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

Build Muscle
Split
Beginner
12 weeks
4
45-60 minutes
Bodyweight, Dumbbells
Male & Female
download pdfDownload Workout

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!

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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!

308 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Sun, 02/16/2020 - 11:05
John Baker

First off, thank you for a through program!! It’s been a long time since I was in the gym so I’m basically starting fresh. My question is should I keep increasing the weight as I get stronger through this program (as long as form doesn’t suffer) or should I wait till I complete it then increase?

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Posted Tue, 02/18/2020 - 09:53
JoshEngland

Hi John,

Yes, feel free to progress so long as it doesn't come at the expense of good form.

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Posted Thu, 02/06/2020 - 18:27
Dietrich Stella

Any recommendation on substitutions for the day 4, rear lunge and split squats? Knee problems make motions that rely heavily on a single leg almost impossible for my right leg.

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Posted Mon, 02/10/2020 - 20:34
Steve Spaulding

I was having a similar issue with rear lunges. I'd recommend looking into step ups but I'm no expert.

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Posted Wed, 01/29/2020 - 19:05
Steve Spaulding

Any suggestions as far as alternating exercises/resting between sets? It'd also be nice if there was a baseline weight amount for each exercise; obviously this wouldn't be accurate but it'd help to understand how the "normal" amount of weight scales between different exercises.

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Posted Thu, 01/30/2020 - 10:09
JoshEngland

Hi Steve,

Both of these things are highly individualized based on the person training.

Weight selection is different for everyone. Genetically, we all have different strengths and weakness when it comes to bodypart. Finding out the best weight for you will take a lot of self-experimentation, or working with a trainer in person. Generally, you can begin by selecting a weight for each exercise and performing a set. If it's too easy move up. If it's too light move down.

Anecdotally, for most of my workouts, I don't time my rest periods. I simply wait until the muscle feels recovered (which is generally 45-75 secs) and then perform my next set.

Hope this helps,

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Posted Mon, 02/10/2020 - 20:32
Steve Spaulding

Thank you Josh, that was helpful/I appreciate the response. At the end of the day, once you start doing it, you figure it out.

The workout is going well/I'm on my 3rd rotation. I'm sure MaS has tons of content, but any specific flexibility/stretching routine/guide you'd pair with this workout? I have tight hamstrings/calves and my hip flexibility is.. not great. :)

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Posted Tue, 02/11/2020 - 13:03
JoshEngland

Hi Steve,

You might find this to be a helpful read: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/warming-up-for-dummies

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Posted Sat, 01/25/2020 - 22:49
Lorenzo

Hii Josh,

I'm excited to start with this program! However I don't have an incline bench but a flat utility bench. Could you recommend any substitutions for the excersises where I'd need to use an incline bench? Sorry if this is a stupid question, but I'm quite new to this and would love to do it right from the start. Will this workout plan also train my abs or should I throw in any other excersises to train them? If so could you perhaps recommend any?
Thanks in advance!

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Posted Mon, 01/27/2020 - 15:37
JoshEngland

Hi Lorenzo,

I'd recommend adding in more flat presses or push up variations. This will accomplish the press movement pattern. IF you'd like to mimic the incline as closely as possible, I'd suggest feet elevated pushups - however, this is a more advanced variation of the push up.

You can do core work if you wish. Honestly, I don't include much of it in my programs bc most people develop a strong core simply by bracing their core when lifting weights. If you'd like to add some in, I'd suggest plank variations and dead bugs.

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Posted Sat, 01/25/2020 - 15:49
Edgar Salazar

I have a couple of weeks with this workout, and it's being great as I don't have much time to go to the gym so I can only workout at home, just have a question, I have a pull up bar which I think would be good to use so I wanted to know if I just should add the pull ups to the upper workout, or if I should substitute some of the back exercises. Thank you!

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Posted Mon, 01/27/2020 - 15:39
JoshEngland

Hi Edgar,

You can do either or depending on your ability to recover from the additional sets from the additional exercise. If you feel it is too much, you can certainly sub it in for one of the back movements.

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Posted Mon, 01/27/2020 - 23:13
Edgar Salazar

Hi Josh,

Thank you very much for your response, this will help a lot!

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Posted Sat, 01/25/2020 - 09:37
Christiaan Lips

Hi josh,

I am currently using this program on monday, tuesday, thursday and friday. in the wednesdays i usually do some kind of ab workout or cardio. I want to build as much muscle ass possible and was thinking that maybe i could do some kind of arm and shoulder workout on saturday aswell. Do you advise against this? and should i just stick to the program? or are there ways for me to maximize muscle gain.

Yours sincerely,
Chris Lips

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Posted Mon, 01/27/2020 - 15:41
JoshEngland

Hi Christian,

Slow and steady wins the race. Utilize a minimum amount of volume for as long as possible. You won't add mass any faster by doing more than necessary (this program has plenty as is). Once progress halts (should take a while honestly), then look to add more.

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Posted Tue, 01/21/2020 - 12:31
Christiaan Lips

Hi Josh,

I have now been doing this program for 4 weeks and its great! Do have some questions though:

1. The hamstring curl on day 2 is very hard to do with my type of weights. Is the 1 leg hib extension a good replacement? if not, what is?

