Here's my situation...

I have a bench, a barbell with 300 pounds of plates, and dumbbells up to 100 pounds (each) in a very small room. I am 5'9" tall and weigh 159 pounds.

My bench is very close to a wall, I have room to do bench presses but can not (under any circumstance) extend my hand past the top of the bench. This means exercises like skull crushers are not possible.

I'm seeking a full, weekly workout plan. I'm within my BMI, but want to get cut. My goal is to lose 8 - 10 pounds of fat and gain some muscle. I am undoubtedly an mesomorph and in my early twenties. I'm looking to gain muscle that's above average but I'm not interested in being huge.

Dream body? Young Mark Wahlberg.

I truly appreciate any help or links.

  • Your title suggests you have barbells as well, but your post suggests only dumbbells, which is it? Also what weight do they go up to?
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Jul 15, 2012 at 5:28
  • Both. Unlimited on both.... at least much more than I can currently lift.
    – siouxfan45
    Commented Jul 15, 2012 at 14:21
  • No, seriously, how heavy do the weights go? And what's your height and weight? Commented Jul 15, 2012 at 14:51
  • Barbell - 300 pounds Dumbbells - 100 pounds (Each) Height - 5'9" Weight - 159
    – siouxfan45
    Commented Jul 15, 2012 at 15:32
  • 2
    You couldn't take the weights into a different room or outside for when you're doing the workout?
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 4:03

2 Answers 2


OK. I've been thinking about what can be done with that set up, I had a similar limitation in terms of only having dumbbells, but I also had access to a machine (which I mainly used for the chin up bar).

Given your dumbbells go up to 200lbs total, you can actually get some decent mileage out of them for deadlifts and squats.

There's a lack of instruction on how to do a deadlift with dumbbells, so that's something I had to put together myself with instruction from doing it with a hex/shrug bar.

Place the dumbbells outside your feet, parallel to them (pick a stance with your legs vertical, if you go too wide you'll put a lot of strain on your shoulders), with the middle of the handles lining up with your midfoot. Bend over to grip the handles, and then bend your knees until you can get a slight arch in your back, but don't extend the arch to your neck by looking up. While focusing on keeping your trunk in that slightly arched position, drive your hips up while you pull on the dumbbells. Hold at the top for a count (or a few seconds if you like, it's not that hard), just focus on having good posture. Then lower back down, again focusing on maintaining the arch in your back and bending your knees as necessary to put them back on the floor.

In the beginning I like to let go of the dumbbells and stand up straight between every rep, it helps avoid any muscle strain, particularly in the back. Once you get more comfortable with a given weight, doing the reps without those mini breaks is easy.

If you're like most people, your deadlift will progress the fastest, and you'll run out of any sort of challenge with 200lbs. Since you're ~160lbs, at least it's more than your bodyweight.

It's impossible to do a back squat with dumbbells, but that's OK because you still have the deadlift. You can still do a front squat. To get the dumbbells up to shoulder height, deadlift them, then swing them back slightly with your hips, then swing forward with more force and curl them. If you can curl them without cheating, except in the very beginning of doing squats, you won't be lifting enough weight to really stimulate your legs. The angle of the handles doesn't matter too much, just pick something that's comfortable for you (letting them rest on your clavicle can be a lot more painful than you'd imagine).

The cool thing about front squats is you can go much deeper than with back squats, as rounding out your back at the bottom isn't a big deal as your trunk is a lot more vertical. Your stance will be a bit wider than the deadlift, with your feet out at roughly a 45 degree angle. Play with it when you're doing lighter weights until you've found a position where your knees don't track in or out, your ankle doesn't rock in and you don't come off your heels. Once you're sure about your position, then you can go for the heavy weight.

I like to squat down until my butt touches my Achilles tendon, but you'll have to make sure that doesn't cause you any pain (again, test with light weights). Go as low as you can without feeling any pain, even if it's not much. It shouldn't hurt at all in your knees. If you like, you could also squat down onto the bench.

Eventually, unless you have really strong arms, even swinging the dumbbells up will be too much for your arms (especially for letting them down after you've finished a set), so you're going to need to do bicep curls just to support your ability to front squat.

Again, after deadlifting the dumbbells and having them at your side, bend your elbow and smoothly turn your hand inwards so your palm faces you. If you want you could also have your hand pronated, so at the bottom the back of your hand faces forward so the supination along with the curl has a greater range of motion.

I prefer to do both at the same time - gets me done quicker, but you could also alternate if you like.

Depending on the height of the ceiling, you might not be able to do standing presses. Assuming you have to sit on the bench, for the overhead press, I'd curl them up into the squat position and just sit down on the bench. If there's enough room, do it standing, it's better that way. With the overhead press your arms will come out to your side, and you'll want to at least turn the dumbbells into a neutral grip, but I find it's easy enough turning fully from a supinated to a pronated grip. As you press up you'll have to bring your chest forward, as your arms will be locked out (but not hyperextended) above your shoulders slightly behind your head.

For the bench press, sit down, put the dumbbells on your thighs and bring your knees up while rolling back. Once the dumbbells are over your chest, put your legs back down with your feet on the ground. Don't excessively arch your back. It's your choice whether you want to rotate your arms as you press up or just press straight.

While the deadlift does involve a pulling motion to balance out the pushing motion of the overhead and bench presses, it's still good to have another one in there. So the single dumbbell bent over row I find is the best. It's the one you usually see with the knee and hand on the bench, I prefer to just bend over and put my hand on the bench. Maintaining the same arch you would for the deadlift, pull your arm back so the elbow goes past your back - to what extent depends on whether you can keep your trunk from twisting.

I'd split them up something like this:

Day A:


Overhead Press


Day B:


Bench Press


I put the row on day B because there's otherwise no pulling exercise, the curl on day A to keep it even with 3 exercises. Switch order if you feel you're having problems with progression, or if you just prefer a different order of exercises. The squat and deadlift are the most important exercises, the overhead and bench press are the next most important, and the curl and row are more assistance exercises.

Initially I'd try to keep each to 5-6 reps at whatever weight you can handle. Plenty of programs suggest doing 5 sets of each, but I don't see the point unless you want to spend extra time lifting. I'd just bring the weight up high enough to be able to only do one set of 5-6, with attempting another set forcing the weight to be lowered (I wouldn't do this either, just move on to the next exercise). Once you start maxing out your weights, might as well see if you can do 20 reps at 200lbs (work to it gradually), just to keep your program going a bit longer, and it's nice being able to say you can do 20 reps of any weight greater than your bodyweight.

Initially, working out 3x per week will work fine, but as you start hitting heavier weights, you'll need more rest days. It'll go down to 5x per 2 weeks, then 2x per week, then 3x per 2 weeks, then 1x week (maybe not that low if you're maxing out at 200lbs).


What you need is a combo nutrition and strength training program to put on some muscle and keep your BF% low to show them off...doing both at the same time is a bit tough and the Mark Wahlberg look is a combination of full time nutritionist, full time personal trainer and probably a part time plastic surgeon. Set some realistic goals and go for what is healthy and makes you feel good. Here's two books to get immediately, so you can begin studying and creating a good workout plan for you: Starting Strength and New Rules of Lifting.

It's pretty tough giving you a good, long term plan without knowing you and seeing you train....take it slow, ramp up and keep in mind that every 3-4 months you'll need to modify your training to keep your body guessing (which helps with your gains and metabolism).


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