Workout with dumbbells – 4 muscle building workouts

A man is doing a dumbbells workout in front of a mirror

Whether you do a complete workout with dumbbells or add dumbbells exercises to your workout plan doesn’t matter. The most important thing is that they’re there. Training with dumbbells requires more stability and control than barbells and machines. They allow for an increased range of motion. It’s almost impossible to find a gym that doesn’t have dumbbells, making it possible doing the same workout, even if you don’t always work out in the same gym.

We have collected some of the best muscle-building workout plans below.

Benefits of training with dumbbells

Dumbbells are one of those things that might seem a bit difficult. It takes a while to get used to working out with dumbbells. But when you get used to it, there are some significant benefits.

  • Training with dumbbells requires more stability, coordination, and balance. They’re good for a workout for beginners because they often lack just that. Training with dumbbells will help you transfer those elements to your other lifts.
  • They’re always available. Every gym has dumbbells making it possible to do the same workout even if you’re not always at the same gym.
  • The range of motion is improved in most dumbbells exercises allowing for more muscle activity.


The exercises in the 4 dumbbell workouts are borrowed from our other muscle group-specific workouts. For an in-depth explanation of how the different exercises, are performed, visit the pages linked below.

Chest exercises

Back exercises

Shoulder exercises

Leg exercises

Arm exercises

Full-body workout with dumbbells

The full-body workout with dumbbells is a good workout for beginners. It only requires three days in the gym a week, leaving you with plenty of time for cardio or your other interests.

The workout is shared into two days, workouts 1 and 2, alternating between the two workouts should be preferred to target every muscle evenly.

The workout can be done 3-4 times. Having an off-day between each day in the gym is crucial when doing afull-body workout with dumbbells.

Workout 1 SetsReps
Dumbbell bench press48-10
Bent over dumbbell row48-10
Seated shoulder press with dumbbells48-10
Dumbbell lateral raises210-12
Goblet squat48-10
Dumbbell calf raises210-12
Incline dumbbell curl38-10
Dumbbell skull crushers38-10
Workout 1, Full-body workout with dumbbells
Workout 2SetsReps
Incline dumbbell bench press48-10
One arm dumbbell row48-10
Seated shoulder press with dumbbells48-10
Reverse fly210-12
Bulgarian split squat48-10
Dumbbell calf raises210-12
Hammer curls38-10
Seated dumbbell tricep extensions38-10
Workout 1, Full-body workout with dumbbells

Pros of the full-body workout with dumbbells

  • High frequency: You will train every muscle group 3 times a week.
  • Free time: With only 3 workouts a week, it won’t be too time-consuming.
  • Good for beginners: A full-body workout is a good way for beginners to get used to working out.

Cons of the full-body workout with dumbbells

  • Low volume: The number of exercises and sets have to be kept down to make the workout manageable.
  • Less intensity: It’s more difficult to keep a high intensity through the workout.
  • No focus on specific muscles: There won’t be time to focus on specific muscles or exercises.
  • Full body isn’t the most effective workout plan for building muscle.

Dumbbells workout 4-day split

The dumbbells workout 4-day split is another good workout for beginners. It requires 4 days a week in the gym.

We have shared the body into two groups. Day 1&3 is chest, back, and arms. Day 2&4 legs and shoulder.

The workout should be done 4 times a week to see the best results.

Chest, back and arms – Day 1&3SetsReps
Dumbbell bench press48
Incline dumbbell bench press48-10
Bent over dumbbell row48
One arm dumbbell row48-10
Incline dumbbell curls48-10
Dumbbell skull crushers48-10
Day 1&3, chest, back and arms
Legs and shoulder – Day 2&4SetsReps
Goblet squat48
Romanian deadlift38
Bulgarian split squat38-10
Dumbbell calf raises310-12
Seated shoulder press with dumbbells48
Dumbbell lateral raises38-10
Reverse fly38-10
Day 2&4, legs and shoulder

Pros of the dumbbells workout 4-day split

  • High frequency: You will train every muscle group 2 times a week, and some weeks, you can even get through 3 if you want.
  • Free time: With only 4 workouts a week, you’ll have plenty of time off.
  • Good for beginners: It’s a good way to get used to working out.

