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Total Body Dumbbell Superset Workout

Today I have a great total body strength workout to share with you and all you need is a set of dumbbells to get it done! I get a lot of requests for workouts that a) require little equipment and b) are not super intimidating. This workout delivers on both points and features basic dumbbell movements in performed in challenging supersets.

What is a superset?Β 

When you work in super sets you perform two exercises back-to-back with no rest in between. There are many ways to put together supersets but when I program them I like to either work opposing muscle groups or opposite movements. For example, in this workout you’ll do chest press followed by bent over rows. The chest press works the chest and shoulders and the bent over row works the upper back. Those are opposing muscle groups. In this workout you’ll also do static backward step lunges and lateral lunges. The static lunge is a sagittal plane movement (moving front to back) and the lateral lunge is a frontal plane movement (moving side-to-side).

What are the benefits of supersetting?

  • Increase intensity – no rest period between the two movements results in a higher intensity workout…which results in more calories burned!
  • Time efficient – supersets keep you moving and minimize rest time. You’ll get more done in a shorter period!
  • Add variety – they are a great way to mix up the structure of your workout and to challenge your body in new ways.
  • Strength gains – super setting overloads the muscles due to the back-to-back nature of the workout. You’ll burn out muscles and work towards new strength gains without having to lift super heavy.

Total Body Dumbbell Superset Workout

I have been using variations of this workout with classes and clients over the last week and received nothing but great feedback. They’ve dubbed it the “leave no muscle group behind” workout. Again, all you need is a set of dumbbells (and a mat and a bench if you have one). You determine the intensity by how heavy you go with your dumbbells.Β In this particular workout I am asking you to perform 15 reps of two or three rounds of each superset before moving to the next super set. This is extra challenging because you will totally fatigue the muscle group…but the good news is that you are done with those movements/muscle groups and on to the next. Scroll down for photo demonstrations and performance points for each movement.

dumbbellsupersetworkout

I’m also giving you two options to add either cardio or core training to this workout. Option one is to add a 400 meter run (.25 miles) between each superset. Option two is to add a 1 minute plank hold between each superset. Remember, these are options and you can also just do the workout as written moving straight through. Remember to do all two or three sets of each superset before moving to the next! (For example, set one movement 1/movement two, set two movement one/movement two, set three movement one/movement two, DONE with superset)

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Superset #1 is a front squat to overhead press and a sumo deadlift high pull.

In the squat begin with your feet shoulder distance apart and toes turned out slightly. Bring the dumbbells up to the shoulders. As you squat down keep the chest up, weight in the heels and the knees tracking over the toes and as you press up extend the dumbbells over your head and straighten your arms.

For the high pull, take the feet out a little bit wider and turn toes out slightly. Hold one dumbbell between the legs with arms straight as you squat down. Don’t let the knees cave in. Bring the dumbbell up to the collar bone by lifting through the elbows as you stand up. Keep the dumbbell close to the body the whole time…elbows lead the way!

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Superset #2 is a chest press and a bent over row.

For the chest press, begin on the back with dumbbells up and stacked directly over the shoulders. Lower down by drawing the elbows down until they are parallel with the bench (or until they touch the floor if you’re working on the floor). Engage through the chest to press back up.

For the bent over row, begin with feet hip distance apart and knees slightly bent. Lean over, keeping your spine straight and shoulders back, and keep the neck long by looking at the floor a few feet in front of you. Start with the arms straight and the dumbbells in front of the knees. Pull the elbows back behind you like you’re trying to lift them to the ceiling. As you do this keep the core tight and squeeze through the upper back.

5.1superset3.pngSuperset #3 is a static lunge combined with a lateral lunge.

To perform the static lunge step one foot back behind you so that you are in a split stance. Initiate the lunge movement by lower down through the back knees. Keep the chest up and the shoulders over the hips as you press into the front heel and keep the knee over the ankle.

In the lateral lunge you begin with a wide stance with the feet and toes turned out. Bring the dumbbell into goblet position and shift weight from side to side. As you move turn the toes up in the extending leg and keep the knee over the toe in the bending leg. Try to keep the butt down and chest up throughout all of the reps (so you never straighten both knees).

5.1superset4.pngSuperset #4 is bicep curls and tricep extensions.

For the bicep curl start with arms full extended by the sides. Curl dumbbells up to the shoulders. Keep the upper body as still as possible and isolate this movement in the biceps. Fully extend at the bottom of the movement and keep elbows squeezed in.

Hold one dumbbell overhead for the tricep extension. Start with arms straight overhead and then bend at the elbows to bring the dumbbell back behind the head. As you do this try to relax the shoulders aways from the ears and keep the elbows squeezed in.

5.1superset5.png

Superset #5 is weighted crunches and reverse crunches.

To perform the weighted crunch either work from a bench with heels up and toes on the floor or work from the floor. Hold a dumbbell at the chest as you crunch up, lifting the shoulder blades and pressing the low back down.

