A Beginner Dumbbell Workout Plan & 10 Easy Routines

Updated on
Written by Penny Cooper

Below we outline some simple exercises for a beginner dumbbell workout that engages all muscle groups, improves flexibility, and strengthens the joints.

Health and fitness are part of a lifelong journey. If you want to increase your longevity, dumbbell weight training is one of many things you can build into your daily workout routine.

To see what dumbbells we recommend, look out for our article on the best dumbbell sets here.

Or what about weights using water? We have covered that in our best water dumbbells here.

We prefer adjustable dumbbells over fixed ones. If you’re unsure how they work we have answered the question (and more) How do Adjustable Dumbbells Work?

Dumbbell Squat

Dumbbell squats strengthen your core and lower body. It is also a functional movement that exerts the legs and hips. If you are trying to add power to your glutes, hamstrings, and quads, this is the ideal exercise for you.

Dumbbell squats are an effective exercise for the beginner or seasoned athlete because it helps you jump higher, lift heavier, and run quicker.

How to Do:

  • Stand upright, with your feet shoulder-width apart, while holding the dumbbells at shoulder level
  • Bend your knees slowly, as if you are about to sit down (while maintaining your body weight on your back heels)
  • Squat as low to the ground as you can, keep your chest and head lifted and your shoulders at ease
  • Push through the back of your feet, and then gradually elongate your legs to stand upright (without rounding your back)

Shoulder Press

The dumbbell shoulder press is a straightforward exercise that strengthens and increases muscle mass for three groups: the shoulders, triceps, and trapezius. Not only does this exercise enable muscular activation, but it boosts hypertrophy. The shoulder press improves coordination between your joints and everyday movements, such as picking up kids or lifting boxes.

How to Do:

  • Hold the dumbbells in each of your hands, directly above your shoulders, with your palms turned inward
  • Push the dumbbells through the ceiling, while straightening your arms
  • Bring the dumbbells to the initial position by bending the elbows

Upright Row

The dumbbell upright row is a useful exercise in the beginner dumbbell workout that adds strength to your upper back and shoulders. In this pull exercise, you are bringing the dumbbells up toward you by exerting the back half of your body. The upright row exercise is a great functional movement that benefits people who sit all day. As you perform this exercise, it is critical to keep your back straight and your elbows above your hands.

How to Do:

  • Stand with both your feet shoulder-width apart with dumbbells in each hand
  • Ensure that your palms are closed and facing toward your body
  • While keeping the dumbbells tight and against your body, elevate them to your shoulders while bending your elbows out to the side
  • Gradually lower the dumbbells back into starting position

Dumbbell Bench Press

The dumbbell bench press is the ideal exercise for building your chest muscles. Doing this drill consistently will help with functional movements that involve pushing or driving. The dumbbell bench press enables optimal wrist rotation, reduces joint stress, and creates free movement within the arms and elbows.

If you don’t have a bench use a gym mat or any firm platform.

How to Do:

  • Take a set of dumbbells and sit on an even, flat workout bench
  • Rest the dumbbells on your thigh and rest with your back on the bench
  • Hold the weights shoulder-width apart and above your chest by creating a right angle between your forearm and upper arm
  • As you press the dumbbells upward, exhale and extend your arms fully
  • Lower the dumbbells back down to the outsides of your chest while inhaling

Dumbbell Deadlifts

The dumbbell deadlift will focus on strengthening your traps, lats, and hamstrings. It is the ideal full-body exercise that will help you in all areas of functional movement. As you do this exercise, it is critical to keep your back straight and chin up. Dumbbell deadlifts will also improve grip strength and mind-body coordination throughout the exercise.

How to Do:

  • Hold the dumbbells by your sides with straightened arms and slightly bent knees
  • As you slowly drop the dumbbells to the ground, keep your back as straight as possible and your chest parallel to the ground
  • Elongate your torso so that your body alignment is straight

Dumbbell Tricep Extension

The dumbbell triceps extension helps build the muscles on the backside of your upper arm. Not only will this exercise strengthen this area, but it will also elevate the stability of the elbows and shoulders. While there is functional movement involved in the triceps extension, this exercise is also effective in sculpting and toning the arms.

How to Do:

  • Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Stabilize one dumbbell by holding it with both your hands behind your head (your elbows should be bent)
  • Raise the dumbbell into the air behind your head by straightening the arms
  • Gradually bend your arms again to lower the dumbbell and return to its original position

Dumbbell Sumo Squat

The dumbbell sumo squat is like the regular version, except for the direction the toes are pointing. It also places a bigger focus on the hip flexors and inner thighs throughout the exercise. The same muscle groups as the standard squat are also worked: the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Once you master the regular squat, this exercise is an excellent next step.

How to Do:

  • Stand with your feet widened and your toes pointed outward
  • Hold your dumbbells close to your chest and out in front
  • Lower your hips until your thighs are even or parallel with the ground
  • Keep your weight on the back of your heels
  • Elevate back up by straightening your legs and squeezing your glutes

Bent-Over Reverse Fly

If you are looking for an exercise that targets the rear shoulders, the bent-over reverse fly is an effective choice. When done correctly, this exercise also strengthens the upper back muscle groups like the trapezius and rhomboids. The natural movement of the bent-over reverse fly will help transform muscles that are harmed by bad posture.

How to Do:

  • Hold one dumbbell in each hand while bending your knees slightly
  • Bend forward while keeping your back flat
  • As you exhale, lift your arms sideways while maintaining a slight elbow bend
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you go back
  • Slowly bring the dumbbells toward the ground to complete the rep

Bent-Over Row

The bent-over row works multiple joints and muscles. Not only does it strengthen the lower and upper back, but it also improves the glutes, lats, shoulders, and hamstrings. This versatile exercise will aid in many daily functional movements. The bent-over row also decreases the chance of chronic disease and effectively burns fat.

How to Do:

  • Shift forward while bending both needs
  • Keep a flat back
  • Straighten your arms by extending them toward the ground
  • Lift the dumbbells straight upward to your chest level while clenching your shoulder blades
  • While you do this step, keep your elbows inside of you and pointed toward the sky
  • Gently bring the weights back to their starting position

Goblet Squat

The goblet squat is another excellent exercise in the beginner dumbbell workout because it efficiently activates all muscle groups within the lower body. Not only does it add strength to your muscles, but it also reduces the chance of injury. Consequently, the exercise will also sculpt the muscles of the back, core, forearms, and shoulders.

How to Do:

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders
  • Point your toes outward
  • Hold one dumbbell close in front of your chest (with both hands)
  • While you flatten your back, push your hips backward, fold your knees, and bring your butt to the ground until your thighs are parallel to the floor
  • While keeping your weight on your heels, push through back to the top

Final Wrap Up

The most important part of your fitness journey is consistency. All the dumbbell exercises discussed effectively build muscle, keep you on track, and help you reach your health and wellness goals. We hit all the muscle groups in the article, so mix these exercises into your beginner dumbbell workout today!

Photo of author
Penny is a Personal Trainer currently training as a wellness coach. She gained a BA in English at Edinburgh University. Redundancy from retail management hastened a move to helping people get fit and writing about all things fitness in middle age.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.