Dumbbell Workout for Beginners

Training with dumbbells is a great way to introduce your body to resisted strength training without subjecting it to some of the physical stress associated with more fundamental strength generating exercises such as the barbell squat or deadlift.

Requiring you to engage many more muscles to stabilize the movements in comparison to your average gym machine, dumbbell workouts provide a fun and challenging exercise routine which is great for beginners.

dumbbell workout for beginners

The more muscle groups you can work in any one exercise, the more calories you burn and the more muscle-building stimulus your body generates.

It also means, for a small initial investment (purchasing a few dumbbells) you can hit pretty much every major muscle group in the body without ever leaving the comfort of your own living room.

That means no expensive monthly gym membership, and it means your workouts will generally take up less of your precious time as you don’t have to travel anywhere to do them.

A Few Safety Precautions Before We Start…

Warm Up

Before you start activity of any nature, but particularly when you are going to putting your muscles under stress, you need to make sure you are properly warmed up.

This means raising your heart rate well above resting level (somewhere between 110 and 140 depending on your age and fitness levels) for an extended period of time. I normally aim for 5-10 minutes. If you are in the gym, hop on a spin bike or treadmill, or if at home, a skipping rope is a pretty effective way of achieving the desired effect.

By the end of the warm up, you should be sweating and breathing harder but still able to hold a conversation.

It may also be a good idea to perform a few of the movements in the session to follow without any resistance. This allows your body to get used to the movement patterns and also ensures that the muscles you are about to engage are properly activated. For instance, if your session includes a dumbbell squat then you might want to do a set of 10 bodyweight squats as part of your warm up.

Start Light

As with any resistance based exercise, if you’re just starting out, then the light weight is a good idea.

You need to be able to perform your chosen exercises with proper form and without the risk of doing yourself harm. The easiest way of achieving this is by starting with low resistance.

You will be surprised at how quickly you are able to increase this as your body adapts and becomes more conditioned to the movements you are asking for it. Why not get your hands on best adjustable dumbbells, so that once you are able, you can increase the resistance without having to keep spending money on heavier weights…?


This is probably the single most important factor to consider when engaging in any kind of resisted strength training.

The most significant area of concern is your lower back. The most common, and potentially harmful mistake people of all training experiences make is not maintaining a neutral lumbar spine position. If your lower back rounds, or arches, then you are putting unwanted stress on your discs which can lead to significant discomfort.

The best way of maintaining a flat lower back is by engaging your core muscles and ensuring your hips are not tilted either forward or backward.

Exercises Routines For Beginners

Lower Body Workout:

Dumbbell Lower Body Workout

ExerciseSetsRepsExplanationMuscles Worked
Dumbbell Squat38
  • Hold dumbbells in either hand by your side and stand with your feet between hip and shoulder width apart.
  • Lower your bottom towards the ground as if you are about to sit in a chair.
  • Fold at the hips and knees simultaneously and lower until your thighs are at least parallel to the ground.
  • To prevent your knees from collapsing inwards as you lower your body, imagine you are trying to tear a sheet of paper in half with your feet.
  • When you have reached the bottom of your range, push into the ground through your heels and return to a standing position, making sure you fully extend at the hips by squeezing your glutes.
  • Quads
  • Glutes
  • Calves
  • Hamstrings
Dumbbell Single Leg Stiff Leg Deadlift38
  • Hold dumbbells in either hand in front of your body. Standing on one leg with a slightly bent knee, reach down towards the ground with your hands in front of your body, keeping as flat a back as possible and maintaining the same knee angle throughout the movement.
  • Once you have reached the bottom of your range (this may depend on your hamstring flexibility) return to the start position by standing tall again.
  • Be sure to really squeeze your glutes at the top of the range by fully extending your hips.
  • After 8 reps switch the working leg.
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Lower back
Dumbbell Forward Lunge38
  • Stand with dumbbells in either hand by your side and feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Step your left leg forward about a meter and slowly lower your body until the knee of your back leg (right) is almost touching the floor, with your knee bent at approximately 90 degrees.
  • Push back off your front foot in order to return to the starting position and repeat, alternating the leading leg each time.
  • Glutes
  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
Dumbbell Lateral Lunge38
  • Adopt the same starting position as for the forward lunge.
  • Step your left leg about a meter to the left bending your left knee approximately 90 degrees as your foot makes contact with the ground.
  • Your right leg should remain straight at this point.
  • Push back off your left foot in order to return to the starting position and repeat the exercise multiple times alternating side each time.
  • Your toes should remain near enough facing forwards at all times.
  • Glutes
  • Adductors
  • Quads

Upper body workout:

Dumbbell Upper Body Workout

ExerciseSetsRepsExplanationMuscles Worked
Dumbbell Bicep Curl to Shoulder Press38
  • Hold dumbbells in either hand by your side and stand with your feet hip width apart.
  • Perform a bicep curl with both arms simultaneously by moving each dumbbell toward the shoulder of the same arm and bending at the elbow.
  • Once at the top of the curl movement, push the dumbbells above your head, until both arms are straight and your elbows are fully extended.
  • Lower the dumbbells to the start position and repeat the movement for 8 reps.
  • Biceps
  • Deltoids
  • Triceps
  • Pectorals
  • Trapezius
Dumbbell Alternate Press38
  • Lay flat on your back on a bench (if you’re in the gym) or on the floor if you are at home.
  • Hold dumb-bells in either hand with your arms straight and perpendicular to your body.
  • Lower the dumbbells towards your chest by bending your elbows out to the side.
  • When your elbows touch the ground or the inside edge of the dumbbell touches your chest, push the weights away from your body by straightening the arms and extending fully at the elbow.
  • Repeat the movement for 8 reps.
  • Pectorals
  • Triceps
  • Deltoids
Upright Dumbbell Row38
  • With dumbbells in either hand in front of your body and standing with your feet hip-width apart, pull the weights towards the sky whilst keeping them close to your body.
  • You will have to bend your elbows out to the side of your body in order to prevent the dumbbells moving away from you to the front.
  • Once the dumbbells reach approximately in line with your shoulders, lower back to the start position by straightening at the elbow and repeat the movement for 8 reps.
  • Trapezius
Overhead Tricep Extensions38
  • Standing with your feet hip-width apart, hold one dumbbell in both hands under the top ridge directly above your head with straight arms.
  • Lower the dumbbell behind your head by bending your arms at the elbow until about 90 degrees.
  • Straighten your arms by engaging your tricep muscles and return the dumbbell to the start position before repeating the movement for 8 reps.
  • Triceps

Let’s Start Dumbbell Workout for Beginners

Why not give some of these exercises a go the next time you head to the gym for a workout or at home if you have a couple of old dumbbells lying around from the last time you were on a fitness drive.

Feel free to focus on the exercises which train the muscles in your upper body or just those which take care of the legs. Or if you’re feeling particularly energetic why not combine both of the above sessions into the perfect whole body workout.

Work hard, stay safe, and most importantly of all, enjoy your session…!

A nine-year career as an international field hockey player culminating in representing Team GB at the London and Rio Olympic Games. I have a passion for food, sport, and travel as well as good knowledge of nutrition and physical training methods.