To perform the reverse crunch either work from a bench with arms reaching overhead and anchoring yourself by holding the bench or work from the floor with hands by the sides and palms pressing into the floor. Lift your heels up so that they are off the floor and close to the butt. Keeping the heels dropped to the butt, draw knees into the chest and lift the hips off the bench/mat. Return to starting position (heels never touch all the way down).

As always, let me know if you have any questions and I would love your feedback.

{ 69 comments… add one }
  • 1
    Liz F. May 1, 2014, 9:57 am

    LOVE this workout and that you have the pics bc there were a few moves I wasn’t familiar with. And I love that each superset works opposite muscles! Can’t wait to give this a go!

    • 2
      Jen May 2, 2014, 10:31 am

      thanks liz! i’m trying to get better about providing visuals!

  • 3
    She Rocks Fitness May 1, 2014, 10:12 am

    I LOVE superset workouts and use them all the time for me personally and my clients. I may use this for my corporate boot camp this afternoon. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for sharing!

    • 4
      Jen May 2, 2014, 10:32 am

      me too! i use them all the time! thanks for trying my workouts! πŸ™‚

  • 5
    Lauren May 1, 2014, 10:13 am

    This workout looks great and I actually recognise all of the moves yay! I am loving strength workouts lately – they make me feel stronger! πŸ™‚

    • 6
      Jen May 2, 2014, 10:32 am

      yay! i’m SO happy to hear that!

  • 7
    CL May 1, 2014, 10:20 am

    Awesome I’m doing this today. Also, I love your shoes!! What’s the style name, if you don’t mind me asking? I’m looking for some new trainers πŸ™‚

  • 9
    Rajul May 1, 2014, 10:23 am

    Thank you! I feel such gratitude for you making workouts like this accessible and affordable for all. Appreciate your expertise!

    • 10
      Jen May 2, 2014, 10:34 am

      that means so much to me. thank you! i’m happy to share my knowledge!

  • 11
    Bridget May 1, 2014, 10:30 am

    I can’t wait to try this! I love your workouts and this one looks great. (Also love the format, by the way – with the graphic I can pin and pics/form cues below!!)

    • 12
      Jen May 2, 2014, 10:35 am

      thanks for the feedback! hoping to do this with as many workouts as possible!

  • 13
    Allyssa May 1, 2014, 10:38 am

    I love that you added pictures and tips! Sometimes I may not know exactly how an exercise should be performed and your added details really helped (and were EASY to understand) πŸ™‚ THANKS!

    • 14
      Jen May 2, 2014, 10:35 am

      thanks so much for the feedback on the written tips. it’s so helpful to receive!

  • 15
    Christin May 1, 2014, 10:41 am

    I love this blog so much. It’s so great to come every day and see a new post and inspiring, knowledgeable advice. I’ve been reading healthy living blogs for a long time, and this is definitely my favorite. Thanks for all you do, Jen!!

    And yeah, I’m trying this workout soon. πŸ™‚

    • 16
      Jen May 2, 2014, 10:36 am

      Christin – thank you so much. this comment made my day yesterday! i appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment with such lovely feedback! happy friday!

  • 17
    Linda May 1, 2014, 11:27 am

    Great workout, Jen! Your blog is terrific!

  • 19
    Cat May 1, 2014, 11:30 am

    Love this! I love supersets and it’s one I can do at home with my DBs! Thanks for sharing

  • 20
    ErikaMC May 1, 2014, 11:42 am

    Yes! Thank you – I love this workout. I prefer to do total body workouts (at home) and it is so hard to find workouts that do hit all the muscle groups.

    • 21
      Jen May 2, 2014, 10:36 am

      perfect! glad it works out well for you! πŸ™‚

  • 22
    Cameron May 1, 2014, 11:43 am

    Hey Jen! Next time you do a Q&A can you talk about the best way to begin weight lifting/ working out and how to build strength and structure workouts? Im intimated by the process and don’t know where to start. Thanks!!

    • 23
      Jen May 2, 2014, 10:37 am

      hey cameron – yes, i’ll add that to the list!

  • 24
    kiki May 1, 2014, 11:45 am

    Love that you added the pic’s! Knew most but a couple i wasnt sure of…. this makes it all clear!

    • 25
      Jen May 2, 2014, 10:37 am

      awesome! glad it was helpful for ya! i’m going to try to do this whenever i can.

  • 26
    Kim May 1, 2014, 11:46 am

    Looks like a great workout! I’m excited to give this one a try.

  • 27
    Emily May 1, 2014, 12:05 pm

    This is great- more workouts like this, please! Exactly what I was looking for. The pictures are also extremely useful.

    • 28
      Jen May 2, 2014, 10:38 am

      thanks so much for the great feedback emily! it’s really helpful and i’m glad you like the workout!

  • 29
    Jessica May 1, 2014, 12:09 pm

    Can’t wait to try this one!

  • 30
    A. May 1, 2014, 1:44 pm

    Thank you!

  • 31
    Sara @ LovingOnTheRun May 1, 2014, 3:14 pm

    Great workout! I love doing supersets!

