Start building your upper body by mastering these five simple dumbbell moves, which every beginner should know

Grab some dumbbells and start strengthening your arms, shoulders and more

Woman in gym holding dumbbells by shoulders
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Spring is (hopefully) just around the corner so as we move from sweater weather to T-shirt season, your mind may begin to wander towards some new, fun upper-body workouts. 

If you’re looking for a solid arms workout look no further than this great routine from Hayley Madigan, a fitness trainer with a degree in Sports and Exercise Science BSc (Hons). 

You'll need access to a couple of sets of dumbbells: a lighter pair for the smaller muscle lifts and a heavier pair for the bigger lifts. Having access to a pair of good adjustable dumbbells might be useful here, as that would allow you to quickly adjust loads as needed between exercises. 

As with all weight training, form is really important in preventing injury. Watch Madigan’s routine closely below before tackling the moves yourself.

Watch Hayley Madigan’s upper-body dumbbell workout


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The workout has five movements and Madigan says to complete 8-12 repetitions of each. Once you’ve finished the circuit, repeat it two or three more times.

According to Madigan, by doing these exercises in a seated position you can reduce the natural 'bounce' that can come from your legs when training your arms. By remaining seated and still, your movements become stricter and more isolated (and more challenging for your upper-body muscles).

Benefits of strengthening your upper body

This workout will benefit your upper-body functional strength, making it that bit easier to carry your shopping up the stairs. A stronger upper body will also improve your stability and posture, support your spine and reduce strain on your back muscles.

After trying this workout, you may have some sore muscles the following day. This is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and as much as it can hurt, it is totally normal. 

The pain that occurs after a strength training workout is caused by tiny tears in your muscle fibers. To help these repair it's important to prioritize recovery and make sure you're consuming adequate amounts of protein. 

Lois Mackenzie
Fitness Writer

Lois Mackenzie is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering strength training workouts with weights, accessible ways to stay active at home, and training routines for runners. She joined the team from Newsquest Media Group, where she was a senior sports, trends, and lifestyle reporter. She is a dedicated runner, having just completed her first marathon, and an advocate for spending time outdoors, whether on a walk, taking a long run, or swimming in the sea. 

Lois holds a Master's degree in Digital Journalism, and has written for Good Health, Wellbeing & The Great Outdoors,, and Newsquest Media Group, where her reporting was published in over 200 local newspapers.