T Nation

Temporary Dumbbell Only Routine?

For my 2020 resolution I’m getting back into training.

For a few months I won’t have access to a barbell, should be building a home gym in 3-6 months though. All I have access to for now is a pair of adjustable dumbbells and 40kg in plates. Don’t have anywhere to do pull ups either.

I’ve heard Jim talk about dumbbell and body weight exercises for his London HS kids and for WALRUS training. And thought it could be good to start with (better than nothing!)

I’d do something like: DB Squat, DB Row, Push Ups, DB Swing for 5 sets each. Once I reach 75 total reps I increase weight OR raise feet in case of the push up.

Anyone have experience training like this and any advice?

In the spirit of walrus training, once you max out your DB handle maybe consider buying a 40lb weight vest to continue making progress. That is, if you can’t get your hands on a barbell / squat rack by then.

Also, maybe take this time to work on conditioning since you certainly can’t work on maximal strength gains for your lower body with just the dumbbell. Get yourself out sprinting, cycling or whatever and do some sessions in circuit style with short rest periods to build GPP?

I did some weighted bodyweight work only for a whole year. No barbell for a year. Because my lower back was beaten up and I had a busy schedule with work kids family etc.

So I did 2-3 sessions a week, alternating A and B sessions.

A push. A pull. A lower body. Some sort of conditioning ( Heavy bag, Waling, Bike )

For example:
Pushups x10.
Chin Up x 5.
Bulgarian split squats x 10.
( 5 rounds for time in under 30 mins )
10 min bike ride.

Once done with bodyweight, I add a weighted vest.

I bought an 18kg vest that I worked up to, then added 10kg plate to a rucksack.

So from just bodyweight only, I worked up to about 30kg in added weight on the bodyweight circuits in around 6 months, and maintained for 6 months. I also used this weight on bike and walks

I lost a lot of fat - leaned up a lot without even trying.
Also lats and arms blew up!
I was able to do sprints, jumps and started up Muay Thai - with no back pain!
I only followed this because I was sick of having a bad back and being a weak father who couldn’t pick up his girls.
BTW, Jim posted this routine to me.
I hunk everyone will benefit with something like this even for just 3 months over the Summer.
Being able to handle your bodyweight or move your body through space with added weight just does amazing things!

6 Likes

Thanks both.

Maybe a weight vest will be a good investment, can imagine I’ll want to weight the push ups in the not too distant future.

Then I need to start thinking about what equipment I want/need.

Great tips here…

1 Like

Hey aaronru,

great post! Where can I find the original thread and the original post from Jim? Thank you very much for your help and for sharing this!!!

Now that I think about it, it was on Jim’s own forum that he has on his site. I’m not subscribed to it anymore.

However, Walrus style training is mentioned in the Forever 531 book too. Page 194 and 195. They give example routines and also weighted vest standards. Decent enough that I spent a whole year progressing through them standards and reaping the benefits of something so simple yet effective.

Aaron,

This is awesome to read/hear. I had a somewhat similar experience when I began using the WALRUS training exclusively. It’s a bit of a mind-fuck at first (if your background is in barbells), but if it’s all you can do, it’ll set you up nicely for whatever life throws at you. I hope you continue to follow whatever path best suits you.

Hi Jim,

I often train with kettlebells or dumbbells only and the one struggle I have is when I should increase the weight of the dumbbell or kettlebell for a certain movement. When you did Goblet squats or bulgarian split squats, when do you increased the weights? What set/rep goal do you have/had?

Also, how many times per week do you trained legs directly with DB-squats or Bulgarian Split Squats when you did these routines?

Thank you very much!!!

Not Jim but I can’t imagine it’s that difficult to find out when to increase weight. Just once you’re doing a lot of reps (15+) in each set increase by the smallest increment you can and continue doing that? If it’s too heavy then just go back and wait until you’re doing some more reps per set with the lighter weight instead.

I’d also assume he trained his legs 3 (Or more) times a week.

I just increased/decreased the weights by feel - no real plan.

