October 3, 2023

Add Serious Size and Stamina with Dumbbells

Welcome to the Men’s Health Dumbbell Club, your new weekly plan for a fitter, stronger body, using just two dumbbells.

Click here to head back and check out previous weeks or simply get stuck in to our latest offering— week 17 and follow the programme from here.

New This Week…

Following on from our four-week EMOM bodybuilding phase where we aimed to pack on some lean mass, over the next few weeks we’re going to be focussing on ‘density conditioning blocks’, combining full body muscle-building circuits with short, sharp explosive efforts that will dramatically test your fitness and stamina whilst ramping up your metabolism.

Each workout will consist of a single 30 minute block. Your task is to make your way through as many high quality rounds as possible, resting only as necessary to catch your breath and keep your form sharp. Record your reps for each movement, every round— you’ll be referring back to these ‘scores’ on a later date. Each workout will hit your full-body, targeting your chest, back, shoulders, quads and hamstrings across the week, as well as pumping up your arms, rocking your core and jacking up your heart rate to build all-round athleticism.

If your goal is to shed some body fat, then this is the perfect phase for you. When combined with a smart, sustainable eating plan that ensures your body is in a calorie deficit over the course of each week, whilst also providing you with enough energy to smash your training sessions, you’re guaranteed to begin dropping fat while preserving lean muscle and building explosive fitness.

Coach’s tip: Use a pen and paper to track your workouts and try to avoid Instagram doomscrolling between sets. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, staying mindful of your breath and focussed on the reps ahead will help you to optimise your rest, and ultimately— maximise your gains

Day One (W17/D1)

After a thorough warm-up set a countdown timer for 30 minutes and work your way through as many high-quality rounds of the following circuit as possible, recording your reps as your go. Rest as necessary to keep your form on point, but push yourself hard if you want to see results.

1. Floor (or bench) Press x 10-15

Lay flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Press the weights above you, locking out your elbows (A). Lower them slowly until your upper arms are resting on the floor (B), close to your body, pause here before explosively pressing back up. If you have a bench, use it.

2. Bent-Over Row x 10- 15

weights, exercise equipment, shoulder, overhead press, kettlebell, arm, dumbbell, physical fitness, standing, muscle,

After your final floor press, stand tall with your dumbbells at your sides. Hinge forward until your torso is almost parallel to the ground and allow the dumbbells to hang just below your knees (A). Maintaining a flat back, row both dumbbells towards your hips (B), squeeze your shoulder blades together and lower under control to the start before repeating.

3. Front Squat x 10-15

dumbbell front squat

Clean your dumbbells onto the front of your shoulders (A). From here, drop into a front squat, by pushing your hips back and bending at the knees until your thighs pass parallel to the ground (B), before driving back up explosively. Keep those dumbbells secured high, with a strong, upright torso throughout.

4. Split Squat Jump x 20

arm, standing, joint, leg, human body, muscle, stock photography, knee, lunge,

Step one foot backward and sink into a deep lunge, with your rear knee lightly touching the floor (A). Explode upward, jumping into the air and switching legs mid jump (B) to land in a lunge position with the opposite leg forward. Repeat the movement, alternating legs each rep. Keep this movement as fast paced as possible, focussing on maximising the height of each jump.

Day Two (W17/D2)

As with day one, perform a thorough warm-up and work your way through as many rounds as possible in 30 minutes, recording your efforts for each movement.

1. Push Press x 8-12

weights, exercise equipment, shoulder, overhead press, kettlebell, arm, dumbbell, physical fitness, standing, muscle,

Clean your dumbbells onto your shoulders, palms facing in. Take a breath and create tension in your core. (A) Dip at the knees and use your legs to help (B) press your dumbbells overhead. Lower with a controlled tempo to your shoulders and repeat. If your weights feel a little too light, don’t use any drive from the legs and focus on a strict press from the shoulders.

