A Workout Plan To Get Ripped With Just Dumbbells (Advice For Skinny Guys)


Are you looking to build a lean and defined physique with dumbbells? Then keep reading. Because today, I’ll be explaining how it’s possible to get ripped with just dumbbells.

Most people can get ripped with only dumbbells. This type of physique requires a low body fat percentage to reveal the underlying muscle definition. Heavy dumbbell training is recommended to maintain low body fat and build muscle at the same time.

Dumbbells helped me to gain 40 pounds of muscle myself. So I know they work!

That’s why today I want to share my research and experience to help you get ripped!

So let’s dive right in.

I gained 40 pounds of muscle and got ripped with dumbbells
Dumbbells helped me gain 40 pounds of lean muscle!

Is It Possible To Get Ripped With Just Dumbbells?

You can definitely get ripped with just dumbbells. In fact, a lot of people get buff at home using nothing but a pair of dumbbells.

Fundamentally, getting ripped requires resistance training and a good nutrition plan.

Here’s what you need to know about getting ripped with just dumbbells.

What Is Considered A Ripped Body?

Allow me to first define what a ripped body is:

A ripped body is a body composition that has a high lean muscle percentage and a low body fat percentage. Consequently, muscle definition is highly visible in a ripped body. An example of this is Brad Pitt in the Fightclub film, who has a chiseled chest and visible abs.

A modern example of a ripped body is Brad Pitt in Fightclub.

definition of a ripped body

Here, Brad is 5″11 and weighs 155 pounds at around 6% body fat. This means he had around 145 pounds of lean mass (155 pounds x 6% = 145 pounds).

Consequently, he has highly defined muscles. Furthermore, he has a chiseled upper body and visible abs.

Struggling to shift the stubborn belly fat? You might wanna check out my dumbbell weight loss guide here!

What Does A Ripped Body Require?

So how can you get a ripped body?

Building a ripped body requires you to gain lean muscle mass and lose body fat. This is achieved by combining an intense resistance training program, usually in the form of weight lifting, with a diet plan. As a result, muscle composition increases, and fat composition decreases.

Your current body composition affects how you undergo the ripping process.

infographic showing how to get ripped

If you’re currently overweight, you’ll want to gain muscle and lose body fat. A mild caloric deficit will assist in this, allowing you to develop muscle as well as shed fat. This can be combined with a dumbbell HIIT program (check out my workout here) to really torch belly fat and increase muscle definition.

But if you’re currently skinny, you’ll want to gain muscle and maintain a low body fat percentage. A mild caloric surplus will help you achieve this, allowing you to build muscle whilst minimizing fat storage.

Either way, you’ll need to be lifting heavy weights to gain muscle.

The only difference is how you use nutrition to either lose body fat (for overweight guys) or maintain low body fat (for skinny guys).

Check out my other article to find out if you should bulk or cut.

Choosing The Right Dumbbells To Get Ripped At Home.

To get ripped using home dumbbells, you’ll need to choose a suitable dumbbell weight for your needs:

Dumbbell Weight
(Per Dumbbell)
Muscle Gains
20 lbs1 to 3 pounds3 months2.5 to 5 pounds
50 lbsUp to 10 pounds6 months2.5 to 5 pounds
70 lbsOver 20 pounds2 to 5 years2.5 to 5 pounds
90 lbsOver 30 pounds5 years2.5 to 5 pounds
How to choose the right dumbbell to get ripped at home.

I would highly recommend buying adjustable dumbbells over fixed-with dumbbells. Adjustable dumbbells have a selector mechanism to change the weight on the dumbbell. These are usually 2.5 to 5 pound increments.

The selector mechanism in adjustable dumbbells makes them cheaper and more space-efficient than fixed-weight dumbbells (which require you to buy a complete set).

I use the Powerblock Elites, and they work great for building muscle at home. If they’re too expensive, then the Yes4All spinlock dumbbells are just as heavy as the Powerblocks.

