The dumbbell stopgap program was invented by Reddit user Cammorak several years ago. His post can be found here, along with his explanation of his workout.
We’ll summarize the workout for you here, and let you know the ins and outs of this workout program.
What Is The Dumbbell Stopgap Program?
Simply put, the dumbbell stopgap program was designed by its creator to be used at a time when you do not have access to a full gym, and only have access to dumbbells. It is intended, as the name suggests, to be a stopgap for those who are currently in between ideal gym situations.
The creator himself admits that this workout is not the best way to go about gaining size or strength, and says the workout is to hold yourself over until your workout situation improves. He believes it is a useful program for various times in your life when you lack proper access to a gym.
Who Should Be Using The Dumbbell Stopgap Program?
As we discussed, it’s primarily designed for those who are not able to access a full gym. The other main criteria for this program, is that you will need a set of dumbbells, or adjustable dumbbells, to be able to follow along with the workout.
The program is not for those who only have a single fixed weight dumbbell, as you will not be able to follow the program’s progression.
Cammorak also stresses that this program is not meant to be a long-term program. If you are planning on doing this program for several months, you will stop progressing at some point due to the lack of proper weights and equipment.
But it will keep you in shape, and sane while you wait for access to a gym.
So overall, it’s a pretty specific program. You need to be a beginner without much workout knowledge who has a wide array of dumbbell weights available to them.
So pretty much anybody can do this workout program, no need to gauge your fitness level before attempting this program.
There are benefits to keeping things basic until you have the knowledge to progress to a different program, so let’s get into it.
What Are The Exercises In The Dumbbell Stopgap Program?
There are two main days in this program to keep things as simple as possible.
All exercises are recommended to be done for 3 sets of 10 reps. When you reach 10 reps for 3 sets, it’s time to increase the weight you are using.
Bulgarian Split Squat Or Lunges
For a Bulgarian split squat, you simply put one leg behind you on a bench or chair and perform squats with your leg that remains on the floor.
If you can perform this exercise with your bodyweight, gradually add weight until you are unable to complete sets of 10 reps.
Lunges are also a very straightforward exercise. Step forward with one leg, and lower your back knee to the floor. Use your forward leg to rise back to your upright position.
The floor press is a dumbbell bench press that you do from the floor. Lay on your back, and press your dumbbells in a dumbbell bench press motion.
For the floor press, you start with your triceps and elbows directly on the floor. This is the end of the range of motion. Press to a full extension, and return to this position to complete a rep.
The straight-legged deadlift is a great lower back and hamstring exercise. It is also very straightforward and easy for a beginner lifter to perform.
With your weights in your hands, bend at the lower back while keeping your upper back and legs straight. Use your hamstrings to return yourself to a standing position.
Keeping your upper back straight while completing this exercise is important to avoid back injuries.
Scott Herman has a great video on the dos and don’ts of this exercise.
Planks are an extremely good core strengthening exercise. They are simply to perform, and no weights are required to build a solid core.
To do a plank, get down on the floor and support yourself on your toes and elbows/forearms. With nothing else touching the ground, you will feel the burn from the plank after only a few seconds.
You’ll feel your core muscles activating, and may even start shaking after 15-20 seconds. This is completely normal if you’re new to planks, and is a great indication that your body is struggling and adapting to the exercise.
This video by WaysAndHow has a LOT of information for your plank questions if you’re having trouble visualizing the exercise.
Bulgarian Split Squat or Lunge
Both A and B workouts rely on the BSS or lunges to work out your legs. They are a good way to build strength and stability before you progress to something heavier weight and higher intensity like squats.
If you have trouble with the Bulgarian split squats, lunges are a slightly easier version to try out as you have more stability with both feet on the floor.
Seated Shoulder Press
The seated shoulder press is one of the best shoulder strength-building exercises you can do (other shoulder strength building exercises include, the seated tricep press, the military press, and the Zottman curl,) . You’ll just need a seat, and some dumbbells.
Sit down with your back firmly against your seat, and brace your core and upper back to create a platform to push against. Start with your dumbbells at neck height, and press upwards until your arms are fully extended.
If you’re having trouble imagining this exercise, Scott Herman is here to save us again. Although you may not have access to a bench, a chair with a regular back should suffice for lighter-weight shoulder presses.
Standing Two-Dumbbell Bent Over Row
The bent over row is a great exercise for building your entire back. It hits your lats, rear delts, and lower back. For this exercise, ensure you are not swaying back and forth to avoid injuries.
