An upper body workout doesn’t have to use gym machines or heavy barbells to be effective. All you need is dumbbells and some tried-and-true exercises to hit all the muscle groups in your arms, chest and back. 

This straightforward, five-move upper body workout was designed by personal trainer Rebecca Stewart for Fit&Well. If you’re short on time, or new to strength-training, it’s an ideal choice. Simply perform each movement for the suggested number of repetitions below, then repeat the whole routine once or twice more, depending on your fitness levels.

The workout

  • Dumbbell dual row: 2-3 sets x 8-12 repetitions
  • Dumbbell chest press: 2-3 sets x 8-12 repetitions
  • Standing dumbbell shoulder press: 2-3 sets x 8-12 repetitions
  • Hammer curl: 2-3 sets x 8-12 repetitions
  • Standing dumbbell tricep extension: 2-3 sets x 8-12 repetitions

The exercises

Personal trainer Rebecca Stewart performs a dumbbell dual row

(Image credit: Rebecca Stewart)

Sets: 2-3 Reps: 8-12

  • Hold one dumbbell in each hand in a neutral grip and start with feet hip width apart. Bend your upper body so that it’s horizontal, maintaining a neutral spine.
  • Pull your elbows back and exhale, bringing the dumbbells in towards the body. Engage your back muscles as you do this and pause at the top of the movement.
  • Lower the dumbbells towards the floor and inhale.

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