Dumbbell Only Workout: 4 Day Upper/Lower Dumbbell Workout Routine

Josh England
Written By: Josh England
February 7th, 2018
Updated: April 12th, 2021
Dumbbell Only Workout: 4 Day Upper/Lower Dumbbell Workout Routine
This dumbbell only upper/lower workout program only requires dumbbells and is perfect for those looking to build lean muscle mass at home or on the go!
Workout Summary

Workout Description

The following workout is for those who only have access to a set of dumbbells.

It can be performed by those who work out at home, have to travel frequently and want to get a good workout in with limited equipment at a hotel gym, or as a progression from my 3 day dumbbell only routine.

This workout can be performed as a full workout routine for up to 12 weeks.

After 12 weeks you may want to consider altering the volume, weight you use (i.e. invest in a new pair of dumbbells), or even venture out and join a local gym that will have more of a variety of equipment for you to use.

The program calls for you to work out 4 days per week. What days you decide to workout is completely up to you. With that being said, it’s best to have 48-72 hours of rest in between your two upper body workouts and 48-72 hours of rest in between your two lower body workouts.

An example would be to perform the workouts in the order they are listed and take your rest days on Wednesdays and the weekends. Your rest days are the perfect opportunity to incorporate cardio training, flexibility training, foam rolling, or a combination of the three.

The goal of this workout is to help you build muscle. However, it can also help you with your fat loss goals depending on your calorie intake.

Rest periods for this workout program should be limited to 30-60 seconds.

If you have any other questions regarding this upper/lower dumbbell only workout program, please be sure to leave them in the comments section below!

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

Day 1: Dumbbell Upper Body Workout

Exercise Sets Reps
1. Bent Over Dumbbell Row 4 8-10
2. Dumbbell Bench Press 4 8-10
3. Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 8-12
4. Dumbbell Pullover 3 8-12
5. Dumbbell Bicep Curl 2 8-12
6. Dumbbell Tricep Extension 2 8-12
7. Dumbbell Shrug 2 12-15

Day 2: Dumbbell Lower Body Workout

Exercise Sets Reps
1. Goblet Squat 4 8-10
2. Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift 4 8-10
3. Dumbbell Plie Squat 3 8-12
4. Dumbbell Hamstring Curl 3 8-12
5. Standing Dumbbell Calf Raise 3 8-12
6. Plank 3 20 Secs

Day 3: Dumbbell Upper Body Workout

Exercise Sets Reps
1. One Arm Dumbbell Row 4 8-10
2. Dumbbell Shoulder Press 4 8-10
3. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 3 8-12
4. Chest Supported Dumbbell Row 3 8-12
5. Dumbbell Hammer Curl 2 8-12
6. Dumbbell Floor Press 2 8-12
7. Seated Dumbbell Shrug 2 12-15

Day 4: Dumbbell Lower Body Workout

Exercise Sets Reps
1. Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift 4 8-10
2. Dumbbell Rear Lunge 4 8-10
3. Dumbbell Hip Thrust 4 8-10
4. Dumbbell Split Squat 3 8-12
5. Seated Dumbbell Calf Raise 3 8-12
6. Planks 3 20 Secs

If you give this program a try, be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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!

935 Comments
Andraz
Posted on: Fri, 05/17/2024 - 03:40

Hey, I have a question - dumbell hamstring curl is impossible for me to do. I just cannot hold the dumbell with my legs. Is there an equivalent jamstring excersise that I could replace it with?

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 05/23/2024 - 08:59

Our Hamstrings Exercise page is below. You should be able to find an alternative you can do there.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/exercises/hamstrings

Zarraf
Posted on: Mon, 05/13/2024 - 03:26

Can I add some forearm workout in this plan?
If so can u suggest me some forearm workouts?

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 05/23/2024 - 08:58

Sure can, Zarraf! Go with wrist curls and reverse wrist curls at the end of each workout. Follow similar reps and sets.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/exercises/one-arm-seated-dumbbell-wris...

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/exercises/reverse-dumbbell-wrist-curl-...

Thanks for reading M&S, and I hope these help!

