Are Dumbbells Enough?

Depending on where you are in the world as far as living it can be very tough to get to the Gym. Instead of sacrificing everything you have gained or want to gain you need to make do with what you can get your hands on to get too lifting. Dumbbells are most of the time the main go to item for people starting up a home gym. Adjustable dumbbells can be the best for a tight space as well, but is it really enough to get the job done?

So are dumbbells really enough?

Dumbbells can be enough to meet most strength and conditioning goals as long as you progress. You will reach a plateau at that time you either need to shift your routine when it comes to the workouts, reps, and sets or simply increase the weight of the dumbbell. Dumbbells can be a enough to get the job done for getting back into shape especially as a beginner. 

One thing you may want to add to the arsenal is just an adjustable bench so you can really get some depth on your workouts like chest, legs, shoulders and back. Depending on your goals doing a circuit style total body dumbbell routine 3 times a week and be enough to reach your goals as long as your nutrition is in check.

We personally use adjustable dumbbells called PowerBlocks that go up to 90lbs each. You can start with the cheaper version just buy the expansion packs when ready. You can find all the BEST ADJUSTABLE DUMBBELLS BY CLICKING HERE! SHIPPED TO YOUR DOOR IN AS LITTLE AS 2 DAYS!

Below is the best dumbbells offered on Amazon:


woman incline chest dumbbells

Can I build Muscle With Just Dumbbells?

Dumbbells is a great place to start when building muscles any barbell workout you can do with dumbbells. The main different is you are training each side of your body separately which can be better for symmetry. When you are lifting with a dumbbell you can kind of hide one side of your body that is weaker not with dumbbells.

As long as you can progress and increase your weight each week you can build a massive amount of muscle in a short amount of time. Our two favorite home workout programs are LIIFT4 and Body Beast that are great for everything from Beginner to Intermediate lifters. All you need is a set of dumbbells. One of the programs you only do 4 times a week and the other you perform up to 6 times a week and you will get great results.

Are Dumbbells Effective

Well we didn’t want you to only take our word for it so we scoured the internet for actual people that use dumbbells to get into shape and reach their goals. We went to forums, facebook groups, reddits, etc. just to bring this information back to you and analyze. Below are some of our finding along with the overall results. This information was curated so none of the responses have been altered besides any spelling or grammar where needed.

girl lifting two dumbbells

Real Dumbbell Users

1. Thisesmeaningless “Very effective” – That’s total broscience. You can get ripped with dumbbells, you can get ripped with barbells. No, you are not wasting your time. Working out for even a few minutes a day is better than nothing.

2. Babbagack “More pros to dumbbells” – Actually had a chiropractor who lifts advise me not to use a bar, since there tends to be imbalances between the shoulders, so he stays off of them. Was interesting, don’t find a need for a bar but I’m not an expert. He is in his field though.

3. Ace1Da1990 “Pros and Cons to both” – You can generally get better contractions with dumbbells like when doing bench press. Barbells make squatting and deadlifting easier/less awkward.

Honestly there are pros and cons to both. But you can definitely make progress with dumbbells, it’s just once you start doing heavy weight for your compounds, those dumbbells can be awkward to lift and get into position by yourself.

4. Texinxin “Upperbody dumbbells superior” – Squats and deadlifts are the absolute 2 best exercises in the gym. Even with twin 75’s(a very light weight for either) it is extremely difficult to position the weight and be effective. But for all upper body exercises, I feel the dumbbells are better than barbell or curl bars.

5. Contagiouscass “Some better leg workouts with dumbbells” – You can goblet squat with a dumbbell and get a hell of a workout in with high reps. It’s one of my main accessories for squat days and I feel it’s more effective than just bar squats. Deadlift would be harder, but you can do chest supported rows and you’ll be treating your back better than with a bar.

6. Offthewall97 “Dumbbells will do” – Barbells are ideal if you are trying to increase a lift by a certain poundage, because you don’t have to stabilize the dumbbells independently in each hand. If you after general aesthetics and health, dumbbells will do you well my friend!

7. LangtonHugD “Dumbbells have advantages” – They are advantageous in some departments, range of motion and muscular contraction, but superior is kind of a dumb thing to say. Barbells allow for better strength training because of ease of linear progression and overall higher weight as well as general injury decrease. Dumbbells are often used in hypertrophy training because of their specific advantages, but are rarely recommended for training focused on strength. Having both is ideal, and neither is superior.

8. BenchPolkov “Barbells easier for gains” – It’s easier to load barbells with more weight, and barbell exercises are generally more efficient in terms of accumulating effective training stimulus, and more “bang for your buck”, but there’s no reason you can’t make decent progress with just DBs either.