If you’re a skinny guy, you should get a pair of 70 lb adjustable dumbbells (minimum). These will last you a good 2 to 5 years, and this is more than adequate to get ripped at home.

what weight dumbbell do you need to get ripped?

If you can spend an extra $100 or so, then I recommend you upgrade to a pair of 90 lb adjustable. These will likely last you a lifetime, and they will also get you JACKED.

But 90 pounders can be excessive if your only goal is to build a ripped physique. So only choose them if your budget allows.

The other reason you would want to get 90 pounders is if you have previous training history or have a heavier body weight (both reasons require you to lift heavier weights to build muscle).

Finally, any weight below 50 pounds is a waste of time and money. Your strength will outgrow these dumbbells very quickly. And after that, you’ll find yourself needing to upgrade to 70 pounders to continue making muscle gains.

Check out my other article to find out what dumbbell weight you should buy.

Do You Need A Bench To Get Ripped At Home?

A weight bench can be an awesome luxury to accompany your dumbbells. However, you’ll need the space and budget (around $100+ and 8 square feet of floor space).

Benches can be either flat or adjustable.

a weight bench is not required to get ripped

Adjustable benches have different incline/decline angles. And this allows you to focus on different muscle regions. The incline bench press is a classic example of an angled workout. It’ll target the upper chest muscles.

All in all, benches are for those who are serious about quickly building a ripped body, but ultimately not essential!

Use a bench with dumbbells to build chest muscle

For those who are able to afford the cost and space for a bench, I highly recommend the Flybird adjustable bench. It goes perfectly with the Powerblock dumbbells.

You can find my full review for the Flybird bench here.

This bench allows you to do flat, incline, and decline exercises at home to target different regions of your body.

It can also be folded and stowed away after a workout (you

You can check out my other article for more details on why you should get a weight bench for a home gym!

Diet For Skinny Guys To Get Ripped.

Now, I’ll give you the nutrition essentials to get ripped:

NutritionRecommended AmountWhy It’s Essential To Get Ripped
Calories10% above maintenanceFuels muscle-building process
Protein1.5g per pound lean bodyweightRaw material for muscle growth
Carbohydrates2.5g per pound bodyweightEnergy for intense resistance training
Healthy Fats0.4g per pound bodyweight.Anabolic hormone synthesis
Recommended nutrition for skinny guys to get ripped.

The nutrition essentials above are for a lean bulk (gaining muscle with minimal fat gains).

To calculate your maintenance calories, you can use online calorie calculators such as this one by TDEE Calculator. You would then add 10% to your maintenance calories (multiply by 1.1) to produce your 10% surplus calories.

a 10% caloric surplus is required by skinny guys to get ripped

As a skinny guy, most of your 10% surplus calories will be directed toward muscle development. So don’t worry about getting fat.

To calculate your lean body weight, you need to weigh yourself and then determine your body fat percentage (use this chart by Train Beyond The Box). Your lean body weight is your total body weight minus your body fat percentage.

For example- if you weigh 140 lb at 12% body fat, your lean body weight would be 123 lb (140 x 0.88).

Now you have the numbers to design a diet plan to accompany your dumbbell workout to get ripped!

Note: the above is for skinny guys. Protein, carbs, and fat intake will be similar for overweight dudes. But you’ll want to be in a 10% deficit instead of a surplus.

Check out my other article for 25 skinny guy tips to gain muscle.

Protein Powders Help You To Reach Nutrition Targets To Get Ripped!

Reaching nutrition targets as a beginner can be difficult.

That’s why protein powders are so popular.

They are a cheap and easy way to get a quick dose of protein and calories to supplement your meals.

I currently use MyProtein Impact Whey to help me reach my daily protein and calorie targets. Each serving contains 21g of pure whey protein and 100 calories, making it perfect for lean gains.

Plant-eaters may be interested in the MyVegan Pea Protein instead.

