Ready to join us? Click here to sign up for the next cycle!
Paragon Training Methods = the life-changing workouts, coaching, and online community you’ve been searching for to build muscle, achieve your goals, and look great in just 30-75 minutes a day, depending on your lifestyle and program needs. We have workouts for all goals, skill levels, and time/equipment constraints.
By signing up for the Paragon Dumbbell Bundle, you’ll get access to two DB-Only Physique workout programs plus a bonus program, 30-Minute DB Quickie. Our DB workouts still have progressive overload and are perfect for at-home workouts, travel, or for those with minimal gym equipment.
DB Physique Program Deets
Are you working out from home, don’t have access to a gym, or work out with minimal equipment? We’ve got you fam!
Dumbbell workouts can be insanely effective with the right programming.
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 (:
DB Physique Program Options
- 4-Day DB Physique
- 60-min workouts
- 4 lift days
- Upper/Lower body part split
- 3-Day DB Physique
- 60-min workouts
- 3 lift days
- Full Body split
- Minimum of 2-3 pairs of dumbbells (pairs of light, medium, and heavy for you would be great! For example, pairs of 10s/20s/30s)
- Resistance bands (grab a set of our Strong x Well-Fed bands here!)
- Bench that inclines
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 weights in Week 1 so you’re lifting ~4-5 reps from failure the first week. Then progress closer to failure for the rest of the cycle.
Reps from failure = what you have “left in the tank” after you finish lifting that set. If you were building to a set of 10-12 reps (2-3 reps from failure), that would mean you could actually lift that weight for 13-15 reps if needed.
Remember that movements should be done with a 2-3 second tempo: one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, …
Choose your starting weight wisely. Each week, the goal would be to increase weight/difficulty on the repeating movements (parts A & B) from the previous week.
More on this here soon, but this might include increasing weight, increasing reps, increasing tempo, adding pauses, etc. Progressive Overload = gradual increase of stress and difficulty on the body over time.
2. Repeating movements have a large rep range (ex: 6-20 reps)
Every week, parts A or A/B in the workouts will repeat, as we’re trying to increase/improve those lifts by the end of the training cycle.
You’ll see a large rep range programmed for these since everyone will have access to slightly different amounts of weight and dumbbells.
We understand that some people might only have 2-3 pairs of dumbbells. Some might have access to pairs of 5-100 lb dumbbells.
- Have tons of dumbbells? Go heavier and aim for the lower end of the rep range programmed (where you’re ~2-3 reps from failure)
- Have access to a barbell? Feel free to sub it in where possible if it lets you hit heavier weights on movements and lifts!
- Working with limited equipment? Aim for the higher end of the rep range (~10-20 reps) so you can still hit the reps from the failure goal.
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
DB Split Squats = 3 Sets x 6-25 Reps
Access to Tons of Weights = aim for the lower end of the rep range (6-8 Reps)
- 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 2-3 Pairs of DBs
DB Split Squats = 3 Sets x 6-25 Reps
Limited Equipment = aim for the higher end of the rep range (15-25 Reps)
- Week 1: 15 lbs = 3 Sets x 13-15 Reps
- Week 2: 15 lbs = 3 Sets x 15-17 Reps
- Week 3: 15 lbs = 3 Sets x 17-19 Reps
- Week 4: 15 lbs = 3 Sets x 19-21 Reps
- Week 5: 15 lbs = 3 Sets x 21-23 Reps
- Week 6: 15 lbs = 3 Sets x 23-25 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!
*In our app, movements have links to movement videos and our Youtube channel
The Repeating Movements
Note that the specific days and orientation of the movements will look different on the 3-day program.
- Single Leg DB Glute Bridge
- Front Foot Elevated DB Split Squat – Quad Dominant
In Part A, the Single leg glute bridge is all about the glutes! Setup so that the shin of the working leg is mostly vertical. The support leg can be elevated completely (for the hardest challenge), or staggered slightly from the working leg, as a “B-stance” setup. Either way, you can load with a DB across your hips!
The top position of the rep should have the torso horizontal (with a straight line from hips through shoulders) When you complete the “up” portion of the rep, think “lift towards my feet,” as this cue engages the glutes more effectively!
Part B is the Quad Dominant Split Squat. The front foot elevation generally facilitates a deeper amount of knee flexion (knee over toe) than the other variations. Remember to think about riding the escalator down (i.e. the exercise is moving forward and backward, not up and down).
When biasing the Quads, there are really 2 main points of performance:
1. Try to get as much ankle flexion as possible (i.e. drive the knee over the toe as much as possible during the descent).
2. Keep the torso mostly vertical. If we lean forward, it lengthens the glute more (not that is bad, per se, but it becomes slightly less quad-biased, by limiting the stretch on the hip flexor and quad).
Because this is a single-leg movement, we will be using plenty of glutes to stabilize the pelvis (even though it’s a quad execution style)
- One Arm DB Row (lat focus)
- Flat DB Bench Press
The Part A Row is performed with a “lat focused” execution, meaning we want to use a neutral grip and keep the elbow traveling in tight to the torso during each rep.
