3 Surefire Ways You Will Build Muscle With 10kg Dumbbells

I’m sure many of you have wondered whether the set of dusty 10kg dumbbells in the corner of your room will help you build muscle.

This is especially a topical subject in 2020 and 2021.

Most of us have been stuck indoors for much of this time with no access to a gym.

That being said, irrespective of what’s going on in the world, it would nice to know if those 10kg dumbbells will build muscle whenever you choose to use them.

Will 10kg Dumbbells Build Muscle?

You can build muscle with 10kg dumbbells by focusing on diverse training techniques. These include, density training, isometric contractions, and increasing time-under-tension. Using training protocols such as these will create new muscle-building stimulus that is not typically associated with traditional lifting.

Think Outside The Box

I often think that we become so set in our ways when it comes to training that we don’t even consider that there are other options available to us.

You know what I mean.

As a newbie to lifting weights we typically focus on 3 sets of 10 reps for just about every exercise.

Then as our knowledge of training increases we change of rep and set schemes.

You want to build strength, then it’s 5 sets of 5 reps.

Muscle-building is on the menu, so it’s 4 sets of 8 reps.

Or you decide that muscle endurance is your thing, and therefore 3 sets of 15 reps is the order of the day.

We even realise that the body adapts to training fairly quickly, so progression is needed.

The most obvious way to “progress” is to lift heavier weights.

Then again, you may choose to alter your training protocol, and change from strength training to endurance.

That being said, regardless of whether you choose to train for strength, muscle, or endurance, the same set and rep parameters are usually adhered to.

However, if you’re stuck with a set of 10kg dumbbells and nothing more, then surely muscle endurance is all you can train for, right?


You can definitely build muscle with 10kg dumbbells and I’m going to explain how.

Firstly, I think it’s important to point out that you’re unlikely to turn into a beast with muscles bulging out of you from all angles.

Plus, if you’re used to benching 150kg then you can’t expect to double your size overnight.

Nevertheless, by using the following training protocols you can certainly maintain your current muscle mass, and in many cases, stimulate new growth.

1. Density Training With 10kg Dumbbells

One of my favourite ways of working out is density training.

This simply means doing a certain amount of work within a given time.

So, rather than focusing on sets, reps, or even weight, you’re looking to get as much work done within a set amount of time.

The main method of density training that I use is one that I learned from Nick Nilsson’s Time-Volume Training.

In its most basic format it will look something like this.

  • Pick a weight that is a 10-15 rep max of a certain exercise (stay with me, I know we only have 10kg dumbbells to work with)
  • Set a timer for 15 minutes
  • Perform 3 reps
  • Rest 10 seconds
  • Perform 3 reps
  • Rest 10 seconds
  • Continue with this format until you feel that you won’t be able to complete 3 reps with perfect form, and then increase the rest period to 20 seconds.
  • Perform 3 reps
  • Rest 20 seconds
  • Continue once again until you feel that your form will suffer and then increase the rest period to 30 seconds until your 15 minutes is up.

Okay, so this a very simplified version of Nick’s workout program.

However, if you only have 10kg dumbbells to work with, depending on your current strength and fitness, you may need to play around with these parameters.

A Density Training Workout

Here’s how I would use this method as a workout.

Now consider that for the following 3 exercises I would generally use 30-40kg dumbbells (if not more) and perform reps.

I’m going to choose a leg, push, pull workout.

The exercises I am going to perform are the Bulgarian split squat, shoulder press, and two-handed bent-over row.

For the Bulgarian split squat I’m going to do 7.5 minutes on each leg.

I’ll increase the reps to five, but stick with the 10 seconds rest initially.

After 5 reps I’ll set the dumbbells on the floor, rest 10 seconds, and then get back into position and go again.

Once I have finished one side, I’ll swap over and perform the exercise for the other leg.

Moving onto the overhead press, I will again perform 5 reps each time with only 10 seconds rest between “sets”.

Place the weights on the floor while I rest before moving on again.

I will continue doing this for the full 15 minutes.

Finally, for the two-handed bent-over row, I’ll use the same 5 rep, 10-second rest protocol, but this time I will not put the weights down.

In effect, I will be holding onto the 10kg dumbbells for 15 minutes, while performing reps at regular intervals.

If at any time I find that my grip or forearms are about to go, I’ll set the dumbbells down on the floor during my rest period.

In order to progress with this workout, you can either increase the reps to 6, or aim to go the full 15 minutes with just 10 seconds rest between “sets”.

Admittedly, this will also feel like a conditioning and endurance workout, but the different training style will definitely elicit a new type of muscle-stimulation.

