Our DB-only programs are for those working out at home, with minimal equipment, or those who travel regularly and live life on the go. You’ll need dumbbells, a bench, and resistance bands.
You can still look great, feel great, get strong, and work towards your goals — regardless of how much workout equipment you do or don’t have. We can’t wait to show you how!
By signing up for the Paragon DB-Only Program Bundle, you’ll get access to 3-Day DB Physique, 4-Day DB Physique, and 30-Min DB Quickie.
New 6-week Hypertrophy cycles begin Monday, October 9th. For more about the Glutes/Shoulders specialty hypertrophy cycle, read our most recent blog post!
Ready to get started? Click here to join!
- 4-Day DB Physique: 60 min workouts
- 3-Day Full Body DB Physique: 60 min workouts
- 30-Min DB Quickie: 4 lift days per week
3-Day/4-Day DB Physique programs live in Hypertrophy and 6-week cycles, while Quickie is 6-week cycles and a mix of Hypertrophy and Metabolic Conditioning.
You have the option to complete 1-3 Zone 2 / Zone 5 cardio sessions per week if you wish to.
- Bench (preferably one that inclines)
- Resistance bands (purchase here)
Sample DB Workouts
In our training app, we have detailed workout instructions, movement modification and substitution ideas, and over 600+ movement demo videos.
How Our DB Programs Work
Research shows that sets of ~6-30 reps can stimulate muscle growth, set for set, as long as working sets are taken within a few reps of technical failure.
Generally, this means that even with a small variety of dumbbells or weights, you can still optimally train, hit PRs, increase your strength, and enhance your physique (:
For example, 10-12 reps with a pair of 10 lb dumbbells might be perfect for Bicep Curls or Lateral Raises, but much too light for movements like Bent-over Rows or Shoulder Press.
But, by increasing volume and completing more reps (let’s say ~20-30 reps), we can create an effective stimulus similar to what we could achieve for fewer reps at a heavier weight.
Lower body workouts might initially seem challenging or more difficult to overload if we only have light/moderate weights.
For this reason, we modified the base movements in our DB programs to encompass a lot of “single-leg” variations. As an example, Backsquats and Deadlifts might be replaced by Rear-Foot Elevated Squats and Single Leg RDLs.
If you’ve ever done a set of 30 reps on each leg for Split Squats, you know you don’t need much weight to create a gnarly stimulus.
Tips For Our DB Programs
1. Choose your starting weight wisely. Each week, you should be increasing weight/difficulty on the repeating movements from the previous week.
2. All movements/lifts should be completed with a 2-3 second tempo. That means one-one-thousand. Two-one-thousand…
3. You may see large rep ranges in programming. For example, 8-20 Reps. This large rep range is because some people may only have a few pairs of dumbbells, whereas others may have access to tons of dumbbells.
- Have tons of dumbbells? Get heavy and aim for the lower end of the rep range programmed. Pick a weight you can do for a challenging ~8-10 reps.
- Working with limited equipment? You’ll likely end up doing more reps since you’re unable to go heavy. If completing ~18-20 reps with ease, you may need to add an additional set.
- Have access to a barbell? Feel free to sub it in where possible if it lets you hit heavier weights on movements and lifts!
Ways To Increase Difficulty
- Increase Weight
- Increase Reps
- Increase Time Under Tension (aka increasing tempo)
- Add Pauses (ex: 1-second hold at contraction during DB Row)
- Increase Quality of Movement (working to improve movement patterns and maximize the mind-muscle connection with muscles being worked)
Example: Access to Tons of DBs
3 Sets x 6-20 Reps. Aim for the lower end of the rep range.
- Week 1: 3 Sets x 6-8 Reps = 15 lbs
- Week 2: 3 Sets x 6-8 Reps = 20 lbs
- Week 3: 3 Sets x 6-8 Reps = 25 lbs
- Week 4: 3 Sets x 6-8 Reps = 30 lbs
- Week 5: 3 Sets x 6-8 Reps = 30 lbs
- Week 6: 3 Sets x 6-8 Reps = 35 lbs
Example: Only Have 3 Pairs of DBs
3 Sets x 6-20 Reps. Aim for the higher end of the rep range.
- Week 1: 15 lbs = 3 Sets x 10-12 Reps
- Week 2: 15 lbs = 3 Sets x 12-14 Reps
- Week 3: 15 lbs = 3 Sets x 14-16 Reps
- Week 4: 15 lbs = 3 Sets x 16-18 Reps
- Week 5: 15 lbs = 3 Sets x 18-20 Reps
- Week 6: 15 lbs = 4 Sets x 18-20 Reps
How Hard You Should Be Working
Let’s define “failure” as lifting to the point that we can no longer perform a rep with the same technique.
If you’re suddenly folding your body like a taco, losing form and technique, etc. – you have likely reached failure or close to failure.
We do not want to max out, hit failure, or redline ourselves every day in the gym. On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being hardly working, 10 being maxing out or working as hard as humanly possible), we actually want to spend most of our workouts training in the ~7-9 effort range.
The goal is for our first rep to hopefully look pretty similar to our last rep. Just maybe a slower grind and some shakes.
Begin each cycle so that you can easily increase weight and/or difficulty easily each week and end the cycle lifting much heavier than you started. We don’t want to bite off more than we can chew later.
A Good Rule of Thumb:
- Week 1 = at least ~3-4 reps from failure. Then work progressively closer to failure the rest of the weeks during the cycle.
- If you hit weeks 2-5 in the cycle and suddenly can’t add weight that weight – you likely came out too hot and started too heavy. We’ve all been there!
If new to lifting or have mobility restrictions, it can be hard to gauge how hard you’re working or what you have “left in the tank,” especially since so much confidence and body awareness simply comes with time and experience lifting.
You can always drastically increase weight towards the later weeks of the cycle. However, if you come out hard and start too heavy – there’s no way to really remedy it. Consequently, you’re just gonna have to drop weight, cut your losses, and then resume increasing each week.
The DB program now includes resistance bands. In some cases, the banded movement will be listed as the primary exercise, where we believe this would be more optimal than a DB variant for whatever reason. However, we will always try to list a DB-only swap option, as well.
The nice part about bands is that you can easily emulate some simple movements on a cable machine.
Exercises like Tricep Pushdowns are impossible to do with DBs.
Pulldowns are one of the most common that will appear in the programming. If we didn’t use bands for pulldown variations, then the only way to train the back would be with rows.
Another great use case is the Glute Medius Kickback (or any glute-based kickback type movement). There just isn’t a way to create a similar resistance profile with free weights.
Bands also act as “assistance” to make certain movements easier. For example, the Sissy squat and Bodyweight Leg Extension are both extremely challenging movements, and many people cannot even complete one full rep without assistance. The band helps to take away load at the hardest point of those exercises so that you can complete the full range of motion reps.
If you watch the demo videos, you can see how the band is set. How high it is anchored, and how thick the band is (i.e. its resistance level).
Remember, you can always feel free to ask questions or post form-check videos in the Facebook group!