the original version of this routine (the method of progression, etc.) applies here just the same.

Check out the original program for all of those details: The Muscle Building Workout Routine

Frequently Asked Questions

Now let’s answer some questions you may have about these workouts…

1. Is it okay to do the same exercise twice? For example, what if we only have one type of row or one type of chest pressing exercise? Can we repeat it?

Yes you can. In an ideal scenario, you’d be able to do different exercises or different variations of the same exercise. So, for example, when I say to do a chest press in the A workout and some other chest press in the B workout, it would be great if you had two different chest pressing exercises to choose from to make this work.

However, when you’re working out at home with limited options, this isn’t always possible. So, if you have more than one option, that’s great. But if you don’t, then repeating the same version of the same exercise will still work.

2. What if I don’t like a certain exercise? Or can’t do a certain exercise? Or if I just don’t have the equipment for doing a certain exercise?

Simple. Find a similar exercise to the one you’re unable to do, and do that instead.

This is a topic I cover in detail in The Home Workout Guide, where I provide 170+ exercises (categorized by muscle group) for you to choose from for this exact purpose.

So if you can’t do a certain quad exercise, choose some other similar quad exercise. Can’t do a certain type of row? Choose some other similar type of row. Same thing applies for every other type of exercise. Whatever you can’t do, replace it with the closest version of what you can do.

3. What about your other workouts from Superior Muscle Growth? Can those be made into dumbbell-only versions as well?

Yes. Virtually every workout in existence can be redesigned to suit different forms of equipment and exercise availability, because every exercise can be replaced with something that is at least kinda close to what was originally prescribed.

Sometimes it’s really easy and the replacement is damn near identical (like replacing a barbell shoulder press with a dumbbell shoulder press), and sometimes it’s a little trickier and/or may require some form of additional equipment (like bands, TRX, weighted vest, etc.).

And sometimes it may require doing something that isn’t a completely perfect replacement, but is still close enough to get the job done (like replacing pull-ups with some type of row).

Either way, there are almost always options available to make things work.

4. Is working out at home with dumbbells as effective as working out in a fully equipped gym when it comes to building muscle?

Here’s the thing. Your muscles don’t know or care what equipment you’re using, nor do they know or care if you’re at home or in a big fancy gym. All your muscles understand are tension, fatigue, and damage, and the frequency, intensity, and volume with which that stimuli is being generated.

Now, sure, a gym is obviously a more ideal scenario, because your options for exercises and progression are virtually unlimited.

But, as long as you’re doing the major stuff right, the exact equipment you’re using and where you’re using it is a minor detail.

So yeah, you can absolutely build muscle while training at home with nothing but dumbbells.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers, and diet professionals at every level.