This is the complete guide to dumbbell training for skinny fat folks. In it, you’ll learn:
- The benefits of dumbbells
- How to use dumbbells safely
- What dumbbells I recommend
- Lots more
I’ve also shared an effective skinny fat dumbbell workout you can do at home. So, if you’re interested in building muscle and losing fat effectively, this guide is for you.
Let’s dive in.
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What It Means To Be ‘Skinny Fat,’ And How to Fix It
The term ‘skinny fat’ sounds made up. How can someone be skinny and fat at the same time? I certainly found the idea crazy back in the day, but there is a lot of truth to it.
Skinny fat means having a high body fat percentage and low muscular development. As a result, you appear thin while wearing clothes but have no muscular definition. Being skinny fat can also present health issues because of the high body fat percentage. So, it’s essential to take the issue seriously and resolve it sooner rather than later.
The good news is that fixing the skinny fat look is far simpler than most people imagine. Despite the seeming complexity, getting fit is about losing some fat and building muscle. Fat loss will primarily come from your nutrition. But how you train will determine if you can build muscle to improve how your body looks.
In this guide, we take an in-depth look at dumbbell training and everything that surrounds it. Follow the advice, be consistent, work hard, and you will add a lot of muscle to your frame. If you’re interested in learning how to set up your nutrition for success, read my guide on fixing the skinny fat physique at home.
The Benefits And Effectiveness of Dumbbell Training
1. You Can Train at Home
Home training is excellent. You don’t have to commute, pay for a membership, or deal with crowds. Plus, you get privacy, can wear whatever feels comfortable, and can learn all sorts of great exercises. The problem is, working out at home can be limiting, especially in comparison to gym training. The option works great for people who don’t want to hit the gym because they feel anxious or don’t have the time.
Dumbbells are fantastic because they offer many great options for exercises, making it easy to put together fun and effective workouts.
2. Excellent Overloading Potential
Another significant benefit of dumbbells is that you can overload your muscles as you get stronger. One option is to buy multiple pairs of dumbbells. Alternatively, you can get a couple of adjustable dumbbells, which we’ll discuss below.
You can even do 5x5 training with a good pair of adjustable dumbbells.
3. Unilateral Training
Unilateral training means working one side at a time, which is beneficial for preventing side-to-side muscle and strength imbalances. For example, bench pressing dumbbells forces both sides of your body to work evenly. As a result, your chest, triceps, and shoulders develop in a balanced way.
Similarly, dumbbells are great for spotting imbalances. If you can do more reps on one side or train with better technique, it could be a sign that you have muscle imbalances.
4. Greater Freedom
A significant benefit of dumbbell training is that you get more freedom to lift the weight. For example, when using a barbell, your body is restricted to a specific motion. In contrast, using dumbbells allows you to move more naturally and in a way that feels comfortable for your joints.
Similarly, dumbbells allow you to rotate your wrists and shoulders during exercises, which can lead to better muscle activation. For instance, you can start dumbbell curls with your palms facing your thighs and rotate them to the ceiling on your way up.
5. Strength Training On a Budget
As far as training equipment goes, dumbbells are a cost-effective option, especially if you buy adjustable ones. You can invest a small sum and set up a small home gym that allows you to do dozens of great exercises.
Weight plates, a barbell, a squat rack, and machines can also be beneficial, but the cost adds up quickly.
How to Do Dumbbell Exercises Safely And Effectively
The most important thing to keep in mind when using dumbbells is to train with the appropriate load. You should be able to train through a full range of motion and with proper form. As a rule of thumb, aim for:
- At least 8 repetitions on compound exercises (dumbbell rows, presses, squats, etc.)
- At least 12, possibly 15 repetitions on isolation movements (extensions, curls, lateral raises, etc.)
Using dumbbells for the first time can feel awkward, but skill improves through regular practice. Grab the dumbbell evenly, brace your body, and do each repetition smoothly and with a full range of motion. A good way to tell that your technique is on point is to feel the correct muscles working. For example, when doing lateral raises, you should feel your shoulders doing all the work.
It’s also important to ensure that your weights are sealed tight when using adjustable dumbbells. Loose weight plates create instability, making exercises unnecessarily more difficult.
As far as proper technique goes, Youtube is an excellent source of information. There are plenty of fantastic people who’ve created countless instructional videos on almost every dumbbell exercise you can think of.
A Simple and Effective Skinny Fat Dumbbell Workout Plan
The skinny fat dumbbell workout plan has three weekly sessions and offers a good amount of volume for muscle gain. You can also tweak the program based on your preferences and needs. For example, you can start with fewer sets across most exercises and gradually add work if you stop seeing improvements.
