This low-impact dumbbell workout only uses five moves to build muscle all over

Target your upper and lower body muscles with these five joint-friendly exercises

Woman carrying two dumbbells
(Image credit: Getty)

Want to strength train but worried it will put pressure on your joints? You can build muscle and keep your workout low-impact by avoiding jumping and plyometric-based (explosive movements) exercises. Why not try this five-move dumbbell routine and start building muscle in your upper and lower body?

Instead of heading to the gym and using multiple pieces of equipment, you can just use one pair of the best adjustable dumbbells at home to develop your strength. The added bonus of using adjustable weights is that you can increase the weight over time helping to increase muscle gains faster.

If you have a 30 minutes to spare, you can start building muscle and adding definition to your shoulders, arms, back and legs with this low-impact workout from NASM (the National Academy of Sports Medicine) certified personal trainer, Kelsey Wells (opens in new tab).

She demonstrates each of the five exercises to help you complete the workout with the correct form. The better your form is the better your results will be; the same can be said for any form of exercise training, and not just strength training. Good form is especially important for avoiding injury and protecting your joints. If joint pain is something you suffer from, some of the best supplements for joints can help to relieve discomfort.

Wells' routine features a series of resistance training staples for your upper body—dumbbell rows, tricep kickbacks, bent over tricep flys, and bicep curls—and a lower-body move guaranteed to give you a glute and quad burn, which is sumo pulse squats.

Wells says to perform each exercise 'slow and steady', repeating each move for 10-12 reps, and aim to complete 3-4 sets of this routine. 

If you want to start seeing some definition in your muscles, really look to keep your muscle under tension for a prolonged moment as you perform each movement. According to the American Council of Exercise (opens in new tab), "The number of reps isn’t as important as the length of time during which the muscle stays under tension."

You can practice what this feels like for your different muscle groups with Wells' five dumbbell moves that are listed below.

  1. Upright rows
  2. Sumo pulse squats
  3. Tricep kickbacks
  4. Bent over bicep fly's
  5. Alternating bicep curls

Training with weights, such as dumbbells, places stress on your muscles forcing them to adapt and increase in strength. The effect resistance training can have on muscle hypertrophy is similar to how cardiovascular exercise can strengthen your heart. 

If you'd rather not work with weights in your workouts but still want to experience muscle growth, bodyweight exercises can lead to muscle growth. Again, make sure you include time under tension to ensure your muscles receive sufficient stimulus to grow from. Exercises such as push ups, squats and lunges don't require any weight and can be completed just about anywhere.

You will hear this a lot, but your diet will play a key role in developing muscle. Protein acts as a building block for your muscles, so the more of this you include in your meals will help to maintain muscle mass and helps to promote muscle growth. Adding one of the best protein powders for weightloss to oats or a smoothie is a quick way to fit more protein into your diet.

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.