Build upper body strength with just a set of dumbbells and seven simple moves

This short routine from personal trainer Alice Liveing works your arms, chest, shoulders, and core

Dumbbell workout at home
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As many of us continue to work out at home, it's not always easy to find a routine that can replicate the muscle-building effects of a full gym session. Thankfully, this seven-move Instagram dumbbell workout helps develop a stronger upper body.

The only equipment you'll need is a set of the best adjustable dumbbells. These space-saving weights are ideal for at-home exercise as they combine several dumbbells, and you can quickly change the load with a switch or by removing weight plates. 

The routine, from personal trainer Alice Liveing, makes good use of your dumbbells, including them in five of the seven moves. The goal is to train your upper body—your arms, back, chest, and core—to develop strength in these areas.

Rather than complete an exercise and take a break, the session is broken into three supersets, so you'll do three sets of two moves in succession before resting for between 60 and 90 seconds. There's also an explosive final move to end the routine.

The program includes push ups, bent-over rows, kneeling single-arm Arnold presses, chest flys, dumbbell wood chops, and shoulder taps. Finally, there's the devil press, a compound move that works multiple muscle groups in a single exercise.

Watch Alice Liveing's seven-move upper body dumbbell workout

A post shared by Alice Liveing (@aliceliveing) (opens in new tab)

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One Instagram user took to the comments to ask, "I am struggling with full [push ups], I attempt 1 or 2 but find my lower back dips, or I just don't have the strength, are kneeling push ups as effective until I gain strength please?"

The personal trainer replied that she would recommend "incline push ups - so setting your hands up against a sturdy object like a wall, sofa, barbell (if at the gym) and instead building your strength here."

Incline push up exercise

(Image credit: Getty Images)

"[This] allows the development of good lumbopelvic control that isn't worked in a kneeling push up. As you progress you can slowly lower the incline until you're able to complete push ups from the floor."

It's also worth watching Alice's Instagram post, as she's filmed video demos for each move, which can help you perfect your form and avoid injury. This is especially important when working with weights.

Despite what we're often told, it's best to start with lighter loads initially before choosing heavier weights as you get stronger. Plus, heavy weights might not be the secret to building muscle, as lighter loads can be even more effective.

If you're after a way to get into strength training without weights, pick up a set of the best resistance bands. These stretchy bands come in different thicknesses and are light, so you can carry them with you for a quick stretch or muscle-building workout.

This lightweight design doesn't make them any less effective, though, as you can use the best chest workouts with resistance bands to complement Alice Liveing's routine and build strength in your upper body.

James Frew
Staff Writer

James is a London-based journalist and Staff Writer at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.


In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.