full body dumbbell exercises

17 Best Full Body Dumbbell Exercises (& 4 Total Body DB Workouts)

July 21, 2021

Most would agree that big, compound, FULL BODY exercises are the best way to build muscle, increase strength, lose body fat, and even improve athleticism...or, in other words, get into tip-top shape.

And while barbell and bodyweight exercises are great, thanks to the versatility of dumbbells, your options for effective total body dumbbell exercises are innumerable. Dumbbells are arguably the best equipment for full body workouts.

On that note, we’ve put together 17 of the best full body dumbbell exercises (meaning exercises that hit both the upper and lower body in one go) that you can add to your workouts. We also have highly effective total body dumbbell workouts at the end for those who want to do dumbbell-only workouts that target muscles head to toe.

total body dumbbell exercises


When it comes to compound exercises, full body exercises and complex exercises, the main benefits are:

  • You burn a lot more calories, which is great if your goal is fat loss.
  • You improve intramuscular coordination, which is great if you want to improve athleticism.
  • Your heart rate will elevate higher, which is great if you want some cardiovascular health benefits.
  • You will be moving through a greater range of motion, which is great for improving flexibility and mobility (resistance training is a form of dynamic stretching) AND your muscles will have greater stretching tension and contraction tension, which is great for hypertrophy. 
  • You can typically use heavier loads, which is best for improving strength and muscle mass.
  • You will get an increase in the good hormones (like testosterone), which will make you feel great and, of course, further increase your ability to build muscle. 

When it comes to total body dumbbell workouts using big compound movements, you get all of the same benefits above, but in regards to the workouts themselves, the main advantages are:

  • Your workouts will be far more efficient.
  • You’ll get a high weekly frequency of muscle stimulation (studies show hitting each muscle group twice or multiple times per week is best for building muscle and strength)
  • You are much less likely to get DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) since you are hitting your muscles more frequently and with less total volume per workout.
  • You only need to workout 3-4 days per week.
  • Workouts are easy to plan as there is no “fluff” involved. You will do three to five big movements and that’s it.
  • You can’t throw off your routine if you miss a workout as all your muscles are still going to be stimulated that week regardless. 


Although full body exercises act on multiple joints and activate multiple muscle groups, a single exercise will not emphasize every single muscle in your body and they typically won’t involve more than two movement patterns, so it’s important to have variety in your exercise selection. 

Ideally, each big compound exercise in your workout will have at least two major muscle groups as the primary movers.

Moreover, each week, you will want to work your body through the basic movement patterns, which are squat/lunge, hinge (vertical and horizontal hinges), push (vertical and horizontal pushes), pull (vertical and horizontal pushes), and core (through all three planes of motion). As you'll see, many of our total body dumbbell exercises involve a combo of two movement patterns. 

For reference, here are the major muscle groups to target:

  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Pec Major
  • Deltoids
  • Traps
  • Lats
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Core

You have many other muscles in your body that are important of course, but by doing compound, full body exercises, the smaller muscles should have sufficient stimulation.

Note: Although pretty much every major muscle group will be activated to some degree each workout, as you are doing full body movements, you don’t have to specifically target each muscle group every workout. For example, one workout may emphasize your quads, glutes, core, chest, and triceps (i.e. focusing mainly on squat and push patterns), while the next emphasizes your calves, hamstrings, glutes, core, back and biceps (i.e. focusing on hinge and pull movement patterns). These are still full body workouts even though you aren't doing an exercise for every single muscle group. Just be sure that everything gets checked off ✅ each week. 


Dumbbells are extremely effective for building muscle, increasing strength, improving athleticism and burning fat. Furthermore, they are probably the most versatile training tool there is. So, if all you had access to was dumbbells, you most certainly can build a good physique. Dumbbell exercises and bodyweight exercises are more than enough to get in and stay in stellar shape.


This is going to depend on your fitness and strength level. It is also going to depend on what the full body exercises is that you are doing. Some full body exercises are best done with heavy dumbbells (relative to your strength) while others should be done with light dumbbells, even if you are really strong. So, you will have to use your best judgement, which will be pretty easy as even by just looking at the exercises below you can get a good idea if its an exercise that should be done with a light, medium or heavy load. Overall, when it doubt, start light.

