Limited equipment? Short on time? This women’s 8-week workout is a versatile plan to improve the way you look and feel from your home or gym, in as little as 20 minutes.
Workout Summary

Workout Description

As 2020 has proved, you never know when your situation may change. Aside from life in general, this also applies to your training. Your gym may go out of business, something may restrict your travel, or any other life situation that is out of your hands may take place. This is why you should prepare accordingly.

The good news is you don’t need a full-scale gym to reach goals and improve your fitness levels. Barbells, bands, and machines are all great assets, but they aren’t necessary. If you ladies out there have a pair of dumbbells that provide moderate resistance, then you can still have great training sessions and see improvements in how you look, your strength, and how you feel.

Of course, you can do this workout at the gym, too. Just make sure you have the dumbbells you need close by before you start. That way no one comes and takes them away from you while you’re working.

After you've finished this workout program, move on to this 5 day dumbbell only workout program for women.

The Benefits of Dumbbells

Dumbbells are very versatile pieces to have in your training toolkit. You can train heavy and see strength increases. You can go with moderate resistance for hypertrophy and to improve the shape of the muscles. You can also lighten the load, go for maximum reps, and boost your muscular endurance levels.

There is another great benefit of dumbbells. You have to stabilize the weight in each hand because you’re not holding onto one object and the handles are not attached to a cable or strap. Not only will this further benefit your strength levels, but it can also improve your coordination and help provide a harder look to the muscle.

Need more reasons to use them? They don’t require much space. You can do these workouts at the gym or at home. Having a bench would be great, but that isn’t even necessary with this program. Every workout is performed either standing, walking, or lying on the floor. For the sake of comfort, an exercise mat is recommended.

Athletic woman in red sports bra performing a single arm dumbbell row off of a dumbbell rack.

Tips for Using Dumbbells

If you have access to multiple sets of dumbbells, that would be the best bet for a workout like those that are included. If not, dumbbell handles with plates and collars would be another solid choice.

If all you have is one pair of dumbbells, use them to the best of your ability. You can change the tempo of the exercise so it takes longer to perform a rep. This will challenge the muscle in a slightly different way than having more resistance to work with.

Here’s something else to consider. Let’s say you’re performing an exercise like a curl and you don’t feel the muscle working like you think it should. Change how you’re holding the dumbbell. You’re not absolutely committed to keeping your hand in the middle. Place your hand near one end of the handle or the other to tweak how the muscle feels the weight. This might be all you need to make the most out of the exercise.

Related: 5 Reasons To Add Eccentric Training To Your Routine

The Workouts

There are two workouts below. One for upper body and one for lower body and the core. You can work these sessions in any way you like based on your schedule, but a two-day on, one day off, repeat pattern is a good suggestion to start with. You’ll train the whole body within 48 hours with a whole day in between to recover.

An example week following this schedule would look like this:

  • Monday: Upper Body
  • Tuesday: Lower Body/Core
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Upper Body
  • Friday: Lower Body/Core
  • Saturday/Sunday: Rest

Each exercise in this program should help you shape and develop the way you look and help you get stronger. To make the most out of your session, warm up by doing a lighter set of each exercise. If you only have one weight to work with, then do half the reps that are recommended. This will help you feel the muscles working and prepare you to have the best session possible.

Related: 3 Quick Solutions for Effective Warm Ups

Upper Body Workout

There are two exercises for chest and back. Each of those muscle groups has a compound exercise and an isolation exercise. You’re building the muscle and strength with the compound exercise while focusing on isolation and development with the other.

This also means the front and rear heads of your shoulders will be challenged, so the only movement for delts is for the side. Finally, there’s a bicep and tricep exercise to target the arms.

Lower Body and Core Workout

The first movement focuses on everything in the lower body from the glutes down to the calves. The focus then goes to the quadriceps followed by the hamstrings. You’ll finish the lower body portion with calves. There is one exercise for the soleus and one for the gastrocnemius. The workout concludes with ab training.

