6 Exercises for a Total Body Dumbbell Workout

6 Exercises for a Total Body Dumbbell Workout

Time is our most precious resource, when we exercise we want to ensure that we can maximize our results from our limited amount of training time.

Dumbbells are an effective training tool that can be used either in a gym or at home. It’s not necessary to do a lot of different exercises, instead focus on a few basic movements and use resistance.  For optimal results use a heavy weight that will make the last 2 reps of each assigned rep range difficult to complete with good form and do circuit training.


If you can do 12 reps with the last 2 being easy, do one of the following: add weight, add reps or decrease rest between sets.

Circuit training = moving from one exercise to the next with a minimal amount of rest in between; the rest comes after all exercises for a circuit are completed then rest for 90 seconds or until your regain control of your breathing.


 The ONLY WAY to develop lean muscle is use a muscle to fatigue –

Meaning not capable of doing another rep


Muscle sculpting: use as heavy as possible while maintaining good form for 6-8 reps, fatiguing by the last rep with a minimal rest (20-30 seconds) between each set.


Muscle size: use a moderate weight and do 12-15 reps fatiguing by the last rep with approx. 30-45 seconds between sets.


Weight loss: use a moderate weight for 12-20 reps with NO REST between sets but rest 90 seconds between circuits.


Start with 2 circuits, add one set per week until you get to 5 circuits, then start using heavier weights:


Dumbbell Thrusters


Dumbbell Thruster - start

Dumbbell Thruster – start

Dumbbell Thruster - finish

Dumbbell Thruster – finish

What it’s Using:

The entire body – primarily hips and shoulders

Great exercise for linking upper and lower body strength together


Key Tips:

Lowering –

Sink back into hips and heels, keep dumbbells by shoulders with hands facing each other.

Standing up –

Press both feet into the ground, at the top of the movement press both arms overhead while keeping the palms facing each other


Renegade Rows


Renegade Row - lowered position

Renegade Row – lowered position

Dumbbell Renegade Row - upper position

Dumbbell Renegade Row – upper position

What you’re doing:

Strengthening all of the upper-body and core muscles responsible for pushing, pulling and controlling rotation


Key Tips:

 Brace the core & squeeze the glutes for additional stability (bracing core = contract muscles like expecting a punch)

When up on one arm keep the plant arm as straight as possible by pushing weight into ground


Bent-over Rows:


Dumbbell Bent-over Row

Dumbbell Bent-over Row

What you’re doing:

Using the back, core, hips and upper arms together in a single movement

Spine expert Dr. McGill has found this to be a great exercise for integrating back and core strength


Key Tips:

Keep spine straight by bracing core

Push weight back into hips (glutes) with feet shoulder width apart

Keep palms facing each other and pull from the elbows


Shoulder Press w/Trunk Rotation


Dumbbell Press w/Trunk Rotation

Dumbbell Press w/Trunk Rotation

What you’re doing:

Using the hips, core and shoulders together with one movement

The shoulders and hips connect to one another via the spine and associated core muscles: lats, obliques and hips


Key Tips:

Keep spine straight and tall; rotate first, then press weight overhead

Start w/a light weight, progress to heavier weights as you learn movement




Dumbbell Uppercuts

Dumbbell Uppercuts

What you’re doing:

Using the hips, core, shoulders and upper arms together

The arms are moving from the shoulders, not the elbows (elbows stay bent at 900 during the movement)


Key tips:

Weight back in the hips and heels

Brace the core and press feet into ground for stability


Split-leg Squats


Dumbbell Split-leg Squat - start

Dumbbell Split-leg Squat – start

Dumbbell Split-leg Squat - finish

Dumbbell Split-leg Squat – finish

What you’re doing:

Strengthening entire leg: glutes, thighs, inner thighs, hamstrings, calves

When we walk or run only one leg is in contact at a time, this exercise improves single leg strength and stability


Key Tips:

Use a bench or platform approx. knee height, keep back leg pressed into the bench for added stability

When lowering, sink back into the hips to avoid the knee coming forward

When standing up, push the foot into the ground and pull your knee back (this uses hamstrings and inner thighs)

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