Related: What weight dumbbell should I buy?

full body db exercises


Below are 17 of the best total body dumbbell exercises. Most of these are not just simple compound exercises, they are truly full body dumbbell exercises as they will involve both the lower and upper body, acting on multiple joints and targeting multiple muscle groups.

After going over all the exercises, we have some full body dumbbell workouts that incorporate these exercises. So, stick around...

1. Dumbbell Squat with Bicep Curl 

full body dumbbell workout

When it comes to total body compound exercises, the dumbbell squat with bicep curl is actually pretty simple in terms of mechanics, which makes it a great exercise for all fitness levels. 

The main target of this exercise is the quads, glutes, biceps, and forearms, but your core and back will also be working hard to maintain stability and good posture. 

How to do the Dumbbell Squat with Bicep Curl:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet about hip width apart and the dumbbells held in a neutral grip extended to your sides.
  2. Squat down to parallel, keeping the dumbbells extended to your sides.
  3. Drive up from your heels while simultaneously curling the dumbbells. Try to keep your elbows pinned in place to your sides as you curl the dumbbells.
  4. When in the standing position, slowly lower and rotate the dumbbells down to your sides into a neutral grip. This is one rep.

2. Dumbbell Forward Lunge with Tricep Extension

total body dumbbell workout

The dumbbell forward lunge with tricep extension is not only a great exercise for your legs, glutes and triceps, but it is also a good athletic builder as it is going to test your balance and coordination, which means you are going to build good core stability with this one.

And, of course, like other total body dumbbell exercises, it is going to burn a lot of calories fast. 

How to do the Dumbbell Forward Lunge with Tricep Extension:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet hip width apart and a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Press the dumbbells up overhead and then down behind your head so your elbows are flexed at about a 90 or less than 90 degree position.
  3. Step forward with your left foot and lunge down until your legs are at about 90˚.
  4. From the lunge position, extend at the elbows to bring your arms straight up overhead. 
  5. Bring the dumbbells back down behind your head then press through the heel of your front leg to get back to a standing position.
  6. Repeat to the opposite side. That’s one complete rep.

3. Dumbbell Reverse Lunge with Single Arm Front Raise

whole body dumbbell exercises

Like the prior full body exercises, this one combines a standard compound leg exercise with an isolation arm exercise. In this case, it is a reverse lunge with a front raise. 

As such, this exercise is going to work the legs, glutes, front delts, and serratus anterior, as well as the upper chest to a degree.

Being that it is a single leg, single arm unilateral movement, it is also going to significantly involve core and back strength for stability and posture.

All in all, this is a really great exercise to build up athleticism and get that heart rate pumping.

How to do the Dumbbell Reverse Lunge with Single Arm Front Raise:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet about hip width apart and the dumbbells held in a neutral grip extended to your sides.
  2. Step back with your right leg while keeping your left leg planted in position. As you lunge back and down, simultaneously perform a front raise with your right arm (keeping the dumbbell held in a neutral position).
  3. When you reach the bottom of your lunge, drive force from the heel of your left foot to come back to a standing position, and as you do this, slowly lower the dumbbell so that it is back at your side when you reach the standing position.
  4. Perform this movement on the same side for a number of reps, then repeat for the same number of reps on the opposite side. If you left leg stays in front, then your right arm raises, and if your right leg stays in front, then your left arm raises.

4. Dumbbell Burpee 

dumbbell workout program 

The dumbbell burpee is definitely an advanced exercises as the bodyweight burpee alone is killer.

However, if you think you have what it takes to scale up the intensity of the already-brutal movement and want to add a little more hypertrophy potential, grab a pair of dumbbells and get to burpee-ing. 

Overall, this is the true definition of a full body exercise. Dumbbell burpees are going to activate every single muscle in your body and they are going to burn a ton of calories. It’s going to be brutal, but worth it.

How to do the Dumbbell Burpee:

  1. From a standing position with a dumbbell in each hand held to your sides in a neutral position, squat down then place the dumbbells to the floor about shoulder width apart and hop your feet back into a plank.
  2. From the plank position, you can either perform a push up or immediately hop back into the squat/deadlift position, then lift the dumbbell up (while keeping your spine as straight as possible).
  3. As you come up, explode off your feet so your jump into the air with the dumbbells at your sides.
  4. Try to land as softly as possible, so land with a slightly bend in your knee, not with your knees fully extended. This is one complete rep. 