But if you’re new to bulking, you may want to use something like the Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass. Each serving has 50g of protein and 1250 calories, making it ideal for skinny guys to quickly gain mass and strength.

You can also check out my other article for a complete guide to gaining your first 10 pounds of lean muscle!

12 Dumbbell Exercises To Get Ripped.

These are 12 dumbbell exercises to get you ripped. The selection of exercises involves compound and isolation lifts.

The compound (big) lifts are there to promote mass gains and burn calories to shred fat.

In contrast, the isolation (small) lifts serve as supplementary exercises to pump specific muscles. And this will help you develop a ripped physique.

Combined, these 12 exercises will hit all the muscles in your body.

Ripped Chest Exercises.

How To: Dumbbell Chest Press

Dumbbell Bench Press:

The dumbbell bench press is the bread and butter for chest workouts. It’s a big compound exercise that works your arms and front shoulders, as well as the chest.

If you don’t have access to a bench, you can replicate a similar movement by doing the dumbbell floor press (lay on the floor instead of a bench).

It’s not as effective as the bench press because the range of movement is restricted, but it will still give you a good upper body pump.

Both the bench and floor press will help you develop a ripped chest!

How To: Dumbbell Flys On A Flat Bench

Dumbbell Chest Fly:

The dumbbell chest fly is a good accessory exercise to the bench press. It’s an isolation exercise that targets your chest muscles.

The chest fly is usually performed on a bench to get a maximum pec stretch. But if you don’t have a bench, you can also do it on the floor.

The dumbbell chest fly will help you develop a cleft in between your pecs. And this helps in building a chiseled chest!

Check my other article for more ways to build a bigger chest with dumbbells.

Ripped Shoulder Exercises.

Jay Cutler's Training Tips: Dumbbell Shoulder Press Technique

Dumbbell Standing Shoulder Press:

The dumbbell shoulder press is a big dumbbell compound exercise that engages the shoulders and the triceps.

Shoulder work is essential in your journey to getting a ripped body. If you neglect the shoulders, you risk an unbalanced upper body (imagine a defined chest and arms but nothing to link them!)

On the other hand, spend the time training your shoulders and you’ll get a ripped v-shape body.

Check out my other article to learn how to build a v-tapered body.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise: Exercise Overview

Dumbbell Lateral Raise:

The lateral raise is one of the best exercises to isolate the shoulders. It’s an accessory exercise to the shoulder press.

In other words, the shoulder press should form the foundation of your shoulder work. But adding lateral raises will help you develop the ripped muscle striation on your shoulders!

Ripped Arm Exercises.


Dumbell Bicep Curls:

The bicep curl is a famous exercise. It’s a small isolation exercise to get a good pump on the arms.

It won’t contribute much to getting ripped, but every guy wants bigger biceps, right?

The bent-over row (explained below) actually provides the biceps with plentiful stimulation. But bicep curling can be used to supplement the row.

Additionally, there are many variations of the bicep curl, and you should mix things up regularly to ensure all different regions of the biceps are engaged.

Check out my other article to find out the ideal bicep curling weight.

How To PROPERLY Overhead Dumbbell Tricep Extension | 3 Muscle Gain Variations

Overhead Tricep Extensions:

The dumbbell tricep extension is less well-known as the bicep curl, but arguably as important (if not more) to getting ripped arms.

The triceps actually make up two-thirds of the upper arm. And this makes the tricep extension a vital exercise.

When the triceps are developed, it forms a well-defined “cut” along the upper arm. And this gives the illusion of well-cut arms.

i used dumbbell overhead tricep extensions to get shredded arms
Overhead tricep extensions for well-cut arms.

Ripped Back Exercises.

Underhand Dumbbell Row

Bent-Over Dumbbell Row:

The dumbbell row is to the back what the bench press is to the chest. In fact, the movement itself is directly opposite to the dumbbell bench press.

This exercise will work all the muscles in your chest, as well as the biceps.

