101 Best Workouts Of All Time is the ultimate answer to the question “What workout should I do?” No matter what equipment you have available, from a fully stocked supergym to a pair of mismatched dumbbells in your garage, or nothing but your bodyweight alone, you can build muscle, lose fat, and sculpt the physique you’ve always wanted.

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Whether you’re visiting relatives or in a hotel with an underwhelming “fitness center,” there may come a time when all you have access to is a measly pair of dumbbells or kettlebells. Not a problem, now that you have this routine.


How it works

In this situation, the load you have will be more appropriate for some exercises than others. To see that you get the most out of the workout we prescribe here, whatever the poundage you have to work with, you’ll need to adjust the speed of your reps. A pair of 25-lb dumbbells, for example, probably won’t be challenging on exercises such as the stepup. In this case, perform your reps more slowly to test your endurance and build muscle control. On other exercises, like the bentover lateral raise, 25 lbs may be just right or a bit heavy, so perform your reps explosively. If you should happen to have two unevenly weighted dumbbells, such as a 25-pounder and a 15-pounder, don’t be discouraged; simply switch the weights in your hands each time you repeat the circuit. Asymmetrical loads force your core to stabilize you even more on each exercise.


Perform the exercises as a circuit, completing one set of each in turn without rest. After the last exercise, rest two minutes and then repeat. Continue for 20 minutes. You can repeat the workout up to four times per week.

The workout

1. Side plank with lateral raise
Sets: As many as possible Reps: 10–12 (each side) Rest: 0 sec.
Lie on your left side resting your left forearm on the floor for support. Hold the dumbbell in your right hand. Raise your hips up so that your body forms a straight line and brace your abs—your weight should be on your left forearm and the edge of your left foot. From this position, raise the weight in your right hand until your arm is parallel to the floor. If the dumbbell or kettlebell you have is too heavy to perform a lateral raise in this position, you can use a weight plate from the dumbbell (if it’s the plate-loaded kind), or simply skip the lateral raise and use the weight to resist your side plank.

2. Single-leg Romanian deadlift
Sets: As many as possible Reps: 10–12 (each side) Rest: 0 sec.
Hold a dumbbell in one hand and stand on the opposite leg. Bend your hips back and lower your torso until you feel your lower back is about to lose its arch. Squeeze your glutes and extend your hips to come up.

3. Dumbbell pushup with row
Sets: As many as possible Reps: 10–12 (each side) Rest: 0 sec.
Get into pushup position with a dumbbell in each hand. Perform a pushup and then, in the up position, shift your weight to your right side and row the left-hand dumbbell to your side. Perform another pushup, shift your weight to the left, and row with the right hand.

4. Stepup
Sets: As many as possible Reps: 10–12 (each side) Rest: 0 sec.
Stand behind a bench or other elevated surface that will put your thigh parallel to the floor when you place your foot onto it. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and step up onto the bench, but leave your trailing leg hanging off.

5. Bentover lateral raise
Sets: As many as possible Reps: 10–12 Rest: 0 sec.
Hold the dumbbells and stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your hips back and, keeping your lower back in its natural arch, lower your torso until it’s parallel to the floor. Allow your arms to hang. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and raise your arms out to the sides until they’re parallel to the floor.

6. Lunge with overhead press
Sets: As many as possible Reps: 10–12 (each side) Rest: 120 sec.
Hold the dumbbells at shoulder level and step forward into a lunge, lowering your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor and your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Push off your front foot to come back to the starting position, and then press the weights overhead.

Option B

A hotel or home gym outfitted with just a small dumbbell rack can easily become a torture chamber with a little creativity. High reps, circuits, and supersets (two exercises done back-to-back with no rest) can make even the lightest weights feel heavy after a while, and make the workout double as a cardio session.

The biggest obstacle you’re likely to face with nothing but dumbbells at your disposal is a lack of weight to make your legs work hard. This workout’s fast pace will help to offset that, and so will working one leg at a time. Be prepared to switch to lighter dumbbells on subsequent circuits when the fatigue really kicks in. If you have only one pair of dumbbells, ignore the rep ranges on everything but the Bulgarian split squat and stepup, and go for as many reps as possible each set.

Perform exercises 1A through 1C as a circuit. So, you’ll do one set of the Bulgarian split squat, one set of stepups, and then one set of the dumbbell squat before resting for two minutes. Repeat until all the prescribed sets are complete. Perform the remaining paired exercises (2A and 2B, 3A and 3B) as supersets. That means you’ll do a set of A and then a set of B before resting, and repeat until all sets are completed for the pair. The last exercise, the pushup, is done as conventional straight sets.

1A. Bulgarian split squat
Sets: 2–3 Reps: 15–20 (each side) Rest: 0 sec.
Stand lunge-length in front of a bench. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and rest the top of your left foot on the bench behind you. Lower your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor and your front thigh is parallel to the floor.

1B. Stepup
Sets: 2–3 Reps: 15–20 (each side) Rest: 0 sec.
Stand behind a bench or other elevated surface that will put your thigh at parallel to the floor when you place your foot onto it. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and step up onto the bench, but leave your trailing leg hanging off.

1C. Dumbbell squat
Sets: 2–3 Reps: As many as possible Rest: 120 sec.
Hold dumbbells at shoulder level and stand with your feet shoulder-width. Sit back with your hips and lower your body as far as you can without losing the arch in your lower back.