Workout 1 (Push)
3-4 sets of 6 to 20 reps
Dumbbell floor press
2-3 sets of 6 to 20 reps
Standing overhead press
2-3 sets of 8 to 20 reps
Dumbbell lateral raises
3 sets of 12 to 20 reps
Overhead tricep extension
3 sets of 12 to 20 reps
Workout 2 (Pull)
Bent-over dumbbell rows
3-4 sets of 8 to 20 reps
Upright dumbbell rows
3-4 sets of 10 to 15 reps
Bent-over wide dumbbell row
2-3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
2-3 sets of 10 to 15 reps
Standing dumbbell hammer curl
2-3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Alternating dumbbell curl
2-3 sets of 12 to 20 reps
Workout 3 (Legs)
4 sets of 8 to 20 reps
4 sets of 8 to 20 reps
Dumbbell glute bridge
3 sets of 10 to 30 reps
Alternating forward lunge
2-3 sets of 8 to 20 reps (per leg)
Standing single-leg calf raise
2-4 sets of 10 to 20 reps
It’s best to leave at least a day of recovery between workouts. A good training schedule is Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. If you can’t train on these days, do Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
The repetition recommendations aren’t set in stone. You can do more repetitions if you don’t have access to heavy enough weights. The goal is to challenge your muscles enough and improve your performance over the weeks and months.
You can also tweak the difficulty by changing angles. For example, if dumbbell push-ups feel too easy, do decline dumbbell push-ups. Alternatively, train one side at a time where possible. For instance, do single-leg Romanian deadlifts if the two-leg version feels too easy.
How to Progress With Your Training And Keep Making Gains (5 Actionable Ways)
Making consistent progress in your skinny fat dumbbell workout plan is essential for muscle growth and strength gain. It’s also vital for pulling off a successful body recomposition. The principle of overload states:
“For us to gain strength, build muscle, or see any other improvement, we must continually impose more stress on the body.”
In other words, we have to do more work as time passes. In doing so, we keep challenging ourselves and forcing the desirable improvements. In contrast, doing the same thing repeatedly stops being effective at some point. Sure, a specific workout might cause a lot of disruption and improvements initially. But the more you do it, the less of an impact it has on you. With that in mind, let’s review some simple and actionable ways to keep pushing yourself in your training.
1. Do More Reps
The simplest way to push yourself is to do more repetitions. For example, you can start with 8 reps per set and slowly transition to 10, 12, and even 15. Of course, proper technique should be your primary consideration. There is no point in doing more reps at the expense of proper technique and a full range of motion. It’s important to note that spot-reducing body fat is impossible and you shouldn’t do too many reps to ‘tone’ your biceps, chest, etc.
2. Do More Sets
Another useful tactic for increasing training stress and forcing improvement is to do more sets. For example, instead of doing more reps per set, do more total sets to bump your training volume. If you currently do three sets per exercise, bump that to four. Doing a bit more work is a reliable way to stress your body and make progress.
3. Use Heavier Dumbbells
The third actionable way to challenge yourself is to increase the training load. For example, you might start doing bicep curls with 10-pound dumbbells. But, you will outgrow that load at some point, and you will have to start doing 20, 30, even 40 reps to challenge yourself. Instead of doing that, gradually increase the training load. Doing so will save you time and prevent you from doing tons of ‘burn’ sets.
4. Do More Challenging Movements
The great thing about fitness is that you can pick between hundreds of exercises. So, instead of sticking with the same five movements, experiment and challenge yourself. For example, if dumbbell push-ups feel too easy, do decline, one-arm, or uneven push-ups.
You can also do unilateral versions of some movements once they get easy. Instead of doing regular squats and Romanian deadlifts, do the single-leg versions of both movements.
5. Do The Same Workout But More Quickly
A simple and effective way to push yourself is to do your workouts in less time. Doing so might not always be ideal for muscle growth, but it improves your work capacity, strengthens your aerobic system, and saves you time.
For example, instead of resting two minutes between most sets, rest for 1.5 minutes and see how things go.
Read more on the importance of progressing with your training as a skinny fat person.
What Dumbbells I Recommend Buying
Regardless of the brand and model, I recommend getting adjustable dumbbells. While somewhat pricey to buy, these dumbbells cost you less money than you would have to spend to get a dozen individual pairs. Plus, adjustable dumbbells are compact and don’t take up much space at home. And, thanks to the modern design, adjustable dumbbells allow you to switch between loads in seconds.
Bowflex, MuscleSquad, PowerBlock, NÜOBELL, and IronMaster offer some of the best adjustable dumbbells on the market today. Their only drawback is the cost. For reference, a pair of NÜOBELL dumbbells (up to 80 pounds) costs $745.
There are also budget-friendly options that work well. For example, I use a basic pair of adjustable dumbbells. I don’t remember exactly how much I paid for them, but it was certainly less than $150.
Their primary drawback is that it takes a bit longer to adjust loads. I have to remove the spin collars, add or remove plates, and put the collars back on.