You can also target specific back regions by altering the angle of your torso bend.

For example- a steep 70° angle will target the upper back, whereas a shallow 45° angle will hit the mid-back.

By training all the different back regions, you’ll develop a ripped back!

You may also be interested in my other post for the best dumbbell-only bodybuilding exercises!

How to PROPERLY Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly | Reverse Dumbbell Fly Tutorial

Reverse Dumbbell Fly:

The reverse fly is an isolation exercise that is the opposite of the dumbbell chest fly. And this makes it great for targeting the individual back muscles.

This exercise is especially effective at working the rhomboids (which are particularly hard to isolate).

And when you define the rhomboids, the middle portion of your back has that shredded look!

Ripped Ab Exercises.

How To Do: Dumbbell Crunch - Floor | Ab Workout Exercise

Dumbbell Crunch:

The dumbbell crunch is just like the regular bodyweight crunch. But you hold a single dumbbell tight to your chest to add extra resistance.

It will work all your ab muscles, with a particular focus on the rectus abdominis (the six-pack muscles!).

You can also twist your core as you crunch upwards to engage the external obliques. When these become defined, they form “wings” that radiate from the six-pack.


Ultra-shredded abs!

Weighted Leg Raise

Dumbbell Leg Raise:

The dumbbell leg raise is the dumbbell-weighted version of the bodyweight leg raise.

This is an essential exercise to completing the look of your ripped abs.

That’s because the leg raise targets your lower abdominals (which are hard to isolate with the other ab exercises).

As a result, you’ll increase the likelihood that the bottom two packs in a six-pack will reveal themselves.

An effective leg raise requires you to hang from a bar or lay on a bench. But if you have access to neither, you can perform the kneeling wood chopper instead!

Ripped Leg Exercises.


Dumbbell Forward Lunge:

The forward lunge is a powerful compound exercise that hits all the large muscles in the leg. This makes the lunge a great muscle builder and calorie burner. Exactly what you need to get ripped!

The forward lunge shines in activating the hamstrings. These can be difficult to hit with maximal engagement without deadlifting.

But deadlifting with dumbbells can be restrictive, due to weight limitations.

So a great alternative is to perform the dumbbell-weighted forward lunge.

The Goblet Squat Exercise Guide - The Proper Form, Sets & Routine Tutorial

Goblet Squat:

The goblet squat is another great compound leg exercise to build muscle and burn calories.

With the dumbbell held to your chest, the weight is focused directly above your quadriceps. This focuses the tension on your quads rather than the hamstrings (unlike the lunge).

As a result, the goblet squat is great for developing ripped legs. When your quadriceps reach a certain amount of musculature and your body fat is low enough, you’ll see the individual striations of the quad muscles.

This makes the goblet squat the perfect partner to the lunge in a dumbbell program.

Check out my other article for more squat variations.

The Kalibre Dumbbell Workout Plan To Get Ripped.

Now here are the dumbbell exercises put together into a workout.

The workout is an adaptation from the dumbbell Stopgap routine, designed to help those to get ripped without a gym membership.

The original creator of this workout explicitly stated that the routine was not designed for long-term muscle growth.

However, with my adaptations, you’ll definitely be able to use it to make long-term gains and get ripped at home!

Who The Program Is For:

The Kalibre dumbbell workout plan is for skinny guys who are new to weight training.

As a newbie, you’ll be able to use this program to take advantage of the “newbie gains” period of rapid muscle growth.

During this period, almost any form of intense weight training will help you build muscle, and you don’t necessarily need expensive machines or barbells.

So if you’re currently skinny and want to get a defined and ripped body, then you can start by using the Kalibre Dumbbell Workout plan!

Or check out my other article for an additional 5 ways to build a v-shaped body at home!

What You’ll Need:

The foundation of this workout routine is the dumbbell.

It doesn’t matter what kind of dumbbells you have, as long as they provide sufficient poundage for your needs.