2. Some exercises have become quitte easy now, is it okay to up the weight on those or increase the reps?

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Posted Tue, 01/21/2020 - 12:33
JoshEngland

Hi Christian,

1. Try exercise ball leg curls, or if you have hardwood floors and socks, bodyweight hamstring curls.

2. Yes, absolutely move up in weight if you can.

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Posted Sat, 01/18/2020 - 21:04
Mark Grant

Dumbbell Only Workout. But "Dumbbell Hip Thrust" (Day 4) links to Barbell Hip Thrust. I don't have a barbell. Dumbbells only. Nothing comes up in Search except products.

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Posted Mon, 01/20/2020 - 09:02
JoshEngland

Hi Mark,

It is the same movement pattern. Instead of the barbell, you'd place the dumbbell across the hips. We do not have an example video for the dumbbell hip thrust in our exercise database at the moment, so the barbell hip thrust was the best example that could be provided.

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Posted Mon, 01/06/2020 - 19:04
Jacob

When should I throw in forearm workouts?what days would I run to train for track?

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Posted Mon, 01/06/2020 - 11:27
Christiaan Lips

Hi Josh,
I have been doing this routine for a week now and its great! However i have 2 questions:
1. I train with 6 kg per dumbbell and excercises like the benchpress are very easy for me but the laterall raise with this weight i cant even do 3 sets of 8, same with the split squad which is way to hard for me now. What should i do, do less reps or lessen the weight on the hard ones and increase on the easy ones?

2. With the rear lunge is it 1 rep if you do 1 leg or when you did both legs?

Yours sincerely,
Christiaan Lips

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Posted Mon, 01/06/2020 - 14:58
JoshEngland

Hi Christiaan,

1. Sure, the examples you've provided would be a fine way to alter the program. In the meantime, try saving up for a variety of dumbbells to add to your home gym.

2. The reps prescribed are for each leg. So you perform all the reps on one side and then perform the same number of reps on the other side.

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Posted Mon, 01/06/2020 - 15:19
Christiaan Lips

Ok, i see. So are you saying that some excercises can be done with more weight if they are too easy? I was under the impression that this was a one weight program or can i just varry.

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Posted Mon, 01/06/2020 - 15:33
JoshEngland

Yes, you can use various weights or one dumbbell. It all depends on what you have access to.

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Posted Mon, 01/06/2020 - 00:33
Kev

I tried the three-day dumbbell training last year and I really enjoyed it. I will begin with the four-day program this week, which is a new challenge as I'm not used to going to the gym four days a week. Thanks for sharing this routine

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Posted Sun, 12/29/2019 - 19:09
Jacob

When should I throw in forearm workouts?what days would I run to train for track?

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Posted Sat, 12/28/2019 - 04:53
Christiaan Lips

Hi Josh,

Im a beginner in the workout circuit but i have some weight which can go to 40 pounds, What weight is recommended for this workout? and should i progress throughout and how much?

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Posted Tue, 12/31/2019 - 16:57
JoshEngland

Hi Christiaan,

Pick a weight you think you can use for the prescribed reps. If too heavy, move down. If too light, move up. You should finish each set feeling as though you have 1-2 reps left in the tank. It may differ from exercise to exercise.

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Posted Mon, 12/23/2019 - 18:27
Antonio

Is it valid to switch up between this and other program?
For example
I do 8 weeks this program, i take 1 week of rest and then i do other program ,for example a more splitted one, i do a week off and then i come back with this program with the same exercises reps, series,... and this over and over.
Is this valid ? I am asking this because many people talk about switching programs every 8-12 weeks and i don't know if it is valid to do the same program that i did 8 weeks ago for example.

Thanks, keep the good work

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Posted Tue, 12/24/2019 - 11:51
JoshEngland

Hi Antonio,

It is not necessary to switch programs every 8-12 weeks if your goals havent changed and you're still seeing results and enjoying the one you are currently performing.

The caveat, however, is that you do need to keep making progress by increasing the total amount of weight you are able to use over time.

Hope this helps.

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Posted Fri, 12/20/2019 - 19:57
Andre

as i can workout on monday, thursday, friday and saturday wouldn't be better to me do program my workout like this:
Monday- Full body
Thrusday-Push
Friday-Leg
Saturday-Pull
Or stick to this program even tho i would give only 48 hours of rest between thursday and saturday or do other split, considering that i used to do a bro split at the gym for 6 months but i didn't see much results because i skipped a lot of workouts

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Posted Mon, 12/23/2019 - 11:04
JoshEngland

Hi Andre,

Either this program or the reference split could work depending on your personal preferences.