Generally did a “squat” style of a lift with WALRUS style training 2-3 days/week.

Thank you very much, I appreciate that you respond!

Last thing I want to know please from a professional like you is how many reps do you perform for one leg movements like the bulgarian split squat, per leg, in one session?

And do you perform more reps when you do a movement like the DB-Squat when you use both legs at the same time? How many reps are you doing for double-leg exercises in one training session?

It seems like I always fuck up my knees when I do really high reps performing one leg movements.

I believe in what you are say and it will mean a lot to get your opinion and suggestion on that!
Thank you very much and I appreciate your time and help!

Then the answer to your question is to do less reps when doing one leg movements. Don’t worry what I’m doing or anyone else. Your body is telling you to stop training like a butthole and LISTEN! Having shitty knees from something preventable is not smart.

Generally - 50-100 total reps for me. I"m not a big believer in smashing the shit out of yourself short term. I have a VERY UNPOPULAR belief that good, consistent work done with both discipline and effort = success. So don’t think you need to do a million reps/workout to make progress.

1 Like

It´s very tough for me to follow a solid and structured program when I´m on the road with my truck for a few weeks or months. I don´t have acces to my equipment or even a hotel gym because I sleep in live my truck and therefore I can´t do my regular 531 routines. The only equipment I have are my adjustable bowflex dumbbells from 10-90 pounds and two kettlebells in the back of my truck.

Because I´m sitting a lot I want to maintain healthy hips and strong legs, thats my number one priority but I´m not sure, because I don´t have the experience and I´m not a professional like you, how much is too much!?

For the one leg stuff, I will cut down the reps, for sure but:

When I want to train my legs/hips with a double leg squat movement, where I have zero knee pain, like the classic DB-squat,

-how often per week should I train them in my case to build/maintain strong legs/hips for my job? (I usually do three workouts per week on the road but like I said, I´m not sure how often I should train legs directly with the DB-squat for example)

-how many reps would you recommend for DB-squats in these sessions when the DB-squat is my only and main movement for legs/hips?

-do you really perform 100 reps for DB-squats three times per week?

-what is too much wear and tear for the hips, how many reps per week? Like I said, I want to stay healthy and don´t train like a butthole!!!

If you don´t mind and you have a few minutes of your valuable time, I would appreciate when you can answer my questions or give me a recommendation or a sample workout “for truckers” and how often I should train my legs with DB-squats as a main movement and how many reps etc.

I´m also a member of your private forum but I appreciate that I got your attention here and that you are willing to help me out and take your time to help all the other guys also here.

Thank you very much for everything!

As I said, because of low back pains, uncertain time to train, other commitment etc. I used a 18kg weight vest only and a fixed 33kg Dumbell to complete Walrus style sessions for a whole year. I recommend a weight vest for your situation. Thanks to Jim, I followed the Walrus standards.

These sessions take 20-30 minutes max, so whenever you have that amount of time you can do this. some weeks I did one on one off, like Mon Wed Fri. Some weeks I did them just Sat and Sun. Some weeks twice a week. Some three. Some three days in a row. It doesn’t matter. Just get it done when you get 20 - 30 minutes free.

A push, a pull, a leg movement - squat with a Dumbell, or just do one leg split squats / Bulgarians with your weight vest.

5 rounds of each. Circuit style. If you need rest take a min or two. Just get the work done.
Start light and with 3 circuits. I ended up doing 6 circuits. And heavier weight on my bodyweight movement.
But it took at least half a year.

When you have worked up to for example: 10 dip, then 5 chin ups then 10 Bulgarian squats with 30kg added vest, rest a min or two. Then repeat 3-6 times. You’ll be better. Feel better.
All you need is to park up next to playground equipment in a local park.

I have a chin up bar and dip bars at home. I spent autumn and winter doing these sessions on average 2x a week at home. However I spent the other half of the year in Spring and Summer in the local playground, doing chin ups off the swings and dips off a play bridge, pushups or Bulgarians off the slide ladder. Free gym! And outdoors is amazing.