Cons of the dumbbells workout 4-day split

Compared to the full-body workout, the cons aren’t as significant but they’re still there.

  • Low volume: The number of exercises and sets won’t be too high on the 4-day split either.
  • Little focus on specific exercises and muscles.

Dumbbells workout 5-day split

The dumbbells workout 5-day split is similar to the setup in PHAT. We have 2 days with more focus on heavier lifts, in low rep ranges, followed by an off day and 3 workouts allowing you to go more in-depth with each muscle group and work on hypertrophy.

Have an off-day between day 2 and 3 and after day 6. Rest is just as important as hard work.

Upper body – Heavy, day 1SetsReps
Dumbbell bench press45-6
Incline dumbbell bench press36-8
Bent over dumbbell row45-6
One arm dumbbell row36-8
Seated shoulder press with dumbbells45-6
Hammer curls38
Dumbbell skull crushers38
Day 1, heavy upper body workout
Lower body – Heavy, day 2SetsReps
Goblet squat45-6
Romanian deadlift45-6
Bulgarian split squat48
Dumbbell calf raises410
Day 2, Heavy lower body workout
Back and shoulders, day 4SetsReps
Bent over dumbbell row48-10
Dumbbell pull over (focus on back)48-10
One arm dumbbell rows38-10
Seated shoulder press with dumbbells48-10
Dumbbell lateral raises310-12
Reverse fly310-12
Day 4, back and shoulders workout
Legs, day 5SetsReps
Goblet squat48-10
Dumbbell hip thrust48-10
Romanian deadlift410-12
Bulgarian split squat410-12
Dumbbell calf raises412-15
Day 5, legs workout
Chest and arms, day 6SetsReps
Dumbbell bench press48-10
Incline dumbbell bench press48-10
Decline bench press38-10
Dumbbell flyes310-12
Preacher curls38-10
Hammer curls310-12
Dumbbell skull crushers38-10
One arm tricep overhead extensions310-12
Day 6, chest and arms workout

Pros of the dumbbells workout 5-day split

  • High frequency: Every muscle group will be trained 2 times a week.
  • Time for rest and cardio: With 5 workouts a week, there’ll still be plenty of time off.
  • Flexible workouts: Plenty of room for adding and changing the exercises. A good workout to focus on your weak spots.

Cons of the dumbbells workout 5-day split

Compared to the 6-day split, the cons aren’t as significant but they’re still there.

  • Not best suited for beginners: With a high volume and frequency, this workout might not be ideal for most beginners.
  • Few rest days compared to the full-body or 4-day split.

Dumbbells workout 6-day split

The dumbbells workout 6-day split is a good option for most. It’s inspired by the classic workout split, push, pull, legs (PPL), making it a great workout plan for building muscle mass and strength.

Chest, shoulders and tricepsSetsReps
Dumbbell bench press45-6
Incline dumbbell bench press46-8
Decline bench press36-8
Dumbbell flyes38-10
Seated shoulder press with dumbbells36-8
Dumbbell lateral raises38-10
Dumbbell skull crushers36-8
One arm tricep overhead extensions38-10
Chest, shoulders and triceps workout
Back and bicepsSetsReps
Bent over dumbbell row45-6
Dumbbell pull over (focus on back)46-8
One arm dumbbell rows36-8
Reverse fly310-12
Preacher curls38
Incline curls38-10
Back and biceps workout
Goblet squat46-8
Dumbbell hip thrust46-8
Romanian deadlift48-10
Bulgarian split squat48-10
Dumbbell calf raises410-12
Legs workout

Should you drink your protein shake before or after your workout?

Pros of the dumbbells workout 6-day split

  • High volume: The PPL has the highest volume of the 4 workouts.
  • High frequency: With 6 workouts a week, we get to train each muscle group twice.
  • Focus on specific muscles and exercises: Each workout leaves plenty of room to work on our weak points.
  • Might be the best workout plan for building muscle mass of the four.

