Are Dumbbells Enough To Build Muscle? (Size Guide in KG/LBS)

Dumbbells are one of the most universally known pieces of fitness equipment available. Everybody, even those who rarely workout, can tell you what a dumbbell is. But, what are dumbbells used for? Are dumbbells enough to build muscle? 

Dumbbells alone are enough to help you build muscle. They can also help you with strength, toning, and endurance. Heavy and light dumbbells are both effective depending on the exercise you are doing. 

In the guide below, we will take a look at muscle growth with dumbbells and what exercises you can be doing with them. 


Dumbbells are an excellent way to build a muscular and defined chest. With dumbbells, you get a wide range of motion in the chest, you activate the pectoralis major, and they help to develop and evenly spread strength and muscle gain throughout the chest. You can even do dumbbell chest exercises without any additional equipment or a weight bench.

Your wrists are also free to rotate with dumbbells, and your elbows and shoulders can travel along the path that's most comfortable for them. That places the stress of the exercise in your muscles and not your joints. 


Dumbbells allow you to target your shoulders from multiple angles. This activates all three heads of the deltoid muscle. Dumbbells require all of your stabilizer muscles to work. They force your core to hold everything together and offer plenty of versatility with every shoulder exercise. Dumbbells target all three heads of your deltoids, helping you increase and maintain tension on the muscles. 

Biceps & Triceps  

You work your bicep muscles with a flexion motion. Several dumbbell exercises, like dumbbell curls, involve this motion and work the biceps. There are also several variants of the curl, all that will work your biceps as well as triceps. Your triceps are made up of three individual muscles that connect your elbow to your shoulder. You can isolate your triceps with dumbbells, allowing you to grow muscle mass fast. 

Latissimus Dorsi  

Your latissimus dorsi, commonly referred to as your lats, start in your lower back and flare out to the top sides of the back in a "V" shape. Dumbbell exercises like a bent-over row will work this large muscle group. 

When you pull the weights up to your lower stomach during this exercise, you have to draw your shoulder blades inward. This also works the rhomboids major and minor, that sit between the shoulders. 

Glutes, Quadriceps & Hamstrings  

Your glutes are made up of the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus. Your quads sit on the front of your thighs. Your hamstrings start under the glutes and run down to the knees on the back of the thighs.

You can work all of these muscles with dumbbells. Dumbbell lunges are an excellent exercise to work your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Hip extension and flexion and knee extension and flexion activate these muscles. 

woman doing dumbbell bicep curls

Are Dumbbells Enough To Build Muscle? (Size Guide In Kilograms)

If you've ever shopped for different types of dumbbells, you have probably noticed that they are available in both pounds and kilograms. People planning on competing in Olympic lifting or powerlifting competitions should use KG dumbbells. You owe yourself to equip your home gym with dumbbells measured in kilos. Lifting with LBS plates if you're going to compete with KG plates doesn't make any sense.  

There's also a common misconception that you have to lift heavy to build muscle. This isn't true. Many people mistakenly think you can't build muscle with light weights. Light dumbbells and higher reps (15 to 20 or more) will get you the same kind of burn as lifting a heavier weight around five times. 

You can also easily incorporate it into bodyweight exercises to make them more challenging. And if you're doing a one-armed exercise, you can always double up to increase the intensity, holding both small dumbbells in one hand. 

Lifters looking to add mass and build muscle will likely opt for a heavier weight. But the truth is that there's no correct strategy. Lifting heavy and lifting light are both good choices. Gaining muscle all comes down to one crucial factor: muscle fatigue. The goal of your workouts should be to work your muscles to the point of exhaustion no matter how much weight you are using. 

Lightweight Dumbbell Exercises (1 Kg - 10 Kg)

  • Kneeling Bicep Curl  
  • Weighted Side Plank Twist  
  • Squat Thrusts 
  • Bent-Over Single Arm Rows
  • Lateral Lunges 

Heavy Dumbbell Exercises (15 Kg - 30+ Kg)

  • Bent-Over Rows 
  • Dumbbell Deadlift 
  • Curls 
  • Farmers Carry 
  • Bench Press 
  • Calf Raise 
cast iron loadable dumbbell with weight plates

Are Dumbbells Enough To Build Muscle? (Size Guide In Pounds)

If you aren't training for a competition and live in America, you will be just fine using dumbbells measured in pounds. It's hard to use metric anything if you're in the US, our brains just don't know how heavy a KG is.

So if you use KG plates, you spend half your workout time trying to figure out just how much weight you're actually lifting. So if you aren't training for a competition, use dumbbells measured in pounds. 

Light dumbbells help with endurance strength training. In addition, they are beneficial for lean muscle since there is an aerobic cardio component to the exercise. 

Light dumbbells are also suitable for beginners just learning the ropes. Lifting light dumbbells helps you focus on form, allowing you to perfect your form before getting into the more heavy and challenging weights to prevent injuries.  

Beginners should lift light and move up. To build muscle, you need to gradually increase weight. If you prefer lifting light, you can increase reps instead of weight. 

Heavier weights are beneficial for increasing the amount of weight you can lift and the explosiveness required by things like jumping or sprinting. Heavy dumbbells are excellent for building strength and muscle. 

Lightweight Dumbbell Exercises (5 lbs - 20 lbs) 

  • Aerobic or Cardio Exercises 
  • Pilates 
  • Dumbbell Flys 
  • Dumbbell Front Raises 
  • Renegade Row 

Heavy Dumbbell Exercises (30 lbs - 50+ lbs)

  • Dumbbell Squats 
  • Arnold Press 
  • One Arm Swing 
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press 
  • Dumbbell Step-Ups 
rack of fixed weight dumbbells

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Can you get ripped at home with dumbbells? 

You can absolutely get ripped at home using dumbbells. You can do countless exercises with just one set of dumbbells that will help you lose fat and build muscle. The only extra thing you will need is the drive to put in the work and sweat necessary for results. 

Are dumbbells enough to perform full body workouts? 

You can absolutely get a full-body workout with a dumbbell. It's in your best interest to have multiple sizes so you can add weight and reduce weight depending on the exercise. You need to load your muscles progressively and increase the weight you're handling to see gains in building muscle. If you have several dumbbells, then it'll be fine. 

Can dumbbells reduce belly fat? 

Dumbbells can aid in reducing belly fat, but they typically aren't your best option. The best way to reduce belly fat is to maintain a healthy and well-rounded diet. Unfortunately, you can't spot reduce abdominal fat, but losing weight all over your body with dumbbells eventually helps you lose belly fat. 

Is one dumbbell enough to build muscle? 

To continue to gain muscle over time, you will eventually need to have multiple dumbbells. However, if you only have one dumbbell, use the heaviest weight that allows you to complete the workout while still maintaining perfect form. 


Dumbbells alone are an excellent tool you can use to build muscle. Dumbbells can also help you build strength, tone muscle, and enhance endurance. Whether you lift heavy or light, have one set of adjustable dumbbells or twenty single pieces, a dumbbell routine can help you build the muscle you've always wanted. 

Last Updated on January 18, 2022

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Andrew White

Andrew White is the co-founder of Garage Gym Pro. As an expert fitness professional (gym building nerd) with over 10 years of industry experience, he enjoys writing about everything there is to do with modern fitness & the newest market innovations for garage gyms. When he isn’t testing out products for his readers, he’s usually out surfing or playing basketball.