Dumbbell Workouts for Women: You Need More Than the Treadmill!

Written by: Holly Smith, M.D.,

B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

Written by: Holly Smith, M.D.,

B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

dumbbell workouts for women

Are you ignoring dumbbell workouts for women? When many women start a workout program, they often only focus on cardio.

There is the common misconception that strength training is only for men or athletes.

It can also be intimidating for women to walk into a gym and start a weight lifting program, even at home.

The truth is, weight training is essential for women, especially as they get older.

And you can maintain, or even improve, your strength at any age with just a set of dumbbells.

As women age, lean body mass decreases, something known as sarcopenia.

Studies have shown that this appears to be more from muscle disuse rather than just aging alone.

However, regular strength training can help you maintain muscle mass at any age.

Not only will strength training help you maintain muscle mass, but resistance workouts also help improve blood pressure, blood sugars, and other markers of chronic disease.

One study from the International Journal of Obesity even found that women who engaged in twice-weekly strength training programs were able to improve their body composition and decrease their obesity risk.

So what are you waiting for? Get started with dumbbell workouts for women today!

Looking for other ways to spice up your workouts? Try these kettlebell exercises for women!

Dumbbells Are Versatile

The great thing about dumbbell workouts for women is that you can work out at your gym or even from your own home.

So if you are a beginner and want to start slow, dumbbells are the perfect equipment to use.

Plus, dumbbells allow you to perform weight lifting moves safely while still effectively targeting all of your major and accessory muscle groups.

You can utilize dumbbells in traditional strength training workouts, during supersets, or even for core and balance training.

You can even use light dumbbells to enhance your cardio sessions!

So if you are looking to get in great shape and tone up your body, dumbbell workouts for women will get you there.

Try this full-body dumbbell workout for women! All you need is a set of dumbbells and some floor space!

Full-Body Dumbbell Workouts for Women

This full-body dumbbell workout incorporates something known as supersets.

A superset is when you move from one exercise immediately to the next with minimal rest in between.

This technique aims to keep your workouts efficient while still being extremely effective.

There are a few different ways that you can utilize supersets in a workout. These include:

  • Same Muscle Group (Pre-exhaustion): In a pre-exhaustion superset, you work the same muscle group by starting out with an isolation exercise, and then following this up with a compound movement. In this way, the muscles become “pre-exhausted” in the first set. You then push past this in the second set to help increase muscle growth.
  • Same Muscle Group (Post-exhaustion): This is similar to the above superset except in the reverse order. This time you start with compound exercises, and then follow that up with an isolation movement.
  • Opposing Muscle Groups: This is the most common type of superset, where you target different muscle groups. For example, doing a pulling back exercise followed by a pushing chest exercise. This gives the muscles in the first group time to recover while you are working on the second group. Plus, you can get a little more bang for your buck since muscles tend to generate a stronger contraction when preceded by a contraction in an opposing muscle group.
  • Staggered Supersets: This involves targeting two completely different muscle groups, such as upper body bench press followed by lower body squats.

In this superset workout, the muscles used in each group oppose one another.

For example, in the first set, you hit your large back muscles.

Then, follow that up with a chest exercise.

Perform 8-10 reps of each exercise then move right into the next set.

Start with a lighter weight until you perfect the form in each exercise, then gradually increase the weight to challenge yourself.

You should choose a weight where the last 1-2 reps are tough, but that you are still able to finish with proper form.

Superset 1 – Chest and Back

For this you will do one set of bench press, then move right into the lat pulldown.

Take a one-minute rest after that, then repeat the superset two more times.

Dumbbell Bench Press

  • Lie back on a flat bench.
  • Using a medium-width grip, hold the dumbbells straight over you with your arms locked.
  • Breathe in and begin moving the weights down slowly to your middle chest.
  • Pause briefly and then push back up to the starting position as you breathe out.
  • Lock your arms and squeeze your chest in the contracted position at the top of the motion.

Bent-Over Row

  • Hinge forward from your hips with arms straight while holding a pair of dumbbells down in front of you.
  • Row the dumbbells up towards your chest, leading with your elbows, then lower them slowly.
  • Rest for 60 seconds after the final rep, then repeat the superset two more times.

Superset 2 – Biceps and Triceps

For this you will do one set of barbell (or dumbbell) curls, then move right into the tricep pulldowns.

Take one minute of rest, then repeat the superset two more times.

