Two dumbbells and these five beginner exercises to build arm and chest muscles

Forget fancy gym machines, build strength and size with the humble dumbbell

Man doing seated bicep curls
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Gym machines may look cool, but when it comes to building muscle and strength in your upper body, all you really need is the humble dumbbell and this workout. Perfect if you’re pushed for time, this workout will take you just 30 minutes but leave your arms and chest feeling annihilated. All you'll need are (you guessed it) a pair of dumbbells and access to a weight bench.

Not only is the humble dumbbell one of the best pieces of home gym equipment you can own, but it’s also one of the best bits of kit to maximise upper body size and strength. "You get a greater range of motion with dumbbells, allowing you to get a full stretch, which is key to building bigger pecs and fighting off unsightly fat around your chest area.," says Sean Murphy, Global Personal Training Director at Ultimate Performance.  "But another key benefit is they allow you to develop balanced muscle and strength, as you are performing each exercise with the same amount of weight in each hand."

Sean Murphy Ultimate Performance
Sean Murphy

Sean’s role is to oversee Ultimate Performance's entire worldwide personal training team. In addition to being an exceptional personal trainer, Sean also leads on recruitment, education, exercise execution, program design development, performance, and client management to ensure U.P.’s global training team produces world-class results.

Sean's upper body workout

Man doing dumbbell curls

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“Anybody who is looking to increase the size of their upper body should add these five exercises into their weekly workout regime,” says Sean. You’ll do each exercise for six to eight reps, three times, with a 60 second rest between each set. Sean suggest lowering the weight for three seconds, pausing at the bottom of the move, then lifting the weight explosively. If you're not sure how to do the exercises, click the links below for a video. Ready? Here’s your workout: 

We've got plenty of other beginner-friendly workouts to help you on your strength training journey – like this five-move full-body dumbbell workout, ideal if you're short on time, but want to fit in an effective session. If it's your lower body you're looking to target, give this 20 minute lower body workout, for your next leg and glute day. 

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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.