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November 09, 2020 10 min read

The concept of dumbbells dates back nearly 2000 years when the ancient Greeks created crescent-shaped stones with handles to lift as weights. Conditioning your body to lift heavier items is a simple task, and it can be done very effectively with very little equipment. When you hit the gym, it’s almost guaranteed that some dumbbells will be available, even if all the fancy workout equipment has a long line to use. For your at-home workouts, equipment is more limited, but with dumbbells alone, you can achieve a thorough strength training session. 

We’re going to tell you about the best home dumbbell workout you can complete without a bench. This workout is simplicity at its finest, using only limited equipment for a full-body regime. If you don’t have much space at home, dumbbells can be easily stored without inconvenience. A workout bench takes up a lot of space, but luckily, you don’t need one to get shredded! Read on to find out about our full-body workout with no bench. You don’t need the bench press when you have these fantastic exercises. 

Dumbbell Chest Exercises 

The bench press is one of the most iconic workout exercises in existence, and one of the most reliable ways to build up impressive pectoral muscles. Of course, you can’t bench press without a bench, but we’re going to tell you about three dumbbell exercises which are just as effective. Build up your chest muscles without any additional equipment with these dumbbell chest exercises. 

Dumbbell Floor Press

The dumbbell floor press is a simple alternative to the bench press that you can easily complete at home. This fantastic chest exercise is also great for the upper arms, primarily hitting the triceps and anterior shoulder muscles. The floor press isn’t as hard on your pecs or back because the movement ends when your elbows hit the floor, whereas a dumbbell bench press would allow for a larger range of motion. However, doing a dumbbell floor press is actually more difficult than a bench press because you can't use any lower body muscles. This means you need to start with a lower weight than usual. It also means it’s even more effective at building huge triceps. This explosive movement definitely needs to be in your at-home dumbbell workout. 

How to do a dumbbell floor press:

  1. Lie flat on your back, grasping two dumbbells with an overhand grip. Your knees should be bent, and your feet planted flat on the floor. Bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle, with your triceps lying on the floor. The dumbbells should be held above your chest. 
  2. Brace your core and exhale as you push the dumbbells towards the ceiling. Keep the weights around shoulder-width apart, without touching them together. Extend your arms all the way, pause, and slowly lower them back to the starting position. 

Perform 3 sets of 6-12 reps of this exercise, starting with a lower weight than your usual bench press. If you complete the first set of reps easily, you can raise the weight of the dumbbells. 

Svend Press 

The Svend Press is a type of standing chest press, it’s generally done using a weight plate but a dumbbell is just as effective. This upper body exercise focuses heavily on the lower pectorals, hitting your upper pecs, anterior delts, and triceps too. Adding the Svend press to your workout is good for the pectoral mind-muscle connection, building the muscles which allow you to squeeze your pecs together. We all know that squeezing your impressive pecs is an excellent way to make everyone in the gym jealous, so keep building those manly muscles with this exercise. 

How to do a Svend Press:

  1. Stand up straight, holding a dumbbell at chest height. 
  2. Raise your elbows until your upper arms are parallel to the floor (a bit like a chicken).
  3. Push the weight outwards until your arms are completely extended. Focus on keeping the weight at the same height throughout, only allowing it to move on a perpendicular axis. 
  4. Slowly return to your starting position, bringing the dumbbell back to your chest. 

When completing the Svend press, focus on squeezing your muscles, particularly your pecs, as tight as possible throughout the movement. Perform 10-15 reps using a high weight to get the most out of this exercise. 

A man doing dumbell chest flys.

Dumbbell Chest Fly 

The dumbbell chest fly is another exercise usually completed using a bench or stability ball. Transferring this exercise to the floor so you can more easily complete it at your home gym limits the range of motion, so it’s slightly less effective. However, performing the chest fly on the floor actually makes it safer as it prevents overextension and possible injury. The dumbbell chest fly is a chest opening exercise, it’s a fantastic one to include in your workout. Even performing this exercise with no weights at all has huge benefits, relieving upper back pain, reducing tightness, and improving mobility. If you want to make this exercise more difficult, just increase the weight or number of reps. 

