Having spent most of my life working out in some manner, I can identify with the various goals of those who want to get started on an exercise program. Initially, I wanted to gain size. Later, I wanted to trim down and lose weight.

We can change our eating habits to accomplish either weight gain or weight loss. But it is infinitely better to include resistance and cardio exercise to sculpt our bodies and rev up our metabolism. Most of us don’t want a large body with no definition or a reduced body with loose skin or cellulite.

I have known people who have purchased dumbbells, but have very little knowledge of how to implement them. This reminds me of my beginning workouts. I was barely a teenager. I had a gym membership, but was intimidated by the veterans who were very advanced and not much older than I was. Also, this was a time of much misinformation about workouts:

  • Muscles would hamper my touch in basketball or the rhythm of my tennis strokes
  • Muscles will turn to fat when training stops
  • Resistance training will make us muscle – bound
  • Long, laborious workouts were the best kind

All of these then prevailing thoughts were proven incorrect in due time.

My best gains came when I worked out in a garage with a sensible routine of very basic movements, about 3 sets each of 5-6 exercises. But, this was after a very lengthy period of trial and error.

This post is written for beginners, as defined by those who have:

  • a desire to improve one’s body
  • a condition of reasonably good health (and physician’s consent to proceed)
  • a time allotment of about 30 minutes per day for exercise
  • possession of a bit of equipment or willingness to obtain some


This will include a brief warm -up, then basic sets for the entire body and a final bit of cardio. The cardio may be done on the same day as the rest of the program – or on alternate days. If all 10 steps are completed on the same day, the following day should be one of rest. Another option is to complete the first 9 steps on one day and the cardio on alternate days.

If all 10 steps are done on one day, be sure to do the cardio part at the end and consider that the total workout will be about an hour. (I am more inclined to do resistance one day, cardio the next).

On all movements with dumbbells, do 8 reps to begin. Try for more later. When doing 12 reps becomes easy, increase the weight.

  1. WARM – UP. This is a couple of minutes of jumping jacks or fast walking in place with high knees. Swing the arms while doing either.
  2. UPPER BACK – One arm row. Slightly bent over, “row” one dumbbell at a time downward and then back to the side of your chest. Then do the other side. If possible, place the non – working hand on a small bench or ottoman. I use an exercise ball for this.

3. UPPER LEGS – Squat, with both dumbbells at shoulder level.

4. CHEST – Dumbbell press from flat bench (or ottoman, exercise ball, etc.)

5. SHOULDERS – Lateral raise. Standing or seated, raise dumbbells with each arm to sides of shoulders. Bend arms slightly for comfort.

6. CALVES –Calf raise. Holding dumbbells at sides and standing with front of foot on a small platform, raise and lower your heels to engage the gastrocnemius muscles of the calves.

7. TRICEPS – Triceps “kickback”. Bending over slightly and with bent arms as shown below, straighten the arms by locking out the elbows to the rear.

8. BICEPS – Curl the dumbbell with each arm from hip area to the shoulder. Alternate two dumbbells as shown, raise both at the same time or do each arm separately.

9. ABDOMINALS – Plank. Supported by forearms and toes, with body in straight alignment, maintain this position for 30 seconds to begin. Build to 60 seconds.

10. CARDIO – Go outdoors and do a brisk 30-minute walk. Or get on a treadmill and do the same. (I like to raise the speed on my treadmill after every minute).


A small bench, ottoman or exercise ball is needed. I use a taut exercise ball. This is for the bench press and for stabilizing the rows. Here are some reasonably priced options:

Dumbbells are obviously needed.

The treadmill I use, for those who would like an option for indoor cardio, in case of inclement weather, or for general use.


Since the above program is intended for beginners, I have presented only very basic movements, but this is a full body program, with cardio thrown in. I have also tried to use more images than lengthy explanations. Serious application of the routine will show positive, pleasing results.

It is important to not repeat the same resistance exercises on consecutive days. There is no problem in doing the cardio part every day, if you choose.

There are many variations of the resistance sets to do, but the above will get you started well. There is no reason to rush dumbbell weight increases, but it would be helpful to have those options available.

Many people will have a small bench or ottoman and everyone can take a walk around the neighborhood. It could be that dumbbells are all you need, or maybe you have them already. The equipment resources include items that I have used and have found effective and reasonable in price.

Please leave any questions or comments in the “Comments” box below. Or email me, richard@myworkoutathome.com.

Be well!


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