The Full-Body Dumbbell Workout Plan 2

Dumbbell Workout 2: Smart Variations, More Gains

Yesterday you read The Full-Body Dumbbell Workout Plan, an alternating two-day program. Here are some other exercise options, plus an expanded three-day program.

Remember, progressive overload is the cornerstone of developing strength and muscle. When we program-hop every four weeks and fundamentally overhaul our routine, we fail to make consistent neurological strength and muscle gains.

How do we add novelty while ensuring we keep our progress on track? By keeping the spirit of the program intact. Retain the same basic movement patterns while using variations. Here’s how.

Legs – Reverse Lunge

  1. Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand, or just one dumbbell in a goblet position.
  2. Step back with one leg. Take a low, gliding back step instead of a backward stomp followed by a dip.
  3. Keep your weight centered on your front heel while allowing the back knee to bend low near the floor. Don’t keep your back leg too straight, which restricts the range of motion.
  4. Avoid hitting your kneecap on the floor. Keep your spine neutral while tipping forward to allow your front shin to stay close to vertical.
  5. Extend your hip into lockout at the top of each stride. Alternate strides.

Do 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps per leg.

Chest – Neutral-Grip Floor Press

No bench? Hit the floor with floor press variations. Loading heavy dumbbells can be difficult from the floor, so use moderate weight and higher reps.

  1. Tuck your elbows flush to your sides and pull your feet close to your glutes.
  2. Start with the dumbbells stacked above your elbows.
  3. As you press, maintain this stack to lockout where your dumbbells, wrists, elbows, and shoulders all finish in a vertical line. This will take your press through a J-shaped curve instead of a perfectly straight vertical path.
  4. Retract your shoulder blades with each negative.
  5. Pause your elbows on the ground for 1-2 seconds, then repeat.

Do 3-4 sets of 12-20 reps to near failure.

Hamstrings & Glutes – Kickstand Single-Leg RDL

Often called B-stance RDLs, these emphasize one leg while being more stable than true single-leg versions.

  1. Move the support foot slightly behind the working foot and lift your heel.
  2. Maintain most of your weight in the forward foot and center your gravity in your heel.
  3. Hold dumbbells at your sides and create a neutral spine by bracing your abs and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Picture a broomstick running from the back of your head to your tailbone. Keep your glutes, upper back, and back of your skull in constant contact with it as you pivot your torso.
  4. Begin with the working leg bent roughly 20-degrees at your knee. Instead of thinking about pivoting forward, push your weight back into your working hip while focusing on loading into your glute and hamstrings. Your torso will pivot forward in response.
  5. Descend until you maximize your hip range of motion while keeping your spine neutral.
  6. Reverse direction and snap your hip forward into lockout.
  7. Return to the 20-degree knee bend and repeat for reps.

Do 3 sets of 6-10 reps per leg.

Shoulders – Alternating Neutral-Grip Shoulder Press

  1. Stand holding dumbbells at shoulder height in a neutral-grip position with your elbows pointed forward. Stand tall with braced abs and obliques.
  2. Lock your knees to restrict leg drive.
  3. Press one side upward into lockout with dumbbell, wrist, elbow, and shoulder vertically stacked.
  4. Allow your shoulder blade to upwardly rotate following the pressing path.
  5. Pause at the bottom as the opposite side presses.
  6. Alternate sides. Don’t tilt at your side or lean back in an arch as you press.

Do 3-4 sets of 8-12 per side.

Back – Dead-Stop Two-Handed Row

  1. Grasp one end of a heavy dumbbell as the other end rests on the floor.
  2. Row the weight from the ground to your midsection and back to the ground.
  3. Make sure your shoulder blades follow the motion of each rep – protracting forward while keeping a neutral spine as you lower the weight, then retracting and squeezing with the top of the row.
  4. Touch the ground at the bottom of each rep.

Use high reps in a 15-20 range. Do 3-4 sets.

Arms – Hammer Curl

Your brachialis muscles are primary elbow flexors, but to emphasize them, we need to turn away from supine (palm forward-facing) grip where the biceps brachii are in their strongest curling position. Mixing in hammer curls covers this base.

