Beginner DUMBBELL Gym Strength Training (Total Body)

By Joanna 31/05/2017 In
Fitness Tips

Beginner Dumbbell Workout Guide – Total Body

Hey guys, it’s Joanna here. So I’m going to take you in the gym today and show you some of the basic exercises, which you can do with dumbbells. I’m going to show you and explain each exercise in detail, teach you the correct techniques and also things to avoid doing. You can also do these workouts at home.

So if you’re a beginner and you want to start lifting weights, but unsure where or how to start, be sure to watch this video through.


1) Dumbbell Squats

Let’s start with our lower body, Dumbbell Squats, which works on your entire legs - glutes, hamstrings, quads and also core.


  • Hold the dumbbells just by your side. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and pointing straight ahead.
  • The lower your body and squat as far down as you can.
  • Make sure your knees are at a 90° angle.
  • Keep your chest up, back flat and look ahead.
  • So push your hips back and your body weight into your heels.
  • Hold the squat for 2 seconds and return to standing position.


  • DO NOT let your knees go over your toes.
  • Avoid rounding your shoulders and back.

You leg muscles are bigger muscles, so you can choose heavy weights between 5 – 8kgs each or more.


2) Alternate Overhead Lunge

Next, alternate overhead lunge, which also work on your lower body and core but with the addition of your shoulder muscles.


  • Again stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and pointing straight ahead. Hold one dumbbell firmly overhead.
  • Take a wide step forward with your right leg.
  • Engage your core, keep your chest up, back straight and look ahead.
  • So while maintaining this position bend your legs to about 90° and lower your hips toward the floor.
  • The back heel should always be slightly lifted.
  • Your knees shouldn’t go pass your toes.
  • Then push your body back up through your front heel and return to starting position.
  • Repeat and alternate between each leg. 


  • Avoid leaning your body or arms forward or backward.

For this workout, choose a dumbbell that weighs between 5 – 8kgs

The major muscles worked on are your glutes, hamstrings, quads, core and also shoulders


3) Bent-Over Row

Let’s move on to our upper body, Bent-Over Row, which works primarily on your back muscles and also on your biceps.


  • Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent and pointing straight ahead.
  • Bend forward at your hips until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor.
  • Hold the dumbbells close to your thighs with your palms facing your body.
  • Pull the dumbbells up toward your belly.
  • Keep your elbows pointed back, chest up and back flat.
  • Always keep the dumbbells close to your thighs.
  • Squeeze your back for a second or two right at the top, then lower to starting position.


  • Avoid hunching or using momentum to lift the weights.

For your back muscles, you can also use between 5 – 8kgs each dumbbell.


4) Chest Press

Next, Chest Press, which works on your chest muscles and also a little bit on the shoulders and triceps.


  • Lie on the mat, with your feet firmly planted on floor, keeping your knees bent.
  • Hold the dumbbells directly above your chest with your elbows at a 90° angle, slightly lifted off the mat.
  • Engage your chest muscles to push the dumbbells up toward the ceiling.
  • Keep the shoulders relaxed and dumbbells should be directly at chest level.
  • Control the movement.
  • Squeeze and hold for a second right at the top and slowly lower the dumbbells to starting position, without resting your arms on the mat.
  • If you’re in the gym, you can also perform this workout on the bench.


  • The dumbbells shouldn’t be at shoulder level.
  • Avoid letting the dumbbells fall to the side.

For your chest muscles, start with 4 – 6kgs for each


5) Bicep Curl to Shoulder Press

Next, Bicep Curl to Shoulder Press, which will work on your biceps, shoulders and also tricep muscles.


  • Hold a pair of dumbbells by your side, palms facing forward.
  • Curl your upper arms and bring the dumbbells up to your shoulders. Keep your elbows close to your torso throughout.
  • Then rotate your wrists until your palms face forward, elbows out and away from your body at about a 90° angle. 
  • Engage your shoulders and press the dumbbells up directly above your head.
  • Keep your back flat.
  • Hold for one count and reverse the moves back to the starting position.


  • Avoid using momentum or move the entire arms to lift the weights up. The movement should only be coming from your forearms.
  • Avoid arching your lower back or over extending the shoulders behind your head.

