Forget the gym — build upper body strength with this 10-minute dumbbell workout

Man working out with dumbbells
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We rely on our upper body to do many everyday activities. From pushing a door open and picking up groceries to chopping up veg and lifting things above our heads. This is exactly why upper body exercises, which help you maintain good function and range of motion, shouldn’t be ignored. 

But you don’t need to spend hours in the gym doing biceps curl after biceps curl to help strengthen your upper body. With only a pair of the best adjustable dumbbells and one of the best yoga mats, to help protect your joints as you exercise, you can start building upper body strength, even when you're short on time. 

To help, we’ve found this short dumbbell routine designed by fitness trainer Lindsey Bomgren, founder of Nourish Move Love. Featuring just five exercises and a pair of dumbbells, you can hit every muscle group in your upper body within 10 minutes. So let’s get to it! 

Split into four sets, this 10-minute five-move session has been designed by Bomgren in a ‘rep drop’ format. This means you’ll complete 12 reps of each of the five exercises in the first set, 10 reps of each move in the second set, 8 reps in the third, and 6 reps in the final round. 

Watch Lindsey Bomgren's 10-minute upper-body dumbbell workout

10-Minute Upper Body Workout for Women (Rep-Drop) - YouTube 10-Minute Upper Body Workout for Women (Rep-Drop) - YouTube
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Some workouts encourage you to complete as many reps as possible — which is great if you’re short on time and want to get your heart rate up. However, that isn’t the aim of this session. 

Short it may be, but PT Bomgren really encourages you to focus on your form and making that mind-muscle connection, rather than how many reps you can blast through in 10 minutes.

long with maximizing those all-important strength gains, performing all moves with the correct form — with an engaged core, straight back, and shoulders drawn back — will save you from any potential injuries. Remember 12 correct reps is better than 24 poorly executed attempts.  

Bomgren uses between 15 to 20 lbs dumbbells to complete this workout. But before jumping into the session, see what weights are right for you. The aim is to find a load that'll challenge your muscles to complete a set, but won't affect your form.

Depending on your exercise regime, consider completing this training session as part of your full-body workout. Or, if it’s an upper-body training day, you could complete this workout two or three times, depending on your fitness levels.

If you’re doing something new, be wary of your rate of change. If you are familiar with this type of training and load, that’s when you can up the intensity. Either way, listen to your body and remember form is key. 

Can you build muscle with this dumbbell-only workout?

In short: absolutely. Once armed with a pair of fixed-load dumbbells, or adjustable dumbbells (which allow you to switch up the weight in seconds without buying or making space for a new pair), you can work muscles all over your body without a room full of gym equipment.

That’s because these training tools are highly versatile. No matter whether you intend to use these weights for biceps curls, triceps extensions, or squats, dumbbells will help you add some extra resistance to just about any bodyweight exercise. 

If you are trying to build muscle, just remember your diet plays a vital role in giving your body everything it needs for muscle growth. But if you're wondering how much protein you need to build muscle, you can often get most of what you need from your diet.

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Becks Shepherd

Becks is a lifestyle journalist who specializes in writing about wellness and home products, from mattresses to weighted blankets and cooling comforters. She has tested a number of mattresses for Tom's Guide, putting them through their paces to see if they stand up to the brand's claims, and offering recommendations as to the type of sleeper they will (and won't) suit.