Be sure to start light. This is not an exercise where you will want to go heavy. Jumping with heavy kettlebells can put too much pressure on your spine. You can also skip the explosive jump at the end and rather just squat up to a standing position. 

Related: Benefits of Burpees

5. Dumbbell Clean 

whole body dumbbell workout

The dumbbell clean is typically thought of as a kettlebell exercise, but it can most certainly be done with dumbbells, and effectively so. 

It’s a great complex, multi-phase, multi-joint exercise that is going to help you build mass and brute strength while burning a lot of calories at the same time. The clean is also an exercise that can be done with relatively heavy dumbbells. 

The primary muscles worked are your hamstrings, quads, glutes, calves, spinal erectors, traps, shoulders, and biceps, and essentially all other muscles are working to stabilize the movement.

How to do the Dumbbell Clean:

  1. Pick the dumbbells up off the floor and stand up straight with the dumbbells at your sides. This is the starting position.
  2. Push your hips back and lower yourself into the bottom of a squat. The dumbbells will be at your sides. Make sure to keep your shoulders back and your spine straight.   
  3. From this bottom squat position, drive up from the heels of your feet just like a normal squat.
  4. When the dumbbells reach your knees start to explode through your hips by driving them forward. At the same time, shrug your shoulders towards your ears and whip the dumbbells up your sides, bringing your elbows back and then driving them forward to bring the dumbbells up to your shoulders (in a hammer curl position).
  5. When the dumbbells reach your shoulders (you can keep them pressed against your shoulders/body), pull yourself to the bottom of a squat and press back up through your heels with the dumbbells remaining at shoulder level.
  6. Once you are back in the standing position, carefully let the dumbbells come back down to your sides with your arms extended. This is one complete rep. 

Go light to start. Really work on getting your form down pat. Only then can you start attempting heavier dumbbell cleans.

6. Dumbbell Close Grip Shoulder Press Sit-Up 

Full body dumbbell workout for beginners

The dumbbell close grip shoulder press sit up is not technically "full body", as it is doesn’t act on the lower body. However, it does involve the entire upper body, so it is still a fit for this article.

The exercise is a sit up with a simultaneous overhead press. As such, it is going to hit the core/low back (big time), chest, shoulders, triceps, biceps, and even upper back.

If you don’t have a strong core, work on building core strength with standard sit ups and planks before attempting this exercise, because if you don’t have the strength, it can put too much pressure on your spine. 

How to do the Dumbbell Close Grip Shoulder Press Sit Up:

  1. Get into a sit up position. Ideally, you want something to hold your feet down.
  2. Place the dumbbells on your chest and upper abs, like a close grip hammer press.
  3. Perform a sit up while simultaneously pressing the dumbbells up overhead. By the time you reach the top of the sit up, your arms should be extended overhead.
  4. Lower back down from the sit up slowly while bringing the dumbbells down carefully and controlled. Don’t let your elbows flare out.

7. Dumbbell Overhead Carry 

Full body dumbbell workout PDF

The dumbbell overhead carry is a farmer’s carry with the dumbbells held up overhead. Ergo, it’s a harder variation. 

Like standard farmer’s carries (aka farmer’s walks), this is a total body exercise for improving strength, power, cardiovascular health and endurance. It’s great for the legs, core, and traps, and since the dumbbells are held overhead, your shoulders, upper chest, triceps, and entire back are going to be working overtime to keep them there. 

Note: You’ll have to go a lighter than you would with farmer’s carries. After all, you are holding the dumbbells up overhead rather than to your sides, but you should still attempt this exercise with relatively heavy dumbbells when you are ready.

How to do the Dumbbell Overhead Carry:

  1. Stand up straight with your dumbbells held using a neutral grip (hammer grip).
  2. Press them up overhead (still neutral grip).
  3. Walk, slowly and controlled. Aim for 15-50 meters per set. 

There are other variations that you can try, such as doing single arm overhead carries or up down overhead carries (with one pressed up overhead and the other dumbbell in the starting press position up by your shoulder).

