Workout 6: All dumbbells! All the time!

routine 1: conventional split

This is a good workout for folks who have minimal equipment, and/or who are just starting out with a basic dumbbell set. Beginners should start with the higher end of the recommended rep range, and begin with 1-2 sets of each exercise instead of 3, working gradually up to more sets after a month or so. This workout is meant to be done every other day, alternating days.

Notation: Exercise sets x reps
For example: bench press 3 x 8 is 3 sets of 8 reps per set

day 1 – lower body

  1. dumbbell squat OR sumo deadlift (aka plie squat)
    3 x 10 – 15
  2. dumbbell stiff-legged deadlift OR one-legged dumbbell deadlift OR dumbbell step-up
    3 x 10 – 15
  3. single-legged calf raise
    3 x 10-15
  4. ab crunches or Swiss ball crunches
    3 x 8-10

day 2 – upper body

  1. one-arm row
    3 x 10-15
  2. lying dumbbell press OR pushups
    3 x 10-15 (or as many pushups as you can do per set)
  3. standing overhead dumbbell press
    3 x 10-15
  4. lower back exercise of choice
    3 x 10-15

routine 2: lo-tech ass-busting

This one combines dumbbell exercises with bodyweight exercises for some strength-endurance and conditioning benefits. Good if you play sports, and as part of a fat loss program. Not your Curves circuit training, baby!

You can do this workout 3 or 4 times per week, alternating day 1 and day 2. Another option if you’re after fat loss is to do this 2 times weekly then add 2 or 3 other days of interval cardio.

Circuit: go through the following exercises in order, with 10 to 30 seconds rest between sets. To keep track of progress, you can count both total workout duration and number of circuits. To make it easier, increase the length of the rest periods. To make it harder, add reps to each set, increase the speed at which you perform the reps, and/or shorten the rest periods. There isn’t really any limit on the number of reps per set — this isn’t a “toning” workout and if you went for ultra-high reps you would still be a badass.

Start with 10 reps per set and have some fun with it. Once you’ve completed the total circuit, finish up with a few sets of midsection work (e.g. abs, low back, etc.). Keep the total duration of the circuit short and sweet, no more than about 20 minutes. Even 10 minutes will kick your butt if you’re working hard at this, so get in there and give ‘er!

If you have other low-tech stuff you like to do, such as sandbag lifting, sledgehammer swinging, or stair running, feel free to add it to the circuit. Just keep the total time to about 20 minutes. Aim for intensity and “density” (i.e. the amount of work done in the given time), rather than an extended session.

day 1 – circuit A

  1. dumbbbell swing
  2. dumbbell squat + overhead press combo
    Squat down holding dumbbells at shoulders, then press up smoothly as you ascend from the squat. Lower dumbbells to shoulders before squatting down again.
  3. horizontal pullups
    If you’re at home, you can use a sturdy table for these — just lie with your head underneath and legs poking out, grab the tabletop with an underhand grip, and pull up while keeping your body straight like a plank. If you don’t have anything you can use, do regular dumbbell rows instead.

day 2 – circuit B

  1. dumbbell snatch
  2. dumbbell hang clean + push press
  3. dumbbell burpee, aka squat thrust
    Holding dumbbells, squat down and place dumbbells on the floor. Kick your feet back. Do a pushup with hands still on dumbbell handles (you may need to fiddle a bit to find the proper dumbbell alignment). Kick your feet fowards. Once you have a secure footing, bring your chest up and jump up as high as you can (i.e. don’t try to jump up when curled up and crouched; jump up from a squat position). If this is too tough to start, do regular burpees.