  1. Hold dumbbells at your sides with a neutral grip.
  2. Curl by hinging at the elbow while maintaining a stable shoulder and humerus position.
  3. Alternate sides and brace your obliques to avoid twisting or tilting, or perform simultaneously.
  4. Imagine pulling the weight down with your triceps on each negative.
  5. Straighten and lock your elbow at the bottom for a full range of motion and repeat for reps.

Do 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps.

Shoulders – Z Press

This strict overhead press variation forces core engagement and prevents arching and leg drive.

  1. Sit upright with your legs straight out in front.
  2. Load dumbbells to shoulder height and press overhead with a neutral grip and elbows tucked forward.
  3. Control your negative, then punch your fists to the sky on the positive as you allow your shoulder blades to rotate upwardly.
  4. Brace your core and avoid arching your lower back as you press.

Do 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.

Legs – Split Squat

  1. Stand with one foot forward and the other behind you with your knee bent and heel raised. You shouldn’t have your feet in line as if walking a tight rope. This adds unnecessary difficulty with no training benefit.
  2. Holding dumbbells at your sides, descend straight downward, allowing your back knee to come close to the floor, or gently graze it.
  3. Reverse direction by pushing your front heel into the floor.
  4. Try to softly lock out your front knee, then repeat the same leg for reps. Switch to the opposite leg and repeat.

Do 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps per leg.

Back – Pullover

The old-school notion that pulldowns can physically stretch and expand your ribcage is utter nonsense, but they’re a great pec and lat builder.

  1. Lay on the floor with heels tucked close to your hips.
  2. Hold one end of the dumbbell above your face with fingers and thumbs interlaced to avoid dropping it. To create more range of motion, turn the dumbbell sideways and hold it on its ends.
  3. Brace your abs by locking your sternum to your pelvis, then extend the dumbbell to the floor behind your head. The floor will restrict some of the end range of motion you’d get when doing the exercise across a bench. You should feel a stretch in your pecs, lats, and ribcage musculature.
  4. Maintain slightly bent elbows through the motion. Pull the dumbbell back to your starting position and repeat for reps.

Do 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.

Glutes – Single-Leg Glute Bridge

  1. Add load to a glute bridge by placing a dumbbell across the top of one quad.
  2. Lie on the floor and pull your heels close to your glutes by bending your knees.
  3. Lift the opposite leg and foot off the ground.
  4. Flex your abs as if someone were going to stomp on your stomach, then thrust your hip skyward by driving your heel into the floor.
  5. Pause at the top to hold tension in your working glute. Descend and repeat.

Do 3-4 sets of 6-8 per leg, but feel free to experiment with varied tempos, pauses, and rep ranges.

Shoulders – Lateral Raise

For all the attempts to hack and “improve” lateral raises, this classic works for low-impact, high-tension medial delt growth. This exercise targets both the front and medial delts, and no amount of wishing or tinkering will shut off the front delt from engaging.

  1. Start with dumbbells at your sides, palms facing your body. Lift the dumbbells straight out and upward with straight or slightly-bent elbows. Raise the weight to shoulder height or slightly higher.
  2. Keep your hands level or thumbs a little higher than pinky fingers. Raising pinkies or lifting the weights higher than shoulder height may increase the risk of shoulder impingement for some lifters. Do what you tolerate best as these minor alterations have little impact on targeting medial delts.
  3. Use weight you can control at the top for a brief pause. Lower by keeping tension on your delts through the negative and repeat. Avoid rocking your hips to generate thrust out of the bottom.
  4. You can start with the dumbbells in front of your body, but this often leads to hip drive and the use of heavier weight than you can control with strict form. The dumbbells can travel slightly forward as they elevate if this feels better on your shoulders.

Do 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps.

Shoulders – Seated Bent-Over Lateral Raise

  1. Sit on the edge of a chair, then fold your torso over, resting chest on knees.
  2. Place your feet forward, creating room for the dumbbells to pass underneath.
  3. Sweep your arms out, up, and away from your body with palms facing down.
  4. Maintain a slightly bent elbow through the motion, but only move at the shoulder and scapula. You should be able to hold a brief pause at the top and not need to rely on momentum to propel the weight up.
  5. Avoid cheating. Don’t rock with your hips or lower back.

