The Dumbbell Program - Beginner & Advanced

The Dumbbell Program – Beginner & Advanced

Our Dumbbell Program highlights simple home gym routines using dumbbells exclusively and stresses simple diet modification techniques.

Dumbbell Program Workout

The Dumbbell Program highlights simple home gym routines. The Dumbbell Program uses dumbbells exclusively and stresses diet modification.

Watch 50+ Dumbbell Exercise Examples 

I fell into a rut the last two years in NYC and need to get myself out of it. The symptoms are pretty common: inactivity, beer, shitty diet, and a general laziness in all areas outside of earning money. The problem is 100% me. I realize this and have made it my goal to get back to the very active person who relocated back to NYC four years ago. I do not want to belong to a gym so I began searching the internet for a dumbbell program or dumbbell workout that would cater to my needs. I found many good workouts and some that were bad. I am cataloging them and optimizing them.

Today’s Dumbbell Program is three separate workout days that follow a standard push, pull, legs progression where day four is a non lifting rest day followed by a repeat of the complete cycle. A light, enjoyable cardio routine is added to increase overall fitness. A rigid diet will be followed to maximize the combined cardio and strength training benefits. Over-training is for idiots and not training enough is no longer acceptable to me.

Required Equipment for The Dumbbell Program Workout

Adjustable DumbbellsDumbbells: You will need a set of adjustable dumbbells or a range of static weight dumbbells.

Adjustable BenchBench: An adjustable bench is ideal but not 100% necessary. I use a small wooden bench and in some cases have used the corner of a firm mattress.

Doorway Pull Up BarPull-up Bar: I have a simple simple doorway pull up bar.

Running/Walking Shoes: A comfortable pair of both running and walking shoes is a must for outdoor on pavement cardio.

Progression through the Dumbbell Program

Reps and Sets: Perform three sets for each exercise resting 90 seconds in between each set. Target 6 to 12 repetitions (reps) for each set. When exercising each side individually (bicep curls) make sure to count and complete the same number of reps for each side.

Advancing Weight: If you complete all three sets for 12 reps you will increase your weight for that exercise.

Deloading Weight: If after two attempts you do not progress to the next weight for any given exercise you will move down two increments in weight for the next workout. An increase in reps does not count as progress.

Pull Ups Advice: For pull-ups begin with bodyweight only and increase reps. To add weight to pull ups I use standard free weight plates. Negatives can be done to fill out repetitions.

Cardio: I either go running or I walk the 4-5 miles to work. If I feel really good I run fast. If I feel crappy I tend to take it easy on my pace. If I need a day off I take it whenever I feel like it. I like to run and really enjoy walking to and from work in NYC.

Beginner Dumbbell Program

Watch 50+ Dumbbell Exercise Examples 

Push: Day 1

  • Chest Press
  • Fly or Incline Fly
  • Military Press or Arnold Press
  • Overhead Tricep Extension
  • Crunches
  • Cardio: 2-6 mile walk/run

Pull: Day 2

  • Pull-up
  • Bent-over Row
  • Rear Lateral Raise
  • Shrug
  • Bicep Curl
  • Cardio: 2-6 mile walk/run

Legs: Day 3

  • Squat
  • Single Leg Lunge
  • Straight Leg Deadlift
  • Calf Raises
  • Crunches
  • Cardio: 2-6 mile walk/run

Rest: Day 4

  • Cardio: 4-6 mile walk/run

Advanced Dumbbell Workout

Watch 50+ Dumbbell Exercise Examples 

Day 1 ARMS

  • Biceps Alternating Hammer Curl 3X10
  • Triceps Extension 3X12
  • Biceps Preacher Curl 3X12
  • Dips 3X12
  • 5 min abs [crunches planks bicycle]
  • Cardio Walk/Run 3-5 miles varying intensities


  • Bench Press 3X10
  • Incline Bench Press 3X10
  • Fly 3X12
  • Incline Fly 3X10
  • Push Up 3X25 [Add 1 push up each additional workout]
  • Cardio Walk/Run 3-5 miles varying intensities


  • Military Press [alternate arnold press] 3X10
  • Shrug 3X12
  • Front raise 3X12
  • Bent over reverse fly 3 sets
  • 5 min abs [crunches planks bicycle]
  • Cardio Walk/Run 3-5 miles varying intensities

Day 4 LATS

  • Pull Up 3 sets
  • Negative Pull Ups
  • Lat Raise 3X12
  • Bent Over Row 3X12
  • Barbell Pullover 3X12
  • Cardio Walk/Run 3-5 miles varying intensities

Day 5 LEGS

  • Lunges 3X12
  • Squat 3X12
  • Calf Raise 3X12
  • 5 min abs [crunches planks bicycle]
  • Cardio Walk/Run 3-5 miles varying intensities

Day 4 REST

  • Cardio Walk/Run 3-5 miles varying intensities

I like that the advanced dumbbell workout splits body parts up to focus on one part per workout. Visualize each exercise and the muscle group you are working.

The equipment used for the advanced dumbbell workout is the your basic set up: adjustable dumbbells, adjustable bench, doorway pull up bar, and a comfortable pair of running shoes for outdoor cardio.

When performing the advanced dumbbell workout the user should complete three sets for each exercise. Resting 1-2 minutes in between each set. Repetitions should be to muscle failure occurring within 8-12 reps. Count correctly on exercises where you perform individual reps for each hand. Visually focus on the muscle you are working.

If you can complete 3 sets of 12 reps for a given weight you will increase the weight for your next workout. This is progress.

If you cannot progress to 3 sets of 12 reps for an exercise twice in a row you will need to back off or deload by two increments for the next workout. Working your way back up will make you stronger.

If you cannot complete a pull-up start out with the Beginner Dumbbell Program

Don’t over do it. Don’t get hurt. Fitness and ego have little to do with one another.

Complete the cycle of days and repeat. If you are tired you can add in a rest day and then pick up where you left off.

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About Donna Morgan

Donna Morgan discovered she had a passion for writing at a very early age. It’s a passion that has led her down a few interesting paths in life, not the least of which is a keen interest in health and fitness. With a young family, good food and nutrition has become something of a crusade and she loves nothing more than sharing her discoveries with her readers.