The Body-Blasting Dumbbell Workout

Build muscle mass with just a single dumbbell by using this workout from STACK Expert Jim Carpentier.

Dumbbell Body Blast


Why bore yourself with ordinary dumbbell training? Your next workout can be intense if you're just a little creative with how you use a single dumbbell. While neutral, underhand or prone grips are traditionally used in a dumbbell workout, the following complete full-body circuit uses unconventional grips with just one weight.


  • One dumbbell (db) at 60-70% RM
  • Bench or chair
  • Water bottle


  • Sets/Reps: 2x12
  • Rest between sets: 15 seconds
  • Rest between exercises: 30 seconds
  • Hydrate before, during and after workout
  • Do a dynamic warm-up, performing the Suitcase Walk. Hold db with right hand and walk 20 steps. Put db down and pick up with left hand and walk another 20 steps back to start. Repeat.
  • Finish workout with cool-down upper and lower body static stretches for greater flexibility.
  • Handling db with various grips not only strengthens hands (important for gripping a football, baseball/softball bat, hockey or lacrosse stick, or tennis racquet) but also further challenges muscles and core strength.
  • Important: If using an adjustable db, make sure plates are securely attached and collars are tightly fastened--especially when gripping db in various positions (vertically, horizontally, prone, neutral, supine).


Goblet Squat & Forward Lunge. Grip: Vertical (hands placed under upper end of db).

Description: Hold db close at chest level and squat. After 12 squats, immediately do 12 right leg lunges and then 12 left leg lunges.

Benefits: Holding db with this grip helps you perform squats and lunges with proper technique when balancing db close to upper body (compared with holding db down at waist level with one hand, causing you to favor one side during squats and lunges). Goblet squats/lunges also target upper body and core muscles (arms, upper, middle and lower back, chest, and abdomen) as well as the lower body leg and gluteal muscles.

Step-up & Overhead Press. Grip: Horizontal (db held with both hands at each end). Description: Hold db at shoulder level and place right foot atop bench or chair. Explosively push down with right leg while lifting left foot off floor and pressing db overhead. As soon as left foot returns to floor, repeat (no pause). After 12 reps, immediately switch with left foot on bench/chair and repeat.

Benefits: Holding db with both hands optimally stabilizes body during step-up/press movement. This is a great lower- and upper-body combo strengthening/muscle-building exercise that also improves endurance.

Single Leg Cross Row & Hammer Curl. Grip: Neutral (palm facing body). Description: Hold db in left hand with left foot off floor. Bend right knee while bringing db downward across body toward right ankle. Pause one second and explosively pull db back to start. Curl db up to shoulder (maintaining neutral grip). Pause and then lower to start position. Repeat 11 more reps, then switch with right foot off floor/db held in right hand and do 12 cross row/hammer curl combination reps.

Benefit: Wonderful balance exercise for core stability while strengthening legs, hips, back and biceps.

Side Lunge & Press Out. Grip: Vertical (place left hand atop upper end of db and right hand under bottom end when lunging laterally right and reverse hand grips --right hand atop, left hand under bottom end--when lunging laterally left).

Description: Hold db at chest level close to body and lunge laterally with right leg while simultaneously pressing db away from chest. Drag left foot toward right leg while bringing db back to start position. Repeat 11 more reps, then change grip and lunge laterally left for 12 lunges/press outs.

Benefit: This mixed grip really engages core muscles while also building forearms and upper arms. Upper and lower body muscles are also targeted.

Db Swings Through Legs. Grips: Alternating prone (overhand) and supine (underhand) with db held horizontally.

Description: Assume athletic stance holding db with prone grip in left hand with arm extended at waist level and right arm extended at shoulder level. Swing db downward through legs and raise heels off floor during return to start position without pausing. Repeat 11 more reps, then place db in right hand with a supine grip. Hold db with arm extended at waist level and left arm extended at shoulder level and do 12 swings through legs. Second set, use a supine grip for swings with left hand and a prone grip for right hand swings.

Benefit: Db Swings using a prone grip target forearm extensors while supine grip engage forearm flexors. This is a great movement for building forearm size and strength. The exercise also builds up the front shoulders and upper back as well as strengthening core and leg and hip muscles.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock