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I have seen a few posts recently asking about dumbbell routines or mentioning the lack of dumbbell routines in /r/fitness. I decided to put this routine together as a potential alternative option to The Dumbbell Stopgap listed in the wiki. Let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions for improvements.
This is certainly not an ideal routine, but I think it is a decent option for someone who wants a dumbbell centric routine, and I have tried to design it to work to the advantages of dumbbells. While you can expect strength gains from this routine, it is designed more with hypertrophy in mind.
- Dumbbells: You will need a range of dumbbells or a pair of adjustable dumbbells. The heavier your dumbbells go, the longer you will be able to make use of this routine. This routine is not a practical option if you only have a single pair of dumbbells.
- Bench: Ideally you will have access to an adjustable bench. If you only have a flat bench, replace incline fly with flat fly on push day.
- Pull-up Bar: Every gym should have at least some place to do pull-ups. If you are working out at home buy a simple door-mounted bar.
There are three separate workout days as follows:
- Goblet Squat (if you are flexible enough, squat even lower)
- Single Leg Deadlift (I know the link shows a kettlebell, but you can do the same with a dumbbell)
- Calf Raise (If you do not have a board or other raised surface you may do these on flat ground, but note that you will be limiting your range of motion. To make the exercise more challenging use one leg at a time.)
Add Hanging Leg Raises to the end of every other workout
Perform three sets for each exercise, with 90 seconds rest in between each set. Do as many repetitions (reps) as possible, but no more than 12, for each set. For exercises that work each side individually (e.g. bent-over rows, lunges) a set counts after you have done both sides, and be sure to do the same number of reps per set on each side. If you are able to perform all three sets for 12 reps then move up to the next available weight on the next workout. If you do not make progress (increasing reps does count as progress) on an individual exercise after two attempts (i.e. you use the same weight and reps on that exercise for three consecutive workouts) then deload the weight for that specific exercise by two increments for the following workout and work your way back up.
For pull-ups and hanging leg raises start with bodyweight only. To add weight hold a dumbbell between your feet. If you cannot do a pull-up, begin with negatives.
Start with the lightest dumbbells available for all other exercises. This will make sure you don’t overdo it as you first start out and also allow you to practice form.
If you are getting adequate sleep and rest and like having the same schedule every week you may do the workouts on consecutive days as follows: Push/Pull/Legs/Push/Pull/Legs/Rest. Alternatively, you may use a four day cycle of Push/Pull/Legs/Rest.
Because /r/fitness loves squats I figure they deserve their own paragraph. Goblet squats are likely to be the limiting factor in this routine, in that you will probably reach your maximum dumbbell weight on this exercise first. When you do you may either move goblet squats to the end of leg day or replace them with Bulgarian split squats or pistol squats to continue advancing. Of course barbell squats would be an even better option, but if you have access to a barbell there are better routines out there to choose from in the first place.
Edit 1: Added options to advance on calf raises and squats per suggestions from /u/Gary_Oldman_AMA
Edit 2: Added clarification on deloading per request from /u/WORSTBOWLHAVIOR
Edit 3: Added note on starting weight per request from /u/MoobedAvenger