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Beginners Program Using DBs?

Hey everyone, so I’m basically looking for a beginners program that I can do using only DBs and a universal cable machine.

I was advised in another thread to get on a good beginners program. I was guided to Rippetoes starting strength but unfortunately due to a few things but mainly because of financial reasons I just do not have access to a gym with barbells. The gym that I go to only has dumbbells and a universal cable machine (and cardio equipment). So I’m under the impression that to do a workout such as Rippetoes would be difficult to do using DBs due to the fact that it will be difficult to progress by the right % every lift and it would be hard to do things such as squats with heavy enough weights using DBs. So I was wondering if anyone knows a good beginner’s program that I can do with the resources I have (DBs and universal and body weight of course)? If not, any advise on what I should do? Thanks in advance, I really appreciate the advise.

Part of this depends on what strength level you’re starting at. You can do all of the following with dumbbells (and some of these are even better with dumbbells):


Incline/Flat/Decline Bench
Flys/Incline flys
Bench dips (mostly triceps though)


Pull ups (suppinated and pronated - does the gym have a pull-up bar? This is the best upper back exercise. Check out this article if you can’t do pull-ups: http://www.T-Nation.com/readArticle.do?id=459572 )
One-arm DB rows
Straight arm DB rows
Reverse flys
Various rows with the universal cable machine


One legged squats
Romanian DL’s
Goblet squats
Overhead squats
Leg curls/kick backs with the universal cable machine
(I’m sure there are plenty more)


Shoulder press
Arnold press
Lateral raises
Front lateral raises
Reverse flys

Curls (incline, hammer, preacher, etc.)

Bench Dips
Overhead extensions
Lying extensions (skull crushers w/ dumbbells)
Tricep pushdown with the universal cable machine

That’s just a partial list and hopefully will get you started. You can replace some exercises in the beginner programs with others here - just be sure to search the individual exercise and make sure it’s working the same muscles. The ones that are hard to replace are many of the compound movements like squats, deadlifts, and the olympic lifts.

Also, some of these are going to be limited by your strength. If the gym’s dumbbells only go up to 50 lbs., you’re not going to be able to do many of the leg exercises for very long, and you’ll probably move up in bench quickly as well. When you outgrow the weights in your gym you’ll need to move on. Until then though you can get a very thorough workout with what you have.

Chad Waterbury’s 30 day mass plan is a solid program which doesn’t require a barbell.