Do These Nine Dumbbell Moves Twice A Week To Build Muscle All Over

Man performs biceps curl with dumbbells in living room
(Image credit: gorodenkoff / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

It’s easy to get overwhelmed at the gym, with what seems like an endless choice of gym machines and free weights. When faced with decision paralysis, remember you can build strength across your whole body with nothing more than a pair of dumbbells.

This session, created by CrossFit coach Ben-Rhys Gaskell of CrossFit Tooting and Streatham, is made up of nine dumbbell exercises that do just that.

“This workout has been designed to target all your body’s major muscle groups while incorporating both strength lifts and functional exercises,” says Gaskell, who also runs online training program Evolution Coaching. “Performing it twice a week will allow for adequate recovery between sessions, helping prevent overtraining.” 

And, he says, training with dumbbells isn’t just for the sake of convenience. “Working with dumbbells ensures that each side of your body works independently, helping address strength imbalances and minimize the risk of avoidable injury.”

How To Do This Workout

To ensure you actually build strength, Gaskell says you need to select weights that challenge you in every set. However, if you only have one pair of light to moderately heavy weights, you can slow down the tempo given for each lift to keep your muscles under tension for longer.

Then, when you have access to a greater array of dumbbells, or buy a pair of adjustable dumbbells, make sure you increase the weights slightly each time you repeat the workout to encourage adaptation and progression. 

“The full-body approach of this workout ensures you engage multiple muscle groups, promoting overall strength and functional fitness. Additionally, the use of compound movements helps burn more calories and increases metabolic demand, making the session effective for weight management and body composition improvements too,” says Gaskell. 

Follow the sets and reps below and take note of the recommended tempo for each exercise. When written 2120, that means you should perform the concentric (lifting) part of the exercise for two seconds, pause for one, perform the eccentric (lowering) part of the exercise for two seconds, then pause for none. Be aware that the first number dictates the eccentric, and the third dictates the concentric. To dig into the detail read our guide to tempo training with weights.

Workout Overview

  1. Walking lunge 3 x 10 each side (2120)
  2. Push press 3 x 12 (2111)
  3. Romanian deadlift 3 x 12 (2020)
  4. Glute bridge floor press 3 x 12 (2120)
  5. Heel overs 3 x 12 (2120)
  6. Bent-over row 3 x 10 (2120)
  7. Hammer curl 3 x 10 each side (2120)
  8. Overhead triceps extension 3 x 12 (2020)
  9. Plank drag 6 x 6 each side

Form Guides

1 Walking lunge

Sets 3 Reps 10 each side Tempo 2120 Rest 30sec

Stand holding dumbbells by your sides. Keeping your chest up, take a big step forward and bend your knees until your back knee gently taps the floor. Drive through your front foot to stand and continue into the next rep on the other side.

2 Push press

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 2111 Rest 60sec

Hold dumbbells by your shoulders with your elbows pointing forward. Bend your knees slightly, then explode up and press the weights overhead. Lower under control and continue into the next rep.

3 Romanian deadlift

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 2020 Rest 10sec

Stand holding dumbbells in front of your thighs with your shoulder blades retracted to engage your upper back. Hinge forward at your hips, push your bum back and lower the dumbbells to mid-shin height, or until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Make sure your back doesn’t round. Contract your hamstrings to push your hips forward and return to standing.

4 Glute bridge floor press

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 2120 Rest 15sec

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor close to your bum, holding dumbbells by your chest. Drive your hips up so that your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line. From here, extend your arms to press the dumbbells straight up. Lower the weights under control until your upper arms gently tap the floor, then repeat, holding the bridge position throughout.

5 Heel overs

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 2120 Rest 15sec

Sit on the floor with your legs straight and toes pointed. Position a dumbbell on its end to one side in line with your shins. Pressing your hands into the floor to help keep your balance, engage your core and raise your legs over the weight, tapping the floor on the other side of the dumbbell lightly with your feet. Return to the start.

6 Bent-over row

Sets 3 Reps 10 Tempo 2120 Rest 60sec

Stand holding dumbbells in front of your thighs with your palms facing you and your shoulder blades retracted to engage your upper back. Push your bum back and engage your core as you hinge forward at your hips until your upper body is almost parallel with the floor. From here, pull the dumbbells toward your torso, squeezing your shoulder blades together, then lower under control.

7 Hammer curl

Sets 3 Reps 10 each side Tempo 2120 Rest 10sec

Stand holding dumbbells by your sides with your palms facing. Keeping your upper arms pressed into your body, bend your elbows to raise the weights to your shoulders. Pause and squeeze your biceps hard, then lower under control. 

8 Overhead triceps extension

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 2020 Rest 60sec

Stand holding dumbbells overhead with your core engaged. Keeping your elbows fixed in position, bend your elbows to lower the weights behind your head, then extend your arms to return to the start. If using two dumbbells is too heavy, use one dumbbell, cradling the end of the dumbbell in the palm of both hands. 

9 Plank drag

Sets 6 Reps 6 each side Tempo 2020 Rest 30sec

Start in a straight arm plank position with a dumbbell on your right side, level with your chest. Your hands should be directly below your shoulders, with your core braced and hips in line with your shoulders and ankles. Reach under your body with your left hand and pull the weight to the other side of your body. Repeat on the other side.

Find out why Coach recommends adjustable dumbbells for training at home in our guide to the best dumbbells.

Alice Porter

Alice Porter is a journalist who covers health, fitness and wellbeing, among other topics, for titles including Stylist, Fit & Well, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Grazia, VICE and Refinery29. When she’s not writing about these topics, you can probably find her at her local CrossFit box.