Short on equipment? No worries! This dumbbell only workout can be used at home or in the gym for building muscle mass. You can also use this as a muscle shock workout to mix things up.
Workout Summary

Workout Description

Stuck at home and only have dumbbells? Maybe you're in a rut and what to try something different?

The dumbbell only home or gym full body workout focuses on the use of heavy compound lifts, and allows you to maximize muscle gains with minimal equipment. This workout can be run for an extended period of time. As long as you are experiencing strength and muscle gains, stick with this routine! Here are some key elements to maximizing progress:

  1. Progression. Never waste a set. Always push for more reps on every set using good form. When you can hit the top level of the recommended rep range on your first set of an exercise, add weight! This means that if an exercise calls for 3 sets of 6 to 12 reps, and on your first set you can perform 12 reps, add more weight the next time you perform this exercise.
  2. Failure. Do NOT train to failure. Train to the point where you believe you might fail if you attempt another rep.
  3. Food. You MUST eat more then it takes to maintain your bodyweight to pack on muscle mass. If you do not do this, you may add strength, but it will be very difficult to add muscle.

A note for women: Women can perform this workout. Recommend rep range is 10 to 15 for most sets.

You will be working out 3 days per week - Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Do not add additional exercises into this workout. Cardio can be performed first thing in the morning, or post-resistance training.

Recommended: Need help building muscle? Take our Free Muscle Building Course

Monday - Full Body

Exercise Sets Reps
Dumbbell Squat 3 6-12
Dumbbell Bench Press 3 6-12
One Arm Dumbbell Row 3 6-12
Standing Dumbbell Curl 3 6-12
Two Arm Seated Dumbbell Extension 3 6-12
Sit Up 3 10-25

Wednesday - Full Body

Exercise Sets Reps
Dumbbell Step Up 3 6-12
Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift 3 6-12
Seated Dumbbell Press 3 6-12
Standing One Leg Dumbbell Calf Raise 3 10-20
Dumbbell Shrug 3 10-15
Dumbbell Side Bends 3 10-15

Friday - Full Body

Exercise Sets Reps
Dumbbell Lunge 3 6-12
Dumbbell Floor Press 3 6-12
Wide Grip Pull Up 3 6-12
Standing Hammer Curl 3 6-12
Lying Dumbbell Extension 3 6-12
Lying Floor Leg Raise 3 10-25

Post your post-workout swolfies in M&S gear on IG and tag @muscleandstrength, #muscleandstrength, or DM them to us to get a shoutout on Muscle & Strength stories!

2.1K Comments
Drew Nelson
Posted on: Wed, 04/10/2024 - 16:06

This looks great. I am a 41 yr old male. Used to lift for 2-3 years in my mid-20s. Looking to build muscle primarily. This looks like a great routine for me to get back into lifting.

A couple questions:

1. I play adult league soccer every Tuesday. Burning around 600-700 calories, mostly in Zone 3, some Zone 4 HR. Given that fact, what days would you recommend I do this program? Is M-W-F still okay?

2. Would you recommend creatine? I am going to get about .8g per lb protein-wise. Should I preload with the creatine

Thank you!

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 04/10/2024 - 18:24

Hey Drew, glad to know you're getting back into it, and honored you chose to check out M&S!

Short answers, yes and yes. Keep in mind that the lower body may feel the effects from the workouts, which may impact soccer for a while. Once you get used to training, this should not be an issue.

As for creatine, yes you can take it, but you don't have to load it if you don't want to. 5g post-workout should be plenty for you. Hope this helps!

Dave K
Posted on: Fri, 03/29/2024 - 20:32

Can I do HIIT or long cardio sessions on off days?

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 03/29/2024 - 20:40

Make sure you give yourself at least one complete day off a week, Dave. Outside of that, I think you would be ok doing cardio on the other days.

Dave K
Posted on: Wed, 03/27/2024 - 21:00

Any suggestions if you don’t have a way to do the Wide Grip Pull Up?

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 03/28/2024 - 20:53

Go with pullovers. Next best thing because you can get the deep stretch in the lats.

Naman
Posted on: Fri, 03/15/2024 - 22:33

Btw where can I find progress pictures, just curious.

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 03/24/2024 - 16:21

We don't have photos here. Users can post them on their own social media, and I will leave this up if people want to share their pages. We can't allow direct links, but they can share their @'s if they have progress photos.

