At Home Workouts


At Home Workout: Upper Body Strength with Dumbbells

Posted By Ricardo Lara


Adaptive Sports and Fitness


This exercise routine is a general upper body strength training for all participants. The goal of this program is to increase the strength of all upper body musculature, including chest, shoulders, back, triceps and biceps.

This routine will help improve your strength for activities like picking up items from the floor, putting items on the shelves, washing your hair, or pushing your wheelchair.

Tips & Modifications


  • All exercises in the video are demonstrated in a seated position, but can be accomplished in a standing position as well. If you choose to do these exercises standing, remember to stand with your feet about hip-to-shoulder width apart, your knees slightly bent and tall upper body posture.
  • If at any time you feel pain, stop the exercise, re-establish your posture and try the exercise again. If you continue to feel pain, stop using the weight and complete the exercise, or skip the exercise completely -- do not continue with repetitions if the exercise continues to cause pain.
  • If one side is stronger than the other, complete the exercises one arm at a time. The first set should be with the stronger arm using a heavier weight. The following set with the other arm, using lighter weight or no weight at all, should focus on as much range of motion as possible.
  • Also, if you have a T-spine or higher spinal cord injury and cannot bend forward for the row or reverse fly exercise and have a thera-band available, wrap the thera-band around a door knob and complete seated rows and reverse flys from a tall seated position.

Weights & Equipment


  • This routine requires the use of dumbbells, if you do not have any dumbbells you can use a bottle of water or cans of soup/vegetables to provide 2-3lbs of weight.
  • Each dumbbell exercise set is 10 repetitions each, the 10th repetition should feel much more strenuous than the first. If it does not, either use a heavier dumbbell for the exercise or complete more repetitions for that set until you feel moderate to maximal exertion.
  • There are some exercises which may be easier with a given weight compared to the others. If you have different dumbbells available use:
    • Lighter dumbbells (1-4lbs): front raise/diagonal raise, lateral raise, bent over reverse fly and haybailer
    • Heavier dumbbells (5-10lbs): overhead press, chest press, bent over row, bicep curls, tricep overhead extensions.

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