Workout At Home - Use A Bench & Dumbbells To Train Your Whole Body

Can I Work Out From Home? – Using Just A Bench And Set Of Dumbbells To Train From Home

Home Workout With Bench

Elsewhere on this site, I already discussed training from home using your own body weight. It will just be that much more effective if you can afford & accommodate a bench and set of barbells. In this article I look at how you can use this equipment to give your entire body a thorough workout without leaving home

As I already mentioned in previous articles, nothing beats the the versatility and variety that a fully equipped gym provides for exercising every muscle group to their full potential. Not only do you have access to every possible piece of equipment you will need, the atmosphere and energy present in a gym will keep you motivated and help giving your best.

Like most you, I also realize there are some times when it is just not possible to make it to the gym. Especially if this is for an extended period of time it great to know that you can still workout from home. I already discussed working out from home using your own body weight in this article.

As effective as a home workout can be using just your body weight, it is still not ideal. If you are able in any way to afford and accommodate an adjustable bench and set of dumbbells, you can really take your home workout to the next level. The flexibility of an adjustable bench, combined with set of dumbbells to which you can add weight, allows you to exercise each muscle group from every angle to complete failure.

Performed correctly with an adequate amount of weight I will go as far as to say you can achieve 70 percent or more of the results you would be able to get from a real gym environment. Provided you perform your home workouts with the same drive, discipline and consistency.

Required Equipment

Let's start with the bench. I would strongly recommend investing in an adjustable bench, with the back being able to be adjusted up to an angle of about 90 degrees. If the seated part can be adjusted to about 45 degrees, that will be great, as it will support you in the seated position when lying at an angle. (It will prevent you from potentially sliding off or relying on your legs to keep you in position.)

Not all dumbbells are created the same. Make sure you invest in a pair of dumbbells with a solid clamp or threaded collar to keep the weights solidly and safely in place. Also make sure your dumbbells are able to accept additional plates.

As your strength grows, you will need to add additional weight to your dumbbells to keep making progress. (It may be a bit more expensive when starting out, but nothing is more frustrating than outgrowing your dumbbell set and not being able to add additional plates to your existing set. The extra expense of acquiring a new heavier set can be a very expensive learning experience.)

The Program

The program I am recommending for your home workout follows the same principles as the ones I described in my article, "Your First Workout Plan". Since each workout is a full body workout with short rest periods and only one exercise per muscle group, it can easily and quickly be performed at home where your time will probably be limited. 

There is probably a reason why you are working from home which is stopping you from getting to gym in the first place. A full body workout means that even if you can't stick to working out 3 times a week, you still get a full body workout in each week, even if you have to cut it down to twice or even once a week.  

The steps on how to follow the program are exactly the same as in the "Your First Workout Plan" article which you can find by following this link. Please make sure to follow these steps.

The program below are also based on the same exercises to train the same specific muscle groups, with the only difference being that all exercises using barbells or machines, have been substituted with dumbbell exercises that can easily be performed with the help of a bench in the comfort of your home.

Please make sure to consult your physician before attempting any of the exercises described in this article.

Find the program below Follow it in chronological order:




Dumbbell Step Ups



Stiff-Legged Deadlifts



Bent Over Dumbbell Rows



Incline Dumbbell Bench Press



Seated  Dumbbell Shoulder Press



Lying Triceps Extensions



Standing Dumbbell Curl



Standing Calf Raise






The reason for following the exercises in chronological order from top to bottom, is to train each muscle group with the most amount of strength. You start with the biggest muscle group, your legs, for which you require the biggest amount of energy and strength.

The muscle groups are then organised according to size and effort, required to effectively be trained, as you go down the list. The smallest groups requiring the least amount of energy is at the bottom of the list. As your strength and energy starts diminishing, the muscle groups you are training start getting smaller, making it easier for you to train with the maximum amount of efficiency.

As described in the "How To Follow.." Section, try and stick to three full body workouts per week, with at least a one day's rest in between. Let's move on to having a look at the exercise themselves. 

The Exercises

Dumbbell Step Ups

Dumbbell Step Ups

Muscles Exercised: Quadtriceps & Glutes

Very effective for training the whole upper leg region. Be sure to keep strict form and keep your movements smooth. As this is your biggest muscle group, perform this exercise first. 

1. While standing about the length of your upper leg away from the bench, make sure you are holding the dumbbells with your palms facing your sides. 

2. Step onto the bench with your right foot as indicated, while leaning slightly forward to keep your balance as you are stepping on the bench. Breath out as you are stepping up.

3. Step down in a controlled way with your left foot until you are standing in the same position and distance from the bench.

4. Repeat this same movement with your right leg for the full 10 repetitions, then switch to your left leg and repeat the whole exercise.