2A Elbow-out dumbbell row
Sets: 2–3 Reps: 15–20 Rest: 0 sec.
Keeping your lower back arched, bend your hips back until your torso is parallel to the floor. Turn your palms to face your legs, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and row the dumbbells—raising your arms out 90° from your torso.

2B. Dumbbell overhead press
Sets: 2–3 Reps: 15–20 Rest: 90 sec.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder-level with palms facing in front of you. Brace your abs and press the weights overhead.

3A. One-Arm, elbow-in dumbbell row
Sets: 2–3 Reps:15–20 (each side) Rest: 0 sec.
Perform a row as directed previously, but use one arm at a time and draw your elbow straight back so you row the weight to your side with palm facing in.

3B. One-arm, elbow-in dumbbel overhead press
Sets: 2–3 Reps: 15–20 (each side) Rest: 90 sec.
Perform an overhead press as directed previously, but use one arm at a time and turn your palm to face in.

4. Pushup
Sets: 2–3 Reps: as many as possible Rest: 60 sec.
Place your hands on the floor at shoulder-width. Keeping your abs braced and your body in a straight line, squeeze your shoulder blades together and lower your body until your chest is an inch above the floor.

Men’s Fitness training director Sean Hyson, C.S.C.S., assembled a team of the best trainers in the world to create boredom-beating, plateau-busting routines that cover any amount of time you have to exercise and whatever tools you have available to do it. Programs cover every body part, every implement (barbells, dumbbells, bands, etc.), and cardio. There’s a nutrition plan, too.

Pick up what Arnold Schwarzenegger called “a fantastic collection of workouts” at 101bestworkouts.com.

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There’s so much you can do with just a single set of dumbbells. They’re relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and small enough to keep tucked under your bed. And while there are plenty of effective bodyweight exercises out there, adding a few pounds to your strength training workout is a simple way to increase the intensity. And that’s exactly where this dumbbell arm workout comes in.

Kara Faulk, personal trainer and instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp in New York City, put together this 15-minute dumbbell arm workout for SELF readers. Requiring nothing more than a pair of dumbbells, this workout focuses on the arm muscles, and you can do it pretty much anywhere you want.

Faulk says that the benefit of concentrating on one part of the body is that you can work that body part fully. Fifteen minutes is enough to hit every major muscle group—in this case, those that comprise the biceps, triceps, and shoulders—until fatigue.

Many of the moves below are compound exercises, meaning they involve two or more joints of the body, and therefore work more than one muscle group at a time. Faulk says since these moves require total-body coordination, they force your body to work harder to stabilize itself—which translates to a secret core workout. “Anytime you’re balancing, your core is working in overdrive,” says Faulk. And when more muscles are engaging to keep you stable, you’re using more energy.

Faulk designed this dumbbell arm workout to be done with dumbbells that are medium weight. What is “medium” will be different for everyone, so she suggests starting with 5- or 8-pound dumbbells, maybe a set of 10s if you’re already lifting. As your muscles adapt, what you consider “medium” will start to increase. Instead of going for a certain number of reps, Faulk says to do as many reps as possible (AMRAP) in the allotted time frames, while still maintaining proper form.

Over time, as the workout starts to get easier, you can either lift more quickly (while maintaining proper form) or increase your weight, whichever you feel more comfortable with. Either method will progress your workout and further challenge your muscles.

Faulk suggests doing this workout twice a week, either on its own or added on the end of a cardio or other full-body workout.

Our model, Denise Harris is a NASM-certified personal trainer and Pilates instructor based in New York City.

The Workout


Do each move below for the indicated amount of time, resting 30 seconds or less between moves.

Free weights – not a bunch of barbells going spare at the gym, but the correct term for any weight you have complete control over the movement, pace, and purpose of when using it.

While the term can seem confusing, free weights are pieces of equipment that pretty much everyone is familiar with – dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, barbells and sandbells.

(Okay, perhaps sandbells are a little less well known. But the others – weight training staples!)

Planning a workout though, can be a head-scratching task. How many reps or sets are best? How heavy should the weight be? What exactly is a tricep extension and how does can it fit into a broader workout?

Well, fret not future free weight aficionados – phew! – WH has spoken to the experts, compiled the exercises and answered all your free-weight FAQs.

What are the benefits of free weight training?

Weight training is a great way to build lean muscle – something that comes with its own blurb of extensive benefits.

Lean muscle helps boost bone density and hormone health, can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and can also be useful in stabilising blood sugars – 3 o’clock slump, anyone?

Are machine weights better than free weights or free weights better than machine weights?

Firstly free weights are classified differently to their machine counterparts as they are not subject to single fixed movements, as say a pull-down machine or leg press would be.

While a machine will complete the move it’s been designed for, a free weight, like a dumbbell, is can be used in any number of movements and planes of motion.

In spite of this fundamental difference between free weights and weight machines, the choice to use either or both during your gym-time really comes down to personal preference.

One benefit of a free weights session though, is that most gyms stock at least one if not several complete sets of free weights – be they dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells – so you’ll probably be able to complete a workout without having to share equipment between sets. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

How should I warm up for a free weights session?

Avoiding injury is key and this can you can reduce your risk with a proper warm up – which, for the record, is absolutely not 5 minutes walking on the treadmill scrolling through all the Instagram you missed during the day. Soz.

