You only need two dumbbells and these 6 exercises for a defined upper body

Target your back, biceps, triceps and shoulders with this 20 minute workout

Man doing bicep curls
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Training our upper body can often feel like a minefield and if you’re unsure where to start, you’re not alone. The best thing to do is keep things simple, like this dumbbell workout does. In just 20 minutes you'll effectively work your biceps, triceps, shoulders and back to help build strength and muscle, giving your upper body that defined appearance. Just grab a pair of dumbbells, or a single kettlebell, and get ready to work.

Dumbbells are one of the best pieces of gym equipment, and home gym equipment that you can own. Not only are brilliant for building strength and size (one study found there was no difference in muscle mass and strength when it came to using dumbbells and weight machines), but they're also a lot safer for beginners. If the load becomes too heavy, you just drop the dumbbells. Whereas with an Olympic barbell the only place to drop it is on yourself. It's one of the many reasons why we love dumbbell workouts here at T3.

This workout is made up of six different isolation exercises (exercises which target one specific muscle group). You're aiming to do each exercise for eight to 12 reps, so opt for moderate weight dumbbell where you the last two reps feel challenging. Take a 30 to 40 second break in between each exercise. Once you've completed the entire workout, rest for 90 to 120 seconds, then repeat the workout two more times. Here's your exercises:

  • Bent over wide dumbbell row
  • Lateral raises
  • Hammer curl into shoulder press
  • Upright rows
  • Tricep extension
  • Pronated bicep curls (palms facing towards the floor)

We hope you enjoyed that! Also, don't forget to train your chest too, with this dumbbell floor workout, which is perfect for beginners. If you're in need of some more upper body workout inspiration, here's a five-move dumbbell workout for you to try next. However, if you want to save a workout for your lower body, this four-move workout is a good one, it'll only take you 20 minutes.

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.