Forget push-ups – Try this 6-move dumbbell workout to build muscle in your upper body instead

Improve upper body definition with only two dumbbells and six exercises

African-american fitness woman doing biceps workouts with dumbbells in gym
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The humble push-up is an amazing bodyweight workout that helps build big arms and even bigger pecs (chest muscles). However, they are hard to master and require your core to be super strong. Not to mention, once you get used to them, it's hard to scale up the movement without doing tons of it. If you're pressed for time but want to see some upper body gains, try this 6-move home workout that uses only two dumbbells.

Resistance training such as this workout can help you build more than just muscle. Research shows that people who underwent an 8-week muscle-strength-training program saw a "significant decrease in pain and stiffness and a significant increase in mobility." The experimental group also "significantly increased in all strength measures" compared to the control group. So yes, working with weights not only doesn't damage your joints, but it actually improves joint strength and mobility. 

This workout follows a somewhat traditional set/rep setup (all noted below). Feel free to reduce reps or even omit sets altogether if you find it hard to follow the workout. We would also recommend using lighter dumbbells for those not used to home workouts to avoid injury. For the best options, check out T3's best dumbbells and best adjustable dumbbell guides.

Keep at least 60-90 seconds breaks between sets. Complete all sets of each exercise before moving on to the next one. Drink plenty of water during the workout to ensure your muscles are well-hydrated. Check out our best gym water bottle roundup if you haven't got one already. The exercises in this workout are as follows:

  • DB Push-Press to Curl - 10 X 3
  • Table Push-Up to DB Slide - 10 X 3
  • Boat DB Punches - 45 seconds X 3
  • Alternating Front Arm Raises - 20 X 3
  • Forearm Side Plank DB Pulls - 10 per side X 3
  • DB Hollow Body Crunch to Leg Lift - 10 X 3

For more upper-body workout action, have a look at this dumbbell upper-body workout that builds muscle in your arms, pecs, back and core or this 10-move upper-body bodyweight workout; it's only five minutes! If you prefer resistance bands, this 15-minute arm and core exercise session is all you need to tone the top half of your body.

Matt Kollat
Section Editor | Active

Matt Kollat is a journalist and content creator who works for and its magazine counterpart as an Active Editor. His areas of expertise include wearables, drones, fitness equipment, nutrition and outdoor gear. He joined T3 in 2019. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and more. Matt also collaborated with other content creators (e.g. Garage Gym Reviews) and judged many awards, such as the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's ESSNawards. When he isn't working out, running or cycling, you'll find him roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment.