Five moves and just a set of dumbbells to build upper body strength

Use this short routine to develop lean muscle in your arms, chest, shoulders, and back

Man performing supported dumbbell rows
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you've been looking for a way to build upper body muscle, you may have encountered complex routines designed for extended sessions at the gym. But you don't need much equipment to develop strength, only a set of dumbbells and these five moves.

When training at home, it's a good idea to have a set of the best adjustable dumbbells to hand. You can switch the load on these customizable weights mid-workout, and as they combine several dumbbells in one, you won't need a whole weights rack either.

But you can get similar results at the gym with fixed weights, too, so long as you choose a load that'll challenge you without affecting your form. If you're new to weights, you can use these beginner strength training tips to select the ideal load for your workout.

Once you've got a pair of weights to hand, you can take on this five-move routine from Centr (opens in new tab), Chris Hemsworth's workout app. There are muscle-building staples like hammer curls and bench presses alongside full-body moves like weighted lunges and squats.

Each exercise is demonstrated by Bobby Holland Hanton (opens in new tab), a Centr trainer and Hemsworth's stunt double. You can follow along with the tutorial to focus on your form and perfect your technique to get the most from your workout.

Watch Centr's five-move upper body workout

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For the second exercise—the banded seated row—you'll need a set of the best resistance bands. If you don't have any to hand, you can switch this with a cross training workout move like supported dumbbell rows instead.

According to Centr, if you make this a regular part of your exercise routine, "you can level up these exercises by using heavier weights or a band with higher resistance." This is known as progressive overload, where you increase the weight to continue challenging your muscles.

It's an essential technique if you want to get the most from your training, especially in conjunction with specific multi-muscle exercises, like those in this routine. Compound exercises—like squats, lunges, and rows—work several muscles simultaneously.

As a result, routines with compound exercises mean that you can see results even when you're tight on time. Although Centr doesn't advise a particular time or rep count, you could use these moves as part of a high-intensity resistance training (HIRT) session.

Learning how to do kettlebell swings can be a great place to start if you're after a single move that'll work your whole body, raise your heart rate, and boost your metabolism. All you'll need is one of the best kettlebells and a bit of time to see results.

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.