A Complete Dumbbell Workout Plan

When you begin a new workout routine, it can be difficult to figure out when, and how often, you should exercise. To assist, we’ve created a comprehensive dumbbell workout plan you can follow for 3 months.

In general, a good rule is to do strength training three times a week, leaving at least one day of rest between each day of work. About every month you should be mixing up your routine, so you can continue improving your body. Your progress will plateau if you are consistently doing the same exercises over and over.But remember, everyone progresses at different rates so this timing may not be exact. And once you can easily do 15 reps of a given exercise, you will want to start adding heavier weights.

​Month One Dumbbell Workout Plan

Day 1

​Alternating Bicep Curl: 8 Reps Each Arm, 3 sets

​Just like the name would imply, bicep curls are a great exercise for gaining mass in the biceps and can be done by weight lifters of any experience level.

​Shoulder Press: 20 reps, 2 sets

​Shoulder presses are important to include in your workout routine so you can maintain a healthy shoulder joint as well as gain mass and width.

​Tricep Kickback: 20 reps, 2 sets

​The triceps are easy to forget about but are essential for building your arm as a whole. Kickbacks are an easy way to help build the muscles on the backs of your arms and eliminate batwings.

A man doing bicep curl exercises

​Thrusters: 15 reps, 3 sets

​If you want a full body calorie torching workout that will help you see real changes in your body, you should be doing thrusters. They will leave you sweating and get your heart pumping while also providing the benefits of strength training.

​Dumbbell Front Raise: 10 reps, 3 sets

​A front raise will work the shoulders and upper back as well. It is a great move to help work on your control and grip strength.

​Day 2

​Dumbbell Squats: 25 reps, 3 sets

​Not only will the dumbbell squat engage your core muscle region, but the addition of dumbbells will add the resistance giving you a cardio workout that shapes your glutes, hamstrings, and quads.

​Walking Lunge: 24 reps, 2 sets

​Walking lunges will help to build your hamstrings and quads while also allowing you to work on stabilizer muscles. Walking lunges are great for engaging the whole core and increasing your balance while strengthening your lower body.

Incline Bench Press: 15 reps, 3 sets

​For defined upper chest, you should be considering incline bench presses during your chest exercise days. The use of dumbbells requires extra stabilization helping to define the upper pectoral while engaging the shoulders.

​Hammer Curl: 8 reps each arm, 2 sets

​For definition in your biceps, look to do slow alternating reps of hammer curls. Controlled movements will surely help in increasing your arm strength while defining the shape of the overall bicep.

A man doing a dumbbell front raise with one hand

​Dumbbell Pull Over: 8 reps, 3 sets

​Pull overs are another great chest exercise that will fit right in to your dumbbell workout routine.

​Day 3

​Dumbbell Deadlift: 10 reps, 3 sets

​Dumbbell deadlifts are a great warm up for your legs and lower back. The weight will allow you to stretch your hamstrings and build muscle in this region. Proper form and steady reps will build muscle in your lower back and hamstrings.

​Seated Dumbbell Curl: 12 reps, 3 sets

​This alternative to hammer curls will ensure that you are isolating your biceps. The seated dumbbell curl ensures that no momentum is being used to lift the weights thus helping to build muscle in your biceps. 

​Reverse Lunge with Dumbbells: 12 reps each leg, 2 sets

​Doing reverse lunges are a good way to work the hamstrings and glutes with a bigger range of motion than squats.

​Single Arm Plank Rows: 15 reps each arm, 2 sets

​The single arm plank row allows you to solidify your core abdominal muscles while simultaneously working out your mid back region. The pulling motion strengthens the muscles surrounding your spine.

​Overhead Tricep Extension: 20 reps, 2 sets

​This simple, one dumbbell exercise allows you to isolate your both triceps simultaneously. Slow controlled motions will help to define the tricep, making your arms look larger and more defined. 

Kettlebells are the next best thing ​next to beginner dumbbells for strength training​! If you’re considering purchasing one, check our comprehensive review on the ​ best ​adjustable kettlebell on the market​.

​Month 2 Dumbbell Workout Plan

​Day 1

​Single Leg Deadlift: 15 reps each leg, 2 sets

This alternative to deadlifts will allow you to not only reap the benefits of the deadlift, but will also incorporate your core. The balance needed for this exercise increases your strength in ​your core, hamstrings, and lower back.

​Dumbbell Chest Flys: 8 reps each arm, 3 sets

​Dumbbell flys strengthen the entire pectoral region and are especially great for defining outside region of the pectorals.

​Bent Over Row: 15 reps, 2 sets

​Rows are a tried and true back workout that will help sculpt your muscles. It is especially important to work your back regularly to help avoid back injuries and maintain your functional fitness.

​Dumbbell Step Up: 12 reps each leg, 2 sets

​If you are looking for great cardio and leg exercises, look toward doing this exercise. With some increased speed you will break a sweat, increase your heart rate, and begin to feel the burn in your quads, glutes, calves, and hamstrings.

​Chest Press: 10 reps, 3 sets

​The chest press will work the middle region of your pectorals. Keep on going and increase weight as you can.