As usual with single-limb movements, we want to make sure we split the rest. So instead of doing the Right arm, Left arm, then resting for 2-3 minutes, it would be prudent to take 1-2 minutes of rest between each arm. This ensures that neither arm is short-changed.
Because the row (and all back movements, basically) are “short overloaded,” we will start the cycle much closer to failure, and quickly progress beyond failure with partial reps, and other intensity techniques to enhance the stimulus!
Make sure you see the “points of performance” in the app, as it will help you get the most out of this awesome exercise!
Part B is the chest press movement for the cycle.
As you’ve likely seen in our feed and demo videos, we encourage DB pressing with a semi-pronated grip (half between “palms forward” and “palms facing” each other). This technique allows the elbows to travel at about a 45-degree angle to the torso (instead of out like a T), and provides a better path of press for the chest muscles while keeping the shoulders healthier!
- B-stance DB RDL
- Foam Roller Hack Squats (complete each rep with a 2-3 second pause at the bottom “lengthened” position of each rep)
The B-Stance RDL in part A is another one we haven’t seen for a while, but always highly requested!
When performing your reps, it would be prudent to try and get the most out of each rep, by slowly lowering the weight under control. Pause briefly at the point of most tension (the bottom for each of these exercises), and then ascend purposefully, attempting to keep the tension on the muscle (and avoid compensating by letting other muscles contribute).
Remember that the RDL is meant to descend only as low as the hips are still moving backward. If we continue descending by dropping the torso, we are training the low back and note the glutes/hamstrings!
The RDL can be performed with DBs, trap bars, Cables, or barbells, and you can also opt to do a “rear foot elevated” variation if you prefer!
Ya’ll are in for a treat in Part B!
The Foam Roller/Slider DB Squat can be performed with anything that slides (volleyball, basketball, skateboard, etc…). You could also elevate your heels slightly for extra quad stimulus!
The goal is to set up in the most quad-dominant fashion possible. This means we want to drive the knees over the toes as we descend and mash the hamstrings into the calves at the bottom of each rep.
We will be pausing for 2-3 seconds at the bottom.
But be careful to ensure you don’t pause by releasing tension on the quads. This is often seen by sitting down and back as you pause. Instead, try to keep sending the knees as far forward as possible, and pause where the knees can no longer travel more forward (before they begin to travel backward; which essentially shifts the tension to the glutes/hips more).
We want to make sure you are pausing at the bottom, but with all the tension still on the quads. If you’re doing it right, you should feel a massive stretch through your quads during each pause.
- Neutral Grip Banded Pulldowns
- Superset Movements:
- Face Down DB Y-Raise
- DB X Lateral Raise
- Rest 2-3 min
The Part A Pulldown is meant to be performed with a neutral grip, to facilitate elbows driving straight down. The neutral grip seems to be much more joint-friendly, while also allowing for slightly more resistance to be used, increasing tension on the muscle! The neutral grip will also slightly bias the lats, which is perfect in combination with the Y-Raises in part B (which will hit a lot of the upper back and rear delt musculature).
Because Pulldowns (and especially the banded version of pulldowns) are “short overloaded,” we will start the cycle slightly closer to failure, and quickly progress into various intensity techniques to enhance the stimulus! We will want to select a band resistance that actually provides a real challenge to complete the full range of motion on the final few reps of each set!
The Part B superset is one of my all-time favorite delt sequences!
The Y-Raise movement can be done chest-supported (face down on an incline) or bent over to emulate the same torso position. Start with the arms in front and down and initiate the movement path to raise to a “Y” at the top.
This move will target SOME lateral delts, but mostly rear delts and mid/lower traps (big muscles of the middle upper back). It also happens to overload short (hardest at the top of the rep, as you make the “Y” with your arms).
The second part of the superset will target more exclusively the lateral/side delts. The DB Lateral X Raise will accentuate the lengthened position of the movement more. The idea is to select a DB weight that is approximately double what you would usually use for 15 reps of a standard DB lateral raise (so if you usually use 10 lbs for 15 reps, you would use 20+ lbs for the X Raise).
The intent is to push the arms out to the side (not to raise them up, like a full lateral raise). So with this heavy weight, you will drive out until you’ve completed about 60% of the normal ROM for a lateral raise.
That will be the “full rep” ROM that we target in this exercise.
Ready to Join the Fun?
@paragontrainingmethods = fun and effective bodybuilding and strength training workouts (you can do from home or at a gym) that will help you build muscle, achieve your goals, and look d*mn good in 45-60 minutes a day.
Whether your goal is:
- to run AND lift
- workout 3 days per week
- lift from home
- enjoy things you love (CrossFit, Olympic lifting, Peloton)
- or just look/feel your best
We have amazing hypertrophy workouts with progressive overload that will get you there!