2. High Pull x 8-12

dumbbell high pull

Stand tall with your dumbbells at your waist, in front of your body. (A) Keeping your core tight, hinge forward slightly before explosively standing back upright and pulling the dumbbells up towards your chin, driving your elbows up and back (B). Slowly lower back down to your waist under complete control. Avoid simply ‘dropping’ your dumbbells back to your waist to build more muscle and avoid injury. If your dumbbells feel light, avoid the help from your hips and simply stand tall and pull the weights up to your chin.

3. Dumbbell Deadlift x 15-20

db dumbbell deadlift

With your dumbbells on the floor just outside of your feet, hinge down and grip them with a flat back and neutral spine (A). Engage your lats and stand upright, pushing the ground away with your feet, keeping your chest up and your black flat throughout (B). Lower them back to the ground in a hinging motion and repeat. Avoid excessive rounding in your lower back, keeping your form tight throughout. Don’t rush, in a race to build muscle, slower and steady wins.

4. Jump Squats x 20

clothing, leg, human body, human leg, shoulder, standing, chest, joint, barechested, waist,

Lean slightly forward as you squat (A), then explode up, jumping as high as you can (B). Cushion your landing with bent legs, then sink immediately back into another squat and repeat. Aim for the maximum possible height you can achieve on each and every rep, even if that means pausing for a quick breath. We’re looking to produce power here, not simply go through the motions.

Day Three (W17/D3)

As with day one and two, perform a thorough warm-up and work your way through as many rounds as possible in 30 minutes, recording your efforts for each movement.

1. Press-Up on Dumbbells x 10-15

press up, weights, arm, exercise equipment, kettlebell, muscle, chest, dumbbell, joint, physical fitness,

After your final press drop your bells and assume a long-arm plank position. With your core tight and hands below your shoulders stacked on top of your dumbbells (A), bend your elbows to bring your chest to the floor (B). Keep your elbows close to your body as you push back up explosively.

2. Renegade Row x 10-12 (each side/ 20-24 total)

weights, press up, arm, exercise equipment, kettlebell, muscle, physical fitness, chest, dumbbell, fitness professional,

15 press-ups in the book, keep your hands on your bells and midline tight (A). Shifting your weight onto your left hand, row the right dumbbell towards your hip (B). Pause briefly, then lower the weight under control. Repeat on your left side (each row equals one rep).

3. Tempo Goblet Squats x 12-15

weights, exercise equipment, kettlebell, muscle, standing, shoulder, arm, fitness professional, biceps curl, dumbbell,

Hold a single dumbbell close to your chest (A). Sink your hips back and slowly over a count of four seconds descend into a squat (B). Your elbows should come in between your knees at the bottom. Drive back up explosively. Repeat. Pay attention to that tempo, it matters.

4. Burpee Over ‘bells x 10

burpee over dumbbell

With both dumbbells on the floor next to you, step back and hit the deck into a press-up position. Lower your body until your chest touches the floor (A). Stand back up and jump powerfully over the dumbbells (B) – driving through your hips when you take off. Land and immediately drop to the floor and repeat. The dumbbells keep you accountable for the height of each jump.

mens health dumbbell club
Headshot of Andrew Tracey

With almost 18 years in the health and fitness space as a personal trainer, nutritionist, breath coach and writer, Andrew has spent nearly half of his life exploring how to help people improve their bodies and minds.    

As our fitness editor he prides himself on keeping Men’s Health at the forefront of reliable, relatable and credible fitness information, whether that’s through writing and testing thousands of workouts each year, taking deep dives into the science behind muscle building and fat loss or exploring the psychology of performance and recovery.   

Whilst constantly updating his knowledge base with seminars and courses, Andrew is a lover of the practical as much as the theory and regularly puts his training to the test tackling everything from Crossfit and strongman competitions, to ultra marathons, to multiple 24 hour workout stints and (extremely unofficial) world record attempts.   

 You can find Andrew on Instagram at @theandrew.tracey, or simply hold up a sign for ‘free pizza’ and wait for him to appear.