You only need these four dumbbell exercises to build upper body muscle

Strengthen and develop muscle across your upper body using a pair of dumbbells and four moves

Woman working her upper body with a set of dumbbells
(Image credit: Getty)

Training your upper body can be time consuming with various different muscles to be worked in this area of the body. However, minimal equipment workouts can simplify things, like this dumbbell routine targeting your back, shoulders, chest, biceps, and triceps.

If you typically work out from home and want to take your strength training up a notch, it's worthwhile investing in a pair of the best adjustable dumbbells. Alternatively, if you currently have a gym membership, most gyms have a free weights section where varying sizes of dumbbells are available.

Once you have got your hands on some weights, then you are ready to take on this upper body building workout from Whitney Simmons (opens in new tab). It's an efficient routine for those who like 'hitting a little bit of everything' on their upper body days, rather than spreading different upper body muscles across more than one training day.

The last two exercises use a cable machine but if you are working out from home, and choose to finish off your routine with these moves, you can recreate them with some of the best resistance bands.

You will perform each exercise for 8-10 reps, repeating each set three times over. The final two sections of this workout are supersets, meaning you will perform two exercises back to back. Supersets allow you to do double the work while saving time since there are shorter or no rest periods at all.

Watch Whitney Simmons Four Move Upper Body Workout

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Often people assume that the heavier you lift the better your gains should be, but your first priority when following a dumbbell routine like this one is to master proper form.

The better your form is the greater chance you have of building muscle more efficiently and you will be less likely to injure yourself. Beginner strength training tips like this may sound very simple but they can have pretty impactful results when put into practice.

After you master form and feel more confident in your weight training then it's a good time to consider moving up a weight. Progressive overload is when you gradually increase the challenge or intensity of your training to avoid hitting a plateau in your gains.

However, training with weights isn't the only way you can build muscle and improve your upper body strength. For example, these shoulder bodyweight exercises are suitable for home workouts or can come in handy when you're traveling and don't have access to exercise equipment.

You can also develop your upper body gains with these moves by increasing the number of reps you complete and increasing the time you spend under tension during each exercise.

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.