Static stretches should be saved for post-workout as they can potentially de-stabilise cold muscles before a workout.

Mimicking the movements to come in your workout is a good approach to take.

For example, say you’re working up to a heavy squat in today’s lower body session, spend a portion of your workout pumping out some bodyweight air squats and lunges.

How heavy should my free weights be?

How heavy your free weights should be is totally specific to how strong you are, training history, how many reps you want to complete and the purpose of the exercise.

That said, to pick the right weight for your workout ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I feel the weight?
  • Can I move through this entire exercise with correct form?
  • Will I be able to keep correct form throughout every rep with this weight?
  • Will I be able to complete all sets with this weight?
  • Do I feel like I’m being challenged with this weight?

Levelling up as and when you’re able to is also key to seeing progress.

‘Once the exercise gets easier, modify it,’ says PT Dalton Wong. ‘You can increase the weight, add more reps, up the tempo or tweak the exercise. Your body likes the path of least resistance so once it’s used to a plan, it’s time to adapt it.’

Lift Yourself by Laura Hoggins Laura Hoggins amazon.co.uk £10.49 Neoprene Dumbells 6kg KG Physio amazon.co.uk £25.49 Nike Training Flex Trainers Nike Training asos.com £65.00 8KG Kettlebell in Black domyos decathlon.co.uk £14.99

10 Best PT-Certified Free Weights Exercises

PT Sarah Lindsay, founder of Roar Fitness, has rounded up her pick of the best free weight exercises – all chosen to help you shape, define and sculpt a strong body.

1. Single arm row

Targets: Back, biceps

Do: 2 sets of 8-10 reps on left side with a 90-sec rest. Change sides

(a) Begin with your right hand and right knee on a bench, your left foot stepped out wide and a dumbbell in your left hand, hanging down.

(b) With your back in a neutral position, and left knee soft, drive left elbow up, lifting the dumbbell to your torso. Lower back to start.

2. Dumbbell chest press

Targets: Chest, triceps

Do: 3 sets of 13-15 reps

(a) Lie on your back on a bench holding dumbbells with arms straight up over your chest. Bend the elbows slowly, bringing the dumbbells in a straight line down to either side of your chest.

(b) Without pausing, drive your arms back up. Repeat.

3. Split squat

Targets: Quads, glutes, adductors

Do: 3 sets of 10-12 reps on each leg. Start with your weaker leg

(a) With feet and hips facing forwards, start with one foot raised on a step and your other leg a stride behind you.

(b) Holding dumbbells, slowly lunge forwards, keeping the knee in line with the toe. Without stopping at the bottom, push back up to the start position. Now swap legs.

4. Seated shoulder press

Targets: Shoulders

Do: 3 sets of 13-15 reps. If you only make it to 11, use a lighter weight. If you smash 15, use a heavier weight

(a) Sitting upright on a bench, start with dumbbells held straight above your head. Slowly bend your elbows and lower dumbbells until they are in line with your shoulders.

(b) Without stopping, drive straight back up to the start position.

5. Hip thrust

Targets: Glutes

Do: 3 sets of 15-20 reps. Use a 20kg barbell and 5kg weights on each side

(a) Sit on the floor, back against a bench. Roll the barbell onto the front of your hips. With knees bent, shoulders on the bench, drive hips off the floor until your back is parallel.

(b) Slowly lower your hips downwards, then drive back up again. And repeat.

6. Deadlift

Targets: Back, hamstrings, glutes

Do: 3 sets of 10-12 reps

(a) Place an Olympic bar (minus any weights) on the floor and stand with feet hip-width apart. Grip with hands a little wider than your feet. Keep your bottom low, chest up and back flat.

(b) Driving with legs, stand up straight, shoulders back, arms straight down. Keep bar close to your body and return to the floor; maintain a flat back.

7. Step ups

Targets: Legs, glutes

Do: 3 sets of 10-12 reps on each leg

(a) Start with your weaker leg on a step or box and, with or without dumbbells in your hands, step onto it.

(b) Without pausing at the top, lower back to the start position, leaving your start foot on the box and then stepping straight back up on the same leg. Once you have completed 10-12 reps, switch legs.

8. Seated bicep curls

Targets: Biceps

Do: 3 sets of 10 reps

(a) Sit upright on a bench holding dumbbells, arms down by your sides, palms facing forwards. Bend arms at the elbow, keeping shoulders still until the dumbbells almost reach them.

(b) Slowly lower (3-4 seconds) the dumbbell back down to the start position. Avoid ‘locking’ the elbow at the bottom.

9. Lying tricep extension

Targets: Triceps

Do: 3 sets of 10 reps

(a) Lie flat on your back on a bench with dumbbells in hands and arms 90° to your body, above chest. Keeping your shoulders still, slowly bend from the elbows, lowering the dumbbells down until they are next to your ears.

(b) Without pausing at the bottom, straighten your arms back to the start position. Repeat.

10. Seated ball crunch

Targets: Abs

Do: 3 sets of 15-20 reps

(a) Sitting on a swiss ball, hold a dumbbell against your chest. Slowly lean back until your back is parallel to the floor.

(b) Curl all the way up to a seated position, exhaling and squeezing your abs as you reach the top.

Fancy some more free weight inspo?