Every exercise here can be performed with dumbbells, and there are detailed instructions in the M&S Exercise section. If there is an exercise you want to switch out of this program, you can find alternate exercises in that section as well to plug in as a substitute. If you don’t feel there are enough movements here, don’t be afraid to add one or two. For example, if you want to emphasize your triceps, then add an exercise like overhead extensions or kickbacks at the end of the upper body workout.

One last tip: If you want to really burn the muscle, then hold the squeeze of the last rep for five to ten seconds before finishing the set.

Upper Body Workout

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Dumbbell Floor Press 3 12-15 60s
Dumbbell Floor Fly 3 12-15 60s
Dumbbell Row 3 12-15 60s
Dumbbell Pullover 3 12-15 60s
Lateral Raise 3 12-15 60s
Dumbbell Curl 3 15 60s
Lying Triceps Extension 3 15 60s

Lower Body and Abs/Core

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Walking Lunge 3 12-15 each leg 60s
Goblet Squat 3 12-15 60s
Stiff-Leg Deadlift 3 12-15 60s
Dumbbell Leg Curl 3 12-15 60s
Seated Dumbbell Calf Raise 3 15 60s
Standing Calf Raise 3 15 each leg 60s
Weighted Crunch 3 15 60s
Weighted Knee-Ins 3 15 60s

*Weighted Knee-Ins: Position a dumbbell at legs' length away from you standing vertically. Secure the weight in between your feet and slightly bring it in towards you. Position your body into a V either on a bench or on the floor. While contracting your abs, bend your knees and pull the weight in towards your chest. You should bring your upper body into the knees as well. Squeeze your abs to increase the contraction. Release the tension by straightening your legs out and allowing your upper body to go back to its starting position. Don't let the weight touch the floor. This is one rep. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Woman in black sports bra and shorts wearing white headphones doing walking lunges with dumbbells in each hand.

Women's Dumbbell Only Workout: Modifications for Fat Loss

If you want to focus your attention on torching calories for fat loss, then perform all of the exercises of a workout in a circuit fashion.

This means you would perform each exercise with minimal rest from one to the next. For example, it’s your upper body day. Stick to those movements but do them all in a row. Your break comes after you finish the last exercise. Rest for 2 minutes between circuits and repeat. If you’re an advanced athlete and you feel you have it in you, go for three, but three should be the maximum you need to feel the effects of this. Your heart rate will increase, your body temperature will go up, and you’re sure to notice an improvement in how you look and in your endurance.

Recommended: Need help losing fat? Take our Free Fat Loss Course

Upper Body Circuit

Complete the following exercises back-to-back with no rest between exercises. This counts as one round. Rest 2 minutes between each round. Repeat 2-3 times.

Exercise Reps
Dumbbell Floor Press 12-15
Dumbbell Floor Fly 12-15
Dumbbell Row 12-15
Dumbbell Pullover 12-15
Lateral Raise 12-15
Dumbbell Curl 15
Lying Triceps Extension 15

Lower Body Circuit

Complete the following exercises back-to-back with no rest between exercises. This counts as one round. Rest 2 minutes between each round. Repeat 2-3 times.

Exercise Reps
Walking Lunge 12-15 each leg
Goblet Squat 12-15
Stiff-Legged Deadlift 12-15
Dumbbell Leg Curl 12-15
Seated Dumbbell Calf Raise 15
Standing Calf Raise 15 each leg
Weighted Crunch 15
Weighted Knee-Ins 15

*Weighted Knee-Ins: Position a dumbbell at legs' length away from you standing vertically. Secure the weight in between your feet and slightly bring it in towards you. Position your body into a V either on a bench or on the floor. While contracting your abs, bend your knees and pull the weight in towards your chest. You should bring your upper body into the knees as well. Squeeze your abs to increase the contraction. Release the tension by straightening your legs out and allowing your upper body to go back to its starting position. Don't let the weight touch the floor. This is one rep. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Mini-Circuits

Ok, you have 20-25 minutes to train before your commitment. There’s no way you can rearrange the schedule so it’s now or tomorrow. Don’t put the workout off. You can condense this program into a five exercise giant set so you can train the major muscle groups and get on with your day. You may not feel like you would after a normal session, but you certainly won’t beat yourself up for slacking today.