5. After a 40 second rest, continue with the second set.    

Dumbbell Deadlifts

Stiff-Legged Dumbbell Deadlifts

Muscles Exercised: Hamstrings & Lower Back

Hamstrings are often neglected when training your upper legs, which exercises like squats, leg presses and step ups don't fully address. These deadlift exercises give your hamstrings a thorough workout, while exercises your lower back as well which is very important for strengthening your core muscles. 

1. While standing up straight, with your arms hanging straight down, rest the dumbbells on the front of your thighs with the back of your arms facing forward and away from you as illustrated.   

2. Start bending forward at you hips while keeping your back straight (make sure you don't arch your back to prevent injury.) Continue bending as far as you can until you feel your hamstrings stretching and don't allow any further movement. 

3. Slowly return to the upright position in the same way, and make sure your back stays straight.

4. Briefly pause at the top of the movement before repeating the exercise. Do this for the full ten repetitions.

5. After a 40 second rest, continue with the second set.    

Bent Over Dumbbell Rows

Bent Over Dumbbell Rows

Muscles Exercised: Back

Next to your legs, your back consists of the largest group of muscles in your body. This is also why you are exercising this muscle group next. One of the most effective exercises to perform with dumbbells are dumbbell rows.

Although normally performed while standing in a bent-over stance, I recommend the convenience and safety of using a bench to perform this back exercise. The standing version places a tremendous amount of stress on the spine, and can lead to injury. It may also lead to premature fatigue in the lower back and spine long before the back muscles themselves are sufficiently trained.     

1. Adjust the back of the bench to an angle of about 30-45 degrees. (If your seat is adjustable, adjust it to an angle of about 30 degrees or more to keep you in position and prevent you from sliding down.)  

2. While lying face down with your torso against the back of the bench, allow your arms to hang straight down with the back of your palms facing forward as illustrated.

3. Start lifting the dumbbells up by bending your elbows while keeping them at a 90 degree to your angle. (Using different angles target different areas of the muscle group, but let's just concentrate on this 90 degree angle to start with as a good overall back exercise.)

4. Lift the dumbbells to the level of your torso, or as close to it as possible. At the top of the movement try and squeeze your shoulder blades together for maximum contraction and development of the muscle.

5. Briefly pause at the top as you are contracting your muscles before lowering it in a controlled fashion until your arm are fully extended. Repeat for the full 10 repetitions.

6. After a 40 second rest, continue with the second set.    

Incline Dumbbell Press

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

Muscles Exercised: Chest

Yep I know, nothing is more important to any lifter than an impressive fully developed chest. (Except for those all important biceps that is any gym goer's ultimate goal). Personally I believe that they just round off a body where all muscles should be given given equal attention and also fully developed. Having said that, I acknowledge its importance, and as a good overall exercise to start with, it will be hard to fault the incline dumbbell press.

With the versatility to be performed at any angle (from completely flat to 45 degrees) to target different areas of the pectoral muscle, it can be the greatest contributor to a fully developed chest.   

1. Adjust the back of the bench to an angle of no more than around 30 degrees. If you angle your back seat any more, too much of your shoulder will be doing the work, taking the load off the pectoral muscle. (If your seat is adjustable, adjust it to an angle of about 30 degrees or more to keep you in position and prevent you from sliding down.)  

2. Use your knees to help "launch" the dumbbells in position next to your shoulders as you lay back against the bench.

3. With your dumbbells at shoulder height and arms at a 90 degree angle to your body, make sure your palms are facing forward as illustrated. Start pushing up with your elbows while keeping the space between your body and arms at 90 degrees. 

4. As you reach the top of the movement, start bringing the weights together until they touch at the top of the movement.  

5. Briefly pause at the top before lowering the weights in the same arch that you lifted them. Make sure you feel your pectorals stretch at the bottom of the movement in order to get a full range of movement to recruit the maximum amount of muscle fibers. Repeat for the full 10 repetitions. 

6. After a 40 second rest, continue with the second set.    

seated shoulder press

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Muscles Exercised: Shoulders (Deltoids) 

Shoulders are the one muscle group that often gets neglected. This is a big mistake, as especially the deltoids are giving your shoulders that pleasing "capped look". Shoulder presses are one of the best exercises for overall shoulder development. 

Although not shown in the illustration, please use some back support. Preferably use a bench with an adjustable back, set at close to 90 degrees. This will not just provide vital support for your spine, but also the stability to perform the exercise effectively. (A training belt to support your spine is also highly recommended.)

1. Hold the dumbbells just above shoulder height, elbows all the way out and parallel with your body, with your palms facing forward as illustrated. 

2. Push the weights straight up and towards each other,  letting them touch at the top of the movement, while making sure your elbows stay out throughout the movement.

3. Lower weights slowly to the starting position, keeping elbows out. Repeat this for 10 repetitions.

4. After a 40 second rest, continue with the second set.    

Lying Triceps Extensions

Lying Triceps Extensions

Muscles Exercised: Triceps 

Nothing gets more attention then impressive looking biceps. It is also one of the most popular muscle groups to exercise. What most people fail to realize is that the triceps make up 2/3 of your arm size. It's only with fully developed triceps that your biceps will really stand out.