I highly recommend a pair of adjustable dumbbells with at least 70 pounds per dumbbell (as explained earlier in the post). The Powerblock Elites work excellently.

There’s nothing to stop you using fixed-weight dumbbells, but you’ll need a complete set with 2.5-5 lb increments. And this can be extremely costly (and take up large amounts of space).

A good bench like the Flybird is also recommended to perform some of the exercises. But it’s no big deal if you don’t have one. Just refer back to the

earlier “12 Dumbbell Exercises To Get Ripped” section for floor alternatives.

Check out my other article to see if a home gym is worth the money.

The Kalibre Program:

The program consists of workouts A and B. Each one is a full-body workout.

You’ll complete these workouts using a 3-day training split. In other words, 3 full-body workouts per week.

Muscle GroupWorkout AWorkout B
ChestBench Press Chest Fly
ShouldersLateral Raise Shoulder Press
ArmsBicep CurlsOverhead Tricep Extension
BackReverse FlyBent-Over Row
AbsLeg RaiseDumbbell Crunch
LegsForward LungeGoblet Squat
Kalibre dumbbell workout to get ripped at home

On the first week, complete workout A, take a day rest, complete workout B, take a day rest, then repeat workout A again.

Then the following week, repeat again but complete workout B, then A, then B again.

It doesn’t matter which days you work out, as long as you complete 3 alternating workouts with a day’s rest in between.

I personally prefer allocating most of my workouts on Friday and Sunday when I have more time and energy.

You’ll notice that there is only 1 or 2 dedicated bicep and tricep exercises each week. That’s because the other push/pull exercises will also work the biceps and triceps. And you don’t want to overtrain these muscles as a beginner

Moving Forward With The Kalibre Programme:

Start the program by choosing a comfortable weight you’re confident with for each exercise.

Then complete 4 sets of 10 repetitions for each exercise, with a 1-minute to 30-second rest between sets.

Take note of the weights you’re using for each exercise, and how difficult it is to complete.

At this point, don’t worry if you aren’t challenged. Your current objective is to benchmark your current strength for next week and beyond. Additionally, you’ll be able to get a feel for the form and technique of each exercise.

After the first taster week has been completed, you’ll need to optimize the reps and weight for maximal muscle gains.

Here’s how.

Choose a weight that fatigues you in 4 sets of 9 reps in:

  • Bench press.
  • Shoulder press.
  • Bent-over row.
  • Lunge.
  • Goblet squat.

Choose a weight that fatigues you in 4 sets of 12 reps in:

  • Chest fly.
  • Lateral raise.
  • Bicep curl.
  • Tricep extension.
  • Reverse fly.
  • Crunch.
  • Leg raise.

You’ll know you’ve found the ideal weight for an exercise when it’s manageable in the first 3 sets, and the last few reps of the 4th set become challenging (almost impossible).

If at any point you find an exercise impossible to complete (partial sets), then decrease the dumbbell weight.

Similarly, you should also increase the weight to make sure you’re challenged in 4 sets of 8/12 reps.

Check out my other article to determine your ideal lifting weight for muscle growth.

What’s Next?

As your body adapts to the training and you get stronger, you’ll need to increase the workload. Otherwise, your muscles will plateau and stop growing.

The first thing you need to do is increase your weight.

As a general rule, increase the weight of the big exercises (those you do 9 reps per set) by 10% and small exercises (those you do 12 reps per set) by 5%. And by this, I mean for each dumbbell.

You can also increase the number of training days to 4 workouts per week. But only do this when your body is ready (i.e. when 3 workouts per week are no longer challenging).


Challenging workouts = continued muscle gains.

For more details on how to progress with dumbbells, you can check out my other article on how and when to increase dumbbell difficulty.

Additional Dumbbell Exercises:

After every month, you should replace current exercises with new variations. This will present your muscles with new challenges, and keep them adapting.