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Posted Mon, 12/16/2019 - 14:59
James

Hi, just finished the 3 day dumbbell full body workout and really enjoyed it. Thanks for putting it together :). I have now started the 4 day upper/lower but I have a few questions.
1. My knees play up at times so do you have any alternatives for;
A. Dumbbell rear lunge?
B. Dumbbell split squat?
2. Can I do regular Dumbbell squats in this program? if so on which leg day?
3. Santa is bring me a pull up bar and I would really like to incorporate this into the program as a personal challenge. Where can I add them in and how many reps/sets should I do ?
4. I also have a thin neck that I would really like to thicken. I purchased a neck harness(Velcro strapped hat with hanging chain for weight attachment ). Is it possible to add this to my sessions? Again, where can I add them in and how many reps/sets should I do ? or can you suggest an alternative?

Thanks in advance for taking the time to read my questions and thanks for the free content. It's minefield out there so it is much appreciated.

James :)

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Posted Tue, 12/17/2019 - 10:54
JoshEngland

Hi James,

1 & 2. You can sub in the regular dumbbell squat in for these.

3. Sure, just add them into your upper days. You can add them in for 3 sets of 8-12 or sub them in for a day for one of the row variations.

4. I've never personally used a neck harness. The best way to gain neck thickness, in my opinion, is to simply gain weight by eating. You can utilize the harness, however, I'm probably not the best to answer this question not really using them for myself or others.

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Posted Mon, 12/09/2019 - 16:17
Bruno Gomes

What about the front and rear delts? Can i add 2 sets for each delt? And also is there any exercise for the traps without being the shrug? Because i dont feel anything when i perform it
Thanks for this workout i have been doing this for not that long i have seen already great results

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Posted Tue, 12/10/2019 - 12:45
JoshEngland

Hi Bruno,

Sure, the program is simply a template. You can modify it however you deem fit to accomplish your goals.

For traps, you can either go higher reps with the shrug or perform farmer's walks which will build both the forearms and traps.

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Posted Wed, 12/11/2019 - 17:57
Bruno Gomes

And also,One more question, after 16 weeks how should i Change the program? Considering that i try to add some weight every week and i dont want to workout 5 days, is it enough to change 1/2 exercises on each workout and take on 2 exercises and do a superserie or should i change anything more?

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Posted Thu, 12/12/2019 - 15:44
JoshEngland

Hi Bruno,

There really is no need to change your workouts so long as you are increasing the weights used.

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Posted Mon, 12/09/2019 - 06:01
Matt

I really like this workout, but have a question on best practice.
Should you increase weights on each progressive set during a workout or should one stick to their starting weight throughout all sets?
In other words shod you warm up to your heaviest and start at the most challenging

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Posted Mon, 12/09/2019 - 12:52
JoshEngland

Hi Matt,

Either way works. Do whichever you feel most comfortable with. Aim to increase the total amount of weight used throughout the duration of the program. You should finish stronger than you started at the end of the final week.

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Posted Sun, 12/01/2019 - 14:24
Bruno Gomes

I recently changed my program to this one, and i feel that i lack some chest and glute development, is there any problem if i add 1 or 2 sets to each chest movement and add 1 glute isolation exercise on the 2 lower days?

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Posted Mon, 12/02/2019 - 15:14
JoshEngland

Hi Bruno,

That would be a fine way to tailor this program for your individual goals.

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Posted Sat, 11/30/2019 - 18:17
Kyle

Hey Josh,

I've been wondering: how long exactly do I need to rest between each set? The article says around 45 seconds, but I've been reading around the internet that some studies suggest longer rest periods; something like 2 to three minutes between each set in order to maximize muscle gains.

I'd love to have your input. This is quite frankly confusing...
Thanks!

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Posted Mon, 12/02/2019 - 15:24
JoshEngland

Hi Kyle,

In my personal experience, the amount of rest doesn't particularly matter. It will only make up a marginal percentage of your results.

It also differs depending on your individual goals. Longer rest is more beneficial for people with strength aspirations (up to 5 minutes), and shorter rest is beneficial for those with endurance aspirations (as little as 30 secs).

But to be honest, I rarely time my rest period. I finish a set, wait until I'm physically ready to go again, and then perform my next set.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Wed, 11/13/2019 - 19:30
Matt

Just finished your three day to strengthen my core. I ready to move on to the four day routine. I like to do 20 minutes of cardio after weights. Can I still incorporate that into this four day program or do the cardio in the rest days. Thanks man. Great workouts for someone who just started weight training.

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Posted Thu, 11/14/2019 - 10:27
JoshEngland

Hi Matt,

That's awesome! Keep it up!

You can do either or - whichever allows you to be most consistent.

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Posted Wed, 11/13/2019 - 14:59
Jasin

3. Dumbbell Hip Thrust 4 8-10
this is not part of the Dumbbell workout,
please change it and let me know.

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Posted Thu, 11/14/2019 - 10:26
JoshEngland

Hi Jasin,

We did not have an example of the dumbbell variation, so a barbell link was used as an example. Simply perform the same movement using your dumbbell.

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Posted Wed, 11/13/2019 - 14:53
Koko

3. Dumbbell Hip Thrust 4 8-10
this is not part of the Dumbbell program,
please change this

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Posted Thu, 11/14/2019 - 10:26
JoshEngland

Hi KoKo,

We did not have an example of the dumbbell variation, so a barbell link was used as an example. Simply perform the same movement using your dumbbell.