If you want a 5-day workout routine you can use to build muscle, one that requires nothing more than a couple of adjustable dumbbells, a bench and your own bodyweight, this page will show you what to do.
This 5-day dumbbell workout plan is designed for lifters who have moved past the beginner stages of training.
Beginners don’t need as much work as intermediate and advanced lifters to stimulate muscle growth, and will often do just as well with fewer sets per muscle group.
If you are relatively new to lifting weights, you can still follow this routine. However, I’d suggest cutting the number of sets in half. That is, if the program prescribes four sets of a particular exercise, you’d do two sets instead.
5 Day Dumbbell Workout Program
This 5-day split involves 5 different workouts. There are 5 different exercises in each workout, and you should be able to get each training session done and dusted in around 45 minutes. Each muscle group is trained twice a week.
- Monday: Upper Body
- Tuesday: Lower Body
- Wednesday: Rest Day
- Thursday: Chest/Shoulders/Triceps
- Friday: Back/Biceps
- Saturday: Quads/Hamstrings/Glutes
- Sunday: Rest Day
Workout 1: Upper Body
- Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 4 sets x 8-12 reps
- Incline High Row 4 sets x 8-12 reps
- Flat Dumbbell Bench Press 3 sets x 10-15 reps
- Dumbbell Pullover 3 sets x 12-15 reps
- Lateral Raise 4 sets x 15-20 reps
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
Incline High Row
Flat Dumbbell Bench Press
Workout 2: Lower Body
- Bulgarian Split Squat 4 sets x 8-12 reps
- Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift 4 sets x 10-15 reps
- Goblet Squat 3 sets x 10-15 reps
- Sliding Leg Curl 3 sets x 10-15 reps
- Weighted Crunch 3 sets x 20-25 reps
Bulgarian Split Squat
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
Sliding Leg Curl
Workout 3: Chest/Shoulders/Triceps
- Push Ups 4 sets x As Many Good Reps As Possible
- Low Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 3 sets x 12-15 reps
- Shoulder Press 3 sets x 8-12 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 sets x 15-20 reps
- Overhead Triceps Extension 4 sets x 10-15 reps
Low Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Incline Dumbbell Lateral Raise
Overhead Triceps Extension
Workout 4: Back/Biceps
- Single-Arm Dumbbell Row 4 sets x 8-12 reps
- Dumbbell Pullover 3 sets x 12-15 reps
- Rear Delt Row 3 sets x 12-15 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Curl 4 sets x 8-12 reps
- Reverse Crunch 3 sets x 15-20 reps
Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
Rear Delt Row
Incline Dumbbell Curl
Incline Reverse Crunch
Workout 5: Quads/Hamstrings/Glutes
- Dumbbell Leg Extension 4 sets x 12-15 reps
- Deficit Reverse Lunge 3 sets x 8-12 reps
- Dumbbell Leg Curl 4 sets x 8-12 reps
- Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift 3 sets x 10-15 reps
- Hip Thrust 3 sets x 8-12 reps
Dumbbell Leg Extension
Deficit Reverse Lunge
Dumbbell Leg Curl
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
5-Day Dumbbell Workout Split: Notes
For complete development of all the muscles in your back, you want to include both vertical and horizontal pulling exercises in your training program.
Problem is, vertical pulling exercises require either a cable machine or pull-up bar. You can’t do them using dumbbells. A dumbbell-only back workout essentially limits you to rowing movements and pullovers.
If you’ve got a home gym with a pull-up bar or cable machine, the pullovers can be replaced with pull-ups, chin-ups or pulldowns.
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2. To keep the length of the workouts to around 45 minutes, isolation exercises like curls, calf raises, and so on have been kept to a minimum. If you want to focus more on your biceps, triceps, or calves, you can always add an isolation exercise or two at the end of each workout.
3. Give yourself at least a couple of minutes rest between each set. Without enough rest between sets, fatigue from the previous set reduces the number of reps you’re able to do in the next one. This in turn means a smaller muscle-building stimulus.
4. There are no direct exercises for the front delts, such as front raises, mainly because they’re worked heavily during both horizontal and overhead pressing movements.
5. The rep ranges for each exercise aren’t set in stone, and can be adjusted based on the weight of the dumbbells you have available.
Heavy weights and low reps tend to cause greater gains in strength. But most research shows similar levels of hypertrophy whether you’re training with heavy weights and lower reps, or lighter weights and higher reps.
The only caveat is that you have to push yourself hard in each set.
And by pushing yourself I hard, I mean terminating each set within a rep or two of muscular failure, or the point where you’re not able to complete another rep using good technique.
Gaining muscle doesn’t require reaching the point where you’re physically incapable of doing another repetition, but you do need to get within sniffing distance.
6. On the nutrition side of things, muscle is going to be gained more quickly if your diet provides a surplus of calories and sufficient amounts of protein.
In terms of calories, aim for somewhere between 250 and 500 calories per day over and above your maintenance calorie requirements. That is, if you need 2500 calories to maintain your weight, you’d eat somewhere between 2750 and 3000 calories per day.
As for protein, aim for around 0.7 grams of protein per pound, or 1.6 grams per kilogram, of bodyweight, each day. That will do the job for most people.
To calculate the amount of protein you need to maximize muscle growth, multiply your bodyweight in pounds by 0.7. If you prefer metric, multiply your bodyweight in kilograms by 1.6.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can 5lb dumbbells build muscle?
Unless you’re extremely deconditioned, you’re not going to build much in the way of muscle if all you have is a couple of 5lb dumbbells.
Muscle fibers grow in response to mechanical tension, and one of the things that generates tension is the amount of weight that you lift.
For the vast majority of exercises, there’s a limit to the amount of tension you can put on a muscle (and as a result, the amount of growth you can stimulate) with a dumbbell weighing just five pounds.
Should you add cardio before or after a workout?
If building muscle is your main goal, there are no real benefits to adding cardio before or after a workout.
There are instances where you’ll benefit from including some light cardio (such as indoor cycling or rowing) as part of a warm-up. And there is a case to be made for using bike sprints to supplement a lower body workout, which I talk more about here.
But for anyone whose main goal is gaining muscle, you’re better off keeping weights and cardio separate.
Is it possible to build muscle with just dumbbells?
With a dumbbell-only workout program, the gains are likely to come more slowly compared to training in a commercial gym, or even a well-equipped home gym.
However, many people have added a significant amount of muscle mass to their frame with just a couple of adjustable dumbbells, a lot of hard work and a solid dose of persistence.
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It's a quick guide to building muscle, which you can read online or keep as a PDF, that shows you exactly how to put on muscle. To get a copy of the cheat sheet sent to you, please enter your email address in the box below, and hit the “send it now” button.