I’m lucky to have a bench, heavy bag and plates with barbell etc at home. However, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t join a gym. I’d be working my way up to General in the Walrus standards at my local playground with a 40kg vest!

I’ve done a few workouts now. I set a timer and do a set of something every 2 minutes. Right now I’m just doing DB Squat and Pushups, so 5 sets of each takes 20 minutes.

In four sessions I’ve gone from 38 total Pushups and 50 total DB Squats to 55 and 75 respectively. I’m going to up the weight/difficulty when I get to 100 of each in 5 sets.

Also need to add in DB Rows which will take my sessions to 30 mins.

For Pushups I’m going to raise my feet at 100, then add a weighted backpack/vest.

For DB Squat I’m going to add weight to the dumbbell then add the vest too.

Same for DB Rows.

I’ll worry about what I do after this point when (if) I get to it. Hopefully I’ll be in a position by then to get my home gym sorted!

-how often per week should I train them in my case to build/maintain strong legs/hips for my job? (I usually do three workouts per week on the road but like I said, I´m not sure how often I should train legs directly with the DB-squat for example)

It’s impossible for me to say - I don’t know you, your history/fitness level. I’d start with training every other day and do some mobility work/flexibility/Yoga on off days.

-how many reps would you recommend for DB-squats in these sessions when the DB-squat is my only and main movement for legs/hips?

Again, hard for me to say. Some people can’t handle more than 25 total reps/workout. Others can do sets of 25+ for 100+ total reps on first day. “Start light/progress slow” - there is a reason I preach principles. So start the first month with a low number and slowly progress. What that number you should start with is up to you but as long as you are disciplined, consistent and give great effort - you’ll make progress.

Generally - 50-100 total reps for me

-do you really perform 100 reps for DB-squats three times per week?

Yes, when I was doing WALRUS training - I was doing at least that much. Again, it took time to build up to that.

-what is too much wear and tear for the hips, how many reps per week? Like I said, I want to stay healthy and don´t train like a butthole!!!

I have no idea since I don’t know your history and your health - but if you “start light/progress slow” you can ease into the training, let your body adapt without feeling too shitty and when things take a giant dump - you can back off and assess. Just START LIGHT/PROGRESS SLOW - don’t overcomplicate the training. Don’t have endless variations - the dudes above have some great ideas AND have done the training. LEARN!! The worst thing you can do is think about this shit too much - nothing gets done by debate. Everything gets done with action.

3 Likes

Hello Jim,

at first, thank you very much for taking your time and answering all my questions! I appreciate this very much because I´m aware and I know that you have a lot more other shit to do than answering individual personalized questions on forums! Again, thank you very much!!!

My intent was not to bother you or to get a 12 week full training program from you that is customized to me and my goals and take all my ailments and health issues in to account.

I thought you can give me a quick and easy to follow “template” so to speak, where I can use with my equipment I have available when I´m on the road with my truck and where I don´t have to think about it, if it makes sense or not because its from you, someone who is an expert/professional. Thats why I like 531 so much, I don´t have to think about it and have simple and strict to follow guidelines and therefore I can take care of more important things like my job, family etc.

Regarding training, I overthink everything and its always easier for me when someone say, do this and that etc. and I simply have to follow this shit but obviously everything you said makes sense and I try to follow your recommendations.

If you don´t mind or you need new ideas for the future, maybe you can write a few templates with only dubbells, kettlebells, weight vest etc. where people can progress with these movements as “main movements” not accessory work. That would be awesome!!!

Thank you very much for everything you do for all the communitys, here on T-Nation and your private forum (guys I recommend this forum so much, lots of unbelievable valuable content, so check it out!!!)
I appreciate your time, help and effort

2 Likes

If you don´t mind or you need new ideas for the future, maybe you can write a few templates with only dubbells, kettlebells, weight vest etc. where people can progress with these movements as “main movements” not accessory work. That would be awesome!!!

This is why I wrote the WALRUS training stuff. It is 100% what you are looking for.