Six moves to build muscle in your back and arms, and all you need is a pair of dumbbells

Build upper-body strength without the gym and develop functional strength using this short routine

Woman doing a renegade row exercise
(Image credit: Getty)

Adding upper-body exercises into your workout routine is essential if your goal is to build strength. Many of us accidentally skip some of the major muscle groups in our backs and arms, but all you need is a pair of dumbbells to effectively target them.

Dumbbells are great for home workouts, as you can challenge your strength without fancy machines or complicated barbell setups. You can also increase the weights you lift as you get stronger in order to progressively overload your workouts.

We'd recommend investing in a pair of the best adjustable dumbbells for your home, so you don't have to buy a new pair of weights as you progress with strength training. Plus, they're easier to store, as they combine several weights in one. 

This workout, designed by Sweat app trainer Britany Williams, works your arm muscles, including your biceps, triceps, and lats (the largest muscle in your back) over the course of just six moves. 

To get the most from your training and avoid injury, it's important to get the form right for each exercise. So be sure to check out Williams' demonstrations to practice your technique before you start.

Watch Britany Williams' dumbbell back and arms workout

Complete ten reps of each exercise, going through ten reps on each side for the single-arm movements. The workout is split up in two circuits. Aim for three rounds of each circuit, taking one or two minutes to rest in between.

Choose a weight that is challenging but manageable for this workout. The last couple of reps should feel very difficult. If you feel like you could complete more than ten reps easily, you probably need to lift heavier in order to make progress.

This is a great standalone workout to incorporate into your routine, especially if you're working out multiple times a week and splitting your workouts up to target different muscle groups.

Alternate between Williams' upper-body routine and this dumbbell legs session in order to build muscle all over. This also gives your muscles time to rest between workouts, so you can train effectively without injury. 

But to promote recovery, it's vital to get enough protein in your diet. Your body uses the nutrient to repair your muscles, and while you can get enough through your food, the best protein powders for weight loss are a great way to stay topped up. 

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.