Can You Build A Good Physique With Only Dumbbells?

August 9, 2022 0 Comments

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Can you build a good physique with only dumbbells? This is the question that I will answer in this article. 

Very often people start off training at home and have limited equipment. Many want to know whether it is possible to build a highly aesthetic physique using just dumbbells.

Dumbbells are a versatile tool and are highly effective in building muscle all over the body when used in the right way.

Can You Build A Good Physique With Only Dumbbells?

Yes, you can build a muscular and aesthetic physique using only dumbbells. This is providing that you are consistent with your training and nutrition and adhere to progressive overload principles.

You would need to use heavier dumbbells over time so adjustable dumbbells for home use would be great. If you are training at a gym and only plan or want to use dumbbells then ensure that your chosen gym has heavy dumbbells – at least over 100lbs. 

Dumbbells are very versatile and allow more freedom of movement than barbells. You can utilise dumbbells to hit virtually every major muscle group in the body.
dumbbell training

How You Can Train The Entire Body With Dumbbells

As I mentioned earlier, you can train the entire body effectively with just dumbbell exercises. When I was in my early teens and just started training, I trained at home for a few years.

The main tool that I used back then was a set of adjustable dumbbells. I performed upper body exercises like dumbbell bench presses, shoulder presses, tricep extensions, rows and bicep curls. For the lower body I did exercises like bulgarian split squats, goblet squats and RDLs. 

You can even perform ab work with exercises such as the turkish get up or sit ups using a dumbbell for extra resistance. 

It should be said that it would be better if you could use a weight bench and a dumbbell in conjunction for some exercises. It would be more comfortable and provide more stability for exercises such as dumbbell rows and bench presses. 

Lee Hayward has a good article going over a simple dumbbell workout that you can do to work out the entire body. It has many exercises that I performed with dumbbells also. You can see this total body workout here.


If you workout at home and are looking for a solid pair of adjustable dumbbells that will allow you to progressively overload effectively, I would recommend Trintion olympic dumbbell bars. They are built to last and have a good build quality.

Importance Of Having Access To Heavier Dumbbells

If you are only going to be training with dumbbells you can only get so far with light weights. If for example you only have three dumbbells (15lb, 20lb, 25lb), you are restricted to the progress you can make.

You wouldn’t be able to progressively overload the weight beyond 25lb and you would be stuck doing higher and higher reps to make progress. 

This is why it is so critical to have access to heavier dumbbells. The Trintion dumbbells are a great option as they are quality and adjustable. All you need are the two dumbbell handles and some weight plates. 

If for whatever reason you prefer to have an entire dumbbell stack at home of fixed dumbbells, you should look for second hand dumbbells to find potential bargains. 

Will You Get The Best Possible Physique?

It is important to temper your expectations. Whilst you can build a very muscular and aesthetic physique with just dumbbells, is it optimal?

In my view you won’t get the best possible physique that you are capable of with just dumbbells. If person A can only train with dumbbells and person B has access to a top gym with all the bells and whistles, person B has a higher potential.

What this means is that person B has a higher ceiling in terms of their muscle development and physique, all things being equal. In a good gym you have access to barbells, dumbbells, cables, machines, kettlebells, bands, chains, etc. 

All of these tools means that you have the most choice at your disposal and can hit all the muscle groups from virtually unlimited angles. 

This is the reason why I transitioned from training at home for a few years at the start of my journey to training in a commercial gym. There are annoyances in gyms though, like having to wait for equipment when it is busy.

If you have a big budget and want to build your own home gym with a wide range of tools then that is another option. 

Freedom Of Movement

One of the big advantages of dumbbells is the freedom of movement that you can get on many exercises. Upright rows for example are a lot more natural to do with dumbbells.

Doing upright rows with a barbell for many people can cause pain and is not natural. On exercises like dumbbell shrugs you can get a far greater peak contraction at the top using dumbbells. This simply is not possible with barbells.

The same thing is true with dumbbell bench presses, you can get a deeper stretch on the pecs in the bottom position. 

Dumbbells are certainly a very good choice and you can build up a good physique just using them. However, if you are using a mixture of barbells, dumbbells and machines you will build up more muscle long term.

Final Thoughts

In this article I have answered the question “can you build a good physique with only dumbbells”. Yes you can and there are many advantages that dumbbell training will provide.

You will have more freedom of movement and can move the weight through an increased range of motion compared to barbells. It is important to have access to heavy dumbbells so that you can keep making progress and build more muscle and strength.

Whilst you can build a very good physique with just dumbbells, it is more advantageous to make use of all the tools that a decent gym can offer you. You will have access to far better equipment so that you can make faster progress and build more muscle long term.

>> RELATED: Dumbbell Farmers Walk Exercise 

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