How to do a Dumbbell chest fly:

  1. Lie flat on the floor with a pair of dumbbells, holding them with your palms facing inward. 
  2. Have a bend in your elbow up to 90 degrees (the more bent your arm, the easier the exercise). Keep your elbow joint rigid when completing the movement. 
  3. Open your arms and carefully lower the weights down to your sides. You’ll need to tighten most muscles in your upper body to control this movement; do not let your arms drop, if they do you need to use a lighter weight dumbbell. 
  4. Use your chest and shoulders to bring the pair of dumbbells back up and together, remembering not to bend at the elbow. 
  5. You can keep pumping your upper body with this exercise until you begin to fatigue; it’s easily noticeable when you reach your limit of dumbbell chest flies. Do not exercise to the point of failure as this can cause serious injury. 

Upper Body Dumbbell Exercises 

Classic weight exercises such as the bicep curl are done using a dumbbell and no other equipment. Next, we’re going to take you through a range of upper body dumbbell workouts without a bench, so you can work on getting shredded no matter where you are. These fantastic workouts can be completed at home, at the gym, anywhere you can get your hands on a dumbbell. 

Dumbbell Pullovers 

Dumbbell Pullovers use most of the muscles on your upper body, hitting several of the largest muscle groups. As well as building those all-important chest muscles, this exercise is great for the latissimus dorsi in your back, upper arm and triceps, and core. It’s also great for improving shoulder mobility as well as flexibility, an all-round workout that definitely needs to be included in your routine. This at-home dumbbell workout is exactly what you need to build huge muscle mass in your chest and back. 

How to do dumbbell pullovers:

  1. Begin in the same starting position as the dumbbell floor press. 
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, and press them together at your chest. Raise the dumbbells up until your arms are almost extended, but keep a slight bend at the elbow.
  3. In a slow and controlled manner, lower the weights above your head until they touch the floor behind you. Again, your elbows should not bend, with all of the movement coming from the shoulders. 
  4. Be careful not to put too much strain on your shoulders as you return the dumbbells to their raised position. Using your pectorals and lats as the primary workers, pull the dumbbells back to above your chest. 

If you don’t feel this exercise hitting your chest and back hard, you’re performing it incorrectly. Perform 10-12 highly controlled reps, starting with a weight of 20 pounds. This exercise can also be performed with a single dumbbell instead of a pair. 

Bicep Curl 

No at-home dumbbell workout would be complete without a few sets of bicep curls. This popular exercise is a classic for a reason; it’s fantastic at building muscle in the triceps and biceps. The bicep curl is all about control. Many people complete this exercise with a weight too high, using their back muscles to make up for the strain. This is terrible for your spine and can lead to injury if you continue to do the exercise with imperfect form. Start with low weight and focus on keeping your back completely straight, using only your arm muscles to complete the movement. Once you achieve perfect form, you can start increasing the weight to build huge arm muscles!

How to do a bicep curl:

  1. Stand upright with a dumbbell in each hand. Some people perform bicep curls sitting down, but standing straight will help your form. Your arms should hang down by your sides. 
  2. Keep your elbows tucked into your torso, with palms facing forwards. 
  3. Curl the weights inwards until they reach shoulder level. Your upper arms should be completely stationary through the movement. Exhale as you contract your biceps. 
  4. Return in a gradual manner to the starting position, and repeat. 

If you’re just starting out with bicep curls, or want to re-learn with perfect form, you can alternate arms instead of curling both at the same time. This will allow you to focus fully on isolating your biceps and triceps, and will also give your arms a few seconds of extra rest between each repetition. Add three sets of bicep curls into your workout, with 8-10 reps. 

A girl doing a the shoulder press at home.

Shoulder Press

The dumbbell shoulder press, also known as the overhead press, is a classic exercise known for building strong, broad shoulders. This workout is an amazing choice if you’re working on your look, as the visual results are very appealing. The shoulder press can help you build significant muscle mass in your deltoids, triceps, traps, and upper chest. It’s a fantastic overall upper body workout, and all the equipment you need is a pair of dumbbells. 

How to do a dumbbell shoulder press:

  1. You can do the dumbbell shoulder press in either a standing or seated position. Standing allows you to use your back and hip flexors as stabilizing muscles, making for a more full-body exercise. At home, a standing press is your best option. Begin stood upright with dumbbells held at your sides. 
  2. Grip the weights with palms facing forwards and bend your elbows outward to a 90-degree angle. This is your starting position. 
  3. Slowly press the dumbbells upwards until they’re raised above your head. Hold for a moment, and then slowly lower back to the starting position. 

Make sure you start with a low weight for the dumbbell shoulder press. It may seem easy at the start, but this exercise will seriously tire your muscles after a few repetitions. Incorporate 3 sets of 6-10 reps into your regular at-home workout for seriously impressive shoulders. 

