You don't need the gym to build upper-body muscle — use this five-move dumbbell workout instead

If you're trying to increase your strength via home workouts, pick up a pair of weights and give this routine a go

Woman doing a dumbbell curl
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Dumbbell workouts are a simple but effective way to build upper-body muscle. You can do them either at home or in the gym, so you have no excuse for skipping out on a session. 

All you'll need for this routine is a pair of dumbbells — we'd recommend a pair of the best adjustable dumbbells so you can increase the weight when you need to — and something to sit on, like a bench or a chair.

The workout from personal trainer Alex Rice is designed to strengthen the shoulders and back. It's an efficient five-move sequence, using plenty of compound exercises that target multiple muscles across your arms, shoulders and mid-section.

Watch Alex Rice's shoulders and back dumbbell workout

This workout should take you 30 to 40 minutes to complete, so it is quite a lengthy upper-body routine.

If you're not sure what dumbbell weight to use, aim to complete at least the minimum amount of repetitions that Rice suggests for each move. For example, if Rice suggests that you repeat the exercise 10-12 times during a set, make sure you can complete at least 10 repetitions. If you can very easily complete the maximum 12 repetitions and feel like you could still crank out a few more, then you need to increase your weight. 

Think about engaging your core throughout this entire routine. Tuck your ribcage in and squeeze your glutes slightly, to ensure your posture is correct. Not only will this maximize muscle engagement throughout the entire body and prevent injury, but it will also strengthen your core muscles too.

The workout primarily focuses on upper-body strength and you might experience DOMs (delayed-onset muscle soreness) in your arms the next day. This is normal and it's one of the reasons why people often split their workouts into upper and lower sessions, so they can focus on an area that's not feeling sore. 

If you still want to workout the next day, we'd recommend focusing on lower body routines, like these leg workouts or this lower-body dumbbell workout. Remember to fuel up with an adequate amount of protein, too, which will help your muscles repair themselves. 

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.