Cons of the dumbbells workout 6-day split

  • Not best suited for beginners: With a high volume and frequency, this workout might not be ideal for most beginners.
  • 1 off day: With only one off day, there won’t be much time for rest and cardio, making quality rest and food even more important.

How to reach your goals faster

Many beginners see fast progress in the gym for the first few months. Often they’ll continue to grow for up to a year. However, after the beginning phase, some people seem to get stuck, unable to gain size, and never get any stronger. Frustration grows, and the natural thing is to blame their genetics, right?

Genetics plays a huge role in building strength and mass, but it isn’t everything. Let’s have a look at how you can avoid stagnating and reach your fitness goals faster.

Eat enough

What you eat is one of the most important factors in how you feel and look. It’s no different when it comes to building muscle mass.

Studies suggest that building muscle while being in a minor calorie deficit is possible. Especially if you’re new to resistance training. However, if you do not need to cut down weight, a calorie surplus will speed up your muscle gain.

Calculate how many calories you need to maintain your current weight and add 3-500 extra per day. Eat quality food and try to hit your macros, or at least your protein target, daily to optimize your results.

Prioritize sleep and rest

Going hard in the gym and getting enough quality food is what most see. Everybody knows how important it is and is happy to share their hard workouts and delicious meals on social media. Sure, that’s important, but without rest, your efforts will be wasted. It might be the most overlooked aspect when it comes to building strength and muscle mass.

Exercising creates small tears in the muscle fibers. When we rest, the cells get time to rebuild the muscles, stronger and bigger than before. When we forget to rest, our muscles won’t be allowed to rebuild themselves. And over longer periods, it can result in fatigue. We’ll be constantly tired, feel weak, have bad workouts, and won’t be able to grow.

Prioritize getting 8-9 hours of sleep every night. Prioritize rest on rest days and allow yourself to do nothing from time to time. It might seem counterproductive, but your long-term results will be far better.

Why is protein important for muscle growth?

Technique over weight

Using momentum, half-repping, and other ways of lifting heavier than you’re capable of are some of the biggest reasons why so many people in the gym experience frequent injuries.

When we neglect proper form and bounce the weights, we remove tension from the targeted muscles. We lose our stability which puts unnecessary tension on our joints, and the risk of injury will increase.

Not only is the risk of injuries increased, but it will be harder to gain strength over time as we’re only able to cheat our way to a certain level.

Targeting specific muscles is near impossible with bad technique, and especially shoulders and calves will suffer from the lack of tension.

Slacking on the form is okay for your last couple of reps towards the end of a workout but to stay injury-free and see progress, the technique is far more important than the weight lifted.

Progressive overload

Progressive overload isn’t some fancy training technique, but the term for slowly challenging yourself more and more. It could be by adding weight, more reps, shorter breaks, better technique, or anything that makes the workout a bit harder.

Try to challenge yourself at each workout and make it a bit harder than the last. Not only will you gain strength much faster, but you’ll grow too.

On the other hand, if you’re not doing progressive overload, your body will get used to the workload. As a result, you won’t see any results from your workouts.

Wonder why you’re not getting stronger? Here are 7 possible reasons why

Use supplements

Supplements aren’t necessary to see great results in the gym, and some are even a waste of money. However, there are a few with proven benefits.

Creatine is one of the most studied sports supplements in the world. It’s proved that creatine has a positive effect on building muscle mass and strength.

Protein powders such as whey protein are a great way to get enough protein throughout the day. It’s easy and cheap, making it the ideal protein snack.

Other supplements such as pre-workout and caffeine can help you stay focused through your workouts, especially when tired.

Does creatine make you gain weight?


Dumbbell workouts and exercises allow you to work on your stability and control. It will balance both sides of your body and make you capable of lifting heavy lifts, such as bench press, with more control.

The 4 workout plans for building muscle take from 3-6 days, leaving something for everyone, no matter their current level.