Peter
Posted on: Fri, 01/05/2024 - 00:08

Hello everyone, is it suggested to perform this workout on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday or Monday , Tuesday and Thursday? I want to avoid the training on Friday because i have an obligation that does not allow me to do that.

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 01/07/2024 - 20:10

What's up, Peter? Thanks for reading M&S! You can train with either of those schedules, whichever will help you stay the most consistent.

Let us know your results from this once you finish it if you don't mind. Thanks for reading M&S!

Nate
Posted on: Mon, 12/18/2023 - 16:16

Hello, I have been doing the 5 day dumbbell exercises for the past month and a half. I haven't seen any results yet. (I am 32, 5'11, 183 lbs.) I'm trying to lose weight and build strength, especially my back. I am pretty much a beginner when it comes to excercise. Should I stick to the 5 day or would this be a better option?

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 12/28/2023 - 20:54

Hey Nate, I think this one would be better for you, myself. If you run it, let us know if you have any questions or feedback.

Nathan
Posted on: Fri, 12/29/2023 - 06:49

Starting this routine on Monday and I’ll let you know the results. Thank you for the reply.

Scott
Posted on: Mon, 09/18/2023 - 16:32

Hi, Roger,

My apologies if this has been answered already. Should this routine be done as a circuit, or should each exercise be completed (3 sets) before moving on to the next exercise? Does it matter? I utilized this routine two years ago, not as a circuit, with success. I'm trying to get back into it at age 59.

Thanks!
Scott

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 09/24/2023 - 19:25

Hey Scott, hope you're well. Do all three sets of an exercise before moving on. Hope you have even more success with it this time around.

VicKey
Posted on: Fri, 09/15/2023 - 04:29

Hi, I’m interested to know why you recommend more reps per set for women than men?

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 09/24/2023 - 19:26

Hi, Vickey. Steve is no longer with M&S, so I can't explain why he did that with the rep ranges. I will say that he wrote that women CAN, meaning they should feel like they have the option. I've trained women as a personal trainer and had no issues with them going heavier. So, if that is what you want to do, feel free as long as you're healthy and careful.

ahmed ali
Posted on: Thu, 09/14/2023 - 13:59

How long is the rest period between repetitions and between exercises?

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 09/24/2023 - 19:24

60 seconds between sets and exercises.

Hayley
Posted on: Thu, 09/07/2023 - 02:10

Hi,
Thanks for putting this routine together. I’ve noticed for women you recommend higher reps per set. What is the rationale behind women having higher reps? Is there a benefit for higher reps for women (assuming one is stopping close to or at failure in both rep ranges)?

Thanks

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 09/24/2023 - 19:23

Hi, Hayley. Steve has moved on since this was written, so I can't explain why he did that with the rep ranges. I've trained women as a personal trainer and had no issues with them going heavier. So, if that is what you want to do, feel free as long as you're healthy and careful.

Huey
Posted on: Sat, 08/12/2023 - 12:27

How much should I increase the weight each week?

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 08/22/2023 - 21:22

Depends on how much stronger you're getting, Huey. Shoot for five pounds, but don't beat yourself up if you have to stick with the same weight for an extra week.

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 08/22/2023 - 21:22

Depends on how much stronger you're getting, Huey. Shoot for five pounds, but don't beat yourself up if you have to stick with the same weight for an extra week.

Cameron
Posted on: Wed, 08/09/2023 - 02:56

Hello there, so it says not to add any other exercises to this. So, since the workouts are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, does that mean don’t do cardio like running or jogging on Tuesdays and Thursdays but on the same day? So why is that?

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 08/22/2023 - 21:21

That is correct. Cardio can be done on the same day as the weight workouts as Steve wrote, Cameron. The days off are for recovery, and doing extra training of any kind on this program may compromise that as well as your results.

Peter
Posted on: Fri, 01/05/2024 - 12:52

Hi There, i am doing cycling every Saturday morning, about 3 hours, is it suitable to perform this workout (day 3) on Saturday afternoon?

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 01/07/2024 - 20:15

Hi, Peter. Actually, I wouldn't suggest that. 3 hours is quite a toll on the body, even with experience, and you may not have the most effective workouts if you do this later in the day. If you're not fully recovered from the ride, you may get injured.

Lucas
Posted on: Mon, 07/31/2023 - 10:39

Hello, I have a question, I am a 17 year old and I am obese. I count at home with a pulley and dumbbells, is there a routine that uses these two things that is for beginners?

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 08/15/2023 - 09:53

We don't have one that includes pulleys, but you can add pulley movements to any of our dumbbell programs and make it work for you. Do you have an upper and lower pulley?