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Getting a new body doesn’t have to be complicated. Whether you’re aiming for rapid fat loss, bulging muscles or cardiovascular fitness, a pair of dumbbells will tick the box – providing you use them correctly. Yes, curls might get the girls, but increasing your dumbbell dexterity with a few extra free-weight exercises will get you to your goals faster.

That’s why teamed up with PT Ollie Frost to find the best exercises to transform your body. You’re welcome.

13 of the Best Dumbbell Exercises to Lose Weight and Build Muscle

How: Stand with feet set wider than shoulder-width and hold a dumbbell with both hands in front of your chest. Sit back into a squat, then drive back up and repeat.

Why: Are you a nervous newbie or a long-time hard gainer? It doesn’t matter with this move. “Goblet squats are perfect for any level,” says Frost. “They specifically target glute activation whilst improving both hip and thoracic mobility.”

2. Dumbbell Clean

How: Flip your wrists so they face forwards and bring the weights to your shoulders, slightly jumping as you do. Slowly straighten your legs to stand. Then lower the weights down to your thigh before moving into squat position and repeating.

Why: If you want to look like an Olympian then you’ve got to train like one. “Incorporating these powerlifter lifts into your training will not only build lean muscle tissue but also build explosive power,” says Frost. This move also rushes blood to your glutes, hamstrings, shoulders and arms to maximize your muscle-growing power.

3. Farmers’ Walk

How: Walk forward taking short, quick steps. Go for the given distance, as fast as possible.

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Why: There’s no technique to worry about, but you’ll still supercharge your grip strength. And don’t worry, this lack of technique won’t get you injured; through a process called irradiation, this move bunches your rotator cuff, protecting your shoulders.

4. Bent-Over Row

How: Keep your core tight and your back straight as you row the weights up to your chest. Lower and repeat.

Why: “Rows will target several muscles in your upper body including the traps, rhomboids, lats and biceps perfect for getting you that ‘V’ shape,” says Frost. And not only that, it’ll hone in on your deltoids to create some T-shirt-filling boulder shoulders, too.

5. Two Arm Dumbbell Stiff Legged Deadlift

How: Lower the dumbbells to the top of your feet, as far as you can go by extending through your waist, then slowly return to the starting position.

Why: It shreds your legs into powerful pins by targeting your fast-twitch lower-body muscles. Plus, stiff legged deadlifts ensure your entire posterior chain is functioning effectively and prevents hip and lower back injuries, says Frost. It’s one of the best free weight exercises to build up your lower body – injury free.

6. One Arm Swing

How: Sink into a squat and swing the dumbbell through your legs before immediately driving yourself forward, bringing the weight up towards your head as you straighten your legs. Repeat this movement, then swap sides.

Why: With proper form this swing will not only recruit muscles within your posterior chain but it will also build your grip strength, co-ordination, lower back muscles, quadriceps and shoulders. In other words, it’ll give you the momentum your body transformation workout needs. Most of these traditional kettlebell moves can be replicated.

7. Dumbbell Bench Press

How: Lie on a flat bench holding two dumbbells over your chest with an overhand grip. Push up until your arms are straight, then lower under control.

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Why: If you’re looking to build quality pecs appeal then always opt for a dumbbell press over barbell. Why? A weight in each hands allows for a greater stretch at the bottom of the lift, building a bigger chest. And if you want to take this move further? “Squeeze your pecs together at the top of the lift to recruit as many muscle fibres as possible,” says Frost.

8. Cross Body Hammer Curl

How: One at a time, curl each weight up towards your opposing shoulder. Return under control to the start position and repeat on the other side.

Why: Remember, if you want to win the arms race then don’t ignore the rule of divide and conquer. Focusing on one arm at a time creates a large neural drive, which engages the nervous system to recruit more muscle fibres.

9. Step-Ups

How: Place your right foot onto the elevated platform and push up through your heel to lift yourself up and place your left foot on the platform. Step back down with your left foot, concentrating on flexing your hip and the knee of your right leg. Repeat on the other side.

Why: It’s a sure fire way to maximise your gluteus maximus, the major muscle responsible for extending, rotating and adducting and abducting from the hip joint. Plus, single leg exercises will increase stabiliser strength of the smaller muscles around the joint, protecting you against injuries.

10. Dumbbell Scaption

How: Arc the weights up to your sides keeping your arms straight at all times until you feel a strong stretch across your shoulders. Return slowly to the start position.

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Why: Rotator cuff, shoulder impingement and tears are common issues from overuse exercises, but not if you use the scaption. By targeting your stabilising muscles it protects the shoulder joint and ligaments surrounding it.

11. Dumbbell Lunge

How: Stand with dumbbells at your side and palms facing your body. Lunge forward as far as you can with your right leg, bending your trailing knee so it almost brushes the floor. Use the heel of your right foot to push your upper body back to the starting position. Repeat with the opposite leg.

Why: Weighted lunges will strengthen your back, hips, and legs, while also improving your mobility and stability.

12. Single Dumbbell Shoulder Raise

How: Place one hand on either side of a dumbbell and let it hang between your legs. Lift the dumbbell directly above your head, then lower it back down and repeat.

Why: As the name suggests, the shoulder raise primarily strengthens the shoulders, but also works the upper chest muscles.

13. Dumbbell Calf Raise

How: Stand upright holding two dumbbells by your sides. Place the balls of your feet on an exercise step or weight plate with your heels touching the floor. With your toes pointing forwards, raise your heels off the floor and contract your calves. Slowly return to the starting position.

