You can build an excellent 5×5 workout that uses dumbbells instead of barbells. Instead of barbell squats, do goblet squats and Bulgarian split squats while holding dumbbells. Replace barbell bench press with dumbbell bench press. Barbell rows and overhead press can be replaced with one-arm dumbbell rows and dumbbell press, respectively. Finally, do dumbbell Romanian deadlifts instead of barbell deadlifts. With this program, you’ll be able to build muscle and strength just as effectively with dumbbells as you would with barbell exercises.
Dumbbells Versus Barbells in the 5×5 Program
The 5×5 program is all about performing compound exercises that target multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Performing these exercises with barbells provides you with a solid foundation for building strength and muscle mass. However, there are advantages to using dumbbells instead of a barbell for the 5×5 program.
The Benefits of Using Dumbbells for 5×5 Workouts
Dumbbells offer a greater range of motion during exercise compared to barbells. This can lead to better muscle activation and growth over time. Additionally, dumbbells require more stabilization from the smaller muscles, which can help to improve your overall balance and muscle coordination. Plus, dumbbells require you to use both sides of your body equally. This results in symmetrical muscle growth and can even help correct uneven muscle development in areas like your chest, arms, and legs.
- Better range of motion and increased muscle activation, resulting in a better workout.
- Build balance and key stabilizer muscles.
- Promotes even muscle growth and prevents muscular imbalances.
- Dumbbells are less expensive and easier to begin with if you are new to lifting weights.
Using dumbbells can be more accessible and convenient if you don’t have access to a full gym setup. Dumbbells are generally more affordable, take up less space, and can easily be used at home. With these benefits in mind, let’s dive into how you can adapt the traditional 5×5 workout program to incorporate dumbbells.
The Ultimate Dumbbell-Based 5×5 Workout Program
Just like the traditional 5×5 workout, this dumbbell version consists of two alternating workouts, with three total workouts per week. The schedule we created will maximize recovery time for optimal muscle growth. Our workout plan contains dumbbell equivalents for the barbell exercises in the 5×5 programs, so you’ll get all the same benefits from the 5×5 program. Here’s how to do it:
How to Use the Dumbbell 5×5 Plan
The 5×5 program consists of two workouts: Workout A and Workout B. It is essential to alternate the workouts. So, if you did Workout A today, the next time you exercise you will do Workout B. Since the 5×5 program consists of 3 weekly workouts, use these rules to plan your exercise routine:
- Week 1: Perform Workout A, Workout B, and Workout A.
- Week 2: Perform Workout B, Workout A, and Workout B.
- Repeat this schedule for future weeks.
- Only do three 5×5 workouts per week.
- Allow at least one rest day between workouts.
- Gradually increase the weight of the dumbbells you use as you get stronger.
5×5 is an intense full-body workout program. To allow your body time to recover, work out only three days per week. Allow at least one full rest day between workouts. So, if you did a 5×5 workout on Monday, do not work out again until Wednesday. The workout program will become progressively more challenging because you will use heavier weights as you get stronger.
The first dumbbell 5×5 workout consists of the following three exercises. Prepare yourself for the workout with light cardio and dynamic warm-ups. Then, perform five sets of five reps for each exercise. Rest for 60 to 90 seconds between sets.
Goblet squats are an excellent alternative to barbell squats found in a traditional 5×5 weightlifting plan. They target the same muscles while providing the added benefit of increased core engagement. To perform a goblet squat, hold a dumbbell against your chest with both hands. Then, perform a regular squat.
Dumbbell Bench Press
To create a dumbbell 5×5 program, replace the barbell bench press with dumbbell bench press. Dumbbell bench works the pectorals, triceps, deltoids, and upper back, which are the same muscles activated by barbell bench press. To perform a dumbbell bench press, lie on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Press both dumbbells up towards the ceiling until your arms are extended but your elbows are not locked. Repeat for five sets of five reps.
One-Arm Dumbbell Rows
Use one-arm dumbbell rows to replace barbell rows in your 5×5 routine. To perform a one-arm dumbbell row, place one knee and hand on a bench for support, hold a dumbbell in the other hand, and row it towards your chest. This exercise targets the back muscles and provides an additional challenge to your core.
Workout B targets different muscle groups than workout A. It has more of a focus on shoulder and lower body strength. As with workout A, warm up properly before performing five sets of each exercise, with five reps per set.
Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squats
Dumbbell Bulgarian split squats are an excellent squat alternative for your second workout. This unilateral exercise targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes while challenging your balance and stability. To do a Bulgarian split squat, stand in front of a bench with a dumbbell in each hand, place one foot on the bench behind you, and lower your body into a lunge position. To complete the rep, rise back up until your standing leg is straightened. You will feel a burn in your legs as your quads are worked by this movement.
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
The dumbbell shoulder press replaces the overhead press in your dumbbell 5×5 program. This exercise targets the shoulders, triceps, and upper chest. To perform a dumbbell shoulder press, stand with your legs hip-width apart and back straight. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder level. Then, press the dumbbells upward until your arms are fully extended.
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
The dumbbell Romanian deadlift focuses on the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. It is a great substitute for the barbell deadlift in the 5×5 program. For this exercise, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand in front of your thighs. Then, hinge at your hips, lowering the dumbbells towards the ground while keeping your back straight and knees slightly bent. Continue downward until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Then, straighten up by driving your hips forward and engaging your glutes. Your hamstrings are sure to be sore the day after this workout.
Can You Use Dumbbells for the 5×5 Workout?
By swapping out the barbell exercises in the 5×5 plan with dumbbell alternatives, you can create an effective strength training program on a budget or in your home gym. Here’s how:
- Goblet squats
- Dumbbell bench press.
- Single-arm dumbbell rows.
- Bulgarian split squats.
- Dumbbell shoulder press.
- Romanian deadlifts.
By alternating these two workouts, exercising three times per week, and progressively adding more weight to each movement, you will build a foundation of functional strength. The 5×5 program is our favorite for beginning weightlifters. By transforming it to use dumbbells, it’s even easier for you to get started.