Jacob
Posted on: Mon, 04/29/2024 - 18:10

I have heard it is better to focus on chest/triceps on a single day and then back/biceps on another day. is this a fair statement? I have been working out for a month at home, and have now begun this program - on day 2. just wondering.

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 05/10/2024 - 21:19

Hi Jacob, it really depends on the person and the goals. The great thing about M&S is we have many options that you can try until you find what works better for you.

Seb
Posted on: Fri, 04/26/2024 - 17:19

Hello! I've wrapped up the 3-day program and I'm all set to kick off the next one come Monday. I've jazzed up days 1 and 3 with some reverse curls and finger curls. But hey, I've got a question for you: why isn't the reverse grip dumbbell press part of the lineup here? If we were to squeeze it in, when's the best day to slot it in? And while we're at it, any pointers on sets and reps? Cheers!

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 04/28/2024 - 19:10

What's up Seb? Thanks for reading M&S!

Love the jazzing up. Go for that!

Reverse grip DB press isn't one that many lifters feel comfortable doing unless they are advanced. Since you mentioned it, I'm guessing you know what you're doing in a weight room. So, my suggestion would be to add it in between the incline press and chest supported row on Day 3. Follow similar reps and sets. Hope this helps!

Seb
Posted on: Fri, 05/03/2024 - 05:10

Hi Roger!
Thank you for your reply. I just started doing it because it was incorporated into the training routine in the "3 day full body dumbbell workout" by John England. It's a tough exercise! Thanks for your advice buddy!

Chris Brown
Posted on: Mon, 04/22/2024 - 14:29

I've been looking through this program and Frankoman's dumbbell program, is there a reason these programs don't include overhead press for the shoulders?

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 04/25/2024 - 17:58

Day 3, Exercise 2, Chris. Dumbbell Shoulder Press. I can't answer about Frankoman's reasoning, but you can certainly add them in if you like.

Nathan
Posted on: Thu, 04/18/2024 - 15:53

Can we add forearm curls/reverse forearm curls to the end of upper days? And if so should we do both on days 1 and 3 or split them between days 1 and 3?

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 04/25/2024 - 17:56

You sure can, Nathan. I would personally suggest doing one on Day 1 and the other on Day 3. Once you get used to doing them, do both on both days.

Hope this helps, and thanks for choosing M&S!

Rt
Posted on: Tue, 04/16/2024 - 08:39

Hi i have a barbell as well can i do some of the exercises with barbells instead of dumbells.. Like bench press with barbell,and other exercises according to me, just to switch things up

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 04/17/2024 - 17:16

Of course. This was just restricted to dumbbells only for people that had no other training options. Feel free to swap in the bar when you like. Hope this helps!

Osiris
Posted on: Sun, 04/14/2024 - 20:42

Hi, I’ve been working out for a while using the 6 day workout plan even though I was a beginner and I still am as I have only been using M&S since I only have adjustable dumbbells and a bench. Even though I have seen improvement in my body with the 6 day plan, I noticed it was taking too much time off me so I wanted to switch to a simpler 4 day plan. I ended up coming here and even though I do think this 4 day plan is kind of great, I was wondering why the sets where so low compared to the 6 day plan one. For example: curls are 1-2 sets or tricep extensions as well, I am still a beginner but I’m afraid my muscles won’t grow if I do just 2 sets or even just 4 for bench press and rows as the 6 day plan had more benching and rowing sets than this one. Aside from this I searched up how many sets I would need a week to build muscle as that is my only goal, and it said 10-20 sets a week per muscle group and so when I look back at this 4 day plan I notice they don’t even add up to 10 sets per let’s say..chest or back exercises as day 1 only has 4 sets for chest and back and so does day 3 and that does not add up to 10. Unfortunately I don’t know much about making muscle as I’m still a beginner but I just don’t want to start doing this workout plan and not make gains anymore, I do everything until failure 8-12 or as much as it tells me to do so I don’t know if that helps answering my question but I just don’t know how many sets is enough for any of this. I am writing this because I need help knowing if the workout plan is just fine as it is or if I should tweak the amount of sets for maximum muscle mass before I start doing it? as the small amounts of sets don’t feel that well to me according to my search in google of how many sets per muscle for muscle mass, I would greatly appreciate it thank you

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 04/15/2024 - 10:14

Hi Osiris. The reason some of the final exercises have less sets is that the muscles have already been worked to an extent. For example, when you train back, you also train biceps since they are both pulling muscle groups. Same for triceps with chest and shoulders.

