All you need for this full body workout routine is a couple of adjustable dumbbells and a bench. It’s ideal if you train at home, or travel a lot and don’t always have access to a well-equipped gym.
Who Is This Workout For?
In general, full-body workouts can be made to work for beginner, intermediate and advanced trainees alike.
In fact, some advanced lifters prefer high-frequency (4-5 times per week) full-body workouts over more conventional body part split routines.
However, this particular dumbbell workout is targeted mainly at beginner and intermediate lifters who want to train 2, 3 or 4 times per week. You can use it to gain muscle, or simply to retain muscle while you focus on losing fat.
3-Day Workout Schedule
The default version of this dumbbell-only workout routine involves training three days a week, hitting your entire body on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
- Monday: Full Body Workout A
- Tuesday: Off
- Wednesday: Full Body Workout B
- Thursday: Off
- Friday: Full Body Workout C
- Saturday: Off
- Sunday: Off
However, the days of the week that you train aren’t set in stone. If you can’t make it to the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, you could always train on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
There’s no rule that says you have to stick with a training frequency of three days a week either.
It’s possible to gain muscle with just two full-body workouts a week, especially if you’re relatively new to lifting weights.
And if you’re an intermediate or advanced lifter wanting to maintain the muscle you have right now, two full-body workouts a week will do a decent job of muscle maintenance.
On the flipside, if you want to get a bit more volume in, you can also train your whole body four times a week. For some individuals, high frequency training programs that hit a muscle group 4-6 times a week can be a highly effective way to gain muscle.
You also have the option of changing training frequency from one week to the next.
Some weeks you might only have the time to do two workouts, other weeks you might manage three or four.
But the basic workout schedule remains the same – you do workout A, followed by workout B, followed by workout C, then rinse and repeat.
Full Body Dumbbell Workout A
- A1 Push-Ups 3 sets x 20-30 reps
- A2 Single-Arm Dumbbell Row 3 sets x 8-12 reps
- Bulgarian Split Squat 3 sets x 10-15 reps
- B1 Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift 3 sets x 10-15 reps
- B2 Shoulder Press 3 sets x 15-20 reps
- C1 Dumbbell Hammer Curl 2 sets x 10-15 reps
- C2 Overhead Triceps Extension 2 sets x 10-15 reps
Full Body Dumbbell Workout B
- Incline Dumbbell Press 3 sets x 8-12 reps
- A1 Dumbbell Pullover 3 sets x 12-15 reps
- A2 Dumbbell Hack Squat OR Deficit Reverse Lunge 3 sets x 8-12 reps
- B1 Sliding Leg Curl 3 sets x 8-12 reps
- B2 Lateral Raise 3 sets x 15-20 reps
- C1 Dumbbell Preacher Curl 2 sets x 12-15 reps
- C2 Triceps Kickback 2 sets x 15-20 reps
Full Body Dumbbell Workout C
- A1 Flat Dumbbell Bench Press 3 sets x 10-15 reps
- A2 Dumbbell High Row 3 sets x 10-15 reps
- B1 Dumbbell Leg Extension 3 sets x 10-15 reps
- B2 Dumbbell Leg Curl 3 sets x 12-15 reps
- Bent Over Lateral Raise 3 sets x 12-15 reps
- C1 Incline Dumbbell Curl 2 sets x 10-15 reps
- C2 Overhead Triceps Extension 2 sets x 10-15 reps
If you’re pushed for time, just do the first 4-5 exercises. Your shoulders and arms will get some stimulation from the exercises performed earlier in the workout.
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You can also throw in some exercises for your abs and calves at the end of each training session, whenever time allows.
How To Progress a Full Body Dumbbell Workout
To build muscle, it’s important to train hard and focus on improving your workout performance over time.
Do the same exercises, for the same number of sets and reps, while lifting the same amount of weight, for the next five years. Nothing much is going to happen.
That’s because the training you’re doing is a challenge your body has already adapted to. As a result, no new muscle mass will be gained.
I’m not saying you’ll make progress every time you train. To do so indefinitely would be impossible, and there’ll be times when you end up lifting the same amount of weight, for the same number of sets and reps you did before.
However, you should be pushing yourself to increase the amount of work your muscles are doing in the gym, whether that’s lifting heavier weights, doing more reps with the same weight, or doing more sets.
