T Nation

Need A Dumbell-Only Workout


I've been training for about four years with great sucess following some of the programs on this site.

However, I am soon to become a student again and cannot afford a gym or any home gym equipment other than two humble dumbells. They are decent and adaptable, so I can put lots of weight on them.

So, I need to design a program solely around them and nothing else. Upper body is the easier part, however I am unsure of how to do the legs and most importantly, integrate the two into a sensible and effective workout...

Can anyone help?


Any thing you can do with a bar you can do with dumbbells even for legs, just not quite as much weight. Squats, hold the dumbells at your side or hoist them up to your shoulders and squat. Leg curls hold one dumbbell with your feet/ankles, Stiff leg deadlifts, deadlifts, lunges, same just holding the bells instead of the bar.



Step ups, split squats single leg dead lifts will hit your legs pretty well.


look at different bodyweight and KB moves/complexes you can sub the kettlebell to a dunbell in most cases. Zach Even-Esh has a ton of info on elitefts about this type of training. also maybe look into getting a sandbag (easily can be made and CHEAP)


Chad Waterbury wrote something not too long ago that was something like '30 days to more mass' with all unilateral & dumbbell/bodyweight exercises.

have a look, at least at the exercises:

And I gotta second the call for bulgarian split squats. I find them an absolute killer.

Good luck, keep training.


CW also has a dumbbell complex in his 'Blood on the Barbell' article



Perhaps the hardest exercise there is- Get some heavy DBs, clean them to shoulder height and hold them there. Squat low and deep. As you rise, simultaneously press overhead. Doing this 10 times with a (strict) military press 12rm for example, can get very sweaty. Do it fast to see the benefit.I think Dan John called it a booster or thruster


Hardest exercise ever. OH DB squats.

I also hear rumors that you can do something called arm curls with a dumbell, but I'm not sure what it does.


absolutely...split squats are definitely a good one with dumbbells, and front squats can be done as well...you can hold the db's as if you did a bicep curl, holding both at the top. did both of these plenty at workouts in junior college.

also, love the username Zap.


this would definitely be harder than the ones i described. i'm gonna try these myself.


Does your school have a gym for students? Most do.

But if you gotta use just DB's

1-leg squats
split squats
step ups
1-leg deadlifts
single DB snatch
DB swings

1-db push press
BW rows

Thats all you need.