Get Killer Results: Dumbbell Workouts & Exercises for Fast Results

Working out with only dumbbells can be very rewarding and bring some great results, but you have to keep these important principles in mind:

1) Compound Exercises
There are too many reasons why compound exercises are so important, but in summary, multi-joint movements that involve multiple muscle groups is a great way to save time and get stronger.

Isolation exercises have their place in a routine as well, but compound work should be emphasized over isolation for a variety of reasons.

2) Workout Variety
Its a good idea to change up your workouts ever couple of months. Scientifically speaking, "muscle confusion" is more a theory than anything else, and muscle growth always comes down to the intensity, frequency & consistency of your workouts, and how you progress these factors over time.

However, switching up your workouts every couple of months prevents the routine from getting stale, it keeps you motivated, and it can keep your more "functional". Different exercises pose different challenges through different ranges of motion, which can help you increase performance in a variety of everyday tasks and activities.

Many times, people who have reached a plateau with a certain workout have found success by switching up their routine. Whether its the actual "switching" of the routine that yields results or some other factors is up to debate, but the main lesson is that you can benefit from having workout variety.

3) Targeting Segments
The concept of "reshaping" a muscle is very controversial to say the least, but one thing's for sure, bodybuilders have trying to reshape specific muscles for decades and they seem to be pretty good at it.

Ofcourse, there are genetic factors that are out of your control, but it is possible for you to emphasize the upper chest, work on the lateral portion of your shoulders, and try to develop more of a bicep peak by using different exercises that emphasize each segment.

By using a variety of exercises that emphasize different segments of a muscle group, you'll maximize overall development and aesthetic appeal, building a better looking physique.

Exercise Selection

Lets start by looking at some of the best dumbbell exercises and how to train a particular bodypart...


Dumbbell Chest Press:
This is always a great exercise to begin your upper body training with, because it hits the chest, triceps and shoulders. Keep most of your focus on the chest by going wider on the move, and use the incline or decline bench emphasize the upper & lower pecs.

Sets: Warmup with a set or two with light weights and then perform 2 sets in the 8-10 repetition range, going to fatigue without compromising form.

Dumbbell Flyes:
After the chest press, move on to this exercise to isolate the chest and get that pump going! Keep your palms facing in and squeeze your chest hard at the top of each rep.

Sets: perform 2 sets in the 10-12 rep range.

Shoulders & Traps

Overhead Dumbbell Press:
If you did the chest exercises before this, your shoulders should be pretty warmed up, so one light warmup set with this exercise should be enough to get your shoulders fully ready. Remember to control the weight on the lowering motion, pause at the bottom, and then explode up while maintaining control.

Sets: After your warmup set, perform 1-2 sets in the 8-10 repetition range to blast your shoulders.

Lateral Raises:
Its best to use a smooth & controlled motion when lifting the weight upwards, concentrating on the tension in your shoulders, preventing the forearms from doing too much work, and slightly pointing your thumb downwards as if you're pouring a pitcher of water.

Sets: perform 2 sets in the 12-14 repetition range (this exercise seems to work best with slightly lighter loads)

Front Raises:
This exercise is very similar to lateral raises except you're raising the weight in front of you.

Sets: perform 2 sets in the 12-14 repetition range

Arnold Dumbbell Press:
This exercise is similar to overhead dumbbell presses, but provide a greater range of motion that can feel more challenging. Its very important to learn and focus on proper form with this move.

Sets: depending on how fatigued your shoulders are and how much you want to emphasize their development, you can do 1-2 sets or simply substitute these for the overhead presses earlier.

Dumbell Shrugs:
Many people prefer to use a lighter weight for higher reps to get a nice pump in the traps. When using dumbbells, a light to moderate weight is advisable because it can be difficult to maintain proper form with heavy loads.

Hold and squeeze each rep at the very top to really work your traps hard.

Sets: perform 3-4 sets, varying from 15-20 reps to 10-12 reps


When peforming most tricep movements, remember to keep your upper arms and shoulders stationary, so that the elbow is almost exclusively moving the forearm.

