The Best Dumbbell Workout for Weight Loss

Beach Abs
Shutterstock

When it comes to weight loss, free weights can take you far. But cranking out isolation exercises, like you might to add serious size to your arms, and taking super-long rest periods won’t maximize your returns. For that reason, the best dumbbell workout for weight loss is all about intensity and efficiency.

After all, weight loss comes down to two guiding principles: calorie burn and lean muscle growth. To lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit. But what good are calories burned if they come from muscle? 

To prevent muscle loss, the workout below loads the body’s biggest muscle groups through large, compound movements, and with weight that pushes those muscles to fatigue. After all, the more muscle fibers you recruit with each and every rep, the more energy—or calories—your muscles will suck up and burn through. 

Plus, it’s at the point of fatigue—when you have zero reps left in the tank—when you trigger the endocrine responses necessary to maintain and even grow levels of lean mass in the face of a calorie deficit. 

That lean mass, or muscle, is your number-one modifiable factor in setting your basal metabolic rate, or the number of calories your body burns performing basic biological functions. Put another way, building muscle helps you lose more weight from fat. 

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The Best Full-Body Dumbbell Workout for Weight Loss

To put these lessons into practice, perform this best dumbbell workout for weight loss. Bonus: You can do these dumbbell exercises at home. Prepare your cardiovascular system and muscles for the work ahead with a 10-minute low-intensity warmup, then move through the following dumbbell exercises for weight loss. (Not enough time? Try this 15-minute dumbbell workout.)

You’ll get started with some total-body reps, move into a couple of supersets, then polish things off with some high-intensity metabolic finishers. Take 10 minutes at the end of your workout to cool down and slowly lower your heart rate…because it will be jacked. Here are the moves:

1. Dumbbell Turkish Getup
2A. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
2B. Dumbbell Bench Press
3A. Dumbbell Bottom-Loaded Squat
3B. Dumbbell Bentover Row
4. Dumbbell Side Lunge
5.Dumbbell Push-Press
6. Dumbbell Swing

The Best Dumbbell Workout for Weight Loss

Turkish Getup
James Mithelfender

1. Dumbbell Turkish Getup

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back on the floor with a medium-weight dumbbell by your right side. Roll toward the weight, grab it with both hands, then roll onto your back. Shift the weight to your right hand and press it straight up over your right shoulder, elbow and wrist straight. Bend your right knee and plant your foot the floor. This is the starting position. 
  2. Keeping you right arm locked out over your shoulder, sit up to a tall seated position, propping your torso onto your left forearm and then onto your left hand. Press through your right foot to extend your hips so your torso forms a straight line.
  3. Swoop your left leg under your hips and behind you. Straighten your torso to a half-kneeling position. Then, stand up tall. Pause, then reverse the movement back to the starting position. That’s one rep. 

Perform 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps per side, resting 60 to 90 seconds between sets.

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Romanian Deadlift
Beth Bischoff

2A. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

How to do it: 

  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart holding a set of heavy dumbbells in front of your thighs with an overhand grip. Brace your lats and core. 
  2. Keeping a neutral spine, hinge at the hips to lower the weights down your thighs. Allow a slight bend in your knees as you do so. When weights lower past your knees, or you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, pause, then drive through your heels to stand as tall as possible. Squeeze your glutes to lock out your hips at the top of the motion. That’s one rep. 

Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps. Superset with 2B, moving between exercises with minimal to no rest, and resting 30 to 60 seconds between sets.

Dumbbell Bench Press
Justin Steele

2B. Dumbbell Bench Press

How to do it: 

  1. Lie face-up on a bench with a pair of medium-weight dumbbells straight up over your shoulders with an overhand grip. Plant your feet on the floor and brace your core.
  2. Slowly lower the dumbbells toward the outsides of your shoulders, letting your elbows flare out diagonally from your body, rather than straight out to the sides, as you do so. Pause, then push through the chest and triceps to drive the dumbbells up and together. 

Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps. Superset with 2A, moving between exercises with minimal to no rest, and resting 30 to 60 seconds between sets.

Dumbbell squat
Dumbbell squat James Michelfelder

3A. Dumbbell Narrow-Stance Squat

How to do it:

  1. Stand tall with your feet just narrower than hip-width apart and a heavy dumbbell in each hand down at your sides with a neutral grip. Engage your lats and core to keep a strong torso. 
  2. Keeping your arms completely vertical and the dumbbells in line with the outside balls of your feet, bend at the hips and knees to lower straight down toward the floor as possible without your form breaking or heels raising from the floor. Pause, then drive through the feet to stand back up as tall as possible. That’s one rep. Note: You can also hold the dumbbells in the racked position, up by your shoulders. 

Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps. Superset with 3B, moving between exercises with minimal to no rest, and resting 30 to 60 seconds between sets.

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Bentover Row
Beth Bischoff

3B. Dumbbell Bentover Row

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a pair of medium dumbbells at your sides with a neutral grip. Brace your core. Push your hips back behind you, allowing a slight bend in your knees, to lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor. 
  2. Pull through your back and arms to row the dumbbells to your waist, driving your elbows straight behind you and keeping your shoulders down and away from your ears. Pause, then slowly release the dumbbells back to start. Keep your torso stationary throughout. That’s one rep. 

Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps. Superset with 3A, moving between exercises with minimal to no rest, and resting 30 to 60 seconds between sets.

Dumbbell push press
Dumbbell push press James Mithelfender

4. Dumbbell Clean to Push Press

How to do it: 

  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and two medium dumbbells on the floor just outside of the balls of your feet. Brace your core, then hinge at your hips and grab the dumbbells with a neutral grip and flat back. Squeeze your lats. Drive through your heels to propel the dumbbells vertically. 
  2. As they rise, pull through your arms and tuck your elbows so the dumbbells come to rest in a double-rack position. Pause, then quickly bend your knees and hips to lower into a quarter-squat. Immediately drive through your feet to help you press the dumbbells straight overhead. Pause, then lower the dumbbells back to the rack position, then to the floor. That’s one rep. 

Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps, resting 90 to 120 seconds between sets.

For the dumbbell overhead swing, your hamstrings should engage with each rep. If they don't, you're bending the knees too much.
Justin Steele

5. Dumbbell Swing

How to do it:

  1. Stand tall with your feet between hip- and shoulder-width apart and a heavy dumbbell a few feet in front of you on the floor. Push your hips back behind you into a deadlift position and extend your arms in front of you to grab the dumbbell handle with both hands. Brace your lats. 
  2. From here, “hike” the dumbbell behind you, them immediately thrust your hips forward and stand up as tall as possible to propel the weight forward in line with your shoulders. (Progression: Raise it above your head, as shown.) Immediately descend back into the deadlift position, allowing the weight to swing back through your legs around knee-height. That’s one rep. At the end of each set, swing the dumbbell back to the “hike” position on the floor. 

Do 4 sets of 15 to 20 reps, resting for 90 to 120 seconds between sets.

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