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8 Beginner Dumbbell Exercises (Build an Easy Full-Body Workout)

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a man is working out, holding a dumbbell in one hand, sitting on a fitness ball, beginner dumbbell exercises
David J. Sautter post Reviewer David J. Sautter post Reviewer
Verified by David J. Sautter
NASM Personal Trainer, NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist, ACE Sports Conditioning Specialist, NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist

New to training and unsure where to start? Try these beginner dumbbell exercises that create an easy full-body workout.

Table of Contents

Embarking on your fitness journey can be daunting, especially when it comes to crafting a well-structured workout routine.

Fortunately, there are plenty of easy workouts with dumbbells for newbies.

In this article, we will provide you with some of the best beginner-friendly dumbbell exercises that are ideal for creating an effective full-body training routine. You’ll enjoy the benefits of building lean muscle mass and supporting healthy weight management.

How to Work Out with Dumbbells

Working out with dumbbells is one of the best ways to build a solid fitness foundation for beginners.

The best thing is that you don’t have a fancy or advanced plan. Even the most basic dumbbell workout can provide you with a number of fitness benefits.

But how do you build a workout that supports your fitness goals of lean muscle mass and less body fat?

Below are some tips to maximize your results with your dumbbell workouts while avoiding injuries. 

Training Frequency

To achieve greater muscle growth, you should aim to train each muscle group a minimum of two times per week. [1] 

This will help achieve a higher training volume, which has been found to positively impact muscle development. [2] 

Training Intensity

Training intensity, which is the level of effort and difficulty achieved during the workout, is another important factor to consider when the aim is to increase muscle size. 

If your workout intensity is too low, you won’t achieve the right metabolic boost to stimulate muscle growth. [3] 

As you get stronger, apply progressive overload to your lifts to maintain high training intensity. 

Progressive overload is a workout strategy that involves gradually increasing the amount of stress placed on the body during training. 

You can achieve progressive overload by doing one or more of the following:

  • Adding more weight to your lifts
  • Doing more repetitions or sets
  • Intensifying your exercises
  • Shortening your rest time between sets

The idea is that by continually challenging your body beyond its current capabilities, you’ll stimulate muscle growth and improve strength and endurance. 

This principle helps prevent your workouts from becoming too easy over time and helps to ensure continuous improvement.

Proper Form

Performing exercises while following the correct form is essential to fully activate and work your muscles and prevent injuries. 

In general, when you train, be sure to keep your core engaged, your back neutral, and your chest high throughout your workout. 

This will enable you to maintain a good posture and execute the exercises correctly. 

Control Your Movements

If you want to fully activate your muscles, you must have control over movements. You don’t want to rush through an exercise. You want to develop a strong mind-to-muscle connection.

What this means is that you should be able to perform a movement in its full range of motion maintaining the right posture and form, with a relatively slow tempo. 

This is also known as “time under tension,” and it is a great technique to increase intensity and further maximize muscle hypertrophy. [4]  

How to Choose a Correct Dumbbell Size

Dumbbells are a great way for beginners to start their fitness journey, as they can be used to perform a wide range of exercises. 

Understanding how to pick the right dumbbell size is important to achieving results, as each body part has different levels of strength and follows different mechanics. 

For instance, a weight suitable for training your triceps won’t be challenging enough for your back.

So, here is how you choose the correct dumbbell size for your workouts:

  • Use the first few training sessions to determine your individual baseline load for each exercise
  • Start with relatively light weights so that you can focus more on the technique. 
  • When you see that you can perform all the reps while maintaining good form and with good control, then you can increase the load. 
  • Continue this process until you reach a weight that challenges you towards the last few repetitions of a set, but still enables you to maintain good form throughout. 

This will be your starting weight, which will then be used as a baseline to monitor your future progress.  

How Often Should You Increase Weight?

The answer majorly depends on how often you work out. 

The golden rule is to make small increases (0,5 to 2 kilos per dumbbell) every 3 to 4 weeks minimum. 

You can also increase the weight as soon as you notice the current weight you are using is no longer challenging. 

8 Beginner Dumbbell Exercises for a Full-Body Workout

Dumbbells are very versatile as they can be used for training every muscle of your body, from your legs to your abs. 

This section will outline some of the best beginner dumbbell exercises and the range of sets and repetitions you should perform to achieve muscle hypertrophy. 

1. Goblet Squat

a man is performing goblet squat_beginner dumbbell exercises

Target Muscles: Glutes, Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Calves


  • Hold a dumbbell against your chest using both hands. 
  • Place your legs slightly wider than hip-width, then hinge back at the hips and bend your knees to squat down. 
  • Push through your legs to get back into a standing position.

Sets and Rest: 

  • Perform 10-15 repetitions for 3-4 sets

You may also like: 8 Dumbbell Glute Exercises for a Rounder Butt

2. Dumbbell Glute Bridges

a woman is performing dumbbell glute bridge_beginner dumbbell exercises

Target Muscles: Glutes, Hamstrings


  • Lie down on your back, holding a dumbbell on your hips using both hands. 
  • Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. 
  • Push through your glutes to lift the hips until your trunk and legs are in line. 
  • Hinge back at the hips to lower your glutes to the floor and return to the starting position. 