  • 32
    Jennie May 1, 2014, 3:28 pm

    So, I’m sitting at work talking myself out of going to the gym tonight because I’ve had a crappy week and I’m tired but this workout looks great so I’m going to drag my butt to the gym and try it out. Thanks for the motivation!

    • 33
      Jen May 2, 2014, 10:38 am

      jennie – love that you motivated yourself to get to the gym after a bad week. i hope it made you feel better and that you’re having a happy friday!

  • 34
    Elizabeth {Positively Healthy} May 1, 2014, 3:57 pm

    Love the workouts!! I love doing supersets as well, I feel like I get a better workout all around.

  • 35
    Heather May 1, 2014, 10:06 pm

    Can’t wait to try this out! Also loving the photo demonstrations – super helpful! Can I ask what your weight selection is for each set?

    • 36
      Jen May 2, 2014, 10:39 am

      hey heather! great, glad you like it!

      15 for everything except bicep curls. used 10.

      • 37
        Heather May 2, 2014, 12:40 pm

        Thanks, Jen! Good to know – something for me to aim for πŸ™‚

  • 38
    Miche May 1, 2014, 10:27 pm

    Just did this workout, and I loved it! My arms feel like jelly, and it was a perfect way to mix up my usual routine.

    • 39
      Jen May 2, 2014, 10:40 am

      yay! glad it was good for you. thanks for taking the time to provide feedback!

  • 40
    JennyV May 2, 2014, 12:03 am

    Thanks for sharing — I cannot wait to do it! Knowing my love of cardio I’m thinking I’ll opt for the 400m version.

    • 41
      Jen May 2, 2014, 10:41 am

      i love mixing cardio and strength. let me know how it goes!

  • 42
    Runner Girl Eats May 2, 2014, 6:27 am

    Great workout! I love doing supersets. I think I’ll give this a whirl this weekend.

    • 43
      Jen May 2, 2014, 10:40 am

      thanks! let me know how it goes!

  • 44
    Christine May 2, 2014, 11:37 am

    This looks like a great workout, especially when you are traveling and your hotel has limited fitness equipment – which is just what I’ll be doing next week! I’m going to give it a try – apparently my hotel has a few cardio machines and some dumbbells, and that’s about it. Thanks you!

  • 45
    Erin May 2, 2014, 11:51 am

    I did this workout this morning and LOVED it. Lately all I’ve been wanting to do for my workouts is run and yoga–not the worst combo, I know, but I’ve been looking for weight routines that I don’t hate. This was perfect! I was surprised at the hard effort I had to put in to balance in the lateral lunges. Definitely something I haven’t worked on before.

    Thanks, lady!

  • 46
    Christina May 2, 2014, 6:27 pm

    I’m so thankful for this blog. I so appreciate your work and your talent. Thank you.

    Tried this workout this morning and thought it was really fun! (No burpees so no hate here! Burpees= love hate relationship.) I also did the rainy day workout last week (when it was rainy all day long) and loved it. I’m six months post baby and every week I feel a little bit stronger, a little more capable and you’re to thank for that. Seriously, these workouts are the best. Thanks again!

    • 47
      Jen May 3, 2014, 8:28 am

      awesome christina! i think it’s a fun “make you feel good and strong” workout too! i love working with girls who are postpartum so i’m happy to hear that you’re feeling better every week. you’ll get there!

  • 48
    Katie May 2, 2014, 9:00 pm

    I did this workout tonight and LOVED every second of it. You and your blog inspire me so much and keep me motivated.
    Thank you!

    • 49
      Jen May 3, 2014, 8:27 am

      YES! great job and thanks for checking in with the kind words!

  • 50
    hillary | nutrition nut on the run May 2, 2014, 9:44 pm

    Great workout, Jen! I just finished it (with the plank variation). I love the balance of leg and arm sets. What weight of dumbbells would you use for yourself? Three sets wasn’t very challenging for me, so I think I should increase the weights. Thanks!! πŸ™‚

    • 51
      Jen May 3, 2014, 7:56 am

      definitely increase the weights. you should be really pushing to finish the last few reps. i used 15 for everything except bicep curls, which i think i used 10.

  • 52
    Amy May 5, 2014, 9:25 pm

    I’ve noticed that most of your strength training workouts are full body- wondering what your thoughts were on split routines- for example, Monday- Chest/Tricipes, Wednesday- Back/Biceps, Friday-Shoulders/Legs….I keep getting varying opinions on this and wanted your take on the best routine! Thanks!

  • 53
    Annie B May 6, 2014, 12:32 pm

    Just started my day with this and loved it! I did a mile run in between each superset and was a super sweaty mess by the end!!

  • 54
    Amy May 19, 2014, 10:06 am

    trying this tonight – would you recommend doing 15 burpees as a cardio option after each superset?

  • 55
    Aysha June 5, 2015, 5:03 am

    Love this workout. I am just beginning a fitness routine after not working out for about 2 years. For the lunges, do you mean 15 each leg or combined?
    Thanks!

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