Add more muscle to your upper body with this six-move beginner dumbbell workout

30 minutes is all you need for this upper body pump

Man doing beginner dumbbell workout: dumbbell shoulder press
(Image credit: Getty Images)

So, you want to build out your arms a little more, get your shoulders popping and your chest pumped? This upper body workout can help you. With these six simple exercises you’ll target all the major muscles in your upper body, from your pecs, to your biceps, triceps, shoulders and back. All you’re going to need is a pair of medium-size dumbbells and your gym water bottle, as it’s going to be thirsty work.

A muscular upper body is often seen as the pinnacle of strength and, we’re not denying, round shoulders, sculpted arms and a big chest do look good. But, there’s more to building muscle than just asthetics; it improves our joint health, bone density and can even help manage our blood sugar levels. Not to mention it'll make everyday tasks easier, from carrying your shopping to pushing the lawn mower.

This is the perfect home workout to get you started on your strength training journey, as it requires minimal equipment. You won’t need a weight bench as all the exercises are performed standing. Perform three sets of 8-12 reps of each exercise below, taking a 40 second break between each round. Once you’ve completed an entire set, rest for 120 seconds before moving on to the next set. The reps are high, so remember medium dumbbells, you only want to be struggling on the last two to three reps, not on rep four. Here are your exercises:

  • Bent-over rows
  • Bicep curls
  • Front raises
  • Bent-over reverse flies
  • Single arm shoulder press
  • Hammer curls

Now, don't forget to set some time aside during the week to work your lower body too; this dumbbell workout will hit your quads, calves and glutes. If you're pushed for time, then we suggest scheduling in a full-body workout instead, as this will contain lots of compound movements to work multiple muscles at once and are often a lot quicker. This 15 minute full-body workout will do nicely. 

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.