Dumbbell Curl

  • Hold a pair of dumbbells down in front of you, palms facing forward, and keep your back straight and chest up.
  • Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl the bar toward your shoulders.
  • Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position, straightening your arms completely.

One-Arm Tricep Kickbacks

  • Start with a dumbbell in each hand and your palms facing your torso.
  • Keep your back straight with a slight bend in the knees and bend forward at the waist.
  • Your torso should be almost parallel to the floor.
  • Keep your upper arms close to your torso and parallel to the floor.
  • Your forearms should be directed towards the floor as you hold the weights, with a 90-degree angle between your forearm and upper arm.
  • This is your starting position.
  • Keep your upper arm stationary and contract your triceps to extend the weights behind you until your arms are fully extended.
  • Focus on moving the forearms and try not to swing the upper arms.
  • After a brief pause at the top slowly lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position to complete one rep.

Superset 3 – Lower Body

Dumbbell Squats

Squats are the ultimate lower body exercise.

This movement targets the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves to build strong legs.

In addition, this is a very functional exercise as you need to perform the squatting motion in a number of daily activities.

  • While holding a dumbbell in each hand, lower into a squat, making sure your knees don’t track past your toes.
  • Go down as far as comfortable, until your thighs are about parallel to the floor.
  • Try to keep your weight in your heels.
  • Then explode back up through your heels to a standing position.

Dumbbell Three Way Calf Raises

  • Stand tall while holding the dumbbells by your side.
  • First, turn your toes inward.
  • Press your toes into the ground and lift your heels up.
  • Lower them down slowly.
  • Do 10 reps.
  • Next, turn your toes out 45 degrees and perform the calf raises for 10 reps.
  • Finally, keep your toes forward, and do another 10 reps in this position.

Superset 4 – Shoulder and Core

Overhead Press

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand at the front of your shoulders.
  • Press the weights directly overhead until your arms are straight, then lower it to the start.
  • That’s one rep.
  • After 8-10 reps, lower the dumbbells to your thighs.
  • Rest briefly and then move on to Russian twists.

Dumbbell Russian Twists

  • Sit on the ground with your knees bent.
  • You can place your heels on the ground or let them hover above the ground for an added challenge.
  • Lean slightly back as you keep your back straight.
  • Hold a light dumbbell in front of you.
  • Twist to the left, bringing the weight to your left side.
  • Then rotate to the right with the weight.
  • This completes one rep.
  • Continue alternating sides for 10-20 reps on each side.

By doing supersets, you are making the most out of your workout time.

Instead of taking long rest periods without doing any work, you use the time that you are resting one muscle group to work the next.

Plus, since some of the muscles used in each exercise overlap slightly, you are getting the most bang for your buck!

In addition, research has shown that supersets can also help increase fat burning by increasing calorie burning and energy expenditure even after your workout is over!

This full-body, at-home dumbbell workout for women is a great, quick strength training workout!

Add Dumbbells to Your Cardio

Another great way that you can use dumbbells is to add a light set to a high-intensity or endurance cardio workout.

For example, if you are walking outside or on a treadmill, you can simply hold the dumbbells in your hands as you pump your arms.

You can even do light dumbbell shoulder presses or curls as you walk.

If you have a high-intensity circuit workout planned, you can modify some of the moves to incorporate dumbbells as well to add an extra challenge.

For example, if your HIIT workout includes bodyweight squats, add some dumbbells to increase the resistance.

Just remember to keep the load light in these types of routines since you are working at a higher intensity and still need to keep good form.

Building a Better Body With Dumbbells

If you want to improve your fitness, get stronger, and build a fantastic-looking body, you don’t need a ton of fancy gym equipment.

A simple set of dumbbells will get the job done!

You can target your whole body with dumbbell exercises for women.

Plus, when you incorporate supersets into your workouts you can make your sessions more efficient!

Holly Smith, M.D.
B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

Holly is an osteopathic physician, runner, triathlete, and fitness and nutrition enthusiast.

She is board certified in nephrology and internal medicine, has a bachelors degree in dietetics and is a certified personal trainer with NASM-PES certification.

Holly has completed four full ironmans, twelve marathons, countless half ironmans, olympic distance triathlons, half marathons and numerous other road races.

Holly joined the Fit Father Project in May 2019 as a regular writer, contributing articles on health, wellness, exercise, and nutrition.

She has also recently qualified for the 2020 World Championships for Ironman 70.3, in New Zealand!

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