With more of us working out from home than ever, it can be hard to know where to start with easy dumbbell exercises and beginner weight workouts.
Below we’ve compiled the eight easiest exercises that can be effective with big weights or small, that give you a full body workout and most importantly, don’t need a lot of space, time or expertise to complete.
What Makes a Good Dumbbell Workout For Beginners?
There are a few key things to look for when creating or choosing a dumbbell workout routine as a beginner.
The first is that the movements chosen should be relatively simple and easy to execute with proper form. The technique is vital when weightlifting, as using bad form not only lessens the effectiveness of the exercise but can also lead to injury.
Next, the number of reps and sets should be moderate, so as not to over-exert or injure yourself. Starting with a moderate number of reps and sets allows you to increase the intensity of your workout gradually as you get stronger and more comfortable with the exercises.
Finally, a good beginner dumbbell workout should focus on compound movements, which are exercises that work multiple muscle groups at once. These types of movements help you to build strength quickly and efficiently while maintaining good form.
8 Beginner Dumbbell Exercises For Women To Try
1. Bent Over Row
Don’t be fooled by the simplistic appearance of this exercise! Bent over rows are a staple of any athlete’s workout routine. What makes the Bent Over Row effective is its compound movement which allows the lifter to work a number of muscle groups including your back, biceps and postural muscles. The glutes and lower back also get a workout due to the bent over position – but make sure you keep your back flat.
Recommended: 10-13 reps
- To get into the bent-over position correctly, stand with both feet flat on the floor, hip width apart and push your bum back until your chest is pointing towards the floor.
- Bend your knees slightly and extend your arms, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Keep your back flat – imagine you have a vase of flowers balanced on your lower back.
- Row your arms towards your chest, with elbows close to your sides. At the top of the movement, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Repeat.
2. Shoulder Press
Another must have in anybody’s strength building routine, the shoulder press is a core fundamental lift for the upper body. It provides strength for the anterior/medial deltoids, located at the front and centre part of your shoulder. The overhead press will strengthen the posterior deltoids too.
Recommended: 10-13 reps
- Stand with your feet flat on the floor and hold a dumbbell in each hand, just above your shoulders.
- Drive your arms up to the ceiling as far as you can, then return the dumbbells to above your shoulders at a steady pace. Repeat.
Considered the best exercise available for working the lateral delts, this is another easy but effective exercise that can be done anywhere – with anything! Repeated regularly, the lateral raise will aid growth of the lateral deltoid, giving you the appearance of broader, stronger shoulders.
Recommended: 10-13 reps
- Stand up straight, keeping a straight spine, with your arms by your sides holding a dumbbell in each hand.
- Slightly bend your arms, and lift them outwards until they are level with your shoulders and you are standing in a T position. Lower your arms slowly and repeat.
4. Dumbbell Reverse Lunges
The lunge — love it or hate it — it’s effectiveness can never be doubted and only gets better when accompanied by weights! Targeting the abs, back and gluteal muscles, plus the quadriceps and hamstrings, this is an exercise made for sculpting the legs and bolstering the booty.
Recommended: 6 reps on each side
- Stand with your legs hip width apart, with your arms by your sides holding your dumbbells.
- Step one foot back about two feet, lowering your knee slowly to the ground, while keeping your chest pointing forwards.
- Step back to the starting position, then repeat the action on the opposite leg.
5. Bicep Curl
Bicep curls are to workout routines what kale is to salad: Ok on its own, but can achieve its full potential as a tasty accompanying teammate. Mostly an accessory movement, bicep curls only isolate and target the biceps, mostly adding definition as well as providing strength and stabilisation.
Recommended: 12 reps on each side
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides with palms facing inwards and arms straight down.
- Step your feet at shoulder width apart with your heels driven into the ground. Bend your knees slightly and brace your core.
- Lift one dumbbell toward the shoulder, rotating the arm as it moves up so that the palm is now facing upward.
- Lower your dumbbell to the side and repeat the same movement with the other arm. Remember to exhale when lifting your weight and inhale while lowering. Repeat.
6. Russian Twist
A popular exercise among professional athletes, the Russian twist targets the oblique muscles, either side of the abs. It’s best taken at a slow pace to get the most out of every repetition.
Recommended: 12 reps (1 rep is a twist to each side)
- Sit on the floor in a ‘V’ position. Engage your abs to hold this position steadily.