Take your dumbbells, and bend over while keeping your legs and back straight, similar to the straight-legged deadlift we covered above. From this position, use your arms to raise and lower your dumbbells.
This exercise is one of the more complicated exercises in this program, so check out this helpful video from BodyBuilding.com. Proper form is especially important in this exercise to avoid injuries! Another exercise that is somewhat easier and hits the same muscle areas is the alternating dumbbell press.
The last exercise for the B workout grouping is once again planks. Repeat the steps listed above to complete proper planks.
This Is The Complete Main Program
If you feel that these exercises are doing a sufficient job of exhausting you each week, then you should be all set to continue on this program without any additional exercises.
If you feel that the program is good, but want a little bit more volume, the creator has suggested additional exercises that can be done to supplement your progress.
Additional Exercises To Supplement The Main Program
The following two exercises don’t require dumbbells but are usually able to be completed at home or nearby.
Dips are a great exercise to build your chest and triceps at the same time. They can be done in many creative ways around the house, and don’t require a specific dip setup that you’d find in a gym.
To complete a dip at home, find any two level surfaces with space in the middle for your body.
You can do dips at home on:
The corner of a countertop
Two chairs set up opposite of eachother
A single chair with your legs on the ground
Any other level surface opposite of another level surface (look around, you have options!)
To perform a dip, place your hands on the supporting structure, and lower your body down until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle. Once you’ve reached the bottom of your dip, full extend your arms again to complete your reps.
Critical Bench’s Brian Klepacki goes over the different ways you can do dips at home including the easier single chair variation.
Pullups will be slightly harder to accomplish at home. To get started you need a bar or ledge that will support your weight, that you can grip. If you don’t have a pullup bar at home, you can always head to a park and use the monkey bars.
Once you’ve got your bar, grab it with both hands and use your lats and biceps to lift yourself up.
There are quite a few queues you’ll want to follow for a proper pullup, and Jeremy Ethier does a great job of explaining each of them in this video.
What Kind Of Results Can You Expect With The Dumbbell Stopgap Program?
Well, the creator himself lets you know right off the bat that this isn’t an ideal program to get big and ripped on. It doesn’t quite have the volume or weight necessary to generate a large amount of muscle gain.
What you can expect with this program, however, if you are a complete beginner, is a reasonable amount of strength and muscle. You are after all working out, and doing exercises you’ve never done before.
Everyone has to start somewhere, and if you’re just getting into working out, this program will give you a starting point before you walk into your first gym. Having the confidence of several exercises that you know how to do properly under your belt can be a huge win when going to the gym for the first time.
So while you won’t be getting huge and ripped from the program, you can definitely expect to see some modest results. Small increases in muscle size, and possibly muscles you’ve never seen before may start to pop up in the mirror.
Oh, and also you will burn calories when doing this exercise since any form of exercise increases metabolism and helps you burn fat, at least that's what the science says.
Frankoman’s Dumbbell Only Split VS. Dumbbell Stopgap
There is another dumbbell-only program which is also pretty popular called the Frankoman Dumbbell Only Split. You may be wondering which of these programs you should start with.
The Frankoman program is designed for slightly more experienced beginners, and offers more room to progress than the Stopgap program. The stopgap program does not hit every muscle group, whereas the Frankoman program does.
The main difference, is that the Frankoman program is designed for steady progression over several months, and the Dumbbell Stopgap program is designed as an easy introduction to the gym for total beginners.
The Frankoman program offers more volume, as well as more exercises overall for each muscle group. There is also a specific focus on legs and arms which this program lacks.
If you’ll be sticking with a dumbbell only program for a long time, the Frankoman program is the way to go.
Alternative Program - Dumbbell Push/Pull/Legs
If you will be working out using only dumbbells for an extended period of time, it would be worthwhile to look into a PPL program that uses dumbbells only. The Frankoman program is one example of a PPL program as it breaks the days down by push exercises, pull exercises, and leg exercises.
If you use this program and find that it is not challenging enough for you, you can simply increase the frequency of your workouts. Instead of Push / Rest / Pull / Rest / Legs / Rest / Repeat, you can go Push / Pull / Legs / Rest / Repeat.
This increases your total days working out to 6 days a week instead of 3. A 6 day split will get you much further than a 3 day split if your goal is to build muscle and get ripped.
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