Why: A staple of leg day, calf raises will build you bigger calves, as well strengthening your ankle stability and mobility.

Best Dumbbells to Buy

PROIRON 20kg Cast Iron Adjustable Dumbbell Set PROIRON amazon.co.uk £49.99 20kg Adjustable Dumbbell Set Gallant amazon.co.uk £21.99 50kg Black Cast Iron Barbell/Dumbbell Set York very.co.uk £124.99 Men’s Health Adjustable Dumbbell – 25kg amazon.co.uk £316.85

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Pyramid Workout: 7 Best Free Weight Exercises for Women

Strength train at home with 7 powerful, free weight exercises done in a pyramid workout format! This dumbbell workout combines strength, power and endurance for a 20-40 minute total body workout.

*If you’re having trouble seeing the 7 Free Weight Exercises for Women video above, try turning off or pausing your ad-blocker. If you prefer, you can also view this Full Body Dumbbell Workout video on YouTube here.

Another Pyramid Workout! You love them, so I’m back with 7 new, free weight exercises you can combine into a total body pyramid workout.

These 7 dumbbell exercises have been on repeat in my group fitness classes because they are POWERFUL compound exercises.

‘Compound Exercises’ engage multiple muscle groups at once. For example, the reverse lunge, curl and upright row exercise targets the hamstrings, glutes and quads during the lunge portion. Additionally, it engages the biceps for the curl, and then uses shoulder muscles and upper back for the upright row. Plus, your core is engaged as a stabilizing force.

Talk about total body burn! Dumbbells strength training that will raise your heart rate in 20 minutes if you do this pyramid workout one way, or 40 minutes if you go up and down the pyramid.

I hope you love all 7 of these free weight exercises as much as I do.

Full Body. Free Weight Exercises. Pyramid Workout.

Free Weights FAQs

A free weight is any kind of weight that isn’t attached to an apparatus {think dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells}. I mentioned this in a previous Dumbbell Pyramid Workout post, but I love using free weights — mostly in the form of dumbbells and kettlebells.

  • Free weights are perfect for home gyms. Dumbbells are affordable and don’t take up much space. If you frequently workout at home, I suggest having a lighter and heavier set of dumbbells or free weights available. With the goal of always striving to increase weight.
  • According to The American Council on Exercise, free weights have an advantage over machine-based exercises. That’s because they mimic natural movement patterns and require you to also engage stabilizing muscle in your core. Hello abs while performing a front squat.
  • Free weights are versatile. The list of dumbbell exercises is endless. You can build muscle simply using a set of dumbbells. This pyramid workout includes 7 of my current favorite compound dumbbell exercises for a full body dumbbell workout. I also love that you can choose a lighter set of dumbbells and move at a faster pace if you want more cardio. Or you can grab heavier dumbbells and move slower, with extra emphasis on proper form, to make the workout more strength-focused.
  • Free weights are accessible. Almost every gym has a set, or multiple sets, of dumbbells available. Even most hotel gyms have free weights these days.

Which means dumbbell workouts are great for traveling too. Summer is our busiest travel season, and thanks to these free weight exercises I was able to keep up with my fitness routine at our recent Best Western Hotel stays.

We stayed at the Best Western Plus Redondo Beach, California in July and the Best Western Plus Manhattan Beach, California this past weekend. I was impressed with both locations gym facilities {and post-workout breakfast as well}!

In fact, you can see one of my pregnancy-friendly, hotel gym workouts from this past weekend’s stay at the Best Western Plus Manhattan Beach on my Instagram feed here.

The Workout: 7 Best Free Weight Exercises for Women

This total body workout uses free weights to strengthen the upper body, lower body and core muscles.

It’s approximately a 20-minute workout if you go up the pyramid, and a 40-minute workout if you come back down the pyramid. Note, this workout is performed in timed intervals. I personally love using the Tabata Pro Timer App on my iPhone.

Equipment: Medium-to-Heavy Pair of Dumbbells. I suggest 8-20 lb dumbbells. I’m pictured using 10 lb dumbbells for this workout.

Instructions: This workout is performed in a stack-on pyramid format. That means you’ll perform each exercise for 30 seconds, adding on moves as you climb up the pyramid.

So it will look like this:

  • Set 1: Perform Move 1 for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest.
  • Set 2: Perform Move 1 for 30 seconds + Move 2 for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest.
  • Set 3: Perform Move 1 for 30 seconds + Move 2 for 30 seconds + Move 3 for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest.

Continue this stack-on, pyramid format until you complete moves 1 through 7. Then you have the option to go back down the pyramid in reverse order, dropping off Move 1, then Move 2, then Move 3 and so on.

Warm Up — I suggest this 5-Minute Warm Up for At-Home Workouts.

Workout — you can see a short video demonstration of each exercise at the top of this post.

  1. Clean and Press
  2. 2 Pulse Squat + 2 Press Jacks
  3. Reverse Lunge + Curl + Upright Row
  4. Alternating Lunge Drops
  5. Push Up + Pass
  6. Lateral Lunge + Balance Press {alternate sides, right and left, each time you perform this exercises}
  7. Glute Bridge + Skull Crusher

Cool Down — I suggest flowing through these 8 Mobility Exercises or this 10 Minute Recovery Flow Yoga.