Regular overhead carries are great for the core, but these other variations bring balance, coordination, and stability into play more.

8. Dumbbell Front Plank Arm Leg Raise 

best dumbbell compound exercises

This is like a plank on steroids. So, if you have trouble with regular bodyweight only planks, you might not be ready for this. You are going to need some serious core strength and stability to perform this exercise.

Essentially it is a bird dog from a plank position while holding onto dumbbells. Again, not easy.

It is going to work your pretty much every muscle in your body one way or another (either isotonically or isometrically), but it emphasizes the abs, obliques, low back, shoulders, chest, triceps, upper back, hamstrings, and glutes.

Start light and use hex or 12-sided type of dumbbells as the round ones will only make things harder to stabilize.

How to do the Dumbbell Front Plank Arm Leg Raise:

  1. Get into a high plank position with your hands on the dumbbell handles. The dumbbells should be placed horizontally using an overhand grip.
  2. Make sure your spine is straight (don’t let your hips sag). Stay solid.
  3. Simultaneously raise your right hand and left leg up. Your arm, back and leg should make a straight line almost parallel with the floor.
  4. Hold the position for a second, then lower your hand/dumbbell and leg back down to the floor.
  5. Reset to ensure your body is stable, then repeat on the opposite side (left hand and right leg up). 

9. Dumbbell Iron Cross

complex dumbbell exercises

You’ve probably never seen this exercise before, but it is one we recommend testing out. 

The iron cross is a total body dumbbell exercise that places emphasis on the quads, glutes, shoulders, and chest, but as you are holding the dumbbells out in front of you or to your sides throughout the exercise, your back and core will be working very hard to stabilize the movement and keep your posture upright.

How to do the Dumbbell Iron Cross:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet about shoulder width apart and the two dumbbells held in a neutral grip.
  2. As you squat down, raise the dumbbells up and forward so your arms are extended and in line with your shoulders. Squat down to parallel.
  3. As you come up from the bottom of the squat, pull the dumbbells away from each other so that when you reach the standing position, your arms are extended directly to your sides (still at shoulder level).
  4. Squat back down and as you do so, rotate the dumbbells back to your centerline.
  5. Then squat up and rotate them to your sides again. The dumbbells will remain at shoulder height with your arms extended for the duration of the exercise. 

10. Dumbbell Kneeling Hold to Stand

compound dumbbell exercises

Here we have a full body dumbbell exercise that is great for building durability and brute strength. We highly recommend this one for athletes who want to build power and injury resilience.

The dumbbell kneeling hold to stand is going to work all your major muscle groups, especially the quads, glutes, hamstrings, shoulders, and traps, as well as your entire core, which includes your obliques and erector spinae

How to do the Dumbbell Kneeling Hold to Stand:

  1. Get into a high kneeling position.
  2. Press the dumbbells up overhead using an overhand grip. This is your starting position.
  3. Bring your left foot up and step it into a half-kneeling position (keeping the dumbbells up overhead).
  4. From here, press up from the ground into a standing position (maintaining the dumbbells position overhead).
  5. From the standing position, step your right foot back and drop down into the same half kneeling position.
  6. Then, to a tall kneeling position.
  7. The next rep, do the same thing but this time your right leg will be the leading leg.
  8. Repeat for an even number of reps so that you work both sides equally. 

11. Dumbbell Single Leg Knee Drive Step Up with Bicep Curl

full body workout with weights

The step up alone is a great exercise for the quads, hamstrings and especially the glutes. This full body variation takes things to the next level. It involves a knee drive and a bicep curl as you perform the step up, which is going to work the hip flexors, biceps, and forearms, but also is going to seriously test your balance. To maintain balance, your core and glutes/hip abductors are going to need to be fully engaged.

So, if you are looking for an athletic based total body dumbbell exercise that fills a lot of needs with one deed, this is a great one. 

How to do the Dumbbell Single Leg Knee Drive Step Up with Bicep Curl:

  1. Standing in front of a platform or bench with the dumbbells held at your side using a neutral grip.
  2. Step your right foot onto the platform and drive your body up with that leg while simultaneously performing a knee drive with your left leg and a bicep curl with both arms.
  3. From this position, lower your left leg back to the floor and the dumbbells back to your side. Then, bring your right foot off the platform and back to the floor.
  4. Repeat the same movement pattern with the opposite leg (left leg) stepping onto the platform this time.