Complete the following exercises back-to-back with no rest between exercises. This counts as one round. Rest for no more than 90 seconds between each round. Repeat at most 3 times.

Exercise Reps
Dumbbell Floor Press 20
Dumbbell Row 20
Goblet Squat 20
Stiff-Legged Deadlift 20
Weighted Crunch 20

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20 Comments
LaUnicaO
Posted on: Tue, 05/11/2021 - 12:06

Hello. I am new to weight training and love the outline of this program. A few—what may seem obvious—questions: 1) for the lying triceps extension do I use barbells? 2) Any alternatives for the dumbbell leg curl? 3) how do you know when you have the right weight?
Thank you!!

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Abigail
Posted on: Thu, 05/13/2021 - 10:30

LaUnicaO - for lying tricep extensions. you can use dumbbells. When choosing a weight, it should be something that you can move safely and with proper form for the given number of reps.

Christine
Posted on: Mon, 04/12/2021 - 08:55

If you did the workout but did bits of it throughout the day, ie dumbbell floor press, then dumbbell fly 2 hrs later etc. would this give the same results as doing it all at once.

Christine
Posted on: Sun, 04/11/2021 - 21:02

Love this workout .. for the lateral raise and the curl, can I do 1 arm at a time or do they have to be done together? I can do more weight if I do 1 at a time.

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Abigail
Posted on: Mon, 04/12/2021 - 09:19

Hey Christine - you can do one at a time.

Christine
Posted on: Mon, 04/12/2021 - 10:52

Thank you!

Diana
Posted on: Tue, 03/16/2021 - 17:31

Can I do Cardio with this workout? and If I can, how could I do it?

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Abigail
Posted on: Wed, 03/17/2021 - 10:53

Hey Diana - yes, you can do cardio with this program. You can do your cardio after your weight training.

Naomi
Posted on: Thu, 02/18/2021 - 14:58

Would this be a good one to start with to loose some weight also, and as a beginner? Thanks

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Abigail
Posted on: Fri, 02/19/2021 - 11:19

Hey Naomi - this is a great workout to start with!

Naomi
Posted on: Fri, 02/19/2021 - 11:31

Thanks Abigail...just one more question if I may for the calories calculator what should put for my activity levels, if I'm to do this workout plan?....thanks.

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Abigail
Posted on: Mon, 02/22/2021 - 11:12

Moderately active

jo
Posted on: Mon, 01/25/2021 - 11:56

Hi Roger,
Just wondering what would you recommend for diet to get toned while using this program.
Thanks.

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Abigail
Posted on: Tue, 01/26/2021 - 13:24

Hey jo - we recommend starting with our BMR calculator to get an idea of your daily caloric needs: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/bmr-calculator

cate
Posted on: Tue, 01/05/2021 - 16:02

Hi, does this also help with stomach fat loss?

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Abigail
Posted on: Wed, 01/06/2021 - 09:36

Hey cate - sadly, you can't spot reduce fat. In order to lose stomach fat, you must lower your total body fat percentage. The biggest factor in fat loss is your diet. A solid diet paired with consistency in the gym will get you to your goals.

Melissa Hill
Posted on: Sun, 12/27/2020 - 17:58

My primary goal is to loose weight while building muscle as a secondary goal for now and I have not worked out in a long time. I was wondering if doing this routine as a circuit would my weight loss goal be reached faster if I increased my weights with each set?

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Abigail
Posted on: Mon, 12/28/2020 - 09:25

Hey Melissa - it's best to follow the program as written. Diet (more specifically being in a caloric deficit) plays the largest role in weight/fat loss

Liz
Posted on: Sun, 11/15/2020 - 13:20

Hi . Thanks for the workout !! any recomendation incresing weight weekly ? Same exercices for the 8 weeks , no changes ?

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Abigail
Posted on: Mon, 11/16/2020 - 12:55

Hey Liz - you'll do the same exercises for the 8 weeks. You can increase the weight as you see fit.

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