Increase strength and maintain muscle mass with these seven full body resistance training exercises. This intense, 50-Minute Full Body Workout uses a set of dumbbells to build muscular endurance at home.
If you’re looking for an intense, total body workout at home with dumbbells — try these 7 resistance training exercises (in this fan-favorite Pyramid Workout format)!
This full body dumbbell workout is the best of both worlds:
Powerful, full body strength training with dumbbells (also known as resistance training, more on that below).
Completed in a ‘stack-on’ pyramid format; so work time increases with minimal rest between exercises.
The result, a full body strength workout that challenges muscular and cardiovascular endurance too.
You know the “holy bananas” moment of a workout — when you’re totally gassed, pushing yourself to your strength and endurance limits.
This workout has multiple “holy bananas” AND a new phrase: holy banana boats! If you’re up for a challenge, you’re going to LOVE this intense, full body workout!
Trainer Tip: this is an intense, 50-minute total body workout. If you’re a beginner or short on time you can make this a 25-minute workout by ‘climbing the pyramid up’ and not coming back down. Stopping at 26:00 in this workout video.
What is Resistance Training?
When you hear ‘resistance training’, you may think ‘resistance bands‘ — which is PART of resistance training, but resistance training encompasses a whole lot more.
Resistance training simply means any kind of exercise that involves moving your body against some form of resistance, whether that’s:
free weights (like dumbbells)
Resistance training is essentially synonymous with ‘strength training’.
This full body resistance training workout uses dumbbells as the form of resistance.
What are 5 benefits of resistance training?
Build and maintain muscle mass
Lose weight and boost your resting metabolic rate (or the rate at which your body burns calories)
Improve bone health
Enhance balance, coordination and posture
Decrease risk of injury
These 7 full body resistance training exercises are major metabolic burners. Meaning you’ll strengthen multiple, major muscle groups at one time, while also burning major calories which is great for weight loss at home.
Why are Resistance Training Exercises important for women?
I’m an advocate for resistance training exercises for many reasons, but two of the main reasons:
Weight training helps women see the ‘toned’ results they’re often striving for.
Building muscle through weight training is important to moving through everyday activities and injury prevention (which is important as we age, see the shocking stats below — we start losing muscle mass at age 30).
Training with resistance is also one of the few ways research has shown we can make our bones stronger — which especially important for women, who are more likely to get osteoporosis during their lifetimes than men are (TIME).
If the risk of osteoporosis seems too far in the future to convince you to pick up some heavy weights, there’s also research that suggests that resistance training can help offset the age-related decline in muscle mass and strength that hits right around ages 30 to 35 (SELF)!
50-Minute Home Workout: Full Body Resistance Training Pyramid Workout
This full body workout is one that anyone can do at home with just a few sets of weights or dumbbells.
It’s an intense at home resistance training workout, but I’ll provide modifications for all fitness levels.
These 7 resistance training exercises target all your muscles — the glutes, hamstrings, thighs, hips, shoulders, chest, back, arms and core. From tried and true classic at home exercises like, squats, lunges and pushups to complex dumbbell sprawls and snatches.
Medium-to-heavy set of dumbbells. I suggest 8-20 lb dumbbells.
I’m using 15 lb dumbbells for all 7 resistance training exercises.
This workout is performed in a stack-on pyramid format. That means you’ll perform each exercise for 30 seconds, adding on moves as you climb up the pyramid.
So it will look like this:
Set 1: Perform Move 1 for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest.
Set 2: Perform Move 1 for 30 seconds + Move 2 for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest.
Set 3: Perform Move 1 for 30 seconds + Move 2 for 30 seconds + Move 3 for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest.
Continue this stack-on, pyramid format until you complete moves 1 through 7. Then we’ll go back down the pyramid in reverse order, dropping off Move 1, then Move 2, then Move 3 and so on.
Watch the video for form cues and modifications, or see GIFs of each resistance training exercise below.