The 10-20 sets a week could apply to many people, but not everyone. Some may not need as many, others may need more. This one is a good one, and I think it can help you. As a beginner, I would suggest keeping it as simple as possible starting out. Follow this for four weeks if you like and measure your progress. If you don't see changes, pivot to another program. We have a bunch here for you, even with dumbbells and bodyweight only.

Nathan
Posted on: Sat, 04/13/2024 - 11:26

What would you suggest doing on the off days? I'm looking for some cardio and/or flexibility. Any programs from this site?

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 04/14/2024 - 10:08
Anne-Maree
Posted on: Wed, 04/10/2024 - 21:44

Wondering why a 4 day split is for beginners. I understand the 3 day however I don't want to waste time on another beginner program. Thank you Kind regards

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 04/12/2024 - 08:09

That only means that beginners can do it if they like. Intermediates can see progress with this program as well.

Brandon
Posted on: Tue, 03/26/2024 - 02:53

I've been doing this workout for a few months but I'll soon have less time to workout. Would this still be effective if I turned it into a 3 day workout? So week 1 do ULU and week 2 LUL?

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 03/26/2024 - 19:45

Go for it, Brandon. Kudos for finding a way to get it done!

Axe Eli
Posted on: Sun, 03/24/2024 - 22:42

Hi, So far I am loving the 3 Days a week program. and it did great!

Anyhow, Can I ask for the day and rest days in a (for the lack of better term) week form?
Like the 3 days a week program where you listed MWF as workout days and the rest days. are TTHSS. How should I do this if this is a 4days a week program? Please help thanks.

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 03/26/2024 - 19:44

If you have the schedule for it, then the best split would be workouts on Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday off, workouts on Thursday and Friday, with the weekends off. Repeat the cycle next Monday.

Hope this helps!

Axe Eli
Posted on: Tue, 03/26/2024 - 23:34

This one makes sense. Thanks a lot!

Lyn
Posted on: Thu, 03/21/2024 - 18:12

So I've been doing the 4 day program for awhile and I was curious. I recently got an Olympic bar and was considering adding power cleans into the program. What would be the best day to add them in?

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 03/26/2024 - 19:43

Hey Lyn, congrats on the bar. It will change up your training for the better.

Replace the Shoulder Press on Day 3 with the Cleans. I think that would be the best spot for them. Don't be afraid to put them first on that day and move everything else down as well.

Hope this helps!

MS
Posted on: Mon, 03/18/2024 - 14:18

Great Atricle.
Am new to lifting wieghts and a lot of great in this article.
When is says "Rest periods for this workout program should be limited to 30-60 seconds." Does this mean only between sets or is that also the ideal time between exercises, i.e. moving from dumbell row to bench press?

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 03/25/2024 - 20:42

It should be between exercises as well, but gyms are laid out differently, and you may need more time to transition. This is ok. Do what you gotta do. Just don't take too much time chatting and being delayed.

YL
Posted on: Sun, 03/03/2024 - 04:01

Does sequence matter? Could I swap the sequence, for example, hamstring curl to plie squat or even deadlift in day 2 while maintaining the sets & reps?

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 03/12/2024 - 18:49

The first exercise should remain first. After that, do what you like in terms of order.

Max S.
Posted on: Mon, 02/19/2024 - 10:21

Hi there. I've finished the 3-day program. What should my starting weights be for the 4-day program?

For example, my DB bench press ended up at 110 Lb (each arm), 3 sets (10-10-12). Should I use that as a starting weight, or drop it a little bit?

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 02/24/2024 - 07:13

Hey Max, 110's on DB Bench? That is awesome! After you warm up and feel ready, you could do a set with 80's or 90's before going all the way up. So, drop it a little before going all in. Keep us posted, and thank you for reading M&S!