Do 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps.

Chest – Floor Squeeze Press

  1. Tuck your elbows to your sides in a neutral press position. Squeeze the dumbbells into each other as you press upward. You’ll feel more inner chest squeeze and more stability through your press.
  2. Retract your shoulder blades with each negative.
  3. Pause the dumbbells on your chest for a second (your elbows are unlikely to be able to touch the floor), then repeat.

Do 3-4 sets of 12-20 reps to near failure.

Legs – Goblet Squat

Goblet squats will fry your quads, work your abs and upper back, and enhance your training capacity.

  1. Hold a dumbbell at your sternum, brace your abs, and retract your shoulder blades.
  2. Descend into a squat. Go as deep as you can while maintaining a neutral spine.
  3. Keep your knees in line with your toes and keep pressure through your entire foot.
  4. Do 3-4 sets of 15-25 reps, ascending-pyramid style. If you can’t adjust the load, slow the rep tempo as needed to bring the set to near failure.

Glutes And Hamstrings – Single-Leg RDL

  1. Choose how you want to load this. You can begin with a dumbbell in each hand, a dumbbell in the hand on the same side as your working leg (ipsilateral), or a dumbbell in the opposite hand (contralateral). Use whichever allows you the best balance.
  2. Instead of focusing on pivoting forward, control your back leg as you slowly elevate it. Imagine lifting your back foot and tipping yourself like a jug of water.
  3. Pivot the hips back and torso forward to your fullest available hip range of motion. Focus on a stretch through the hamstring and up into the glute. As you’ll see in the video, these take practice to maintain balance. Maintain a slight knee bend, neutral spine, and straight feet.

Do 3-4 sets of 5-8 reps per leg. Perform all reps on one leg, then switch.

Back – 3-Point Row

  1. Find something to brace yourself against: a sturdy chair, table, or counter will work.
  2. Set up with your torso parallel to the floor or slightly upright from parallel and your arm braced. Flex your abs to keep a neutral lower back.
  3. Maintain a slight knee bend to keep tension in your hamstrings and glutes and away from your lower back.
  4. As you row, avoid rotating at your spine or drawing your elbow above your torso to where the ball of your shoulder socket glides forward.

Do 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps.

Core – Hollow Body Hold with Dumbbell Reach

  1. Lay on the floor with weight on your lower back and glutes.
  2. Simultaneously lift both your legs and shoulders off the ground. This by itself will engage your abs.
  3. Hold a dumbbell in both hands under your chin.
  4. Slowly reach the dumbbell behind your head. This pushes the weight further from your center of gravity and forces your abs to work harder.
  5. Pull the dumbbell back under your chin. This will feel similar to an ab wheel rollout.

Do 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps.

Shoulders – Upright Row

  1. Stand holding dumbbells at your thighs with palms facing your body.
  2. Elevate the dumbbells while lifting through your wrists, elbows, shoulders, and shoulder blades in unison.
  3. Avoid any path that causes pain or discomfort. You may find lifting the dumbbells high and tight to the chin causes shoulder pain, or you may have no issue. Most people tolerate lifting the weights roughly to collarbone height while pulling them wide and away from each other toward the top of the motion.
  4. Lower with control and repeat.

Do 4 sets of 12-15 reps.

If you’re deconditioned from significant time off from the gym or just starting out, begin with two sets of each exercise, start with lighter weight, and focus on moving well. Each workout will total 12 sets. Increase weight and sets as you gain stamina.

If you’re a more advanced lifter doing your best with limited resources, aim for upwards of four sets per exercise and 24 total sets per workout.

If you only have lighter dumbbells, use a slower tempo, pauses, drop sets, and other advanced tactics to add challenge and training stimulus.

If restricted on time or primarily focused on fat loss, choose non-overlapping pairs (upper body/lower body, push/pull) and superset.