How to Gain Muscle Using Dumbbells

Many people often think that because dumbbells are small they don’t reliably build muscles. Nothing further than the truth. Once you learn how to gain muscle using dumbbells, they can help you change your entire body beyond the classic bicep curls.

How to Gain Muscle Using Dumbbells 

In order to effectively gain muscle using dumbbells, you need to make a dumbbell workout plan. Start making a four-week workout training plan and track your progress so you can modify your dumbbell workout plan as you follow it. 

Man lifting a dumbbell with one arm while holding the other pair on his side

Making a Dumbbell Workout Plan

Making a four-week dumbbell workout plan can be difficult if you’re beginning to lift weights. Don’t worry, you can use these notes when you are making your dumbbell workout plan

Identifying Workouts with Targeted Body Parts

Your four-week dumbbell workout plan should consist of four workouts every week. Each of the four workouts should work on different parts of the body so you can rest them alternately. An example would be:

Once you’ve identified the workouts that appropriately target these body parts, it’s time to delegate them on your dumbbell workout plan. There are plenty of dumbbell workouts available for you. There are also dumbbell workout apps that you can access to your phone.

The first three workouts for each week should hit two different body parts. Doing it this way allows the muscle groups to rest while you work on another muscle group. It also keeps the high-intensity level consistently and allows you to lift heavier weights with proper form for better muscle gain. For an added challenge, you can also try using dumbbells while on a vibration machine.

Designating Workout Routine

Your four-week dumbbell workout plan should include 6 exercises for every muscle group. You then divide the 6 exercises into threes. You can label them easily as W1-A, W1-B, W2-A, W2-B, W3-A, W3-B, W4-A, and W4-B.

You pair each of these groups into two but they shouldn’t be on the same workout muscle group. This way you won’t get continuous workouts that target the same muscle group. You then assign them to each day of the week with 1 or 2 days rest. Here is an example you can follow:

Woman lifting a dumbbell over her head
  • Monday: W1-A and W2-A
  • Tuesday: W3-A and W4-A
  • Wednesday: W1-B and W2-B
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: W3-B and W4-B
  • Saturday: W1-A and W2-A
  • Sunday: Rest 

You can decide on the sets and reps you do. If you are a beginner, we recommend you start with 3 to 6 reps for 3 to 5 sets depending on the weight of your dumbbell. This type of workout plan maximizes muscle gain and at the same time provides you the optimal recovery to keep muscle gain consistent. 

Track Your Progress

Your dumbbell workout plan isn’t permanent, you should always change it to match your progress. Your exercise should be increasing in intensity after every workout. That is the best way to keep your muscles working at a high level and gain bulk

Keep track of the reps, sets, rest time, tempo, posture, weight, and muscle bulk. A piece of basic workout advice for beginners is to increase the intensity by increasing the reps by 2 to 3 after every workout. It’s slow and steady progress and doesn’t shock the body especially for beginners. 

Keep track of your progress and if you noticed you are slowing down or don’t feel that your muscles aren’t working heavily then you should increase your workload and intensity.

There are various factors on dumbbell exercises you can modify to keep you on track with your progress. You can adjust the reps, the sets, the weight of your dumbbells, and even the time you take to rest.    

What Dumbbell Weight Should I Use to Build Muscle?

The dumbbell weight you should use to build muscle will depend on your goals. If you are still a beginner it’s recommended to start with lighter dumbbell weights and focus on doing the proper form for doing dumbbell workouts. 

Man performing dumbbell exercises

Dumbbell Weight also isn’t the sole factor for building muscle. You can just lift light dumbbell weights and still build muscle by increasing the reps and sets. 

However, if you are looking to build strength and endurance, you should try lifting heavier dumbbell weights so you get used to handling heavy objects. 

Can You Get Big Arms with Just Dumbbells?

There are so many things you can do with dumbbells that will help you get your arms big. They’re also not expensive, easy to use, and great for home use. 

While there are other alternatives to get big arms, you can also do so with simple dumbbells. As mentioned before, you don’t need to lift heavy weights in order to build muscle. You can just adjust the reps and sets so that your muscles are put into heavier stress and are forced to build more muscles. 

Lifting heavier weights is best if you also want to build strength and endurance on your muscle. If you are just building muscles for bodybuilding then you can do so with just using dumbbells. 


Making and following your dumbbell workout plan is the sure way to gain muscle using dumbbells. It’s all about being consistent and having the discipline to follow your workout plan. Make sure you take note of your progress and adjust your workout plan to help keep you track of your goals. 

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.