Sets and Rest: 

  • 10-15 repetitions for 3-4 sets

3. Romanian Deadlifts

a man is performing romanian deadlift_beginner dumbbell exercises

Target Muscles: Hamstrings, Glutes, Calves


  • Stand upright, holding a dumbbell in each hand. 
  • Place the dumbbells in front of your legs, with the palms facing in. 
  • Hinge back at the hips to lower the dumbbells down your legs, while keeping a slight flexibility in your knees. 
  • As you reach the maximum depth for your mobility level, push your hips forward to move back into a standing position. 

Sets and Rest: 

  • Perform 12-15 repetitions for 3-4 sets

4. Floor Dumbbell Flyes

a man is performing floor dumbbell flyes_beginner dumbbell exercises

Target Muscles: Chest, Front deltoids


  • Lie down on your back, holding a dumbbell in each hand. 
  • Open the arms to the sides in line with your shoulders, with your palms facing up. 
  • Keeping your elbow extended, lift your arms to move the dumbbells above your chest. 
  • Slowly lower the arms down to the sides to get back to the starting position.

Sets and Rest: 

  • Perform 12-15 repetitions for 3-4 sets

You may also like: Carbs for Muscle Growth

5. Dumbbell Rows

a man is performing dumbbell rows_beginner dumbbell exercises

Target Muscles: Latissimus dorsi, Rhomboids, Trapezius


  • Stand upright, holding a dumbbell in each hand, then hinge back at the hips to bend forward. 
  • Extend your arms down and hold the dumbbells with your palms facing in. 
  • Bend the elbows and pull the dumbbells to your waist and contract your back. 
  • Then extend the arms down to return to the starting position. 

Sets and Rest: 

  • Perform 10-12 repetitions for 3-4 sets

6. Biceps Curl

a man is performing dumbbell bicep curl standing_beginner dumbbell exercises

Target Muscles: Biceps


  • Stand upright, holding a dumbbell with each hand. 
  • Extend your arms down to the sides, with the palms facing forward. 
  • Keeping your arms tucked in your waist, flex the elbows to lift the dumbbells to the shoulders. 
  • Then extend the elbows to lower the dumbbells to the starting position. 

Sets and Rest: 

  • Perform 12-15 repetitions for 3-4 sets

You may also like: Long Head Bicep Exercises

7. Triceps Kickbacks

a man is performing triceps kickback_beginner dumbbell exercises

Target Muscles: Triceps


  • Stand upright, holding a dumbbell in each hand. 
  • Extend your arms down your sides with the palms facing in. 
  • Hinge back at the hips to bend forward and flex your elbows to place the dumbbells perpendicular to your shoulders. 
  • Keeping your elbows tucked in your waist, straighten your arms back to contract your triceps. 
  • Then bend the elbows to return to the starting position. 

Sets and Rest: 

  • Perform 12-15 repetitions for 3-4 sets

You may also like: Triceps Workout

8. Dumbbell Russian Twists

a woman is performing russian twists_beginner dumbbell exercises

Target Muscles: Abdominals


  • Sit down on the floor, holding a dumbbell from the handle using both hands. 
  • Bend your knees and place your heels on the floor to aid balance. 
  • Slightly lean back and activate your core, then twist your torso to one side, making sure to follow the movement with the dumbbell. 
  • Using your core muscles, twist your torso and shift the dumbbell to the other side.

Sets and Rest: 

  • Perform 12-15 repetitions for 3-4 sets

Dumbbell Workouts For Beginners

Below, you can find a few dumbbell workout examples based on the beginner dumbbell exercises listed earlier in the article. 

The following workouts are some examples of how you can design whole-body workouts for increasing muscle size in your arms, core, back, and legs.

The sets and reps reflect a workout program that focuses on muscle growth and muscle endurance.

Both workouts also utilize supersets, which is when you perform one exercise and immediately perform the one it’s paired with followed by a rest break.

Workout 1

ExerciseRepsSetsRest (seconds)
Goblet Squats8-12
Romanian Deadlift8-12
Glute Bridges8-12
Russian Twists12-15
Dumbbell Rows8-12
Triceps Kickbacks12-15
Dumbbell Flys12-15
Bicep Curls12-15

Workout 2

ExerciseRepsSetsRest (seconds)
Goblet Squat12-153-460
Glute Bridges8-12
Romanian Deadlifts8-12
Triceps Kickbacks12-15
Bicep Curls12-15
Russian Twists12-153-460

Wrapping Up

Getting stronger and increasing muscle mass is possible even for newbies, and dumbbells can definitely support this process. 

Here you can find the key points about dumbbell workouts for beginners: 

  • Dumbbell exercises are ideal for beginners who want to grow their muscles, as long as they train with the right frequency and intensity, control their movements, and use the correct form.
  • In your first sessions, perform beginner dumbbell exercises, starting with a low load and slowly increase it to find your baseline. The right weight to use is one that challenges you but still enables you to finish all your reps with the correct form.
  • Dumbbell workouts are very versatile and can be used by beginners to strengthen their whole body.
Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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