You don’t need the gym to build your back and shoulder muscle - just try this dumbbell routine

If you're short on time and in need of an upper-body session, this 10-move dumbbell routine has you covered

Pair complete an upper-body dumbbell workout together
(Image credit: Getty)

Now that it's summer, everyone's schedules begin to pick up and it's easy for exercise to fall down our list of priorities. Especially as it gets hotter, the thought of sweating through an intense workout seems less desirable. But you don't need big machines to get a good upper body session in and this back and shoulders dumbbell circuit is a great example.

Many of the best workouts for arms can be done using your own body weight or just using some traditional weights such as dumbbells. The same can be said for when you want to train other muscles in your upper body. This 10-move workout requires the use of a set of light weights and some of the best adjustable dumbbells are perfect for home workouts like this as you can modify the size of the weight to suit different moves.

This workout comes from Sweat (opens in new tab) fitness instructor, Britany Williams (opens in new tab). Williams specializes in Barre, which is a type of training inspired by different elements of Pilates, yoga, and ballet. This is typically a good way to strengthen and tone your muscles without increasing bulk. However, the size of weight that you choose to train with is up to you, so adding slightly heavier weights to this routine will help in building muscle across your back and shoulders. Alternatively, light weight is great for body toning.

Watch Britany Williams

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Each exercise in this dumbbell-focused workout should be performed for 30 seconds followed by a 10-second rest. Williams states that this should be repeated for 2-3 sets. Depending on how heavy your weight is you may be able to perform more.

Research published in the European Journal of Physiology (opens in new tab) found that you can build upper body muscle in just four weeks. The participants involved in this study completed two dumbbell training sessions a week over the 28-day period. This workout only included two exercises, dumbbell curls, and shoulder presses, but the participants were increasing the load each session, as you would with progressive overload.

Williams' upper body dumbbell workout, which we have outlined below step by step, includes a lot more exercises. This will be especially helpful for beginners looking to build up base upper body strength and familiarise themselves with working new muscles. 

  • Reverse Fly Bird Dog
  • Back Extension Pull
  • Lat Pullover Suitcase Crunch
  • Wide Row with Pause
  • Double Arm Row + Tap In
  • Sumo squat + Double underhand row
  • Lateral Reach + Step Out
  • Reverse Fly Lateral Lunge
  • Lat Pulldown Sumo Squat Hold
  • Lateral Reach + Shoulder Rotation

If building muscle mass and working with weight is a newer concept for you don't feel embarrassed to start off extremely light as this is the best way to nail your exercise form and prevent injury. 

You should also prioritize rest and recovery. Something that can aid this process is eating a diet high in protein. Protein helps to rebuild damaged muscle, increase growth, and readies you for your next workout. Some of the best protein powders for weight loss can easily be blended into a tasty pre or post-workout shake and there are options suitable for vegans and non-vegans.

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.