Dumbbell & Kettlebell Workout for Full-Body Muscle

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: February 26, 2024
FACT CHECKED by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
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If you want to add strength training to your fitness routine, you may already have the necessary workout equipment lying around: dumbbells and kettlebells. If not, they are easily accessible, and many are budget-friendly.

As a personal trainer, my clients often ask me which one is better: dumbbell or kettlebell workouts. The truth is, you can get great full-body workouts using both.

This article will provide a sample dumbbell and kettlebell workout and offer some training tips.

Let’s begin.

Quick Summary

  • You can get a full-body dumbbell and kettlebell workout doing squats, swings, presses, and rows.
  • Kettlebell swings are an excellent way to increase your heart rate and burn calories.
  • For optimal full-body hypertrophy, aim for 2-3 sets and 8–10 reps of dumbbell and kettlebell workouts.
  • In my experience, combining dumbbell and kettlebell routines offers the most dynamic and effective approach to full-body strength training.

Dumbbell and Kettlebell Workout

People working out using a kettlebell and dumbbell

In my experience as a personal trainer, I've found that the following workouts, using both dumbbells and kettlebells, are incredibly effective for a full-body session.

The goal is to work all the major muscle groups in a single session.

Single-Arm Overhead Press

With this exercise, you’ll target your shoulders and core, including improving shoulder stability:

  • Start in a half-kneeling position, holding a dumbbell in the opposite hand as your front leg.
  • Engage your core and press the dumbbell overhead.
  • Lower with control and repeat
  • Complete 2-3 sets of 8–10 reps.

Related: How to Overhead Press with Proper Form & Technique

Single-Arm Gorilla Row

Work your back and hamstrings with this row variation:

  • Lean forward into a hinge position and pull the weight up with one arm.
  • Keep your hips square.
  • Touch the weight on the floor to reset each rep.
  • Complete 2-3 sets of 8–10 reps.

Frontal Plane Lunge

Doing a frontal plane lunge with dumbbells

The focus of this lunge variation is to work the glutes, quads, and hamstrings:

  • Start in a standing position while holding a dumbbell or kettlebell at chest height.
  • Step out to the right into a lateral lunge, lowering with control.
  • The weight will be over the right leg, so ensure the left leg stays straight.
  • Return to standing and switch sides.
  • Perform 8–10 reps on each side.
  • Aim for 2-3 sets.

Kettlebell Sumo Deadlift

Incorporate this deadlift variation into your dumbbell and kettlebell workouts to target the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and back:

  • Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart.
  • From here, perform your deadlift.
  • Fully extend the hips and knees at the top of the movement.
  • Reset each rep.
  • Aim for 2-3 sets of 8–10 reps.

Goblet Squats

A woman doing goblet squats using a kettlebell

Also known as a kettlebell squat or dumbbell squat, goblet squats work all your core muscles—your quads, calves, glutes, and arms—and help strengthen your grip:

  • Hold either a dumbbell or kettlebell close to your chest.
  • Perform a squat.
  • Ensure your back is straight and your knees remain aligned with your toes.
  • Aim for 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.

Read more: How to Do Crush Grip Goblet Squats

Kettlebell Squat to High Pull

This kettlebell exercise will effectively work the shoulder, glutes, and quads:

  • Start squat position with the kettlebell in a low cradle hold.
  • Explode upwards.
  • When the hips extend fully, pull the kettlebell up to chest height.
  • Focus on having your elbows high.
  • Complete 2-3 sets of 10 reps.

The following two exercises are a couple of my favorites that, on their own, provide a full-body challenge and should be added to any dumbbell or kettlebell workout.

Kettlebell Snatch

Doing a kettlebell snatch in the gym

The kettlebell snatch is a great whole-body exercise; however, it is best to master the traditional kettlebell swing first:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder distance apart, holding a kettlebell in one hand at arm’s length in front of you.
  • Have a slight bend to your knees and hinge at the hips, lowering your hips and the kettlebell between your legs.
  • Explosively drive your hips forward, straightening your knees, and swing the kettlebell in front of you with a straight arm.
  • Once the kettlebell reaches shoulder level, quickly rotate your wrist, flipping it over so that it rests on the back of your wrist as your arm fully extends the kettlebell overhead.
  • Lower the kettlebell back down between your legs in a controlled manner, with your arm close to your body.
  • Repeat the snatch, alternating sides with each rep.
  • Complete 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.

Kettlebell Swing

In my practice, kettlebell swings have been a game-changer for many of my clients. They effectively work the delts, arms, core, and more.

Research published in the National Library of Medicine shows that kettlebell training benefits balance and posture [1]. 

You can also do a dumbbell swing; the weight will point out and at you throughout the entire movement pattern:

  • Hinge at the hips, bend your knees slightly,
  • With both hands, grab the kettlebell handle.
  • Keep your arms straight and your shoulders pulled back.
  • Engage your core, and with a slight bend in your knees, thrust your hips forward to swing the kettlebell up to shoulder height.
  • Allow the kettlebell to swing back between your legs, maintaining a straight back and keeping your gaze forward.
  • As the kettlebell reaches the backswing, brace your abs and squeeze your glutes to send it forward again.
  • Aim for 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.

“Kettlebell swings are a high intensity, low impact exercise that helps improve your cardio fitness, strength, and explosive power.”

- Katey Davidson, MScFN

What Size Kettlebells and Dumbbells to Use

Kettlebells with different weights

Choosing the right weight is crucial, as I often advise my clients. It depends on factors such as:

  • Age
  • Fitness Level
  • Goals
  • Type of workout

However, generally speaking, here are some excellent starting points to ensure mastery of form and technique:

  • Men: 24-35 lbs
  • Women: 13-18 lbs

Consider tailoring your routine for specific populations, like seniors or those with certain medical conditions, to ensure a safe and effective workout experience.

Dumbbell and Kettlebell Training Tips

A woman using dumbbells for her workout

Keep these things in mind before beginning your full-body dumbbell and kettlebell workout regimen:

  • Begin light: I always tell my clients to begin light. It's essential to master the movement patterns first, then gradually increase the weight as you go.
  • Focus on form: Proper form is essential to reducing injury risk and maximizing the benefits of the movement.
  • Incorporate compound exercises: Exercises like squats, lunges, and deadlifts work multiple muscle groups simultaneously, ensuring your workout is effective and efficient.
  • Add variety: Mixing up your routine reduces the risk of hitting a plateau or getting bored. Incorporate different exercises, change the order, or adjust the weight, reps, and sets.
  • Nutrition: Ensure to maintain healthy eating habits and add all-natural supplements into your routine to maximize your hard work.

Moreover, understanding the psychological benefits of these workouts, such as stress reduction and improved mood, can further motivate and enhance your training experience.

Related articles:

FAQs

Can You Build Muscle With Dumbbells and Kettlebells?

Yes, you can build muscle with dumbbells and kettlebells because they allow you to use weight with functional movement patterns like squats, hinges, pushes, and pulls to improve definition and build strength.

Are Dumbbells and Kettlebells Enough?

Yes, dumbbells and kettlebells can be enough to improve cardiovascular fitness and build muscle strength and definition. Adding variety to your dumbbell and kettlebell workout will ensure you continue challenging your body and avoid plateaus.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22843044/
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About The Author

Senior Coach
Tyler Sellers is a trained athlete and author with contributions to publications like Men’s Health, The Healthy, Fox Business, NerdWallet, Weight Watchers, and MSN. His unique approach extends beyond physical techniques, emphasizing the significance of mental techniques like the flow state and mind-muscle connection.
Learn more about our editorial policy
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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