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
12 weeks
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!

374 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Sat, 09/19/2020 - 15:03

Is it possible to put the 1st upper and lower workouts together and complete them in one session. Thus the second and third workouts together. So there are only two workouts that can be performed 3 times a week?

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Posted Tue, 09/22/2020 - 10:30

Hey Jarvvvs - If you're looking for a 3-day dumbbell workout, check out this one: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/dumbbell-only-home-or-gym-ful.... It offers 3 full body dumbbell workouts per week.

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Posted Tue, 08/25/2020 - 01:50

Transitioned to this after 8 weeks and a strong increase in weights on the 3 day program. I am however finding the 4 day routine tough to keep up with, given I also do some hiit and yoga. Would you suggest going back to the 3 day program and increase weights, or could you point me to any other 3 day progression please. Many thanks !

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Posted Tue, 09/22/2020 - 10:29

Hi Stuthi - if 3 days a week is more manageable for your lifestyle, do what works best for you. Check out our Dumbbell Only Home or Gym Full Body Workout (https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/dumbbell-only-home-or-gym-ful...) for a great 3 day per week program. As far as weights go, choose weights that you can safely move with correct form for the given number or reps.

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Posted Sun, 08/16/2020 - 08:38

Hi Josh, Im 20 years old and i've been doing this workout for 2 weeks, but whenever I do rear lunge and split squat i feel huge pain in my right hamstring.
What should i do and why is this happening?

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Posted Wed, 08/19/2020 - 10:19

Hey Jack

There could be a few reasons behind that. If it's just a tighter stretch in the muscle than you feel on your left side then that could just be a muscle imbalance you'll need to workout (lighten the load and keep training it). If it feels like it may be joint pain in your hip/knee then I recommend checking with your doctor before continuing to make sure nothing is injured.

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Posted Thu, 08/13/2020 - 23:33

On day 4 it says to do dumbbell thrust, but the video is for barbell thrusts. I’m just curious what the proper form is for that technique using a dumbbell.

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Posted Fri, 08/14/2020 - 09:16

Hey Chris

The form will be the same as with a barbell, just with the dumbbell sitting across your hips instead.

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Posted Mon, 08/10/2020 - 20:56
Cache Salyers

Quick question, will this workout help me lose weight all over my body (perticularly belly fat) while gaining muscle, im not asking for abs just a more toned body. I got a bit of a dad bod.

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Posted Tue, 08/11/2020 - 09:52

Hey Cache

As long as your diet is in check then this is a great workout to help tone up all around.

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Posted Wed, 08/05/2020 - 23:31

Dear Josh, hope this message find you well. Here's my situation: i've been working out with dumbbells for the first time in my life since february of this year, preety much doing a full body workout, at first 3 days a week going all the way to 5 weeks by the time present. I made great progress form nothing to have something of a fissique, neewbie gains i suposse. Anyway, right now i'm feeling like going nowhere, and y have the need to try something more advance, do you think a split like this could be the right answer? I am very confuse with where to go from here and specially with what kind of weight corresponds to each exercise. Right now im usually working with 15 kg dumbbells... But i believe is not a good idea to do each exercise with the same weight... if you find the time, please lend me a hand with this concerns, that would be of great help. Thanks for your time and godsped (excuse me for my bad english, i have done my best writing this down)

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Posted Thu, 08/06/2020 - 09:56

Hey Lautaro

This program is a great step up from a 3-day split. If you have access to other weights then adjust for each exercise. If all you have is 15kg dumbbells then I recommend modifying your technique for different exercises. For example, when performing "heavier" compound exercises, slow down your reps and focus more on squeezing the targeted muscles at the peak of each rep.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions!

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Posted Wed, 07/29/2020 - 05:45

Finished the awesome 3 day program and progressing to this. Cpl of quick questions pls
A. Have a bench but not adjustable, whats an alternate for the incline press ?
B. Is there some % increase benchmark you can share for weight progression over this 12 week program ?
C. Am kickboxing on the other days, and some yoga the weight day evenings. Does that sound ok ?
Many thanks for these great programs and your thoughtful responses to comments below.
- a 47 yr old newbie !

