Hi there! I hope your Wednesday is off to a great start.
With all of the running that I’ve been doing lately, I’m planning on breaking it up with a strength workout that focuses on the upper body later this afternoon. (I created and tested this one at the beginning of quarantine.)
I really love total body workouts, but it’s nice to take a break from that focus and train the upper and lower body separately sometimes. Today we’re concentrating on the upper body, and this circuit will get ya!
I originally shared this workout during Healthy Lifestyle Bootcamp, and there is a lower body focus follow-up that I plan to share in the near future, too. Since this circuit was filmed a while ago and shared in a private facebook group (free to join at any time!), I didn’t stop to take photos for exercise breakdowns along the way. So, the moves you see captured below are the clearest that I could get from the video … and they certainly aren’t the “coolest” moves that I would normally try to feature.
That said, it’s a circuit that got my arms working and should do the same for you. Here’s hoping you get a few moments of movement in today!
You’ll need a light and medium set of dumbbells. If you don’t have any weights around, get creative! Grab soup cans, water bottles, or whatever makes sense. Perform 10-12 reps of each exercise as a circuit 3x and then go for the bonus swings exercise if you’re feeling good!
Pregnant ladies: I wouldn’t recommend the floor chest presses since it requires you to lie on your back. If you have access to a bench, you can do chest presses at an incline. You could also opt for TRX chest presses if you have one, or substitute the exercise for modified push-ups. I’d also recommend the modification for the snatch and second modification listed under the burpees.
As always, make sure you’re cleared to start a new type of fitness routine if these are new exercises for you and please reach out to me if you have any questions at all!
I did not originally take photos to share with this workout, so bear with me on the images below that were taken from screenshots. Make sure to catch the video for more demos!
- single arm snatches
Using an overhand grip, grab a dumbbell in one hand and stand with the feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Descend your hips to the floor until your knees are bent at 90-degrees and the dumbbell is resting near the floor.
Quickly pull the dumbbell toward the ceiling while simultaneously extending your knees and hips and raising your body on the balls of your feet. Keep the dumbbell close to your body – think of the movement you would do when zipping up a jacket. As the dumbbell reaches its highest point, quickly rotate your elbow under the weight and extend your arm. The dumbbell will rest over the top of your shoulder with the palm facing away from your body.
Modification: instead of performing an explosive movement, slow it down and do a squat with a single arm dumbbell reach forward, back to starting position, then single arm high row. (See video.)
- floor chest presses
Lie flat on your mat with your knees bent (or flat on a bench if you have access to one) and a dumbbell in each hand. Lift your arms to an extended 90-degree angle from your body and the floor. Your palms should be facing out and the elbows should be straight. This is your starting position.
Make sure that your back is touching the bench or mat and avoid arching. Bend your elbows only to ninety degrees or shoulder height, and push the arms straight by extending the elbows towards the ceiling. This is one rep.
- car drivers
Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, core tight, and holding a dumbbell in front of you with your arms extended. Grip the dumbbell on the sides with your hands at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock.
Slowly rotate the weight to one side as far as possible, imitating the turning of a steering wheel, and repeat in the other direction.
Rotate right, rotate left. This is one rep.
- bent arm lateral raises
Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and anchor your shoulders back and downward toward your hips. Using light to medium dumbbells, bend your elbows so your forearms are parallel with the floor.
Press your elbows outward, maintaining the angle at your elbow. Raise your arms until your upper and lower arms are parallel to the floor. Your hands should be directly in front of your shoulders.
Pause for two seconds, and then release back down. That’s one rep.
Start with your feet hip width apart, holding dumbbells in front of you and sit back in your hips. Bend over at a 45 degree angle and make sure to keep your back neutral or even slightly arched (not rounded) with your core engaged. Keep your chest up, your shoulders pressed down and away from your ears, and your chin lifted.
With your palms facing your body, engage your abs and squeeze your shoulder blades together as you bring the weights towards your torso. Keep your elbows pointed upward! Slowly lower the weights back to the starting position to complete one rep.
- hammer curls
Grab a set medium set of dumbbells and start in a standing position with your feet shoulder width apart. Rotate your palms to face your body (holding a dumbbell on each side) and engage the core to keep your body exactly where it is.
Keeping your shoulders down, squeeze the dumbbells up to your shoulders using your biceps muscles and then slowly lower them back down.
- triceps kickbacks
Start with a dumbbell in each hand and your feet planted under your hips. You can choose to put one leg forward for more stability (in video). Keep your back straight with a slight bend in the knees and bend forward at the waist so your torso is almost parallel to the floor. Keep your head up!
Pull your arms tight to your sides and also parallel to the floor. Keep a 90-degree angle between your forearm and upper arm throughout the duration of the exercise. Use your triceps to lift the weights until the arm is fully extended, briefly pause, then return to the starting position.
Start with your feet under your hips. Stand tall, then come down into a squat position with your hands on the floor (slightly wider than your shoulders) on the balls of your feet. Quickly kick your legs back and land in a plank position (your body should be parallel to the floor), perform a push-up, then return to the squat position and then to the starting position. Add to the intensity by jumping up at the end.
You can modify this exercise by doing a half burpee or stepping back and forward one leg at a time. (See video.)
Tabatas are 4-minute bouts of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) exercises. I love to put them at the end of a workout for a bonus burst of cardio or burn out exercise.
You follow a :20 work, :10 rest pattern and do the same exercise 8 times in a row. See my Tabata Training Playlist for timed out songs to help you know when to start and stop!
Before you start, please note that this is not an arm exercise. If done correctly, it works the legs, abs, and booty.
Start standing with your legs slightly wider than your hips and toes slightly pointed outward. Hold a medium dumbbell in both hands and go down to a squat position while bringing the dumbbell between your legs. Make sure to keep your spine straight! Keep your chest open and shoulders down. Engaging your core, straighten your knees and bring your hips over your feet.
Squeeze your glutes. Your arms will swing forward, and there’s no need to go higher then your shoulders. Think of a pendulum type of movement. Let the weight fall back between your legs and return to the squat. This is one rep. Repeat in a :20 work/:10 rest pattern.
And there you have an upper body workout you can do at home with a light and medium set of dumbbells.
I’m really starting to miss going to the gym and all of the equipment there! But, all we can do it take things one day at a time through this quarantine. And in the meantime, dumbbells and even your bodyweight can go a long way!
More LIL At-Home Dumbbell Workouts:
- Indoor/Outdoor At-Home Strength Circuit
- Back To Basics At-Home Dumbbell Workout
- Dumbbell Tabata Strength Workout
- Stability & Strength Workout (With Dumbbells and Gliders)
And more on the Fitness Page.
Please let me know if you decide to give this workout a try, and thank you for stopping by the blog today. I’ll see you back here on Friday!
Disclaimer: Although I am a certified personal trainer, I am not necessarily your personal trainer. The workouts I post are what work best for me, and might not be the right type of exercises for you. I always recommend consulting a doctor or health professional before making changes to your diet and/or fitness routine.
This was a great article i really learned alot and enjoyed reading it.
Great guide about dumbbell strength workout. Thank you for sharing it. It is really helpful article for beginners like me.
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