Patrick
Posted on: Wed, 07/19/2023 - 22:46

Hello. For the one arm dumbbell row, should I do 6 reps with left and 6 reps with right arm per set? 2nd question can I use the same weight on dumbbells for every excersise or should I lower for a specific one? Thanks!

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 07/21/2023 - 20:40

1. Reps are for each arm, Patrick.

2. Go with the weight that allows you to reach the rep goal without sacrificing form. Hope this helps.

Ake
Posted on: Wed, 07/19/2023 - 15:35

Hi. I've been considering substituting Friday's dumbbell lunge with Bulgarian split squats and maybe Monday's step-ups as well? Is this a better choice given its rumored superior leg hypertrophy benefits? Additionally, I've read from many sources that sit-ups aren't an optimal exercise for abs development and can lead to injuries if done incorrectly. Is this true? If so, what might be a safer/better alternative? Thanks.

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 07/21/2023 - 20:42

Hi, Ake. You can make the swap if you like, but superiority is based on the individual. I wouldn't rank one higher than the other for everyone.

As for sit-ups, every exercise can lead to injury if done incorrectly. If you're concerned, go with crunches instead. I think you would be fine, but the mental part of training is important, and if you think you will get hurt doing something, don't do it.

Trevor
Posted on: Sun, 07/16/2023 - 23:36

Is this routine good for a 15 year old? Also are protein bars worth the investment.

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 07/21/2023 - 20:40

Hey Trevor, it is good for a 15-year-old. Bars can be beneficial, but they aren't necessary. Buy food first if you have to choose.

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 07/21/2023 - 20:40

Hey Trevor, it is good for a 15-year-old. Bars can be beneficial, but they aren't necessary. Buy food first if you have to choose.

Brian
Posted on: Tue, 06/13/2023 - 09:47

Should I drink some of my 100% whey protein on my off days or just after my workouts?

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 06/15/2023 - 06:21

Both. Drink it daily. On non-training days, get it in early or whenever you need a quick meal.

Brian
Posted on: Tue, 06/13/2023 - 06:24

What could replace a pull-up since I have low ceilings in my basement home gym? I have an iron gym pull-up bar in my bedroom but was just looking for an alternative since I’ll be sweaty don’t really wanna go upstairs.. plus my kids see me working out they will bother me lol

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 06/13/2023 - 07:02

If you have dumbbells, then do pullovers. They work the lats as well. Follow a similar set and rep scheme as you would with pullups.

Charles McClallen
Posted on: Mon, 06/05/2023 - 17:55

Hi. I have a follow up question. Can you do the at home dumbbell workout as a circuit and make it like a metabolic workout. Thanks again for your quick response,

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 06/06/2023 - 06:46

If you've been training for a while, it's actually a good idea. I would suggest beginners stick to the program as is because it may be a little too intense.

Charles McClallen
Posted on: Sun, 06/04/2023 - 11:13

I do not have pull up bars. Are lat pulldowns okay to substitute for the pull ups?

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 06/05/2023 - 06:58

Either pulldowns or pullovers, Charles. Either will serve you well.

Justin
Posted on: Fri, 06/02/2023 - 17:57

Hey, I'm doing this workout from home, and the only equipment I have is dumbbells and a fitness bench. Since I don't have the equipment for the "wide grip pull up," is there an alternative to this exercise?
Looking forward to your quick reply.

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 06/03/2023 - 15:17

Do Dumbbell pullovers. That will be the closest you can get to a wide grip pullup for the time being. Hope this helps.

Ken Locke
Posted on: Mon, 05/29/2023 - 04:45

I am 65 years old. I have a sedentary lifestyle because of my work and lack of motivation. I really want/need to change completely. I have been suffering with depression ever since the COVID lockdown. I'm hoping this workout can help me with that. My fitness level is very poor. Would you recommend anything for Tuesday and Thursday? Walking, running or cycling machine?

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 06/03/2023 - 15:19

Start with walking, Ken. That alone can help. Start with whatever time you can do it and set a goal to go one minute longer each time. Once you get to 30 minutes of walking, start adding an occasional 30-second jog in whenever you can. Take it literally a step at a time, and you'll find yourself getting better a week at a time.

Thanks for reading M&S. Check back if you got more questions. We're here to help.

Rex
Posted on: Sun, 05/14/2023 - 13:40

Is it okey to do boxing HIIT workout (30 minutes) in Tuesdays and Thursdays along with this?