Clean and Press

2 Pulse Squat + 2 Press Jacks

Reverse Lunge + Curl + Upright Row

Alternating Lunge Drops

Push Up + Pass

Lateral Lunge + Balance Press

Glute Bridge + Skull Crusher

See the 7 Best Free Weight Exercises for Women workout video at the top of this post for a demonstration of each of these exercises.

If you loved this workout, you should also try my 7 Best Strength Training Exercises for Women, which is one of the most popular posts on the blog {and a workout I filmed during my first pregnancy}! It includes different exercises, but still uses dumbbells for an efficient, total body workout!

You might also enjoy these Pyramid Workouts on the blog:

  • 30-Minute Strength + Cardio Pyramid Workout Video {full length, follow along workout video}
  • 35-Minute Full Body Dumbbell Pyramid Workout {full length, follow along workout video}
  • 20-Minute At Home HIIT Pyramid Workout {full length, follow along workout video}
  • Pyramid Workout: 7 Full Body Exercises for Women
  • 20-Minute Killer Kettlebell Pyramid Workout
  • 15-Minute HIIT Pyramid Workout

What I’m Wearing:

  • Lululemon Align Pant II 25″ — My favorite leggings + pregnancy leggings worth all $98.00! Get more of my favorite fit pregnancy products here.
  • Lululemon Swiftly Tech Short Sleeve Crew
  • Asics GEL-Nimbus 20 Running Shoes

This post does include an affiliate links, and I do receive a small commission for items purchased using the above links. All words and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting Nourish Move Love, making the content you see on this blog possible.

The Women’s Fitness Guide To Dumbbell Exercises

Fitness crazes come and go, but if you’re looking for a workout that ramps up results, these dumbbell exercises used in the Nalini Method offer serious gains. Already a hit Stateside, this intense routine is poised to be the next big thing in fitness.

Developed in New York by fitness pro Rupa Mehta, the Nalini Method (named after Rupa’s mum), is a challenging combination of Eastern and Western practices. “It fuses mental and physical conditioning for a total body and mind workout,” says Rupa. And it delivers noticeable results in a matter of a few sessions.

The premise is pretty simple: there’s no need for fancy kit or gruelling machinery, this is a no-frills workout with minimal equipment required. Weights are kept low (beginners starting on a tiny 1kg with advanced levels using up to 5kg) and reps are high to work muscles to fatigue. The focus is on enhancing flexibility and balance and improving endurance and energy while sculpting a dancer’s physique. Free weights will help you tighten and tone.

“Ultimately, physical and emotional weight go hand in hand and by achieving balance with both, you can live your happiest and healthiest life,” Rupa explains.

Want to give these dumbbell exercises a go? Try these moves two to three times a week to de-stress, sculpt and slim your whole body.

Kit you’ll need: 2 x 1-5kg dumbbells

Glute bridge

Beginner: Sets 1 Reps 20 Weight 1.5kg
Intermediate: Sets 1 Reps 20, hold last rep for 3sec Weight: 2-3kg
Advanced: Sets 1 Reps 20 rising onto the balls of your feet, hold last rep for 10sec Weight: 4-5kg

Areas trained: Bottom, calves

Lie on your back and place two weights on your hips, holding them in place with your hands. Bend your knees, bringing your feet up to your bottom. Lifting your bottom, curve your lower spine up toward the ceiling, tucking your pelvis upward, but keeping most of your back on the floor. Make the movement small and isolated to target your bottom effectively.

Field goal thruster

Beginner: Reps 20 Weight: 1-2kg
Intermediate: Reps 20 Weight: 2-3kg
Advanced: Reps 20 reps plues 20 pulses Weight 4-5kg

Area trained: Shoulders

Holding a dumbbell in each hand, raise your arms to shoulder height, bending your elbows at a 90º angle, palms facing forward. Keeping your chest open, core tight and elbows back, press up to the ceiling and then lower back down to the starting position. If you feel tension in your neck or back, switch to lighter weights.

Dumbbell side bend

Beginner: Reps 10 each side
Intermediate: Reps 15 each side
Advanced: Reps 20 each side

Area trained: Obliques

Position a pair of weights on top of one another to form the letter X and hold them in your right hand with your arm by your side. Ensure your feet are wider than your hips and position your left hand behind your head. Slightly tuck your tailbone forward, keep your chest open and lifted, then lean to your right for two counts before returning to the centre over two counts, using your upper body. Perform all the reps on one side before repeating on the other side. Keep good posture throughout.

This article first appeared in Women’s Fitness

4 Dynamite Dumbbell Workouts For Strength And Size

Crowded gyms are a lifter’s worst nightmare, especially ill-equipped gyms with one or two power racks and a dearth of barbells. When you’re in a situation with too many trainees and not enough actual training equipment, it’s on you to go MacGyver and save your workout with a little creativity.

I worked at a commercial gym for many years. I witnessed peak hours stop lifters with good intentions dead in their tracks. People who beat traffic and made it to the gym first always hoarded the best equipment, leaving the stragglers to work in wherever possible. When I couldn’t stand the sickening pattern any longer, I created out-of-the-box dumbbell workouts which matched the intensity of heavy barbell training.

Dumbbell training became my secret weapon to ignite serious hypertrophy in sticky situations. Follow these body part splits to get big without barbells.

1. Back

The back is packed with muscles which affect posture and respond well to high-rep training methods. These muscles are geared less toward explosiveness and more toward endurance, so you can lift heavy weight for a longer period of time. These exercises will help you build a barn-door back.