BC
Posted on: Fri, 02/09/2024 - 09:51

Question about the program itself. Days 1, 3, and 4 look pretty good based on my limited experience so far, but Day 2 confuses me a bit. Would you be able to explain the rationale behind the selection? Once I finish the 3day/week program I had planned to move to this one but I feel like I might be subbing out half of Day 2. Goblet squat for suitcase squat, plie squat for db sumo squat, db hamstring curl for db hip thrust. Would this be reasonable or am I missing something about the exercises chosen?

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 02/16/2024 - 11:19

The exercises included allow you to train the legs from different angles and help you improve from a functional standpoint. Following the original plan as written is advised, but if you find subbing movements will help you stay consistent or work around personal injuries, do what you gotta do. Hope this helps!

max
Posted on: Fri, 01/05/2024 - 08:23

Hi thanks for the ptograme and sorry if this has been asked before!

I am curious why we do more sets for certain lifts and less for others? If I were to fo 4 sets for all lifts would this have a negative effect on my physique?

Regards,
Max

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 01/07/2024 - 20:14

Hi, Max. My guess is the author felt the lifts with more sets include warm-up sets, or he felt that these movements are so effective, the lifter should do more of them. Doing four sets for everything would take more time and may impact your recovery. If you wanted to try it, you can, but I would suggest following the program as is for a few weeks first.

Hope this helps!

Vincent Wonnacott
Posted on: Sat, 12/23/2023 - 01:25

I have suffered some trauma on my legs over the years and as such an unable to do the lower body part, so was considering using them as cycle days as I have a Nordic track bike and can set the resistance to a manageable level, so 2 days upper body, 2 days bike does that sound ok?

Also with regards to weight, I'm always amazed when people comment on using crazy weights in dumbbells, I have been dabbling in a few exercises doing 3 x 15 reps and most of those 4kg brings me to fail at the end of the last set (doing very strict) - I think I musy be incredibly weak!

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 12/27/2023 - 20:16

In your case, Vincent, the bike work is just fine.

Don't compare your strength to others, just do the work so you can get stronger for yourself. Props for strict form.

Vincent Wonnacott
Posted on: Wed, 12/27/2023 - 23:27

Thank you Roger

John
Posted on: Sun, 12/17/2023 - 21:35

I’ve been doing this workout plan for at least 6 months and have found it to be very good for me. I’ve definitely noticed strength and mass increases. I’ve modified it a little by doing more reps for some of the some things like bicep and tricep movements. I’ll also cycle in and out of other movements (ie, flys, concentration curls, etc). Overall, this is a really good workout plan that can easily be done in my home gym for the long haul.

Margart Hardwick
Posted on: Thu, 12/14/2023 - 18:45

Hello muscleandstrength.com owner, Keep up the good work!

Steve Smith
Posted on: Thu, 12/14/2023 - 16:44

Can I add some exercises that target my core? What would work best, adding some to the upper or lower days or on another day? At the moment I’ve been adding crunches and reverse crunches to my upper workout days. When speaking to a friend they said this may not be optimal.

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 12/27/2023 - 20:15

I think those exercises are fine, but you could also use planks for stability work and oblique twists. Add them in wherever you like, Steve.

Heather
Posted on: Mon, 12/04/2023 - 08:55

I love to do cardio after weight training. I do 20-30 minutes. Is that still ok to do after these sessions?

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 12/18/2023 - 17:34

You sure can. Matter of fact, it's encouraged. Thanks for reading M&S!

Adam
Posted on: Fri, 12/01/2023 - 13:51

First week of this program down. I moved from 3 full body workouts a week. This split saves time and hits everything! Day 4 slaughtered my quads, hamstrings, and glutes! Thank you!

Alex Van Heeswijk
Posted on: Wed, 11/29/2023 - 02:16

I just read i need to do 4 sets then move to the next
Why is that? I do 1 set and move to the next to work all of trhem. Is this not ok?

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 11/30/2023 - 20:47

Hi, Alex. Doing all the sets of one exercise before moving on to the next is how traditional workouts go because you don't have to worry about going from station to station so many times. You also are challenging the muscle from that angle or movement thoroughly.

There's nothing wrong with your approach, and if that is working for you, I would suggest you keep doing it. Either way, good luck and I hope you'll share your results!