A woman doing dumbbell curls

​Day 2

​Preacher Cu​rls: 12 reps, 3 sets

​Preacher curls are another great bicep workout for gaining mass and strength.

​Walking Lunge with Pass Through: 12 reps each leg, 2 sets​​​​

​This modification of the walking lunges will slow the movement down in order to define the main muscles in your legs.

​Lateral Raises: 10 reps, 3 sets

​This exercise is meant to work out your lateral shoulder muscles. You may notice some additional muscles activating in the upper back region as you stabilize the muscles when you are fully extended during the exercise.

​Sit ups with Dumbbells: 15 reps, 2 sets

​For an added strength training core exercise, utilize weights. The weights will create a cardio workout for the already difficult core workout provided by sit ups.

​Alternating Bicep Curl: 10 reps, 3 sets

​This exercise serves to build strength in the bicep while also defining your forearms. The alternating movements allows you to isolate the muscle and really focus on getting the most of the workout. Make sure you use good quality workout gloves and wristguards to protect your hands from ripping or drying.

​Day 3

​Shoulder Shrugs: 18 reps, 2 sets

​Shoulder shrugs help to define the upper back and deltoids. Although a simple exercise, ensure that you use slow controlled movements in order to really see the effects of the movements.

​Decline Chest Press: 10 reps, 3 sets

​For the hard to get lower chest muscles, utilize this exercise. This exercise is meant to define and strengthen the lower pectorals.

​Calf Raises: 20 reps, 3 sets

​Using a dumbbell you can either have both feet on the ground or balance on one leg as you do this exercise. The results will define your calves.

​Single Arm Row on a Bench: 12 reps each side, 3 sets

​Single arm rows workout the muscles in the mid back adjacent to the spine. The controlled motion will additionally utilize your triceps and shoulders.

​Tricep Kickback: 20 reps, 2 sets

​Kickbacks are an easy way to continue to build up your triceps. Try adding more weight as you come back to this workout in month 2, or adjust as​ appropriate for your age and fitness level. This is a good strength training workout ​that doesn’t need a bench.

​Month 3 Dumbbell Workout Plan

​Day 1

​Incline Bench Press: 8 reps each side, 3 sets

​This exercise is really great for your chest. Make sure you keep pushing yourself to increase weights as you can.

​Dumbbell Pull Over: 10 reps, 3 sets

​As you work pullovers back into your routine try to mix it up by doing them on the floor so you don’t get to use the bench for support. This will work a whole different set of muscles.

​Double Bicep Curl: 12 reps, 3 sets

​To do a double bicep curl you follow the same steps as an alternating bicep curl, except you curl both arms at the same time. 

​Sumo Squat with Dumbbell: 15 reps, 3 sets

​Sumo Squats are an excellent exercise for strengthening the inner thighs. The movement will boast definition in the glutes, quads, and inner thighs.

​Single Arm Plank Row: 8 reps each side, 3 sets

​This exercise is really great for your mid back and core. Make sure you keep pushing yourself to increase weights as you can.

​Day 2

​Walking Lunge: 12 reps each side, 2 sets

​This exercise helps to build stabilizer muscles and hamstrings. Make sure you keep pushing yourself to increase weights as you can. ​Alternatively, you can also work on this exercise with a kettlebell.

​Hammer Curls: 10 reps, 3 sets

​These alternative bicep curls build and shape biceps. Keep pushing yourself to increase weights as you continue to do this exercise.

​Shoulder Press: 8 reps, 4 sets

Th​e movement of this exercise builds mass in your shoulders, and more of a toning exercise for women. Continue to increase weight as you are able.

A woman lifting a dumbbell with one hand

​Deadlifts: 15 reps, 3 sets

​This exercise works out your lower back and hamstrings. Keep pushing yourself to increase the weights with this exercise.

​Russsian Twist: 30 reps, 2 sets

​Twists will give the lateral parts of your core much needed attention. The movement will solidify your obliques.

​Day 3

​Bench Press: 12 reps, 3 sets

​Continue to increase the weights during this exercise to build and define your pectoral muscles.

​Arm Circles: 30 seconds, 2 sets

​Arm circles with dumbbells increases strength in your entire arm. The strength needed to stabilize and control the movement will place particular attention on the shoulders, forearms, biceps, and triceps.                                                            

​Wood Choppers: 8 reps each side, 3 sets

​Wood choppers are a good standing ab and free weight exercise that will help tone the obliques and upper abs. ​

​Bent Over Row: 12 reps, 3 sets

​A bent over row will help you continue to work your ​entire upper body. It is a good exercise to without a bench if you are working out in your home gym.

​Thrusters: 30 reps, 2 sets

​Keep pushing yourself to increase weights as you continue to do this exercise.

Robert Lemus has been a natural competitor for 6 years, starting in Men’s Physique, then Bodybuilding, and then into Classic Physique. He is the Orange County Bodybuilding champion in 2016 for the Musclemania Organization. In 2018, he received his Pro Card with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) in Classic Physique.