Dumbbell Back Workout 1 Stiff-Legged Dumbbell Deadlift Superset with Wide-Grip Pull-Up 5 sets, to failure+ 6 more exercises

  • Instructional Videos
  • Don’t risk doing a workout improperly! Avoid injury and keep your form in check with in-depth instructional videos.

  • How-to Images
  • View our enormous library of workout photos and see exactly how each exercise should be done before you give it a shot.

  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Quickly read through our step-by-step directions to ensure you’re doing each workout correctly the first time, every time.

2. Chest

Flyes and presses are the two best movement patterns for smoking your chest. The following “ladder” triset is a great method to exhaust your pectoral fibers from every angle.

Grab an adjustable bench, start with medium weights, and ramp up to a six-rep max so you lift as heavy as possible. By the end of this workout, your chest and triceps should be toast.

Dumbbell Chest Workout 1 Incline Dumbbell Press Part of Triset 5 sets, 12-6 reps (last set to failure)

+ 5 more exercises

  • Instructional Videos
  • Don’t risk doing a workout improperly! Avoid injury and keep your form in check with in-depth instructional videos.

  • How-to Images
  • View our enormous library of workout photos and see exactly how each exercise should be done before you give it a shot.

  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Quickly read through our step-by-step directions to ensure you’re doing each workout correctly the first time, every time.

3. Legs

This is where things get really interesting. It’s very important to implement exercise grouping on leg day because dumbbells usually aren’t heavy enough to push the legs to max effort. Supersets and burnout sets with dumbbells are crucial to blast the legs into oblivion.

Dumbbell Legs Workout 1 Split Squat with Dumbbells Superset with Dumbbell Goblet Squat 5 sets, 10 reps + 6 more exercises

  • Instructional Videos
  • Don’t risk doing a workout improperly! Avoid injury and keep your form in check with in-depth instructional videos.

  • How-to Images
  • View our enormous library of workout photos and see exactly how each exercise should be done before you give it a shot.

  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Quickly read through our step-by-step directions to ensure you’re doing each workout correctly the first time, every time.

4. Shoulders

Shoulders, like chest, respond well to high volume and high intensity. The front delts take a beating on chest day, so focus your dumbbell movements on the side and rear delts to match the strength and size of your front delts.

Your first exercise, the seated dumbbell shoulder press, is an up-tempo ladder set with 10 seconds rest between sets. Grab dumbbells that represent your 10-12 rep max and repeat the entire ladder set for 5 rounds.

Dumbbell Shoulder Workout 1 Dumbbell Shoulder Press Ladder Set Technique Each set has a multiple rep ranges. Each rung of the ladder will either increase or decrease in reps. After you complete a rung rest briefly and move to the next. 5 sets, 2, 3, 5, 10, 10, 5, 3 ladder reps (10 seconds rest) + 4 more exercises

  • Instructional Videos
  • Don’t risk doing a workout improperly! Avoid injury and keep your form in check with in-depth instructional videos.

  • How-to Images
  • View our enormous library of workout photos and see exactly how each exercise should be done before you give it a shot.

  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Quickly read through our step-by-step directions to ensure you’re doing each workout correctly the first time, every time.

Don’t Be Dumb

No barbells, no problem. A poorly equipped gym isn’t an excuse to stand around looking at Facebook and playing the waiting game. Sometimes we get attached to barbell training, which can be too much of a good thing. As Lee Haney said, building muscle is also about stimulation and making subtle shifts, which means we must entertain unilateral training on occasion.

Why no arms workout? I don’t believe in isolating the arms too often—they get plenty of stimulation as secondary movers from the lifts above. As an added fact, the arms get stability work through dumbbell training as your forearms and upper arms handle individual loads. The above program isn’t just beneficial in a pinch; it’s a reliable plan to implement any time to shake up the status quo, bro.

If you’ve decided to break up with your gym membership once and for all, you’re going to need to figure out a plan for working out. No matter what you’re favorite style of training is, we highly recommend adding in strength training as a supplementary workout to build muscle and improve muscular imbalances, strength, and power. To help you out, we’ve got a total-body workout that will leave you feeling sweaty, strong, and sore in the best way possible.

Grab your dumbbells, turn on your favorite playlist, and get ready to work.

The At-Home Dumbbell Workout

The only thing you’ll need for this workout is a set of medium-weight dumbbells. Not exactly sure how much you should be lifting? Use this simple guide to choose the right weight. After you’ve got your weights, be sure to go through a dynamic warmup to get your muscles warm and prevent injury.

This workout should be performed in trisets, meaning every set will have three exercises in it. Complete the designated sets and reps as listed ahead. Try to take no more than 45 to 60 seconds of rest in between exercises and sets. One you’ve completed the workout, be sure to cool down.

  • Triset 1, Exercise 1: single-leg deadlift with dumbbells: three sets of 10 reps on each leg
  • Triset 1, Exercise 2: bent-over row: three sets of 12 reps
  • Triset 1, Exercise 3: seated knee tuck: three sets of 12 reps
  • Triset 2, Exercise 1: goblet squat: three sets of 15 reps
  • Triset 2, Exercise 2: bicep curl: three sets of 12 reps
  • Triset 2, Exercise 3: elbow side plank: hold for 20 seconds on each side
  • Triset 3, Exercise 1: weighted glute bridge: three sets of 12 reps
  • Triset 3, Exercise 2: dumbbell triceps extension: three sets 12 reps
  • Triset 3, Exercise 3: seated Russian twist: three sets 10 reps


Need to get in better shape?