As for this workout, choose something lighter but not too light, between 3 – 5kgs each.


6) Tricep Kickbacks

The next workout is Tricep Kickbacks, to work on your tricep muscles.


  • Start on all fours. Hold a dumbbell in one hand with your upper arms close to your torso and parallel to the floor.
  • There should be a 90 degree angle between upper arm and your forearm.
  • Keep your back and neck in a neutral position and gently gaze at the floor. This is your starting position.
  • As you exhale, engage your tricep muscles to lift the weight until the arm is fully extended.
  • Move only the forearm. The upper arm should remain close to your torso.
  • Control the movement and slow bring the dumbbell back to starting position.
  • Complete between 12 – 15 repetitions and repeat on the other arm.


  • Avoid using momentum or swing the entire arm to lift the dumbbell up.

Because the tricep muscles are smaller muscles, go for a lighter weight, between 2 – 4kgs each.


7) Reverse Fly

The next workout is Reverse Fly, to work on your upper back & shoulder muscles.


  • Bend forward at your hips until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor.
  • Hold dumbbells firmly at about shoulder level, palm facing each other, and elbows slightly bent.
  • Then raise your arms straight out to your sides until they are in line with your body and squeeze your upper back and shoulders for 2 counts.
  • Arms inline and squeeze the upper back and shoulders for 2 counts.
  • And slowly lower your arms back to starting position.
  • Always keep your back flat and chest open.
  • Your upper body should be as still as possible, with movements coming only from your arms.


  • Avoid rounding your back or collapsing your chest.
  • Avoid using momentum or swinging your entire body to lift the weights.

Because these are also small muscles, go for lighter weights, between 2 – 3kgs each.


8) Full Extension

Let’s end with some core exercises, Full extension. This exercise targets your upper and lower abs.


  • Hold one dumbbell with both hands and lie on your back with your arms extended overhead and legs extended out.
  • As you breathe out, curl up and bring your knees to the chest, and arms towards the ankles.
  • Breathe out and extending your arms and legs together straight out, back into starting position.
  • Avoid crunching by lifting your neck off the floor, the movement should come from lifting your shoulders off the floor, keeping the neck somewhat relaxed.
  • Do not just let your legs fall and arms fall back into position. Keep your core tight to slowly lower them down, while resisting the force of gravity.


  • Avoid over arching your lower back. Bring your legs down as far as you can while keeping your back flat.

For this workout, choose between 4 – 6kgs of weight.


9) Russian Twist

And the final workout will be Russian Twist, which works on the entire core and also the obliques.


  • Hold one dumbbell with both hands, sit on the mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Keep the spine long, lean back slightly until you feel your core engaged.
  • Then twist your torso to the left and immediately to the right in a continuous motion. Look towards the direction you’re twisting.
  • To work on your core even more, you can lift your legs few inches off the floor and balance yourself.
  • Remember that the movement should come from your torso rotating, not just your arms swinging to the left and right.


  • Avoid rounding your shoulders, always keep your back flat, shoulders pulled back and chest open.

Choose between 4 – 6kgs of weight.


So guys, I hope you find this video useful. Perform all 9 exercises as a Total body strength-training workout in about 45 minutes. Follow them in the sequence I’ve laid out in this video. Aim to perform between 12 – 15 repetitions per exercise. If you can do more than 15 reps, then the weights are too light and you need to increase it.

If you are an absolute beginner, then complete 2 sets for each exercise before moving on to the next exercise. As you progress, aim to complete between 3 – 4 sets.

If you’re looking to buy dumbbells, as a beginner, I’d recommend buying 2 pairs of dumbbells. One heavier pair, between 5 – 6kgs each and another lighter pair, between 3 – 4kgs each. It’s always better to buy a heavier pair because then you can train and progress into lifting heavier. You don’t have to spend your money on buying really light dumbbells, because you can easily make them at home using water bottles.

If you do have any other questions in regards to working out with dumbbells, do leave them in the comments below and I’ll try my best to answer them. Do also checkout more useful videos to guide you through your fitness journey in the description box below. If you find this video useful, be sure to give it a thumb up, SHARE it and SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube Channel for exercise videos and healthy recipes.

All the best! xx

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