According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 23.2% of American adults meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for performing sufficient muscle-strengthening and aerobic activities.
Whether you fall within the minority of this statistic and want to increase your muscle mass even more, or you’re among the majority of people not getting enough strength training. A dumbbell-only workout can help with your fitness goals.
We’ll share an excellent full-body workout with dumbbells to get you started and explain must-knows about giving your muscles the best chance to repair and grow.
Understanding How Muscle Building Works
Before you build muscle, you must tear muscle fibers so your body can repair them, adding the bulk you want. From a scientific standpoint, this occurs when muscle protein synthesis happens at a faster pace than muscle protein breakdown.
It just so happens that protein synthesis increases in your body for 2 – 4 hours after a workout. That’s your body’s way of tending to the torn muscle when you exercise, and it’s why working out with dumbbells can be an effective way to build muscle.
Before we recommend a full-body dumbbell workout for mass, keep in mind that you must adhere to the following to maximize the results of your dumbbell workout:
- Lift heavier weights as you gain strength
- Allow 1 – 2 rest days between dumbbell training
- Ensure you’re getting the proper ratio of macro and micronutrients
7-Day Full-body Dumbbell Workout
Dumbbell strength training is attractive to many people because they’re accessible to buy. They take up a relatively small space, and you don’t have to pour money into gym memberships.
Remember that you must have enough dumbbells to perform warmups, which should be about half the weight you can handle during your regular reps. You’ll also need to be on standby to purchase heavier weights than you can currently lift if you don’t already have them in your home.
So, with that established, below is a one-week full-body dumbbell workout for men and women.
Day 1: Bench Presses, Deadlifts, and More
When choosing your starting weights for the exercises below, it’s essential to select the heaviest dumbbells you can manage while still completing the full set of reps. Reps are the number of times you’ll repeat an exercise before resting. Every group of reps counts as a set.
So, follow the six exercises below, which we’ve broken down according to sets.
4 Sets Each Of:
- Standing dumbbell press (6 – 8 reps)
- Dumbbell bench press (6 – 8 reps)
- One-arm dumbbell row (6 – 8 reps)
- Stiff-legged dumbbell row (15 – 20 reps)
3 Sets Each Of:
- Dumbbell bicep curl (8 – 12 reps)
- Dumbbell one-arm triceps extension (8 – 23 reps)
Note that the stiff-legged dumbbell deadlift involves significantly more reps than the other exercises. That’s because, for most people, dumbbells aren’t heavy enough to be effective for this exercise, meaning that you’ll need more reps to tire your muscles.
Day 2: Growth Day
You should always include a minimum of one day of rest between full-body dumbbell workouts (or any strength training exercises, for that matter). According to the University of Colorado Boulder, it’s better to call these “growth” days rather than “rest” days.
Muscles rebuild and grow during periods of rest. Completing a full-body dumbbell workout every day will cause muscle tissue to break down constantly. Avoiding rest will prevent muscle growth.
Day 3: Hamstring Curls, Flyes, and More
With your muscles having time to recover, grab your dumbbells and perform the following exercises.
4 Sets Each Of:
- Straight-arm dumbbell pull-over (6 – 8 reps)
- Side laterals to front raise (6 – 8 reps)
- Dumbbell flyes (6 – 8 reps)
- Dumbbell hamstring curl (15 – 20 reps)
3 Sets Each Of:
- Alternate hammer curl (8 – 12 reps)
- Tricep dumbbell kickback (8 – 12 reps)
As with stiff-legged dumbbell rows, you’ll need to perform more hamstring curls since dumbbells often don’t weigh enough to make shorter reps effective.
Day 4: Growth Day
Give your muscles another opportunity to rest. Meanwhile, reflect on this: Did you know that allowing 3 – 5 minutes between sets on your lifting days can improve strength?
The study that discovered these stats concluded that long rests allow you to perform each set with more intensity and volume.
Day 5: Squats, Arnold Press, and More
You’re about to complete your last round of dumbbell exercises for the week. If you think three days per week isn’t enough to build muscle, consider this: research shows that training at least twice a week has better hypertrophic results (muscle growth), and they infer that training three times a week could maximize it.
4 Sets Each Of:
- Incline dumbbell press (6 – 8 reps)
- Bent over two-dumbbell row (6 – 8 reps)
- Arnold Press (6 – 8 reps)
- Dumbbell goblet squat (15 – 20 reps)
3 Sets Each Of:
- Concentration curls (8 – 12 reps)
- Seated triceps press (8 – 12 reps)
Day 6: Growth Day
Yet another crucial time to let your muscles repair. However, you’re welcome to do some aerobic activity on your growth days.
That said, we recommend allowing at least six hours between your dumbbell workouts and aerobic exercises. Researchers found that the quality of training decreases if you try doing heart rate rising exercise shortly after lifting weights.
Day 7: Growth Day
It doesn’t matter when you pair this second back-to-back growth day with any of the other growth days we listed here. The important part is that you include two consecutive days of dumbbell training rest.
Giving yourself two days off before you embark on a new week of dumbbell strength training is an excellent choice. You can reset and prepare to lift heavier weights.
How Often To Increase Dumbbell Weights
The frequency you increase the weight of your dumbbells will depend on your progress. Programs like the 5×5 by StrongLifts encourage people to increase their weights by five pounds (2.5 pounds per side) for every new day they exercise until they can’t add any more weight.
However, this can feel too aggressive for some. Increasing the weight of your dumbbells by 2.5 pounds isn’t as easy as doing so with a barbell. So, we encourage you to try to increase the weight you lift every week. Remember, lifting heavier dumbbells is crucial for adding new muscle mass.
If you still have questions about doing a full-body workout with dumbbells, we’re here to help.
Can you build muscle with dumbbells only?
Yes, you can build muscle using only dumbbells. The trick is to always add weight to how much you lift.
What size dumbbells should I start with?
The dumbbell size you start with depends on your current strength and gender. But for people with no prior training, we recommend 5 – 10-pound dumbbells for women and 10 – 20-pound dumbbells for men.
Is it okay to use dumbbells every day?
You shouldn’t use dumbbells every day if you’re doing a full-body workout because your muscles need time to rest. However, if you alternate using specific muscle groups on different days of the week, it’s okay to use dumbbells daily.
Maximizing Your Full-body Workout With Dumbbells
By following the strategies above, you can expect to notice an improvement in your muscle strength within weeks. However, you must give your body time to rest between workouts and provide enough nutrients for muscle repair.
Research shows that consuming protein powder within one hour post-workout can improve physical performance and facilitate the recovery process. Scientists have also found that creatine powder can improve muscle mass by boosting endurance. So, these can be excellent supplements to pair with your full-body dumbbell workout routine.