Ryan Reynolds' trainer just gave us this beginner's 5-move dumbbell workout

Celebrity trainer Don Saladino shares a short dumbbell-only upper-body workout perfect for beginners

Ryan Reynolds
(Image credit: Getty Images)

This five-move workout comes courtesy of Don Saladino, an expert trainer and fitness coach who's worked with stars such as Ryan Reynolds, Hugh Jackman, Emily Blunt, Blake Lively, Anne Hathaway... the list goes on. 

Now, that list includes you, with a beginner's upper-body workout that doesn't require much to perform, just a set of the best adjustable dumbbells, which means you can do it at home or at the gym, depending on where you like to train. We sourced this workout from an exclusive interview with Saladino, which we'll share in full in a future article. 

A lot of this workout contains quite high numbers of repetitions, which means you should make sure you're lifting a light weight on those dumbbells. Saladino says "If you’re a beginner, I would work a little bit on the higher rep range. I want you to practice each rep and develop muscular endurance." Once your muscles are used to this sort of exercise and you can execute it with good form, you can try upping the weight.

Until then, Saladino recommends keeping "three to five reps in reserve" on each exercise, which means you're not going all out. On each set, you should exercise and stop when you could probably keep going for another three to five reps. 

Check the full workout out below. if you don't have dumbbells, you can also do this workout with a pair of the best kettlebells

1. Dumbbell floor press

dumbbell floor press

(Image credit: Future)

Sets: 4
Reps: 15

  • Lie flat on the back on the floor with your knees bent, and your feet flat on the floor or mat. Hold a pair of dumbbells just above your shoulders. Your arms should be bent, resting on the mat. 
  • Tighten your core and push the dumbbells upwards in a straight line as quick as you can, squeezing your chest at the top of the rep.
  • Pause, before slowly lowering the dumbbells back to the starting position.

2. Dumbbell row

Deadlift and row

(Image credit: Future)

Sets: 4
Reps: 15

  • Bend at the hips and knees, lowering your torso until it’s almost parallel with the floor. Allow your arms to hang down straight in front of your knees and shins, holding the dumbbells in front of you.
  • Tighten your core and pull back the dumbbells in a rowing movement until they’re to the sides of your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top of the rep. 
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the start position. 

3. Push-up

Man demoing a press up

(Image credit: Future)

Sets: 3
Reps: 5-10

"The push up is a really high quality movement," says Saladino. "Do anywhere between five and 10 reps here."

You're doing less reps because, according to Saladino, "strength is a skill. It’s going to be difficult to do lots of reps especially after the floor press. If you can’t do a full plank push up, use a desk, use a bench, your knees." 

  • Assume the plank position. Keep your legs together and your arms straight, with your hands placed just wider than shoulder width. Your body should form a straight line from your heels to your shoulders. 
  • Lower yourself down towards the floor while keeping your legs and back straight and core tight. 
  • Keep lowering yourself until your chest almost touches the floor. Pause before pushing back up until your arms are straight. That’s one rep.

4. Dumbbell pullover

Dumbbell pullover

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sets: 3
Reps: 15

  • Lie on the floor or the bench with your hands above your shoulders, gripping the dumbbell by the plate. Your arms should be straight above you. 
  • Slowly pull your biceps backwards until they’re by your ears, allowing the dumbbell to touch the floor or hover just above it.
  • Pause and then return the dumbbell to the starting position, contracting your lats as you do.

5. One-arm dumbbell carry

One arm walk

(Image credit: Getty Images)

"I would finish with a carry, just a basic one-arm suitcase carry," says Saladino. "Walk 25 steps each way."

Why use only one dumbbell, rather than two? "I like the stability component. Everything has been bilateral (evenly distributed between two hands) so far. Now you’re unbalanced, so you engage the other side of the body."

Working with just one dumbbell means your body has to fight against imbalance, making the exercise harder and activating lots of muscles in your core. Walk for 25 steps, swap the weight and walk for another 25 – it'll build functional muscle, help burn fat, and tone your core at the same time. It's unconventional, but unilateral exercises are some of the best workouts for abs you can do. 

Matt Evans
Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.