Full Body Dumbbell Exercises

While dumbbells are classically more of an upper-body weight, there are a few full-body dumbbell exercises that are highly effective. Use these workouts to complete your at-home dumbbell training session without a bench or any other equipment. 

One Arm Dumbbell Swing 

The kettlebell swing is an explosive movement with huge benefits, and with a few alterations, you can use a dumbbell instead. The one-arm swing is a simple movement that yields visible results, great for both strength training and cardio. As well as working those shoulder muscles, this full-body exercise targets the glutes, hamstrings, core, and quadriceps. This straight-forward exercise is an easy way to work out your whole body with just a single dumbbell. 

How to do a one-arm swing:

  1. Hold a dumbbell at arm's length between your legs, and lower yourself into a squat position. 
  2. Swing the dumbbell forwards and upwards up to forehead level, straightening your legs to drive the weight. 
  3. Then, swing the dumbbell back down to its original position, and re-bend your legs back to a squat. Repeat 6-8 times with the first arm before switching to the other side and completing the set. 

A man doing dumbbell lunges at home.

Dumbbell Lunges

Lunges are a classic exercise which most people learn in high school gym class. This classic bodyweight exercise can be made more difficult by adding dumbbells, which gives it more potential as a muscle-building workout. You need a decent area of space to do lunges at home, but the only other thing needed is a pair of dumbbells for a thorough hip, glute, hamstring, and quad workout. This exercise also helps to strengthen your calves, abs, and lower back. 

How to do dumbbell lunges:

  1. Start in an upright standing position, grasping two dumbbells with your palms facing inward. Your feet should be a little less than shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Take a long step forward with the first leg, bending your knee until your thigh is parallel to the ground. Exhale as you descend, with most weight on the forward heel. Your rear leg should be balanced on the toe. 
  3. Push back upwards as you exhale, and step back to the starting position. Then, step forward with the other leg and lunge to complete one repetition. 

Take your time through your repetitions of the dumbbell lunge, focusing on balance and squeezing your muscles. Don’t rush through the sets, as moving slowly will help you to achieve proper form and optimal muscle activation. We recommend 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions of the dumbbell lunge. 

Dumbbell Glute Bridge 

The glute bridge is another classic bodyweight exercise that, just like the lunge, can yield much-improved results when you bring a dumbbell into the equation. You might feel a little strange doing glute bridges with a weight on your belly, but trust us when we say it’s incredibly effective, especially after loading up on some Ultimate Mass Stack. As well as helping you to build up your glutes and hamstrings, this non-isolated exercise also hits the calves, core, and abdominal muscles. Dumbbell glute bridges can help you on your way to totally shredded abs. 

How to do a dumbbell glute bridge:

  1. Lie down on the floor with a bend in your knees. Your feet should be flat on the floor, positioned directly beneath your knees. 
  2. Take a dumbbell and place it on your lower abs, holding it in place with a hand on each side. Make sure you aren’t actually using your arm muscles but just stabilizing the dumbbell on your stomach. 
  3. Arch your hips towards the ceiling and push up with your glutes. Flex your abs and contract all your muscles tightly at the top position of this exercise. 
  4. Your body should be in a straight diagonal line from the shoulders to the knees. Hold the bridge position for three seconds. 
  5. Lower back down to the starting position, and repeat. 

We recommend using a relatively heavy weight for this exercise, you can start out by trying a 20-pound dumbbell. This full-body dumbbell workout targets a number of large muscle groups without a bench or any other equipment, helping with both muscle mass and definition. 

Full Body Dumbbell Workout Without Bench 

It’s easy to get a full-body workout at home using only dumbbells. You can complete a routine of these exercises three days a week, with at least one rest day in between. You can create the perfect dumbbell workout by selecting one chest exercise, several upper body movements, and at least two of the full-body exercises we listed. To create variation in your routine, swap out the upper body and chest movements from day to day, which will also ensure no muscle group is missed throughout the week. Check out this article for even more dumbbell exercises

Here’s a recommendation for a thorough full-body routine: 

  • 3 sets of the dumbbell floor press for a classic pec-building start. 
  • 3 sets of bicep curls to pump up your arm muscles. 
  • 2 sets of dumbbell pullovers to ensure your back and triceps are engaged. 
  • 1 set of dumbbell single-arm swings, to get your heart pumping and your whole body engaged.
  • 2 sets of dumbbell glute bridges for an ab-busting finish to help with full-body muscle growth and definition.