12. Dumbbell One Arm Snatch 

complex dumbbell workout

The dumbbell snatch is an explosive exercise that will increase total body power and strength with an emphasis on your shoulders, quads and back.

Being that this is a “single arm” variation, it is also an anti-lateral movement, so your core is going to have to fight to keep your body from leaning to the working side. 

How to do the Dumbbell One Arm Snatch:

  1. Grab the dumbbell with your right hand using an overhand grip. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lower your hips down into a squat position until the dumbbell is resting on the floor in-between your feet. Try to align your working side’s shoulder with the dumbbell.
  3. Explosively pull the dumbbell straight up while simultaneously extending your knees and hips.
  4. As you whip the dumbbell up overhead, put a bend in your knee and then once the dumbbell is overhead with your arm extended, drive up from your heels to a full standing position with the dumbbell still up overhead.
  5. Carefully bring the dumbbell back down from overhead and then repeat.

13. Dumbbell Thruster

compound dumbbell workout

The dumbbell thruster is one of the best total body exercises in the game. The movement is pretty simple, but it is definitely not easy, especially if you are using a reasonable weight load. 

This exercise is as compound as it gets, acting on all your joints. As such, it really does work almost every muscle in your body, but it emphasizes your quads, glutes, core, and shoulders. If you are looking for an exercise that can build muscle and power while also burning a ton of calories, the dumbbell thruster is it.

Note: You can also do single arm dumbbell thrusters if you want to change up the dynamics of the exercise a little.

How to do Dumbbell Thrusters:

  1. From a standing position with your feet about shoulder width apart, bring the dumbbells up to shoulder level keeping neutral grip. Your elbows will be shooting forward.
  2. Squat down as low as you can with good form.
  3. Drive up from the heels of your feet while simultaneously pressing the dumbbells up overhead. As you press the dumbbells up, rotate your hands outward so your palms are facing forward as the dumbbells reach the top.
  4. Lower the dumbbells back down to a neutral grip at shoulder level. This is one complete rep. 

14. Dumbbell Squat Press 

dumbbell combination exercises

The dumbbell squat press is essentially a goblet squat with a Svend press added at the bottom. 

Assuming you don’t know what a Svend press is, it is simply a press out of a dumbbell (or plate) with your hands together from the center of your chest. So, from a vertical position, you press the weight straight out from your chest until your arms are fully extended. This primarily works the pec major and the shoulders. 

As such, the main target of the dumbbell squat press is the quads, glutes, hamstrings, shoulders, chest, and even your biceps. Moreover, it also requires your core and back to work isometrically as to maintain stability and an upright posture.

How to do the Dumbbell Press Squat:

  1. Get into a standing squat stance and hold a single dumbbell in a vertical position with both hands on the handle. Keep the dumbbell just in front of your chest, but not touch your chest.
  2. Squat down as deep as you can and when you reach the bottom of the squat, press the dumbbells straight forward until your arms are extended (keeping the dumbbell at upper chest level).
  3. Return the dumbbell back close to your chest, then squat up, driving force from your heels. This is one complete rep.

15. Dumbbell Push Press 

combo exercises with weights

The dumbbell push press is an explosive overhead press that brings the hips and knees into play to allow for heavier dumbbells to be used. This makes it a great exercise for building muscle mass and explosive strength. 

The primary lower body muscles targeted during a push press are the glutes (the prime movers of the quarter squat portion of this exercise), hamstrings, quads, and calves. The primary upper body muscles are the deltoids (prime mover of the overhead pressing motion), traps, forearms, and triceps. And like any full body dumbbell movement, the core and scapula stabilizers are worked to maintain stability and good posture.

How to do the Dumbbell Push Press:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet at shoulder width apart. Bring the dumbbells up to shoulder level (however, not touching your shoulders). The dumbbells should be held with a neutral hammer grip throughout the exercise.
  2. Perform a quarter squat and as you come up (explosively), press the dumbbells straight up overhead. When the dumbbells reach the top of the press, you will be standing with your legs extended and hips in a neutral position (although a slight bend in your knee is good for stability).
  3. Lower the dumbbells down slowly to shoulder level. This is one rep.

