This dumbbell workout only uses four moves to build upper body muscle

This upper body session features four exercises to help tone and increase muscle growth

Woman exercising with a dumbbell
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When you’re short on time and working with limited equipment or space, quick and simple workouts are your best friend. This four-move dumbbell routine can build upper body muscle and it’s low impact as it uses the floor instead of a bench to train on.

To get stuck into this upper body session, you’ll need a pair of weights such as some of the best adjustable dumbbells. This type of dumbbell is modifiable so that you’re able to adjust the size of weight as you work out, they’re also very space-efficient saving you the need to buy a full rack of weights.

This workout comes from Chontel Duncan (opens in new tab), a personal trainer and workout creator for the SWEAT (opens in new tab) app. There are four exercises to get through and you will perform this session as a Tabata workout, so this means you’ve got eight rounds to complete. Each exercise will be performed for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds rest.

Tabata is a form of High-Intensity Interval Training that focuses on having you exert maximum effort for a minimal period of time. Not only will this workout help to boost muscle growth across your chest, shoulders and back but the Tabata element will help improve your endurance and get your heart rate up fast, helping you to burn fat more efficiently.

Watch Chontel Duncan’s Upper-body Four-Move Dumbbell Workout

A post shared by CHONTEL DUNCAN (@chontelduncan) (opens in new tab)

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Most of the exercises involved in this session are typically performed on a bench. However, Duncan demonstrates the routine in full on the floor. She says this workout is, “Ideal for anyone looking for a low-impact workout. If you are currently managing a lower-body injury or suffering from a sore lower back, this will work.”

Lying down on the floor to do an exercise like the chest press restricts your range of motion and provides a feedback mechanism for you to feel more supported as you lift the dumbbells. You will still be working your upper body hard enough to get results since you don’t have the same help from your legs that you would get working from a bench.

We’ve listed the four benchless dumbbell exercises below for you to try.

  • Floor chest press
  • Floor skull crusher
  • Floor chest flys
  • Ankle taps

Strength training workouts like this one will play a key role in strengthening and adding mass to your muscles. But consistency is also essential. This study published in the Sports Medicine (opens in new tab) journal discovered two sessions of resistance training a week is superior to one session per week if you want to see hypertrophy.

As much as the training and physical element is to get you the results you want you also should be considering your diet and rest. Rest days allow your muscles to repair and a high protein diet only also helps with this.

Other small things like how exposed your body is to essential vitamins play a part too. For example, taking one of the best vitamin D supplements has been proven by research (opens in new tab) to increase muscle strength, particularly for those who may be vitamin D deficient. 

Jessica Downey
Staff Writer

Jessica is Staff Writer at Fit&Well. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. 


When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.