Chris Hemsworth’s 6-move dumbbell workout strengthens and defines your upper body — here’s how to do it

Left image muscled arm holding dumbbell, right image Chris Hemsworth performing a bentover row with a dumbbell
(Image credit: Centr app / Chris Hemsworth / Shutterstock)

If you ever wonder what Chris Hemsworth gets up to during his rigorous training regime, you just need these six moves and two dumbbells to match his energy. This sweaty upper-body workout has been plucked from his socials and his renowned Centr app. Rest assured, it has the Hemsworth stamp of approval.

Chris Hemsworth has an enviably sculpted and lean physique, so it's no wonder his workouts are a hit among fans. I found this gem tucked away with various other workouts and daily routines and couldn’t resist giving it a try — It’s my job, after all. 

Hemsworth says, “Have a go at this upper body session…hitting back, chest, shoulders, and triceps.” You don’t have to ask us twice, Chris. He’s known for sharing high-intensity workouts with his millions of followers, and at Tom’s Guide, we’re glad to see another Hemsworth-approved dumbbell workout cropping up. Grab a set of the best adjustable dumbbells, and read on to see how to do the six-move workout yourself, plus ways to scale and adjust. 

What is Chris Hemsworth’s upper-body dumbbell workout?

We’re no strangers to testing Hemsworth’s workouts, having joined the 200 club by completing a torching 200-rep bodyweight workout not long ago (still mentally recovering), amongst other punishing Centr app workout programs.

Hemsworth uses a ball and cable machine for the first and last exercises, respectively. You can stick to using two dumbbells if you have limited access to gym equipment, and we offer a scaling option to try. 

There are only six dumbbell exercises to learn, but this doesn’t mean taking your foot off the gas with intensity, as you’ll soon find out when giving this a shot. We’re all about simplicity when working with free weights vs gym machines — sure, it’s fun to get the creative juices flowing here and there, but stripping it back during resistance training also delivers results. Get ready to beast your upper body.

Here’s the workout:

Warm-up:

Ball slams x 10 reps

Rest 30 seconds

4 sets

Superset:

Bentover rows (left & right) x 10 reps

Push-ups x 15 reps

Rest 60 seconds 

4 sets

Triset:

Renegade row (left & right) x 8 reps

Lateral raises x 8 reps

Triceps push down x 10 reps

Rest 60 seconds

4 sets

Ball slams: 10 reps

We drill down on the medicine ball and how to use one here but remember to keep your core engaged and spine neutral without rounding your upper back. Drive through your core muscles to lift the ball overhead, then slam it to the ground between your feet and catch it on the bounce. Use the exercise as a warm-up alongside other dynamic upper-body stretches. If you don’t have a ball, perform the movement pattern using a dumbbell without releasing your grip on the weight.

Dumbbell bentover rows: 10 reps

You can use a workout bench, wall, or any stable surface to rest one hand on. Work one side at a time to isolate the right and left sides of your body. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, step forward with your left leg and square your hips. Hinge forward at your hips, maintain a flat back, then row the dumbbell toward your back pocket, pausing with your elbow drawn back close to your body. Lower the dumbbell, finish your reps then switch sides. Here’s how to do a single-arm dumbbell row

Push-ups: 15 reps

It’s a classic bodyweight strength exercise, this time using a deficit by elevating both hands to increase your range of motion. Hold both dumbbells and start in a push-up position, hips aligned with shoulders and shoulders directly over the dumbbells. Lower your chest toward the floor to perform the push-up, keeping your elbows close to your body. Pause, then push the ground away to return to the starting position.

Here’s how to do a push-up with good form. 

Renegade rows: 8 reps

Start in a high plank position, holding a dumbbell in each hand, as above. Keep your hips square and stomach gently engaged, then row one dumbbell toward your back pocket and pause. Keep your arm close to your body, squeeze your back, then lower the dumbbell with control. Repeat on the other side. Avoid swinging your weights or hips, and keep your bum aligned with your shoulders. 

Here’s more on how to do renegade rows

Lateral raises

Stand with a dumbbell in each hand by your sides. Roll your shoulders back and down and maintain a neutral spine while softly engaging your stomach muscles. On your exhale, raise both dumbbells to the sides until you reach shoulder height, then lower back to your starting position. Don’t swing your arms, and maintain a soft elbow bend.

Triceps push down: 10 reps

We explain more on how to do triceps pull-downs here (same exercise, slightly different name), but if you don’t have a cable machine, try an overhead tricep extension instead. Both options work your arms using external resistance. Grip the end of one dumbbell using both hands and either sit, kneel, or stand. Engage your core and keep your spine neutral without arching your back as you position the dumbbell overhead. Pull your elbows close to your head, pointing forward, then bend your elbows and lower the dumbbell behind your head. Straighten both arms to push back to your starting position. 

Verdict

This dumbbell workout is primarily formed of compound exercises that are typical in functional training, meaning you work the anterior and posterior deltoids, triceps and biceps, pectorals and back and core muscles together as one unit, building functional upper body strength and muscle.

At the end, you finish with an isolation exercise to fatigue the triceps, which is common during resistance training, as you need these synergist muscles to support more powerful multi-muscle movements. For example, during push-ups, the triceps and anterior deltoids are synergists because they assist the body in performing elbow extension and shoulder flexion. If you fatigue these muscles too early, you might fail the bigger lifts. 

The workout drives up cardiovascular intensity early to warm the relevant muscle groups, then follows a typical upper-body workout plan using a superset alternating between chest and tris and back and bis, then finishing on a triset or “giant set” of three combo exercises performed back to back, hitting every major muscle group and powering up full-body engagement to send you into burn mode. 

Depending on your routine and fitness level, you may decide to add some additional warm-up and cool-down exercises on either side, but get ready to beast your upper body, just like we’d expect from the likes of Chris Hemsworth. 

More from Tom's Guide

If training like Thor sounds like your idea of a good time, our Tom’s Guide writer trained with the app for a month and reported back on the experience. Here are some more workouts you could try.

Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.