16. Dumbbell Renegade Row to Squat 

combo exercises with weights

The dumbbell renegade row to squat is a complex exercise that involves multiple exercises combined into one. 

This movement combines a plank, row, and a squat all in one. As such, you are going to be working all your major muscle groups, whether isotonically or isometrically.

The plank hits your glutes, core, chest, triceps and shoulders in an isometric fashion. The renegade row (which is a row from a plank position) works your biceps, back, and rear delts. And the plank to squat works your legs, glutes, low back and traps. 

All in all, you can expect this exercise to be exhausting. 

How to do the Dumbbell Renegade Row to Squat:

  1. Get into a high plank position with your hands on the dumbbell handles. The dumbbells should be placed vertically in a neutral grip.
  2. Perform a right arm row, then a left arm row.
  3. From the plank position, hop your feet up so the dumbbells are in-between them.
  4. Then lift the dumbbells off the floor and squat up. When performing the squat and picking the dumbbells up off the floor, be sure to get your hips low and keep your back straight by pulling your shoulders back and keeping your chest up as much as possible.
  5. When you reach the top of the squat, squat back down and put the dumbbells to the floor in a neutral position, then hop back into the plank. This is one complete rep. 

17. Dumbbell Jumping Lunge 

explosive dumbbell exercises

The dumbbell jumping lunge is an explosive exercise that is going to work your legs, core, arms and traps effectively, with emphasis on your quads and glutes. However, the main benefit of this one is calorie burn. You will not be using a heavy dumbbell. Basically, the dumbbells are used just to scale up the intensity of the jumping lunge, which is normally just a bodyweight plyometric movement (similar to dumbbell burpees). 

We love to incorporate this kind of whole body dumbbell exercise at the end of our workouts as a burnout. It also makes for a good addition to an intense HIIT workout. 

How to do the Dumbbell Jumping Lunge:

  1. Hold the dumbbells in a neutral grip and step your left foot back so you are in a split squat position.
  2. Lower your back leg down, then explode up into a jump bringing your back foot forward and your front foot back so that when you land, your left foot is in front and your right foot is in back.
  3. Repeat, lunging then jumping one foot forward and one foot back for the duration of the set.


You are obviously not going to do all of the above total body exercises in one workout, so you will need to pick and choose exercises that fit well together. 

Here are some examples of full body dumbbell workouts using the exercises above...


  1. Dumbbell Renegade Row to Squat: 3 sets x 10 reps
  2. Dumbbell Reverse Lunge with Front Raise: 3 sets x 10 reps each side
  3. Dumbbell One Arm Snatch: 3 sets x 10 reps each side
  4. Dumbbell Jumping Lunge: 3 sets x 20 reps total


Circuit 1:

  • Dumbbell Squat with Bicep Curl x 10 reps
  • Dumbbell Push Press x 10 reps
  • Dumbbell Burpees x 5 reps

Repeat for 2 more rounds. Rest 1-2 minutes between rounds. 

Circuit 2:

  • Dumbbell Clean x 10 reps
  • Dumbbell Overhead Carry x 20 meters
  • Dumbbell Squat Press x 10 reps

Repeat for 2 more rounds. Rest 1-2 minutes between rounds.


10 Minute Total (As Many Rounds As Possible):

  • Dumbbell Forward Lunge with Tricep Extension x 8 reps
  • Dumbbell Thruster x 8 reps
  • Dumbbell Kneeling Hold to Stand x 8 reps
  • Dumbbell Burpee x 8 Reps

Rest only when needed. The goal is to do as many rounds as possible within 10 minutes. 


Option 1:

  • Do all 17 exercises above, one after the other, 30 seconds work followed by 15 seconds rest. This will take you about 12.5 minutes. 

Option 2:

  • Dumbbell Burpees x 20 seconds
  • Dumbbell Thruster x 20 seconds
  • Dumbbell Jumping Lunge x 20 seconds
  • Dumbbell Close Grip Shoulder Press Sit-up x 20 seconds 

Do one exercise after the other with 10-15 seconds in-between exercises. Repeat for 4 rounds. This is a total of 8-10 minutes. 

More Dumbbell Resources:

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