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Posted Wed, 07/29/2020 - 09:22

Hey Stuthi

If you don't have an adjustable bench for incline press then you can just double down on standard bench press instead. kickboxing is a fantastic exercise for your "rest days". Rest days don't need to be completely lacking of any exercise, giving your muscles a break from lifting but getting your heart rate up a little is encouraged. There's not so much a "benchmark" for progression, as everyone's body progresses at different rates. There are several methods to looking at progression listed in this article: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/principle-progressive-overloa...
I recommend you check out "Progression Approach 1"

Let me know if you have any other questions!

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Posted Wed, 07/29/2020 - 11:52

Super thanks !

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Posted Wed, 07/22/2020 - 22:35

Does each seperate type of activity work in different ways? I've noticed I can get more of some workouts that target a particular muscle group than others due to the equipment I have access to.

If it doesn't really matter, am I able to take (for example) some chest workouts done in day 1 (of the 4 day) or some of the hamstring workouts in day 2 and do them instead of the others assigned on days 3 and 4?


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Posted Tue, 07/28/2020 - 16:59

Hey Rod

If I'm understanding your question correctly, you're asking if you can repeat exercises to make up for lack of equipment. If that's correct then yes that's completely fine. I would however try to tweak the exercise to hit your muscles from a different angle the second time. For example, if you perform the DB flat bench press on day 1 then on day 3 instead of hitting DB flat bench again you should hit DB incline bench.

I hope this helps!

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Posted Fri, 07/17/2020 - 10:32
Theodoros Kollias

Dear Josh, I am used to doing upper body in different days (e.g chest 1st day and back 2nd day and shoulders with triceps 3rd day and lower body 4th day). Do you believe there is much difference in doing it as you specified.


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Posted Thu, 07/23/2020 - 16:07

Hey Theodoros

When you only hit each body part once a week you're leaving it with much more time that needed for recovery. That's why you'll see in several programs for example, chest and triceps are worked on Monday and again on Thursday.

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Posted Fri, 07/03/2020 - 12:45
Mike Schulze

No idea if this will still get a reaction since this is a few months older, but why isn't there more triceps stuff in here? I see one exercise. I am trying to get a better pump on since this whole covid thing started, but I only have my 2 17.5 kg dumbbells I've been using for the last year. I wanna get further, so I found this routine and thought it sounds good until I can finally go to the Gym again. Also what's the difference between seated and standing shrugs? Wouldn't standing shrugs be better by comparison?

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Posted Thu, 07/23/2020 - 16:10

Hey Mike

You can definitely add another triceps exercise on day 3 if you're looking to focus more on them. Since you're working strictly with dumbbells I would recommend doing "tricep kickbacks" as your additional exercise.

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Posted Wed, 07/01/2020 - 03:38

Would it hurt to do 1 min to 1:15 min jumping jacks between each workout to keep heart rate up and burn more calories..... or would a cardio routine after be better for muscle build?

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Posted Wed, 08/19/2020 - 11:43

Hey Lew

You'll want to let your heart rate rise and fall throughout the workout. I suggest doing a cardio routine post-workout if you want to burn some extra calories.

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Posted Tue, 06/30/2020 - 09:04
Mark Threet

What’s a good substitute for hamstring curl. The type of dumbbells I have I can’t do those.

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Posted Wed, 08/19/2020 - 11:45

Hey Mark

You could perform a dumbbell stiff leg deadlift as an alternative.

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Posted Tue, 06/23/2020 - 13:31
Andy Sharp

Hi , could you swap to barbell on a few exercises.

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Posted Wed, 08/19/2020 - 11:46

That's perfectly fine if you have the equipment, Andy.

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Posted Fri, 06/19/2020 - 14:41

Which workout program do you recommend after completing this? Loving it so far.

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Posted Wed, 08/19/2020 - 11:46

Hey Ryan

I recommend giving the 5-day dumbbell split a try.

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Posted Thu, 06/18/2020 - 06:58

HI, If I follow this program, but just keeping every second day off, can I keep alternating the workouts as they are upper, day off, lower, day off, upper.. and keep going?? Without taking 2 consecutive days off... and if feel too strong of fatigue have some lighter weeks etc??

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Posted Wed, 08/19/2020 - 11:47

That's definitely okay, Dee!

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Posted Sat, 06/13/2020 - 14:02

Started on the 3 day...now I find the 4 days awesome. I'm 60, 6'7". I take bcaa with creatine and vegan protein. But I find I'm unstable with the lunges ...so I skip those. Any incline bench stuff I replace as my bench is a tabletop insert between a cooler and a chair. I have a low ceiling so I sit instead.... and have to skip step-ups.
Thanks Josh for your effort.

