Two dumbbells and five moves are all you need to build strength in the shoulders and back

You don't need to go to the gym to develop muscle, just a pair of dumbbells

Woman doing a dumbbell chest press at home on the floor.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Building strength in the upper-body doesn't have to be complicated. If you have a consistent routine and follow the progressive overload principle, you'll develop muscle in no time.

You only need a couple of dumbbells and a solid surface—like a chair or bench— to do this simple upper-body workout from trainer Alex Rice

Come back to it on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, regularly increasing your weight, and you'll strengthen those muscles in your shoulders and back.

How to do Alex Rice's five-move dumbbell workout

This routine is made up of five exercises. You'll need to complete three sets of each exercise, "supersetting" the first two moves, which means doing them one after the other with no break in between.

You'll be completing between eight and 10 repetitions (reps) of each exercise, so choose a weight that is challenging but manageable for this amount of reps.

This means that if you can't make it to eight reps without arching your back, you probably need to lower the weight. But if you're easily hitting ten reps each time, and you feel like you could do more, opt for a heavier pair of dumbbells.

To make sure you're maintaining good form throughout the routine, copy Rice's technique. Remember to engage your core in the moves and keep a straight spine.

How it works

This is a classic strength training routine. It's likely that you'll feel some delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) the next day, which is actually a result of a microtears happening in your muscles. 

Sounds unpleasant, but it's actually a good thing, as your muscles should repair themselves and grow back bigger and stronger. To help your body recover, make sure you have enough protein in your diet, which plays a vital role in muscle repair. 

Your upper body will need to rest after this session, but you could still try tackling a lower-body dumbbell workout . Or, if you fancy a more gentle type of exercise, try some of these yoga stretches for beginners instead. 

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.