Here are some additional dumbbell exercises you could include:

  • Dumbbell-weighted chest dips- can replace the bench press, chest fly, or tricep extension, a powerful chest and triceps builder.
  • Dumbbell-weighted pull up- can replace the row or bicep curl, one of the best back and bicep builders.
  • Incline bench press- can replace the bench press or dumbbell fly, great for engaging the upper chest.
  • Front raise- can replace the shoulder press or lateral raise, great for the front shoulders.
  • Close-grip floor press- can replace the overhead tricep extension, great for the chest and triceps.
  • Shrugs- can replace the row or reverse fly, great for the upper back.
  • High pulls- can replace the bicep curl, great for the biceps and upper back.
  • Side bends- can replace the crunch or leg raise, great for the external obliques.
  • Deadlift- can replace the lunge, great for the hamstrings, back, and glutes.

As a general rule, make sure you have at least 5 big compound exercises in your program. This ensures you are building muscle and losing fat!

If you’re looking to build a ripped physique, you may also be interested in how to train these 8 v-shaped body muscles!

How Long It Takes To Get Ripped Using Dumbbells

It can take up to 6 months or more to get noticeably ripped with dumbbells. Individuals who need to build a significant amount of muscle as well as lose fat will take longer to get shredded compared to people who only need to lose fat.

It took me around 18 months to transform my skinny body into the ripped physique shown at the start of this post.

But I had to bulk up to build muscle before cutting to lose fat.

This is obviously a slow process. To put things into perspective, it usually takes over 6 months to gain 10lbs of muscle alone.

If you already have a substantial amount of muscle mass on your frame, or if you’re looking to get a slim and shredded look, the process will likely be much faster than what it took me.

Speaking from personal experience, it’s completely possible to cut and shred a substantial amount of body fat within just 2 months (at a rate of 1-2lbs of lost body fat per week)

Recommended Gear In This Article

Here’s a recap of all the gear recommended in this article to get ripped at home using dumbbells:

Recommended dumbbells to get ripped at home.

1) Heavy Adjustable Dumbbells

The Powerblock Elites are ideal for building muscle at home. You can find my full review here.

The lighter weight settings are perfect for smaller isolation-type lifts like the bicep curl, whilst the heavier settings work well with larger compound-type lifts like the bench press.

The Yes4All spinlock dumbbells make a great budget alternative.

Recommended bench to build muscle at home.

2) Adjustable Weight Bench

This Flybird adjustable bench is affordable and allows you to flat/incline/decline bench press at home for a ripped chest.

You can also use it to do exercises like the incline row, pullover, and decline sit-up.

Recommended protein powder to build muscle and keep a low body fat.

3) Protein Powder

Nutrition is key to getting ripped.

Protein powders will help you reach your daily nutrition targets.

The MyProtein Impact Whey is ideal for skinny-fat and overweight people, whilst the Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass is more suitable for skinny guys.


Today I’ve explained how and why you can get ripped with just dumbbells.

Dumbbells are extremely versatile- all you need is a pair of adjustable dumbbells and you can perform 90% of the muscle-building exercises. In fact, I’ve shared 12 of my favourite dumbbell exercises and put them into a workout plan for you.

Just make sure you choose the right poundage for your needs.

Furthermore, I’ve explained how to combine a dumbbell workout with a nutrition plan.

And if you’re disciplined with the workout and nutrition plan, you can get ripped!

Will you be trying the Kalibre dumbbell workout?

Let me know in the comments below! Alternatively, download the FREE Kalibre Muscle Blueprint to find out how I gained 40 pounds of muscle!

bananas helped me transform my body

Thanks for reading guys!

Peace Out,


(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)


I'm Kal (B.S, M.S)- a health & fitness writer and owner of Kalibre Fitness. I love to nerd out on weight training and nutrition. My primary interests are in muscle hypertrophy mechanisms and strength development. You can connect with me in the "Contact Us" section below!

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