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!



  1. Thanks a lot for such an amazing review of Beginner’s Dumbbell Routine and explanations are given.

    Not long ago I started the gym. So I inform myself how to correctly execute the exercises so as not to have problems. I have read many articles, but this is the best I have read, very well explained.

    Thanks again and keep in touch.

  2. Wow! Very useful article Richard. I am grateful for this guide for beginners like me.
    Exactly as you say that I often make mistakes in doing work out. Often I don’t do warm-ups, and end up injured. And Lifting dumbbells with a weight that I can still lift but I can only do reps for 2 or 3 times.
    Therefore, with a website like this, I can get information doing work out well.
    By the way, why is it important to not repeat the same resistance exercises on consecutive days? I often do that.

    • Thank you, Asmadi! Doing the same resistance exercises on consecutive days will be non – productive. Lifting weights will tear down muscle fiber so that it will grow. Tear down one day, rest and let the muscles grow the next day. Tearing down fiber on consecutive days does not allow for growth. Muscles grow when resting after use, not when being worked….Richard

  3. This is quite a clear and understandable post about the myths and realities associated with working out. As you propose it, anyone with a certain level of compromise would be able to get well-tuned (pairing it of course with a dieting program that fits our body needs).

    I dislike the idea of using a ball as it adds up some difficulty to execute the exercise. At the end of the day, it’s a matter f personal preference (needing to put some extra effort could be considered as a contribution to the final objective).

    Thanks for keeping it simple and direct, I feel motivated to re-start may before Christmas abandoned routine after reading your post! 

  4. Motivation and discipline is important before one even begins to plan a workout, because there is no point in having a good workout routine but one does not keep to it! This is a good set of full body workout. As mentioned by Richard, do not repeat the above exercise routine on consecutive days as your body needs a day or two to rest and recover!

    For myself, I prefer to concentrate on different muscle groups for different days. 

    Thanks for sharing these beginner tips Richard! It serves as a reminder for me too.

  5. Hey, Your guide is very useful for beginners. I am also beginner and it helped me a lot to remain healthy and on my feet. Now I understand the importance of the cardio part at the end. All 10 steps will only take 30 minutes to complete. I am very happy to find this guide. Now I hope I will maintain my health by doing these steps on a daily basis. Keep this great work up.

    • Thanks, Parveen. One correction – steps 1 through 9 will take about 30 minutes. Step #10 will take 30 minutes. I recommend doing the resistance steps one day, the cardio the next. Thus, 30 minutes each day…….Richard

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