Two dumbbells and these five simple exercises to build your back and biceps

Say goodbye to complicated upper body workouts and give this easy one a go instead

Woman doing dumbbell bicep curl
(Image credit: Getty Images)

These days there’s hundreds of exercises and fancy-looking bits of equipment that can help us achieve a chiselled-looking upper body. However, this never-ending choice can also leave us feeling overwhelmed and unsure where to even start. It doesn’t need to be complicated though, you just need a pair of dumbbells and these five simple exercises, that’ll help your arms and back become more defined.

This workout targets you back and biceps, which are known as your 'pull muscles', as they help you carry out daily tasks that involve this motion, from closing a door to pulling a suitcase in the airport. The stronger they are the easier these tasks become and you're at less risk of injury. However, strengthening your upper body is also important for better posture and can even boost your metabolism as the more muscle mass you develop the higher your resting metabolic rate.

For this workout you'll need something stable to balance on for a couple of the exercises – like a chair, or if you're in a gym a weight bench is ideal. There's five exercises to get through. You'll do 10 reps for each exercise with a 30 to 40 second rest in between. Once you've completed all five exercises, rest for 90 seconds then repeat the workout three times. You've got quite a few reps to get through, so pick a medium weight dumbbell and do the exercises slow and controlled. Here's your workout:

  • Dumbbell bent-over rows 
  • Bicep curls
  • Single arm row (use something stable to balance on)
  • Hammer curls
  • Rear dealt flys

Now that you've worked the biceps and your back, don't forget to target the rest of your upper body later throughout the week. Here's a dumbbell tricep workout that'll take you just 15 minutes and a 10 minute shoulder workout that you can easily fit in afterwards.

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.