Trainer Tip: this is an intense, 50-minute full body workout. If you’re a beginner or short on time you can make this a 25-minute workout by ‘climbing the pyramid up’ and not coming back down. Stopping at 26:00 in this workout video.
I personally burned over 450 calories in 45 minutes. That said, calorie burn varies from person to person.
1. Dumbbell Pause Squat Press Out + Overhead Press
Benefits: pause squats recruit your slow twitch muscle fibers to build strength of the supporting muscles in your lower back, hips and core. Thus, improving your overall squat form.
How to do a Pause Squat Press Out + Overhead Press:
Stand with feet hip-distance apart, toes pointing straight ahead or slightly angled out away from the body.
Holding one dumbbell at your chest, exhale to engage your core. With your weight in your heels, sit your hips back.
Lowering your hips down, parallel with your knees. Hold at the bottom of your squat (known as ‘in the hole’).
While in this ‘paused position’ press the dumbbell out away from your body.
Then pull the dumbbell back towards your chest and explosively stand tall pressing the dumbbell overhead.
Return to the starting position and repeat this exercise for 30 seconds.
Modification: drop the dumbbell and perform this same pause squat press out movement as a bodyweight exercise.
2. Dumbbell Sprawl Stand Up
Benefits: an athletic, full body resistance training exercises that taxes every muscle group — legs, core, back, and shoulders. Not to mention, your muscular and cardiovascular endurance.
This exercise is often used as a fitness test marker. Repeat this exercise weekly to lose fat, add muscle, and become more athletic.
How to do a Dumbbell Sprawl Stand Up:
Stand with feet hip-distance apart, or a little wider. Holding two dumbbells at your hips.
Engage your core and lower your hips down to the bottom of a squat as you place the dumbbells on the ground between your feet.
Step or jump both feet back to a high plank position. Making a straight line with your body from head to feet.
Pause for a moment, then in one explosive movement, jump both feet forward and land just outside your hands or dumbbells.
You should land in a deep squat from which you explosively stand up.
Repeat this sprawl movement for 30 seconds.
Modification: step back to plank and walk your feet back into the bottom of the low squat instead of jumping back and jumping in. You can also perform bodyweight sprawls without dumbbells.
3. 4 Push Ups + 4 Kneeling Push Press
Benefits: push ups are a classic bodyweight resistance strength exercise to build upper body strength. Add on the push press and you have a powerful combination of explosive upper body strength training for the shoulders, chest and core.
How to do a Push Up to Kneeling Push Press:
Start in high plank position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists (or on top of dumbbells). Pull your kneecaps up towards your belly.
Hold this position, maintaining a straight line with your body, gaze slightly in front of you.
Slowly lower your chest down towards the ground; lead with your chest. As you lower towards the ground maintain a straight line with your body — head, chest and legs in one straight line. While elbows fall back towards your body.
Then exhale as you push back up into high plank position.
After completing 4 push ups, press back into a kneeling position with the dumbbells front racked at your shoulders. Neutral grip, palms facing in.
Lower your hips slightly back towards your heels, then drive up, powerfully pressing your hips forward and pressing the dumbbells overhead. Locking out your elbows, biceps by ears.
Repeat this 4 push up and 4 kneeling push press movement for 30 seconds.
Modification: if you’re struggling to perform the push ups with good form on your toes; modify by dropping to the knees. Or try using a chair or bench to perform an incline push up.
4. Alternating Reverse Lunge Hold + Bicep Curl
Benefits: reverse lunges activate your core, glutes, and hamstrings; and put less stress on your joints and knees than front lunges. Add the isometric hold and bicep curl for additional core and upper body strength.
A great exercise to improve balance, hip mobility and core strength.
How to do a Reverse Lunge Hold and Bicep Curl:
Stand with feet hip-distance apart. Holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.
