Upper Body Workout Routine Using Only Dumbbells

upper body workout routine

Updated 13 February 2023

Orbit’s upper body workout routine contains 5 different compound exercises to work all your upper body muscles using only dumbbells. Upper body strength training is essential to improving posture, especially if you work on a computer, and even if you're over 55 and trying to keep up with your grandchildren.

Women sometimes avoid upper body workouts due to the fear of bulking but this upper body weight workout will help you to tone those problem areas, rather than add bulk.

What You Will Need:

  1. Yoga mat
  2. Fitball (optional)
  3. Light dumbbells – 2kg – 6kg
  4. Water bottle
  5. Sweat towel

In this routine, we suggest using dumbbells between 2 kg to 6 kg depending on your strength level. Having two sizes of dumbbells e.g. 2 kg and 5 kg is ideal; however, it can be done with one light set. It's important to choose dumbbell weights that allow you to complete the recommended reps and rounds properly.


Before you begin the workout, spend 5 minutes doing a warm-up. This can include some upper body movements, stretching and some light jogging. Doing this will help to loosen up your joints and get your blood flowing.

#1 – Arnold Press with Bicep Curl

arnold press with dumbbells

The first exercise is the Arnold Press -  a great exercise to build your upper body strength. This movement primarily targets your shoulders, but the addition of the bicep curl helps to engage your biceps as well.

Reps: 10

Rounds: 3


  1. Start by standing with feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand using an underhand grip and extend arms down in front.
  2. Keeping a straight posture, perform a bicep curl by bringing dumbbells up to touch your shoulders. As you do this make sure your elbows are by your side and not bending outwards.
  3. Now at the top, open your elbows out to press dumbbells over head, rotating your palms to face forward in a smooth motion.
  4. Take a deep breath in and push both your arms until they are fully extended above your body.
  5. Slowly lower your arms back down with your palms still facing forwards until elbows are parallel with your shoulders.
  6. Bring your arms back together at the chest and extend back down in front to complete bicep curl.
  7. Repeat for the given reps and rounds.

Personal Trainer Tip: Try to make this move smooth and continuous to keep tension in the muscles. Ensure you keep your elbows close to your body and fully extend your arms at the bottom of the bicep curl.

#2 Front Raise

front raise with dumbbell

The front raise is an excellent exercise to incorporate into your routine as it helps to strengthen your shoulders and pectorals which can help to lift your bust. By performing this upper body exercise, you will build definition in the front and sides of your shoulders.

Reps: 8

Rounds: 3


  1. Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Your knees should have a very slight bend Have a dumbbell in each hand using an overhand grip with your arms extended by your thighs.
  2. Raise your arms straight out in front to shoulder height with your palms facing the floor.
  3. Open your arms out to the side keeping the dumbbells level with your shoulders.
  4. Bring your arms back in front of your body and lower your arms to start position.
  5. Repeat this exercise for the given reps and rounds.

Personal Trainer Tip: You may find this move more comfortable sitting on a fitball, especially if you feel any pressure on your back. This can be quite a challenging move so using a light weight around 2 kg and higher reps (12-15) is ideal for beginners.

#3 Push up to Row

push up with dumbbells

Next up is the push up to row exercise. Push ups are one of the best upper body exercises to target your chest and triceps. It will also strengthen your upper back and core, helping with abdominal stability and control.

Reps: 12 rows in total using alternating arms

Rounds: 3


  1. Get into a push-up position with your knees on the mat. Place the dumbbells where you would normally position your hands about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lower your chest between the dumbbells to perform a push-up. Keep your elbows close to your waist and abs engaged as you lower to protect your back.
  3. At the top of your push up row your right dumbbell back towards the side of your right ribs, squeezing your back muscles, keeping your core engaged, and then place it back down to the floor.
  4. Perform another push up then repeat the row with your left arm and continue this alternation ‘ push-up, right row, push-up, left row ' for the given reps and rounds.

Personal Trainer Tip: Keep your hips facing the floor by using your core to stop the body twisting open too much when performing rows. Feeling strong? Try a few push-ups on your toes for an extra challenge.

#4 Squat Press

squat press with dumbbells

The squat press is an excellent addition to your upper body workout routine because it works your shoulders, back and core and gets your heart rate up! Our version of the squat press is powerful and fast, versus the traditional squat press which is normally performed slowly.

Reps: 12 - 15

Rounds: 3


  1. Stand with your legs about hip-width apart, with your dumbbells resting on your shoulders. Keep your elbows close to your body.
  2. Bend your knees, push back into the hips and lower into a squat position keeping the weights on the front of the shoulders.
  3. Use your legs to press the dumbbells above your head with power.
  4. Slowly return the weights to your shoulders and repeat for the given reps.

Personal Trainer Tip: Your tempo should be push up for 1 count and bring the dumbbells down for 4 counts. If you have access to heavier dumbbells this is a great time to use them as your legs will help to power the press. Remember to push through your heels and engage your core to protect your back.

#5 Bent Over Tricep Extension

bent over tricep extension with dumbbells

To end our routine, we have incorporated an isolation exercise that purely works the tricep. The bent-over tricep extension is a great way to effectively target your triceps - they are one of the most important, and often forgotten, muscles to tone your upper arms.

Reps: 10

Rounds: 3


  1. Place your feet apart with your knees slightly bent.
  2. Keeping your back straight, bend forward at the waist until your torso is nearly parallel with the ground and suck in your belly button.
  3. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing inwards. Keep your elbows tucked close to your body.
  4. Use your triceps to extend both arms back behind the body and hold. Try to squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  5. Bend your elbows and return to start position. Repeat for the given reps and rounds.

Personal Trainer Tip: Avoid swinging your arms to really target your triceps and remember to lock your elbows in close to the body.

Cool Down

Cooling down is an essential part of any workout. Orbit's upper body workout is bound to have you feeling the burn in your upper body and abs. To help your muscles recover properly, spend 5 minutes performing a cool-down routine. Try our effective cooldown exercises to give your body the recovery it needs.

Work your lower body with our lower body home workout routine.

If you're new to strength training, why not read our complete guide to strength training with free weights for beginners.

Published on 13/02/2023

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