Try some “dumbbell workouts”.

Adding dumbbell exercises to your workout routine will add some metabolism-boosting muscles to your frame, which helps you burn more calories while incinerating fat.

They simply leave you lean and strong.

This 20-minute dumbbell workout is all about getting your body in the best shape ever.

If you are ready to get started, let’s get right to it.

A pair of dumbbells about 10-15 lbs each.

Dumbells of this size should work for most of the exercises in the workout. But for the crunch chops, grab a lighter dumbbell.

In all cases, be sure to pick appropriate weights for your needs.

Commit to performing this workout 3-4 days per week. The more consistent you are, the stronger and fitter you’ll get!

Spend the first 5 minutes stretching your body. Here are some of the stretches you can do. Warm up after the stretches with some light cardio.

If you are ready, here are the exercises in the 20-Min Dumbbell Workout.

20-Minute Full-Body Dumbbell Workout

1. All-Around Lunges

Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart. Grab a pair of dumbbells at the arm’s length at your sides, with your palms facing one another.

With your abs engaged, take a giant step to the right with your right foot, keeping your arms straight.

Land with your heel followed by the rest of your foot. Flex the right knee slightly so that you can lower your hip and body until your thigh is almost parallel to the floor. Keep your left leg only slightly angled.

Hold for 1 second, then push off your right foot and extend your right hip and knee to return to the starting position. Once they are straight, bring your foot back into a standing position.

Now, take a step back with your right leg. Be sure to keep the front knee bent and your toes straight facing forward.

Lunge by bending and lowering the back knee until it almost touches the floor. Keep your arms hanging at your sides and step forward to return to the standing position. Repeat on your left side.

2. Dumbbell Chest Press

Grab a pair of dumbbells, and position your upper back on an “exercise ball” with your knees bent at the 90 degrees.

Keep your feet flat on the floor, and hold the weights right outside of your chest.

Before you begin to press, make sure your elbows are bent and palms are facing each other. Your body should form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.

With your core contracted, press the weights directly toward the ceiling until your arms are straight. Pause for 1-2 seconds then lower them back to the starting position. That’s one rep. Continue for the prescribed number of repetitions.

3. Thrusters

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Grab and hold a pair of dumbbells in each hand in front of your shoulders with your elbows bent.

Tighten your abs and bend your knees to lower your body down until your thighs are nearly parallel to the ground.
As you come up to the standing position, press the dumbbells overhead until your arms are straight. Return to the starting position and complete the prescribed number of repetitions.

4. One-Arm Dumbbell Rows

Hold a dumbbell in the right hand, and stand on your left leg. Place your left hand on a surface about your waist height and hinge over at the waist. Slowly lift the right leg until it forms a “T” with your body.

Slide the right shoulder blade toward your spine, then bend your elbow to lift the weight towards your body.

Pause for 1-2 seconds, then return to the starting position.
Repeat to complete the prescribed number of repetitions. Switch sides and repeat.

Tips: You can use a Swiss ball to help support your body for balance.

5. Box Lunge

Grab and hold a pair of dumbbells in each hand, and keep your palms facing each other.
Stand hip-width apart with a few feet behind a box.

Step onto the box with your right foot. Stay on the toes of your back foot, using only for balance.
From this position, lower into a lunge by pushing your hips down and bending your back knee.

Hold the bottom position for 1-2 seconds, and push through your front foot to return to the starting position. Switch sides and repeat. Continue for the prescribed number of repetitions.

6. Crunch Chops

Use both hands to hold a 2 to 3 pounds dumbbell. Lie on your back with the arms extended above your head and legs lifted toward the ceiling.

Lift your shoulders off the ground, open the legs, and bring the dumbbell through your legs as if your chopping between the legs. Return to the starting position and repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions.

7. Kickbacks

Get down on the ground on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Keeping your right knee at a 90-degree angle, slowly raise your leg behind you until your thigh is almost parallel to the floor.

Squeeze your glutes at the top and keep your spine perfectly still. The motion should be small and controlled with the muscles, not with momentum driving the movement.

Lower the leg and return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Continue for the prescribed number of repetitions.

8. Triceps Kickbacks

Grab and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Place your chest on a stability ball with arms hanging alongside the ball and legs extended behind you.

Be sure to keep your body in a straight line from your head to your heels and your head in line with your spine.

Pull your elbows up toward the ceiling to form a 90-degree angle for the start position.

Extend at the elbows to press dumbbells back to lengthen the arms, squeezing triceps along the way. Hold for 1-2 seconds then return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Continue for the prescribed number of repetitions.


This 20-min dumbbell workout is a perfect at-home workout.

In just 20 minutes, you can get a full-body workout to burn calories and torches fat. If you’re looking to lose some weight and get your body in a top physical shape, give this workout a try.

Just don’t forget about your diet.

If you’re looking for some healthy eating plans to turbocharge your metabolism and help you shed pounds even quicker, check out these healthy weight loss diet plans below.

  • 7-Day Paleo Diet Plan
  • 10 Super Healthy Foods for Your Diet

Leave me a comment below to let me know how you feel after trying this dumbbell workout!

Dumbbell workout for women

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