at-home upper body workout with dumbbells [all levels]


Strength training is the new diet pill. Study after study shows that strength training has incredible benefits not just on your appearance, but your overall health as well. This type of training is anything that has to do with strengthening muscles, and that could be with our without weights! Strengthening the muscles is going to build muscle tissue (obviously) which helps to burn more calories, decrease chronic disease and increase “happy hormone” release. This at-home upper body workout can be done with a single pair of dumbbells, and a very small space!

Upper Body dumbbell workout

Supersets: 3 sets each

◊ 10 Hex press to chest fly

◊ 10 Tricep kickbacks

◊ 12 ½ kneel single arm press

◊ 12 Front raise

◊ 12 Skullcrushers

◊ 10 Arnold press

BURNOUT: chest press to failure

Workout Video

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Exercise explanations and modifications

Hex press to chest fly

Form: Lye flat on your back with your knees bent (so your low back is pressed to the floor); keeping hands at a neutral grip bring elbows down to floor and then back straight above you, then you are going to open the hands up and bring them down towards the floor (with a slight bend in the elbow) and then back up to the top. That is 1 repetition. Palms should stay facing each other the entire time.

Modifications: The only modification is using lighter/heavier weights.

Tricep kickbacks

Form: Start in a bent forward position (back is flat, bending at the waist with a small bend in knees); elbows are bent and tucked at your sides, the movement is just straightening those arms backwards and then bending them again. Make sure when you straighten your arms you are contracting the tricep!

Modifications: You can either use heavier/lighter weights or you can instead to tricep dips on a bench/chair/step instead.

½ kneel single arm press

Form: 1 knee down, and one foot up (the side with the knee on the floor is the arm that is pressing); keeping your core tight so you do not arch your back, you are pressing overhead with 1 arm. Elbow bent at 90 degrees at the bottom and straightens all the way over head. Keeping the palm facing forward the entire time. Make sure when you switch arms you also switch legs!

Modifications: Adjusting the weights to be lighter/heavier. You can also do the movement standing instead of kneeling if that is more comfortable.

Front raise

Form: One dumbbell in each hand, standing with palms facing down/backwards. Keeping your elbows straight you are going to raise those dumbbells (both at the same time) until you get to shoulder height and then back down. Make sure you do not let your arms “fall” on the way down but instead make sure you are controlling the movement! You also want to keep your core tight as to not arch your back, and make sure you do not swing your arms or use momentum!

Modifications: Using heavier or lighter weights so you can control the movement yet still work the muscles! You can also do this movement seated if you feel you have more control.


Form: Lye flat on your back with your knees bent; using one, or both, dumbbells start with the straight over your head and palms facing in. Keeping the elbows where they are you are going to bend them and drop the weight down towards your face (one dumbbell drop towards forehead, two dumbbells drop along side the ears) and then straighten the arms back up. This is going to be working the tricep muscles, so you must contract at the top and make sure you keep your elbows tucked in.

Modifications: Use a weight that you feel comfortable with but is still challenging.

Arnold press

Form: Start standing with a dumbbell in each hand. Bend your elbows and face your palms inward, the dumbbells should be right in front of your face. Rotate around so your palms face forward and your elbows/shoulders are at 90 degrees and then press the dumbbells over your head, when you come back down bring elbows down to 90 and shoulders to 90 and then rotate the dumbbells in front of your face again. It is almost as if you are creating a box around your face and then pressing overhead!

Modifications: This can be a tricky move so do it at your own pace and with a weight that you are sure is comfortable for you!

Chest Press

Form: Lye flat on your back with your knees bent and low back pressed to the floor. Arms are straight above you with your palms facing your feet. Drop your elbows to the floor next to you and then press back up engaging and squeezing the chest! You want to make sure you keep your wrists strong and maintain that 90 degree angle at the elbow when you come down towards the floor (do not let dumbbells collapse in).

Modifications: Again, just a weight that is appropriate for you!

Warmup and cool down

When you are working specific muscle groups it is important to warm up and cool down those specific muscles! This will ensure you are recruiting the proper muscles and that they are firing correctly for best results. Here is a warmup and cool down for this upper body workout:


◊ Lightweight shoulder internal and external rotation

◊ Pushups

◊ Walk-outs

◊ Arm circles (forward, backward, scissors, open/close)

Cool down:

◊ Pec stretch in doorway

◊ Open book stretch

◊ Arm crossover stretch


Another great workout you can do in the comfort of your own home, on your own time! Just press play on the video and start sweating. If you are interested in more workouts like this, subscribe to my YouTube channel!



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Haley Rowe June 27, 2018