There are literally more than dozens of triceps exercises available. The lying triceps extension is a very good starting point, providing a full range of movement and targeting the whole muscle group.

1. Start by lying down on a flat bench with your head right at the edge of the bench. 

2. Start with your arms fully extended above your head with the dumbbells about shoulder width apart from each other, while making sure the palms of you hands are facing inwards as illustrated.

3. Start lowering the dumbbells backwards and down by bending your elbows, while keeping the distance between the weights the same.  

4. Keep lowering the weight until it reaches a point just above your face and just above the top of the bench, while making sure you feel a thorough stretch in your muscles. (See illustration.)

5. After a brief pause, extend your arms back up again in the same arch, while keeping the distance between the dumbbells the same, until your arms are fully extended. Repeat this for 10 repetitions.

6. After a 40 second rest, continue with the second set.    

Standing Dumbbell Curl

Standing Dumbbell Curls

Muscles Exercised: Biceps 

By far the most popular muscle group to work out, and to show off. Even for the non-weight trainer, the biggest validation of someones build and power is a fully developed flexed bicep. Ironically this can be a stubborn muscle to get growing for some trainees. With enough persistence and given enough time though, you will get there.

One of the best staple exercises to start growing your biceps is the standing barbell curl. It proves a full range of movement, with a full stretch at the bottom of the movement, and good peak contraction at the top.

1. Stand upright with your legs planted slightly wider than shoulder width for complete stability, while letting your arms hang straight down next to your sides. Allow the dumbbells to rest against the front of your outer thighs, with your palms facing forward.  

2. While keeping your upper arms completely still, start lifting the weight up and forward by bending your elbows until your biceps are fully contracted. Make sure you keep the rest of your body completely still during this movement and don't use any momentum to assist the exercise. 

3. At the top of the movement, briefly contract/squeeze your biceps for maximum muscle fiber activation, before lowering it back down in the same arch until you arms are are fully extended. Repeat this for 10 repetition.

4. After a 40 second rest, continue with the second set.    

Standing Calve Raises

Standing Calve Raises

Muscles Exercised: Calves 

Even though its one of the smallest muscle groups in your body, don't neglect them.

Well developed calves don't get that much attention, but the absence of calf development stands out like a sore thumb. Like biceps, calves can also be notoriously stubborn to develop. Just keep working on them and stay consistent. In the long term it will work out. 

1. A bench may be too high, so rather use a solid step to stand on, allowing the heels of your feet to hang over the edge as illustrated. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with the palms of your hands facing inwards.

2. While keeping your legs straight, let your heels drop slowly until you feel your hamstrings stretching. Go down as far as you feel comfortable in the beginning.

3. A the bottom, pause briefly before lifting yourself up by raising your heels up as far as you can until you feel your calve muscles fully contracted. Repeat this for the full 10 repetitions.

4. After a 40 second rest, continue with the second set.

abdominal crunches

Abdominal Crunches

Muscles Exercised: Abdominals 

Although you are already training your abdominal indirectly while exercising other muscle groups, focusing on dedicated abdominal training should never be avoided. Along with your lower back muscles it forms part of your core muscles. A strong core helps with balance, supporting the spine, and also assist in the effectiveness with which other muscle groups are exercised.  

1. While laying on a flat surface, raise your upper body until your shoulders are lifted off the ground. (Imagine trying to pull your shoulders towards your pelvis.)

2. Pause briefly at the top before lowering back to starting position. Repeat for the full 15 repetitions (or more if you are able to.)

3. After resting for 40 seconds, proceed with the following 2 sets.


And there you have it. A complete full body workout with the help of a bench and a set of dumbbells, right from the comfort of your own home. Also remember, I just used what I considered to be the best exercises to start with for each muscle group. There are at least a dozen different dumbbell exercises to use as substitute for each one of these exercises mentioned in this article.

So, no more excuses. You now have all the tools and means to keep in shape from home. Even if you don't have a set of dumbbells or a bench, you can use just your own body weight for a complete as well. (Find it in this article.)

I will start expanding the workouts and break it into different muscle groups per day, for those of you who want to take it to the next level, and start training each muscle group more intensely for better results.  

As always, feel free to leave me a comment or suggestion, and remember to join my  mailing list  to get informed whenever a new article is released, as well as helpful hints & tips and news on new developments.

Until next time, take care and let me know if there a specific new topic you would like me to discuss.


About the Author

Wessel Wessels owns his online web and social media design company. However, with nearly 30 years experience in the fitness industry, working out and staying in shape have always been a big passion. After a life-altering close shave with cancer, this experience helped him get back into shape and regain his health. He is now dedicated to helping men and women of all ages to get fit and in shape, and promote a healthy lifestyle.

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