You need to give your muscles a reason to get bigger, or you’ll remain stuck at the same size you are right now.
So make sure to keep a training diary (or use an app), write down your numbers, and always try to beat your previous workout in some way.
The rep ranges for each exercise aren’t set in stone, and can be adjusted to ensure that you’re pushing yourself hard in each set.
For example, the prescription for a particular exercise might be 3 sets of 8-12 reps. But with the dumbbells you’re using, 12 reps might be too easy. In which case, you can simply switch to a higher rep range, such as 15-20, 20-25 or even 25-30.
As long as you take your work sets close to failure, muscle growth is very similar across weights and rep ranges.
That is, while heavy weights and low reps tend to cause greater gains in strength, most research shows that sets of low (5-8), medium (8-15) and high (15-30) reps can all be used to stimulate muscle growth, just as long as you push yourself hard in each set.
And by pushing yourself hard, I mean taking each set close to the point of muscular failure, or the point where you’re not able to complete another rep using good technique.
You don’t need to reach the point where you’re physically incapable of doing another rep., but you do need to get reasonably close.
If you’re using a weight that you’re able to lift for 20 repetitions, but you only do 10, you’re unlikely to stimulate much in the way of muscle growth.
How to Warm Up
The number of sets listed are the actual work sets only, and don’t include warm-up sets.
It’s always a good idea, especially if you’re using heavy weights, to do several progressively heavier warm-up sets. This will prepare the joints, the muscles and the nervous system that controls those muscles for the heavy work to come.
In most cases, somewhere between 1-3 warm-up sets will do the job. However, the exact number of warm-up sets you do will vary depending on a number of factors, including the temperature of the gym you’re training in, how your joints feel, the amount of weight you’re lifting, and where that exercise is placed in the workout.
There have been times when I’ve been training in a cold gym, it’s early in the morning and my joints are feeling a bit stiff, where I’ve ended up doing 7-8 warm-up sets before getting into the heavy stuff.
On the flip side, with some of the exercises that come later in the workout, the muscles being worked are already warm, so you won’t need many, if any, warm-up sets.
What about stretching?
In most cases, there’s very little benefit in stretching, be it dynamic or static, as part of a warm-up.
While the adverse effects of stretching on strength and power have been exaggerated, most studies show that pre-exercise stretching does little for injury prevention and has no beneficial effects on lifting performance.
Can you stretch as part of your warm up? Yes. Do you have to? No. It’s certainly not mandatory, and many people will do just as well without it.You can read more about how to warm up for weight training here.
How Long to Rest Between Sets
To build muscle, you want to give yourself at least two minutes of rest between each set for the same muscle groups.
If your rest periods are too short, fatigue from the previous set ends up bleeding into the next one. This means you won’t be able to do as many reps, which has the knock on effect of reducing the stimulus for growth.
Most research shows that longer (2-3 minutes) rest periods work better for hypertrophy than shorter rest periods lasting 60 seconds or less.
But you don’t have to sit around twiddling your thumbs between sets. Instead, just do a set for another muscle group.
You’ll notice that some of the exercises are labeled with A1 and A2. That means you have the option of pairing those exercises, which in turn saves you time in the gym.
Normally when you’re lifting weights, you do a set… rest for a couple of minutes or so… do the next set… rest for a couple of minutes… do the next set…. rest… and so on.
But with paired sets, instead of resting between sets, you do an exercise for another set of muscles.
For example, you’d do an exercise for your chest (like the push-up), rest for 30-60 seconds, do an exercise for your back (like the dumbbell row), rest for 30-60 seconds, then go back to the push up again, and so on.
You don’t need to rush from one exercise to the other. Give yourself a bit of time to catch your breath and set yourself up properly.
If you end up resting longer between sets than the prescribed amount, that’s fine. In most cases, you’re better off with longer rest periods between sets, rather than not getting enough.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should I do a full body dumbbell workout?
You can do a full body dumbbell workout anywhere between 2-4 times per week. That’s a suitable training frequency for most people.
Can you lose body fat with dumbbells?
Losing body fat is more a function of your diet than it is anything else. Combine a dumbbell-only workout routine with a diet that puts you in a calorie deficit, and you’ll lose body fat while gaining (or at the very least maintaining) muscle mass.
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