- Holding your dumbbell in front of you, slowly twist your waist left to right. Don’t rush this movement or twist too far – it works best when slowed down and controlled.
7. Squat with Overhead Press
Fitness’ favourite child, squats, build the leg muscles: quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves whilst creating an anabolic environment which promotes body-wide muscle building, improves muscle mass and of course, sculpts those glutes.
Recommended: 10-15 reps
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand, just above each shoulder. Squat down by sending your bodyweight back through your heels and lower as though you are about to sit into a chair.
- Lower for 5 seconds until your bum is slightly lower than your knees.
- Thrust back to your starting position, squeezing your glutes at the top. Lift the dumbbell towards the ceiling into an overhead press.
- Lower the dumbbells back to the start position, and repeat.
8. Romanian Deadlift
Don’t be put off by the hard-as-nails name, the Romanian deadlift (RDL) is a traditional barbell lift which targets and enhances the posterior chain muscles, including the glutes, hamstrings and adductors. A simple move, the RDL is an effective exercise that helps strengthen both the core and the lower body in one move.
Recommended: 10-15 reps
- Stand with both feet flat on the floor and a dumbbell in each hand.
- Keep your legs straight but unlock your knees and push your hips back to lower the dumbbells towards the floor.
- Go to just below knee height and then stand straight again.
- Clench your glute and core muscles as you do so. Repeat.
Check out my video on how to improve your deadlift strength!
Beginners Dumbbell Workout For Women FAQs
What is the best weight of dumbbells for beginners?
The best weight of dumbbells for beginners is usually around 2-5kg (4.4-11lbs). This can be a good starting weight as it allows you to get used to the movement and form without putting your body under too much strain. However, this is not set in stone and you should always listen to your body and go at a pace that feels comfortable for you.
How do I choose a dumbbell weight?
When choosing a dumbbell weight, always err on the side of caution and start with lighter weights. You can always increase the weight as you get stronger and more comfortable with the movements. Be conscious of how easily you can complete the desired number of repetitions – if it feels too easy, then go up a weight. Conversely, if you struggle to complete the reps, then drop down to some light dumbbells.
How many reps of dumbbells should I do a week to build muscle?
There is no set number of reps you should do per week, as this will depend on your fitness level, goals and the type of exercise you are doing. However, a good general guideline for strength training is to do 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps for each exercise. This can be done 2-3 times per week, with rest days in between to allow your muscles to recover.
Remember to listen to your body, and don’t push yourself too hard – you should be able to complete the reps with good form and without feeling too much strain lifting weights overhead.
Is 3 sets of 10 reps enough to build muscle?
This really depends on your fitness level and goals. If you are just starting out, 3 sets of 10 reps is a great place to start. However, if you are more experienced or are looking to build muscle, you may want to increase the weight, reps or sets. It’s important to find what feels good.
How many dumbbell reps should a beginner do?
A beginner can start with 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps for each exercise. This can be increased gradually as you get stronger and more comfortable with the movements. Remember to focus on form and quality over quantity – it’s better to do fewer reps with good form than to try and push through too many and sacrifice your technique.
How quickly can arms be toned?
This really depends on your fitness level, diet and the type of exercise you are doing. For some people, they may see results in a few weeks, while for others it may take longer. Remember to be patient and focus on performing the exercise correctly with your form and technique – the results will come eventually!
Will 2kg weights tone arms?
Yes, 2kg weights can tone arms, but they may not be the best weight for everyone. It really depends on your fitness level and goals. If you are just starting out, you may want to start with a lighter weight such as 1kg (2.2lbs). As you get stronger, you can gradually increase your weight.
How do I know if my dumbbells are too heavy?
If you are struggling to complete the desired number of reps with good form, then your dumbbells may be too heavy. Other signs that your weight may be too heavy include feeling pain in your joints or muscles or having trouble lifting weights above shoulder height.
If you experience any of these, then reduce the weight of your dumbbells and focus on quality over quantity, lifting your dumbbells slowly and with control.
Looking For In-Gym Support With Your Dumbbell Workouts?
At Strength Ambassadors, we want to see you succeed in your fitness journey. Our personal trainers are here to help and guide you through every step of the way – from choosing the right weights to perfecting your form.
Is it correct to do lunges forward or backwards? i.e. taking step with the bent leg forward or the straight leg backwards?
Lunges are usually done forwards, and reverse lunges are done backwards.