Welcome to the Men’s Health Dumbbell Club, your weekly plan for a fitter, stronger body, using just two dumbbells. With workouts lasting from 20-40 minutes, and designed to add lean muscle, build fitness and increase strength, your weekly dose of dumbbell goodness drops every Monday.
Click here to head back and check out previous weeks, or simply get stuck in to our latest offering — week 32 – and follow the programme from here.
New This Week…
The fourth week of our exploration of density blocks sees us moving into a ‘repeat and beat’ phase. For the next three weeks we’ll be taking another crack at workouts from part one of this series, aiming to smash our previous rep ‘scores’, invoking the sacred and swoly principle of progressive overload, and in turn earning gains in strength, as well as muscle growth. Remember, if you’re seeing improvements in the notebook, improvements in the mirror won’t be far behind.
How To Perform Density Blocks
Each 10-minute ‘density block’ consists of two back-to-back movements, designed to compliment each other. Your goal is to perform as many rounds as possible (with perfect form). Suggested rep ranges are given – choose your weights accordingly if you have access to a selection of dumbbells. If not, begin each block by ensuring you have around 3-5 reps still left in the tank, but keep your rest to a minimum until it becomes increasingly difficult to hit your target reps. Eventually you may have to drop the reps, but keep moving, resting just long enough to make a note of how many reps you achieve in each set, creating a total for each movement, at the end of each block.
Rest for 3-4 minutes between blocks — changing weights if necessary — before attacking each new block following the above guidelines.
Day One (W32/D1)
Warm-up, grab your dumbbells, set a countdown timer for 10 minutes and get to work on your first ‘block’. Rest as necessary to keep your form on point, but push yourself hard to beat your scores from Week 29.
Rest for 3-4 minutes before moving into the next block..
1A. Push Press x 10-12
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.
1B. High Pull x 10-12
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 by driving your elbows to the back of the room.
2A. Dumbbell Floor (or Bench) Press x 10-12
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.
2B. Renegade Row x 20-24 (total)
Drop into a press-up position with 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).
3A. Tempo Press-ups on Dumbbells x 15-20
Drop your ‘bells to the ground and assume a long-armed plank position. With your core tight and hands gripping your dumbbells (A), bend your elbows and slowly lower your chest to the floor over a strict count of three seconds (B). Keep your elbows close to your body and pause for one second, feeling the deep stretch through your chest as you push back up explosively. Break your set when you can no longer control your descent or explode back up.
3B. Single ‘Bell Crush Curl x 15-20
Stand upright leaving one of your ‘bells on the ground, grip the remaining ‘bell with both hands, holding the outer ‘heads’ palms facing each other (A). With minimal momentum, curl the dumbbell upwards until it’s beneath your chin (B). Squeeze here and lower the weight under control, fighting it all of the way.
Day Two (W32/D2)
1A. Front Squat x 10-15
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.
1B. Romanian Deadlift x 10-15
Stand tall with your dumbbells at your sides, feet at shoulder width (A). With a slight bend in the knees, push your hips back and slowly lower the bells towards the ground (B), pinching your shoulders back and maintaining a flat back. When you feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings, pause and explosively return to an upright position.
2A. Reverse Lunge x 20-30 (total)
Drop your dumbbells to your sides (A). Keeping your chest up at all times, take a step backward with one leg, bending your front knee until the back knee touches the ground (B). Stand up explosively, pause and repeat with the other leg. Alternate back and forth. Each step equals one rep.
2B. Split Squat Jump x 20-30 (total)
Step one foot backward and sink into a deep lunge, with your rear knee lightly touching the floor (A). Next, 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.
3A. Burpee over ‘Bells x 15
No rep range here, just aim to perform exactly 15 reps, as quickly as possible, with good form. 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.
3B. Air Squat x 25
Again, no rep range, just go for 15 and get stuck back into those burpees. Standing tall with your chest up (A), sink your hips back, bending your knees to drop your thighs until you reach a deep squat (B). Drive back up explosively and repeat. Keep a controlled tempo and tight form, but don’t dawdle. These may be simple, but they shouldn’t be easy.
Day Three (W32/D3)
1A. Alternating Hang Snatch x 16-20 (total)
Hinge down and grab your dumbbell from on the ground between your legs, keep your knees soft and back flat (A). Explosively drive up through your hips and knees, generating momentum to help pull the dumbbell directly overhead in one fluid movement (B). Once locked out overhead, lower the dumbbell to between your legs, switching hands on the way down and repeating with the other arm. Alternate back and forth in this fashion, each arm equals one rep. Aim for 16-20 total.
1B. Tempo Push-ups on dumbbells x 15-20
Drop your ‘bells to the ground and assume a long-armed plank position, with your core tight and hands gripping your dumbbells (A), bend your elbows and slowly lower your chest to the floor over a strict count of three seconds (B). Keep your elbows close to your body and pause for one second, feeling the deep stretch through your chest as you push back up explosively. Break your set when you can no longer control your descent or explode back up.
2A. Hang Cleans x 10-12
Stand up and hold your dumbbells at your side. Hinge at the hips to lower them to your knees (A). Stand back up with a slight jump, using the momentum to pull the dumbbells on to your shoulders (B). Stand up straight, then lower under control to your sides and repeat.
2B. Laying (or Hanging) Leg Raises x 15-20
Lay flat on your back, with your heels just off of the ground, your dumbbells behind your head, gripping them as an anchor (A). Keeping your feet together, curl at the stomach – lifting your legs towards the ceiling until your hips peel from the floor (B). Pause here for a second before slowly lowering. Once you start, try to keep your feet off the ground throughout. If you have a bar to hang from to perform these, use it.
3A. Hammer Curl x 6-10
Go slightly heavier here if you have a selection of dumbbells. If your dumbbells are heavy, drop the reps but keep your form sharp. Stand tall holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides (A), with minimal momentum and keeping your upper arms tight to your body, curl both dumbbells upwards, making sure your palms facing each other throughout (B). Lower both ‘bells and immediately repeat.
3B. Bench/Box Dip x 15+
Aim to max out on each set of these. Sit on the edge of a box or bench, with your legs outstretched. With your hands next to your hips, support your weight with your arms as you shift off the edge of the box (A). Flex at the elbows to lower your body until you feel a stretch across your chest (B). Straighten your arms explosively to push back up. Elevate your feet and put your dumbbells in your lap to increase the difficulty.
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.