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Posted Fri, 06/12/2020 - 17:51

Amy advice or sources about calorie + protein intakte, if trying to loose fat and build muscle,?

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Posted Wed, 08/19/2020 - 11:49

Hey Gustav

I recommend sticking around a caloric maintenance level of intake. Tweak your fats down slightly and protein up.

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Posted Fri, 06/12/2020 - 06:12

Would I be able to switch the rear lunges with the goblet squats. I know they are both legs, but I dont know if it would put to much strain on the secondary mucles if I move them. I am having trouble doing the rear lunges and the split squats on the same day.

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Posted Thu, 06/11/2020 - 00:22
Rawnak Ahmed

What can I substitute for the chest supported dumbbell row if my bench cannot be inclined?

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Posted Wed, 08/19/2020 - 11:50

Thanks for reaching out Rawnak.

I recommend substituting in bent-over dumbbell rows.

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Posted Wed, 06/10/2020 - 09:19

I just finished the 3 day dumbbell workout, but after every workout, I did extra excercises for my shoulders, biceps and triceps (4 sets of 12 reps extra, so 3 times a week). They really got bigger in a very short amount of time!

Now I want to switch to the 4 day dumbbell workout, I see this program only trains every muscle group 2 times a week. Wont I lose muscle because I train less? If not, should I keep doing those extra excercises to maintain my muscles? Or can i drop those without losing muscle?

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Posted Mon, 06/08/2020 - 00:11
Chris Travis

I'm new to working out, my only question is do you need to do 8-10 reps every set? I figured you wouldn't be able to maintain the same reps each set unless you lowered the weight each time.

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Posted Wed, 08/19/2020 - 11:53

Hey Chris

You'll want to find a weight that's challenging but you can perform the recommended number of reps for each set. You may be able to do 10 reps with 2-3 left in the tank on set 1, and by set 4 you might just pull out 8 reps. If you're doing 10 reps on each set, go up in weight next week. If you fall short on your 3rd or 4th set, drop the weight by 5lbs next week.

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Posted Sat, 06/06/2020 - 12:04
Jimmy C

Hi there,

I have just started doing this workout for the last 2 weeks. I have found the weight I am using for this workout seemingly okay. Which means I can hit the rep range without failure mostly. I don't feel the weight I am using for these exercises are making it any easier for my body to lift the weight.

Should I stick with the weight I am using or lift heavier for progression but less reps/sets?

Also, is this routine ideal as a bulking routine, as I am trying to build muscle on a surplus calories.

thank you :)

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Posted Sat, 05/30/2020 - 05:17


Can i do the workout as follow : Sunday- Upper
Monday- Lower Tuesday- Rest Day
Wednesday - Upper Thursday- Lower
Friday & Saturday - Rest Days.

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Posted Wed, 08/19/2020 - 11:54

Great question, Ram.

That split will work out fine.

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Posted Sat, 05/16/2020 - 13:13

Hello! I'm excited to start this new workout. Since the pandemic I have not been able to workout at the gym! We own the bowflex adjustable dumbells but do not curturrebtly have a weight bench. Do you have any recommendations since it would be difficult to do the dumbell presses without the bench? Thanks!

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Posted Wed, 08/19/2020 - 11:55

Hey Erica

If you have an exercise ball you can use that as a bench, just make sure you find your balance before going up in weight. If not, you can perform floor presses as an alternative.

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Posted Thu, 05/14/2020 - 06:42

Can i perform jump rope on rest days without ruining any previous workouts with this program? I usually do 30 to 40 mins of various speeds and variations with jump rope.


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Posted Mon, 05/04/2020 - 22:18

Hi Josh. Does this workout target each muscle at least twice a week ?

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Posted Tue, 05/05/2020 - 06:32


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Posted Fri, 04/17/2020 - 19:05

Love this workout ill the bench press workouts I replaced with push-ups I also bike and do abs on my off days looking forward to the 5 days work out

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Posted Wed, 03/25/2020 - 02:16

I am excited to start this program but I am just a little confused on progressive overload. Do I use one specific weight for 12 weeks then start over with more weight or do I progress during the 12 weeks for example every 2 weeks if form is not affected