I have a pair of dumbbells and access to a few machines. I can do the following exercises with proper form and I can't have a trainer to learn newer exercises now.

Lower body: Lunges, Bulgarian split squat, step up, hamstring curls

Abs and back: Back extension, plank, side plank

Upper body: bench press / push up, chest flies, shoulder press, shoulder front and lateral raise, rear delt flies, rows (not sure about form though), lat pull

I'm not able to figure out which pair of exercises balance each other and if all muscle groups get hit with the above exercises.

  • If you're willing (and have the space) to invest in a barbell, you could train much more efficient, imho. Right now you're doing many exercises that work for isolated muscles. With a barbell you could do compound movements that work larger muscle groups all at once. If you're willing to consider barbell training I could elaborate on that.
    – user8119
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 8:02
  • I can't afford one right now. I was wondering if its possible to achieve same results by doing only compound moves (similar to a barbell program) with dumbbells only? Commented May 8, 2014 at 8:05
  • You could probably substitute some compound lifts with dumbbell variants, but I'm not sure how effective and/or safe that would be. Some lifts, like the overhead/shoulder press can be substituted just fine. I have seen several warnings to never do a dumbbell deadlift or a dumbbell squat , though. I myself did both (up to 20kg per side), until I got my barbell, but they are much more effective with a barbell. So generally you could try it, but form is much harder to get right with dumbbells, especially on squats and deadlifts.
    – user8119
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 8:19
  • Which machines?
    – FredrikD
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 14:07
  • @FredrikD for hamstring curls, lat pulls and and back extension Commented May 8, 2014 at 15:08

2 Answers 2


A great way to think about program balance is to balance out push and pull movements. It's fairly contrived, but it works.

Push: moving the weight away from your center of gravity. Examples: bench press, overhead press, squats.

Pull: moving the weight toward your center of gravity. Examples: rows, pull-ups, deadlifts.

For every push exercise, you should have a pull movement in the same plane of movement. Bench press is a push exercise in the horizontal plane. You should balance it with a pull movement in the horizontal plane, e.g. rows. A list of good complimentary exercises follows:

  • Bench Press, Rows
  • Overhead (shoulder) Press, Pull-ups
  • Squats, Deadlifts

That said, your program looks fairly complete. I would balance out your lower body push movements (lunge, split squat) with a lower body pull, like straight-leg deadlifts. This will ensure that your lower back and hamstrings get hit well enough.

Please note that the push-pull idiom gets fuzzy when you're talking about isolation exercises. Unless your physique is unbalanced, if you work out one muscle in isolation, you should also add in the opposing muscle. For every bicep exercise, have a tricep exercise. For every quad exercise, have a hamstring exercise. This gets complicated anywhere but the arms and legs. The shoulders in particular are very complicated. In my opinion, your front deltoids are hit heavily on bench press and shoulder press. I would recommend removing front raises from your program. Good on you for programming lateral and rear delt work to compliment bench and shoulder press.

A great resource for programming and exercise instruction is exrx.


What about traps, biceps, triceps,forearms and calves?

Also you can add variety for your other muscles as well, if you remember muscle confusion is a very important principle - our muscles tend to adapt to familiar kind of stress and load we put on them so it is important to change things up from time to time.

edit: when I say time to time I mean a period of months, depends on what you're trying to achieve with your current workout scheme.

In addition I think that there are many many options for exercises that you can do with dumbells and body weight even at home.

Here are some options for you to consider:

Biceps - Biceps curls (alternating hands or not), Zottman curls, concentration curls, maybe you could use your machines for preacher or spider curls?, hammer raise (front or side), drag curl...

Triceps - Kickbacks, overhead triceps extensions (one hand or two), lying triceps extensions, tate press, bench dips maybe if you have, diamonds push up...

Forearms - wrist curls, wrist extensions, plate pinch, farmers walk...

Traps - shrugs(front,side,back,overhead), Y\L\W\T raises (even without dumbells)

Also you can try to add some more variety by using explosive bodyweight exercises like burpess, squat jumps, mountain climbers etc...

As for rows, dumbell rows are a great option for you also take in mind that you can vary your grip to hit different muscles (overhand, underhand and neutral grips) also for lats you can do dumbell pullovers.

Also for quads you can add front squats as well for hams romanian deadlifts are nice or hamstrings bridges with a bench or chair. For calves try seated or standing calf raises

Take in mind that you can change your reps and sets as well...do super sets,trisets giant sets...go for 100 reps in a single exercises, just mix it around, make sure you hit every muscle group.

  • 'our muscles tend to adapt to familiar kind of stress'. Yes, by getting bigger, stronger, more endurable. To counter adaptation means to counter progress. Sure, adaptation will lead to a standstill eventually. But until then it's what you're going for, not a thing to avoid. Now, you recommend to mix up 'from time to time', so I give you the benefit of the doubt, that you're not advising the OP to change exercises each week. But as it stands, that sentence is unclear and highly controversial.
    – user8119
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 8:09
  • 1
    @LarissaGodzilla I agree with you on the last part - I should have said which period of time I was refering to. I would say that every 4 months or so (depends, could be far more) ,someone would benefit from changing exercises,reps,sets slightly in order to make sure you work on every aspect. It doesn't necessarily mean that he should avoid a single exercise, but maybe changing the weight working on lower reps of higher weight or maybe lighter weight for more reps. I think change is good in training. But everyone should see what's good for them because there isn't a single solution to everyone.
    – A.K
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 8:21
  • I totally got you wrong there, thanks for clarifying :)
    – user8119
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 8:25

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