2. Build Muscle With Isometric Contractions

The next method to build muscle with 10kg dumbbells is isometric contractions.

I first came across isometrics as a teenager.

I used the method to great effect, but then seemed to forget about it for many years.

An isometric contraction simply involves holding the weight in a set position and literally “squeezing” the working muscle.

You will typically “squeeze” the muscle for 8 seconds.

So, looking at the exercises I’ve mentioned above this would involve the following:

  • Bulgarian split squats – hold for 8 seconds at the bottom of movement and squeeze your quads and glutes.
  • Overhead presses – once again, hold for 8 seconds at the bottom of the movement and squeeze your shoulders and triceps.
  • Two-handed bent-over row – hold for 8 seconds at the top of the movement and squeeze your lats and biceps.

This is an extremely simplified version of isometric contractions, but you can work it into any exercise you perform.

A More Traditional Set and Rep Scheme

You will complete each exercise with a more traditional set and rep scheme, but will perform differing isometric contractions depending on your current strength and fitness levels.

So, as a beginner or new trainee, this may involve performing 10 reps and applying one 8-second isometric contraction on the final rep.

As an intermediate, you may look to perform an isometric contraction 2-4 times during a 10-rep set.

And as an advanced trainee, this may involve an isometric contraction on every single rep.

Basically, use isometrics as you see fit based on your skill levels.

What you’re looking to achieve here is whenever the muscle you’re working is contracted, you will hold that contraction for 8 seconds.

You can also use isometric contractions numerous times during one rep if you feel up to it.

You could perform 3 separate isometric “holds” on the way down during a Bulgarian split squat.

Use Isometrics For Any Exercise

Looking at other exercises:

  • 3 separate “holds” on the way up for bicep curls or lateral raises.
  • 2 separate “holds” on the way down for single-leg deadlifts.
  • 4 separate “holds” while performing tricep kickbacks.

And so on.

There’s a world of opportunities when it comes to isometric contractions, so you can really play around with this method.

Oh, and by the way, both Charles Atlas and Arnold Schwarzenegger regularly used isometric contractions in their training.

So, if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you.

RELATED====>Isometrics Mass Review

Build More Muscle With Light Weights

3. Increase Time Under Tension For Muscle Growth

One of the main factors to building muscle is time under tension.

Basically, how long your muscles are under tension during a given exercise.

You’ll notice that even using density training or isometric contractions that you’re automatically increasing your time under tension.

However, one of the best ways to use this method is by simply slowing down your reps.

There has been much discussion over the years about rep speed.

And it is generally assumed that faster reps should be used for strength training, whereas slower reps stimulate muscle growth.

That being said, this study completed in 2016 by scientists in Sao Paulo, Brazil came up with some very interesting facts.

The study used 12 experienced lifters.

They performed Scott curls twice a week for 12 weeks.

Half the participants performed slow speed reps, and the other half used fast reps.

They completed 3 sets of 8 reps, where the final rep constituted failure.

At the end of the study it was found that the “slow speed” group built 5 times as much strength and 3 times as much muscle as the fast speed group.

In essence, performing slow reps will increase both muscle and strength.

So, once again you could look to perform “standard” set and rep schemes of various dumbbell exercises, but complete each rep at a much slower speed than normal.

I know many of us don’t pay particular attention to rep speed when performing an exercise.

We simply lift and lower.

As a standard, this may involve one second to raise a weight and two seconds to lower it.

A basic example of slow reps could be to double this time, 2 seconds up, 4 seconds down.

However, why not try to go even slower and see how you get on.

How about performing 8 reps of bicep curls, but taking 3 seconds to bring the weight up, and a further 5 seconds to lower the weight.

Aim for 3-4 sets and see how you get on.

Those 10kg dumbbells are looking so light now, are they?

Time Under Tension For Muscle Growth

Final Thoughts

So, as you can see, it certainly is possible to build muscle with 10kg dumbbells.

It’s just a case of approaching your training with less “traditional” methods.

As I’ve mentioned, I wouldn’t expect MASSIVE gains, although depending on your current levels, you could certainly add some decent lean muscle to your frame.

I would also say that even as an advanced lifter, by simply changing training techniques you can stimulate the muscles in a way they’re not used to.

There are actually various ways you could use 10kg dumbbells to enhance muscle growth, but give these 3 methods a try first.

I mentioned earlier that Nick Nilsson’s method of density training was one of my favourites.

You can discover more about Nick and his form of density training in my Time-Volume Training Review.