9. Puggly8910 “Just as effective as barbells” – Dumbbells can be just as effective as barbells if used properly. As other posters have mentioned, the one lift that will be hardest with dumbbells vs barbells will be squats. I would highly recommend googling Bulgarian split squats and do those; there are some people out there who argue that they’re even better than barbell squats, and are definitely doable with dumbbells. Happy picking heavy things up and putting them down again.

10. Annodomini “Dumbbells definitely not a waste of time” – There are plenty of good exercises that you can do with dumbbells, and if that’s what you have access to, you might as well use them.

It is a little bit harder to do incremental increases on the weight, because they usually come in 5 pound weight increments which means 5 pounds per arm, whereas barbells the gym will usually have 2.5 lb plates to give you 5 pound increments between both arms (and you can buy yourself even smaller plates if you want, they’re not too expensive and pretty light so easy enough to carry around with you). So for the increments, you usually need to do things in the 8-12 rep range, increasing number of reps, and then only go up in weight when you’re getting most of your sets up to 12 reps.

For upper body movements, like bench press, incline bench, overhead press, rows, and the like, you can probably go a good long time on dumbbells before you run out of weight to progress on.

For the lower body movements, like squat and deadlift, you will start to run out of the ability to load them well with dumbbells much sooner. However, there are things you can do:

  • Goblet squats are a good exercise; hold one dumbbell in front of you with both hands. It really helps with getting squat form and bracing down, and if the dumbbells go up high enough it can be good for a while. But you’ll eventually get past the point where one dumbbell can provide enough load, and holding onto two dumbbells by your sides or on your shoulders heavy enough to continue your lower body progression can be hard and make it hard to progress on lower body after a while.

  • Lunges or bulgarian split squats. Since you’re working out one leg at a time, you can get further with dumbbells than you could with bilateral squats

  • One legged stiff-legged deatlift/romanian deadlift. Again, since it’s one leg at a time, you have some more running room before running out of weight you can handle with dumbbells

  • You can do hip thrusts, or one-legged hip thrusts, with dumbbells for a while, which works your glutes and hamstrings.

And finally, it’s likely that dumbbells aren’t the only thing the gym has. If it has any strength training machines, it likely has a leg press, which can be good for working your quads (which are what squats focus on). If it has a leg curl machine, you can use that for hamstrings. If it has a back extension apparatus, you can use that for glutes and lower back (and start adding wight by holding dumbbells). Note that because machines do more isolation, they aren’t quite as efficient as barbells or dumbbells for working many muscles including stabilizers at once, but can be used just fine as an addition to work with free weights.

Basically, barbells are more convenient for progressing, especially once the loads get heavy, but if you’re a complete beginner, there’s a lot you could get out of dumbbells before you are really limited by them and need to switch. So if the gym is free for you now, you might as well see how far you can get with dumbbells alone, and start looking for a better gym once you’ve gotten to the point of doing 8-12 reps on the above listed exercises for the heavies dumbbells you can find at the gym and hold onto comfortably.


57% of 156 responses said dumbbells work just as good and neither barbell or dumbbells are superior. So if you have dumbbells or can get access to them use them they will work for most all goals. If you have a specific goal like Powerlifting Competitions then yes you will need a barbell at some point to do bench press, squat and deadlift.

girl looking in mirror with dumbbells

Is It Bad To Use Dumbbells Everyday?

Dumbbells can be used everyday as long as you mix up push, pull and legs to give your upperbody a day off each week. A simple split of chest/tris, legs, back/bis, legs, bis/tris, chest/back, legs/abs would be a good split so you are getting some time off from each bodypart. If you are just starting out you should take a least one day off a week so your body gets 48 total hours to recoup.

Dumbbell FAQ’s

Are 20 Pound Dumbbells Enough?

20lb dumbbells are enough to get you started and seeing some great results. You can mix it up with some bi and tri exercises that will definitely get the burn going. When it comes to chest and back workouts you will have to do a bit of higher reps and work in some body weight exercises as well to get better results.

Can 5 Pound Dumbbells Build Muscle?

You can definitely get tone with 5 pound dumbbells and also build some muscle at the same time. You aren’t going to be doing your standard lifts though if you are only using 5 pound dumbbells. There is a great workout program that is called Barre Blend that you only need up to 5 lbs dumbbells max and you will get super toned using it. They have a free trial here. 

Are 30 lb Dumbbells Enough For Curls?

30 pound dumbbells are definitely enough for most people with curls. You can increase your rep range and also do pyramids where you do 30 lb dumbbells for a set and back off to 25 lbs or less right after for another set. Work your way up to doing pullups which is the ultimate bicep and back workout that will set you apart from the rest.

Tab Winner

We are fun loving family that lives on a small farm and tries to be healthy. We are not fitness fanatics we are just trying to keep things simple especially with how busy our lives are. We have a few horses, a few dogs, and a young daughter along with a big extended family. Follow us on our journey. I hope you enjoy the website. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. Please check back for updates!

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