Lying Dumbbell Tricep Extension:
The most important thing to remember in this exercise is to minimize the movement of your elbows, upper arms and shoulders, and focus on only the forearms moving by the elbows. Keep this movement slow and smooth.

Sets: After a couple of warmup sets, perform 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps.

Tricep Pushups:
This move is difficult to do even though it only involves your bodyweight. Make sure you keep your elbows in tight to your body and going slowly while lowering and explode while raising.

Sets: perform 2 sets, each one to failure (if its too easy, you can put your feet on a bench to elevate them)

Tricep Dumbell Kickback:
This is a great exercise to work all the heads of your triceps really well. At the back of the movement, squeeze and flex your triceps and keep the lowering motion slow & controlled.

Sets: perform 2 sets of 8-10 reps


Its very easy to screw up your form when doing bicep exercises, so remember not to use momentum by flinging the weight up with your hips and back. Try to keep your elbows fixed and focus on contracting the muscle throughout the movement, especially at the top.

Dumbbell Curls:
This classic exercise works your entire bicep region pretty well, and depending on your grip you can target the inner and outer heads, and even your forearms more.

Sets: after warming up with a couple of light sets, perform 2-3 sets in the 8-10 repetition range.

Hammer Curls:
This exercise can hit your forearms too and get the outer head stimulated some more.

Sets: perform 2-3 sets in the 10-12 rep range.

Dumbell Concetration Curls:
To get your inner head some more emphasis, use these in a slow & controlled style to really feel the pump!

Sets: perform 2 sets in the 6-8 repetition range.

*Note: to get your forearms some more action, you can do DB Wrist Twists where you twist your wrist from an overhand grip to an underhand grip. Traditional DB Wrist Curls are another option to stimulate the forearms.


*Note: when it comes to training your lower back, take it easy and don't go too heavy in order to prevent injuries.

One-Arm Dumbbell Row:
This is one of the best exercises for developing your middle back(lats) and a great way to stimulate your biceps as well. Make sure to sqeeze at the top of the rep to really get the back pumping.

Sets: after a couple of warm up sets, perform 2-3 sets in the 8-10 rep range and focus on squeezing the rep hard.

Bent-Over Dumbbell Row:
You can perform this exercise with palms facing in or facing your thighs, and its a good way to build muscle on your back.

Sets: perform 2-3 sets in the 10-12 repetition range

Lower Body

Quads and Glutes

Note: the exercises below don't isolate your quads and glutes, but they do emphasize them. They work the hamstrings as well, so there'll be less exercises in the hamstring section.

Dumbbell Squats:
When doing squats with dumbbells, you won't be able to use too much weight so make up for it by going as low and deep as you can, using very good form and keeping your back and knees in good shape.

Sets: warmup with 1 set and then perform 2-3 sets in the 15-20 repetition range. To really get a burn, try to keep rest times to no more than 30-60 seconds.

Dumbell Lunges:
Lunges are great to do with dumbbells, and you can go forward, lateral or even reverse to emphasize different regions. This exercise will feel really difficult at first but it'll get you sore in all the right places.

Sets: perform 2-3 sets in the 10-12 repetition range.


As mentioned before, squats and lunges work your hamstrings pretty well and at this point you're just trying to focus on them with a few sets at most.

Stiff-Legged Deadlifts:
This is the single best exercise for your hamstrings, and in addition, it'll hit your lower back and glutes really well too.

Sets: make sure to warmup properly, focus on form, and then do 2-3 sets in the 12-14 rep range. Avoid going to failure with this exercise.


Dumbbell Calf Raises:
With this exercise, you can do them with your toes pointed inwards and outwards to hit different parts of the calves. This muscle group can be quite stubborn, needing a lot of stimulus to grow and develop.

Sets: in general, trainees find that high reps work well, performed slowly, feeling a maximum amount of burn per set. Do 3-4 sets in the 15-25 repetition range.

Splitting the Workout

So the above exercises along with their set & rep guidelines will get you started with a good dumbbell routine, performed about 3 times a week in the following split:

Monday: Tricep, Chest & Shoulders
Wednesday: Lower Body
Friday: Back & Biceps

On off days, make sure to incorporate some ab workouts twice a week and cardio if your goal is to lose bodyfat as well.