6 thoughts on “3 Surefire Ways You Will Build Muscle With 10kg Dumbbells”

  1. Hey Partha,

    This article is even more helpful for me because I use 10kg and 20kg dumbells. I have only been training since the 4th Jan and following my new diet. I am losing weight and becoming more toned, but I think I can do more. I am not as pleased as I thought I would with my progress.

    The density workout sounds good and in fact it is a lot more intense than my current workout with the dumbells. I don’t want to overdo it, and I don’t think I will with this workout so I will give it a go.

    I will let you know how it’s going and if my progress increases, stays the same or anything else happens. If I have any questions or issues with the workout then I will get in touch with you. Is that OK with you?

    Thank you for sharing as always and keep up the great work.

    All the best,


    • Hey Tom,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      I’m interested in following your progress since you started your new regime on 4th January.

      To be honest, you’re doing well to have noticed a difference in just 3 weeks, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

      You have to remember that we often spend years getting ourselves “out of shape”, so we can’t expect miracles within a few, short weeks.

      Just the fact that you have lost weight and become more toned in such a short space of time is fantastic.

      It proves that you’re moving in the right direction.

      As for the density training, there’s no need to go all out with it, if you’re just starting out.

      Although, Nick’s Time-Volume Training program focuses on 15 minutes for most exercises, there’s nothing wrong with starting at 5 minutes or 7.5 minutes and adding a bit more time every couple of weeks.

      Just the difference in intensity will certainly ramp up the gains (or losses) that you’ve achieved so far.

      A great job Tom, keep going my friend.


  2. Hi there. Your post is timely. I just started keto. My doctor told me I need to lose weight by following low carb and to start exercising. So I just started working out at the gym again. I do circuit training and free weights. I started out with the 10 pound dumbbell (for arm curls). I did the traditional arm curls – 3 x 12. In the beginning, by the 10th rep, it was getting too hard to get to 12. But after it got easier, I decided to use those same 10 pound dumbbells by raising them out sideways (was opposed to curling from in front). It definitely worked a different set of muscles. Thank you for your article. I know I can continue to use these 10 pounders in different ways to continue to tone my arms.

    • Hi Shalisha,

      Great to hear from you.

      I’ve got a couple of recommendations, if you don’t mind.

      Firstly, well done for actually doing something in terms of nutrition and exercise. That’s the first step, and often the hardest. So, great job in getting started.

      Secondly, it would be good to know exactly when you started keto. I ask because if you are in the early stages, and your body is still in the process of replacing carbs with fat for energy, you may have “energy” issues when working out.

      It’s usually best to get into ketosis first, and then start your exercise regime afterwards.

      Otherwise, you tend to find that you get fatigued far quicker, plus this will not help your motivation levels to continue exercising. So, I would always suggest being on Keto for 10-14 days before starting a NEW exercise regime.

      Thirdly, once again, it’s great that you are exercising, although the exericses you’ve described are what are referred to as single-joint exercises.

      Basically, they only real work one muscle at a time.

      Realistically, if you’re looking to lose weight or burn body (and even to build muscle and strength) you should focus on compound exercises.

      These are exercise that work multiple muscles at the same time.

      And usually they work the largest muscles of the body.

      The more muscles you work, the greater the benefits.

      The larger the muscles you work, once again, the greater the benefits.

      Basically, you get more bang for your buck.

      I would suggest exercises such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, overhead presses, and bent-over rows, all of which you can do with dumbbells.

      In fact, there are variations of these exercises that you can do with just about any equipment, and even your own bodyweight, while still receiving the full benefits.

      You may want to check out my article, “What Are The 5 Basic Exercises?” which includes exercise variations and some great videos as well.


  3. Partha, this is a great article about building muscle with simple dumbbells. I agree that this is a great topic to be discussed at this time, with COVID still raging and many people spending their time at home. It’s nice to know I can still get a good quality workout even if my local gym is closed. I found your idea of density training very interesting! I had never heard of it before. I like the idea of going away from the mentality to perform a certain number of reps. Density training seems like a great way to change up a fitness routine. Thanks for sharing!


    • Hey Femi,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      You’re correct, many of us are stuck at home at the moment with no access to a gym.

      Just as many people will have a set of light dumbbells gathering dust in the corner, but won’t use them simply because they don’t feel it will make much difference.

      However, I like to utilize various forms of training just to keep maintaining, and even adding, muscle.

      I’m glad I’ve introduced you to density training.

      It’s definitely a form of training that I can speak for, as I often complete workouts in this manner.

      I think the issue for many people is that they learn to train in one way, and simply don’t see the endless possibilities open to them.

      So, I’ll always say that it’s possible to build muscle with either very little equipment, or none at all.



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