How to Do a Dumbbell Workout for Upper Body

Step-by-step Instructions

Here is what you need to do...
Step 1

Working your entire upper body can be a fun thing to do when you wanna get in the gym only a couple of times a week and get a lot of work done. Doing your entire body can be even more fun when you pick up a pair of dumbbells and nothing else. Below, I'll show you a way you can have your cake and eat it too, as I outline a solid and quick routine that is dumbbells-only and upper body exclusive.

Step 2

Your first step in the gym should be aimed at your chest. Head over to the incline dumbbell bench and grab yourself a pair of heavy-ish dumbbells. Lay down and bang out 4 sets of 8-12 reps. The reason you're starting with your chest is because it is the most strength-consuming part of the workout, so doing it first will help you maximize the amount of power you put out for your chest to grow.

Step 3

After you get done with the incline dumbbell bench presses, move over to a flat bench and grab a heavier dumbbell. Now you'll be doing bent over single arm dumbbell rows for your back. These rows will give you a giant middle back and will stretch your back out for a lot of extra width, helping you achieve that V-shape that everyone dreams about. They go nicely as a second exercise because they don't require and work from your chest, and you will have another chance to expend a lot of energy. Knock out 3 sets of 10 reps before moving on.

Step 4

Thirdly, grab a lighter pair of dumbbells and lay with your back flat on a bench without any incline. You're going to do some dumbbell skullcrushers. This exercise is great for hitting every angle of the triceps, and it is a lot of fun to do with dumbbells. The reason it's third is because it requires a bit of work from your chest, too; so your chest will have had time to rest up with the bent over rows in the middle of the first and third exercise. Crush out 3 sets of 12-15 reps, and then stand up with the same weights.

Step 5

With those same weights, you're going to do a few sets of standing dumbbell bicep curls. This is the staple exercise for biceps, and it makes you feel like an old-school weightlifter. No funny business here, just a good, solid exercise that is proven to give results. Similar to the gap between the chest and tricep exercises, this exercise is great as number 4 because there was a gap between it and the bent over rows, which also slightly used the biceps. Curl out 3 sets of 15 and watch those biceps grow.

Step 6

Finally, grab yourself a very light set of dumbbells and find an area with a little bit of room. Your last exercise of the dumbbell-only upper body workout will be front/side/post raises for your shoulders. This exercise is perfect as a final exercise because it actually uses every other muscle that you've already worked. Furthermore, your shoulders have been getting worked slightly throughout the whole routine. In essence, this exercise brings everything full-circle. The best part is that it isn't too heavy, so you can focus on banging out the reps and getting out of the gym. Do 3 sets of 15 reps and then say adios to the weightroom for the day.

Special Attention

Difficulties people often experience or parts that need special attention to do it right.

The most difficult part about an entire upper body workout with only dumbbells is the stress that gets put on your forearms. That's a lot of gripping that you're doing, so grab yourself some Lifting Wrist Straps by Rip Toned, link below, and wrap them around the weights you're using. This way you can focus on working the body parts that the exercises intended, instead of having to drop weight because your forearms couldn't hang.

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Funny or interesting story about this topic...

The first time I ever had a client do an upper body dumbbell-only workout was kind of a failure. I accidentally overdid the amount of exercises and the intensity of the workout. He was somehow able to power through the whole thing, but by the end more than 2 hours had gone by and he was so drained it wasn't even funny. He had to take an entire week to recover after that workout, since it was so intense on his muscles. Luckily, the outline I gave above isn't even half as crazy as what I put him through. With that outline, you can be in and out of the gym in less than an hour and feeling absolutely great.

When did you first do this & how did you get started?

I did my first dumbbell-only upper body workout right after I put my first client through hell with his. I figured that I had to come up with a reasonable way to get this kind of a workout done, and I used myself as a guinea pig, which is what I should have done from the beginning. Anyway, I fell in love with this kind of workout and still occasionally use it today. It's a lot of fun and it has always brought me solid results. Hopefully it does the same for you. Happy lifting!

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