Build stronger arms and shoulders with this seven-move dumbbell workout

All you need is a pair of dumbbells and these seven moves to work your muscles and develop upper body strength

A woman completing a home workout with dumbbells in her living room
(Image credit: Getty)

Variety is the spice of life, and the same can be said for your workouts. Splitting your sessions up so they target specific muscles, rather than trying to work your entire body in one go, can be a good way to build strength while keeping your exercise plan fresh and fun. 

If you want to give this approach a go, this upper-body workout will hit your arms, shoulders, back, and core, all while leaving your legs alone so you can tackle a lower-body session later in the week. 

The workout from online fitness coach Julie Cap (better known as @juliexfit)  contains seven exercises you can do using dumbbells and a bench. If you’re working out at home, you can lean against a chair instead of a bench for exercises like the single-arm incline row. 

Cap also suggests using kettlebells for the gorilla row exercise, but you can use a dumbbell in their place. She also suggests having several weights for this short session so you can switch between lighter and heavier loads. 

We like using a pair from our roundup of the best adjustable dumbbells as they allow you to switch the load in seconds to suit the exercise you're doing, but a few fixed weight options will also work just fine. 

For the first exercise, you’ll be using a resistance training technique known as a reverse drop set. This sounds complicated, but it simply means you’ll start with a high number of repetitions (in this case, it’s 15) and a fairly low weight, then each set you'll increase the weight and decrease the amount of repetitions.

This is a great way to build muscle and challenge yourself, allowing you to test your strength by seeing how heavier weights feel to lift — you never know, you might surprise yourself!

Cap also challenges you to perform six of the exercises as pairs or supersets. This means you perform the two paired exercises back to back with no break in between, before resting when the prescribed number of repetitions for both exercises have been completed. 

By reducing the amount of rest you have between movements, you can shorten your session and make the most of your time. As there are no lower body movements here, the best leg workouts to build strength complement this routine well. 

Or, for anyone who doesn't have any equipment at home or feel comfortable working out with dumbbells just yet, this bodyweight arm workoutis a top alternative. 

Alice Porter
Freelancer Writer

Alice Porter is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle topics including health, fitness and wellness. She is particularly interested in women's health, strength training and fitness trends and writes for publications including Stylist Magazine, Refinery29, The Independent and Glamour Magazine. Like many other people, Alice's personal interest in combining HIIT training with strength work quickly turned into a CrossFit obsession and she trains at a box in south London. When she's not throwing weights around or attempting handstand push-ups, you can probably find her on long walks in nature, buried in a book or hopping on a flight to just about anywhere it will take her.