Step your right leg back into a reverse lunge, lowering your hips until both knees reach a 90 degree angle, front thigh parallel to the floor. Hold at the bottom of your lunge.
While holding perform a bicep curl by pulling the dumbbells up towards your shoulders by bending your elbows. Hold at the top to contract the bicep muscles. Then lower the dumbbells back down towards your sides, slow and controlled.
Squeeze your front leg glute, driving your back, right leg forward as you stand up back to the starting position.
Repeat this movement, alternating legs as you step back to lunge for 30 seconds.
Modification: option to remove the alternating lunge and perform standing bicep curls.
5. Lateral Jump + Dumbbell Snatch
Benefits: a complex strength and agility movement for improving the strength and stability of the legs, hips, posterior chain and core.
Lateral jumps increase coordination and improve stability in the hips, knees and feet joints.
While snatches improve the strength, function and coordination of the posterior chain — legs, back, shoulders and core.
How to do a Lateral Jump and Dumbbell Snatch:
Stand with feet hip-distance apart, or a little wider. With a dumbbell horizontal on the ground in front of you.
Engage your core and lower your hips down to the bottom of a squat. Maintain this loaded squat stance as you push off your right leg to jump laterally to the left.
Land softly in the loaded squat position and laterally jump back to center (push off your left leg to jump laterally to the right).
At the bottom of your squat reach for the dumbbell on the ground in front of you with your right hand.
In one explosive movement, drive your hips forward as you lift the weight up with your arm (using the momentum created by your legs and hips).
As the dumbbell reaches shoulder height, quickly flip your elbow underneath the weight and press it overhead, locking out your elbow (arms straight overhead with bicep by ear). Note, you shouldn’t struggle to press the weight overhead, it should be an easy extension of the move, with the majority of the work being done by your legs to create momentum.
With control lower the dumbbell back to the ground.
Repeat steps 2-7, alternating lateral hops and snatch arms. Repeat for 30 seconds.
Modification: if the snatch is too complex, remove it and perform side-to-side lateral jumps or steps.
6. Dumbbell Deadlift + Narrow Squat
Benefits: improve overall squat form and build glute strength at home with dumbbells. Adding on the narrow stance squat recruits the quads and helps improve knee health and overall squat form.
Note, if narrow squats don’t feel good for your knees you can always take this to a wider-stance squat.
How to do a Dumbbell Deadlift and Narrow Squat:
Stand with feet hip-distance apart, toes pointing forward. Holding a dumbbell in each hand at your hips, palms facing your body.
Hinge at your hips with your knees slightly bent to lower the dumbbells down towards your knees/shins. Think of pushing your butt back towards the wall behind you while keeping a flat back and neutral neck.
Dumbbells stay close to the body.
Keeping your core tight, push through your heels to stand straight up; completing the dumbbell deadlift.
From here, take the dumbbells to each side of the body and lower your hips down, parallel with your knees. Performing a narrow squat.
Again drive through your heels to stand tall.
Repeat this dumbbell deadlift and narrow squat movement for 30 seconds.
Modification: if the narrow stance doesn’t feel good for your knees, remove it and perform dumbbell deadlifts.
7. Plank Launcher + Alternating Row
Benefits: this multi-functional exercise challenges your core while also building strength in the middle and upper back muscles, shoulders and arms.
How to do a Plank Launcher and Alternating Row:
Start in plank position with one hand on each dumbbell. Hold this position, maintaining a straight line with your body, gaze slightly in front of you.
From this plank position, engage your core as you push your hips back towards your heels; bending at the knees. Then explosively drive your body back into plank position (nose to finger tips).
Hold plank and pull your right elbow back towards your hip, performing a plank and row on the left side of the body.
Repeat the launcher motion pressing your hips back towards your heels and explosively returning top plank.
Then perform a plank and row on the left arm.
Repeat this movement for 30 seconds.
Modification: remove the explosive launcher movement and perform a plank and row from your knees or toes.