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Weight Training With Light Dumbbells

Updated on December 5, 2014

It Doesn't Take A Lot Of Weight To Get A Good Workout

As someone who has been weight training regularly for 19 years, I wanted to get some workouts in when I was staying at a friends house for a few weeks. Unfortunately, all I had to work with was a pair of fixed hexagonal 30 pound dumbbells. Fortunately, it's still possible to get an intense workout with only this much weight handy. It just takes doing some exercises that you may not be used to doing - which can be a good thing, since switching your exercises can keep your workouts from becoming stale.

One thing about only having this much weight to use was that I had to do a lot of reps to reach failure on a set for most exercises. This can also be a welcome addition to your routine if you're used to going heavy for lower reps per set.

If you have to start weight training with light dumbbells you'll be able to try plenty of new things. This may even help you blast through a plateau. Since the reps will likely be quite high, your workouts could be like aerobic workouts, though you'll still be able to hit each muscle group. You can also do supersets to really raise the intensity of your training. This can help you lose fat as you build some muscle.

If you have to weight train with low weight dumbbells here is some advice that may help you.

Chest Weight Training With Light Dumbbells

The chest is one of the most popular muscle groups for men to train. When you're used to doing heavy flat and incline bench sets in the gym, you'll have to turn to using your body weight to your advantage if you have to weight train with light dumbbells.

If you have a bench, you can do bench presses, and possible incline presses, with a pair of light dumbbells. The problem is that if you're quite strong you'll end up doing a ton of reps. For more resistance, you should turn to the good ol' push-up.

Performing high rep sets of push-ups will definitely give your pecs an intense workout. You can also put your toes on something like a couch or bench to mimic incline bench presses. In fact, you may want to start with them before going to sets of normal push-ups. One trick I used with the 30 pound dumbbell I had was to put my hands on the dumbbell handles to get a deeper stretch on each rep. Since they were hexagon shaped dumbbells they wouldn't move on the floor, if you have round dumbbells you may not want to try this.

You can also do dumbbell flyes if you have a bench, or possible even do them on the floor - though you won't get much of a stretch at the bottom of a rep. To really hammer your pecs when you're weight training with a pair of light dumbbells, you could do supersets of flyes followed by benches or push-ups.


You may have to be innovative when it comes to working your back muscles while weight training with light dumbbells. There are some limits to what you can do for your back muscles when all you have is a couple of dumbbells. Unfortunately, you can't do much for your lat width unless you can somehow do pull-ups.

If you have to weight train with a pair of light dumbbells, you're main exercises are going to be rows. You can do rows with a dumbbell in each hand or do one side at a time. With my level of strength I would put both 30 lb. dumbbells in one hand and do one arm rows (you have to cross the dumbbells and grip them just the right way). Then I would finish off with some high rep sets of rows with a dumbbell in each hand. You can also switch the way you do rows to hit more of the upper back muscles. Keeping the elbows close to your body will hit your lats and rowing with your elbows out will hit the middle back muscles more.

Having a way to do pull-ups is certainly a plus when you don't have much weight and no pulldown machine to work with. If you have a pull-up bar to use and can't do very many pull-up reps you can always use something to put your feet on to get enough.


You can get a nice shoulder workout if you're weight training with light dumbbells. A pair of not very heavy dumbbells will allow you to perform some supersets that will get your shoulder muscles burning.

A pair of 30 pound dumbbells is perfect for some high repetition sets of overhead dumbbell presses. you can do them while standing or seated. If you want, you can try doing overhead presses with one arm at a time to do something different.

Laterals are another excellent exercise to do with a pair of light dumbbells. You can do front, side, or rear laterals depending on what head of the shoulder muscles you want to train. Even 20 pound dumbbells or less will enable you to get some tough sets of laterals. When weight training with light dumbbells, you can try supersets of side laterals followed immediately by overhead presses for a nice burn.

You can also do some high rep sets of shrugs to work your traps as part of a shoulder workout with light dumbbells.


No matter what your strength level is, you can get a good arm workout in with a light pair of dumbbells. This is because it doesn't take a lot of weight to work the biceps and triceps muscles hard. A pair of 30 lb. weights(or even 25 or 20) is plenty enough to get a great arm workout.

If you're weight training with light dumbbells you have plenty of options when it comes to biceps training. You can start off by performing a few sets of biceps dumbbell curls and hammer curls and finish off with some concentration curls. Without much weight available, you can also practice good form on your biceps exercises.

Training the triceps with small dumbbells will also allow you a nice amount of options. You can do seated triceps extensions either one arm at a time, or use both arms with one dumbbell depending on your level of strength. Push-ups with your hands close together will hit your tris as well. You can also do dips between chairs or with your hands on a chair and your feet on the floor.

When you're training your arms with light dumbbells you can try supersetting a biceps exercise followed by a triceps exercise.


Training the legs when you only have light dumbbells handy can be a bit of a downer if you've done heavy squats and leg presses in a gym. If you have strong legs you'll be looking at some very high rep sets.

When it comes training your quadriceps with light dumbbells, you can hold a dumbbell in each hand and do squats. Of course, without much resistance you'll end up getting a ton of reps. Walking lunges make for a nice alternative. Just hold the dumbbells in your hands and do walking lunges until you get to a wall, turn around, and continue doing them. One interesting exercise I did was to go up a stairway (up 2 steps per rep) with the dumbbells in my hands. These mimic walking lunges, though you may have to go up and down the stairs quite a few times.

Your hamstrings will get some work from your quadriceps dumbbell exercises. You can hit them more directly by performing some stiff legged deadlifts with a dumbbell in each hand.

To train your calves with light dumbbells you can do calf raises by holding a dumbbell in each hand and raising up on your toes. To get a nice stretch in your calves you can do calf raises on a stairway step with a dumbbell in one hand and hold onto something for balance with the other hand.


If you're doing light dumbbell weight training, you really won't have to make any major changes to your ab workouts. Ab training doesn't require extra weight, so you'll be able to get in your usually work for those muscles.

To get a good ab workout in, you really just need a floor, bench, or even a bed to lie on so you can do crunches and leg raises. You can also do leg raises while seated on the edge of a bench or bed.

Side bends are an exercise for your midsection that you use light dumbbells on. These targets your obliques, and you should be able to get a lot of reps on them.


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