As we saw with Cara Delevingne’s recent fitness transformation from supermodel to action hero goddess, a basic set of dumbbells can go a long way when it comes to pumping up your bod. If the closest you’ve come to lifting weights is lugging the groceries home after work, though, you may not know exactly where to begin. Girl, we gotchu. The truth is, you’re probably already doing more than you might think!


Take it from celebrity trainers David Kirsch, who has worked with such megababes as Heidi Klum, Kate Upton, Kelly Ripa, and Harley Pasternak, whose client list runs the gamut from Kim Kardashian and Lady Gaga to Rihanna, Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry.

The Preparation


We asked the trainers to give us the lowdown on how to get started with our very own at-home small space gym we could even squeeze into our tiny apartments, beginning with equipment — or lack thereof. All you really need to get going, Kirsch says, is a positive mindset. “For me, the idea of exercise is countering potential excuses that people come up with for not working out,” he shares. “You don’t need the perfect dumbbells or exercise mat. It’s great if you have it, but if not, [use] what you have!” Case in point? On a recent vacay, Kirsch used an 8oz. water bottle as weight substitute. That’s not the first time he’s gotten creative either. “[When] my girls (six-year-old daughters Emilia and Francesca) were younger, I’d use them as weights,” he laughs.

“[In almost] everything that you do, you’re moving your body, [and if] you’re moving your body, you’re exercising,” Kirsch says. Even everyday activities, such as mopping, can help you to build muscle. “Mopping, [for instance], works your arms, biceps and triceps.” Swiffering too, y’all ;)

No matter what you choose to bulk up with, make sure it’s suitable for you and your needs. As Pasternak says, no one size fits all, and what works for one person might not work as well for someone else. He points to factors such as “…your injury status, your coordination [and] your exercise history” when determining what type of weight to use. “Maybe you’re someone that’s played other sports that have strengthened you in different ways,” he says. That might make you a candidate for a slightly heavier weight. Overall, Pasternak recommends that beginners start with anywhere from no weights (using their own body instead) to 10lb. weights. Kirsch, for one, says he also prefers solid dumbbells to those that are plated. “I feel safer,” he says.

You’re almost ready to begin, but before you go lifting those bad boys willy nilly, Pasternak recommends seeing a trainer, or, at the very least, pulling up a Youtube video to check out correct weight-lifting form. Both men also strongly advocate setting up shop in front of a mirror to check that your body is properly in line and to help get you prepped for your workout. “I find it motivational,” Kirsch says. “It helps you establish that mind/body connection, which is so, so important.”

The Equipment


All you REALLY need is a basic set of dumbbells ($21). Almost too easy…

The Exercises


Once you’re all geared up and good to go, you can go ahead and get started with one of these tried and true exercises as shared by Kirsch and Pasternak. Do them in order or mix it up – both men wholeheartedly agree that mixing up your routine is key. “I would probably train each muscle once a week,” Pasternak says.

Try Shoulder Presses: “I’d probably start with a lighter weight [here],” Kirsch begins. Then, once you’ve checked your form, maintain a natural grip on the dumbbell. “Hold [them] at shoulder width distance at shoulder height,” he says. With your knees slightly bent, Kirsh says to extend your arms and then retract them, “really focusing on your shoulders” as opposed to your abs. Repeat for 10-15 reps. (via Kirsch)

Try Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows: Beginning in a lunge position, place your left knee forward and extend your right leg all the way back. Keeping your arms down, hold the dumbbell in your right hand. Place your left forearm on your left thigh for support, then slowly pull your right arm back in a controlled manner, dragging your elbow along your ribs. Switch so that your right knee is forward and your left leg is all the way back. Hold the dumbbell in your left arm and repeat above process. (via Pasternak)

Try Situps With Dumbbells: “Lie on an exercise mat or a towel and have your legs straight out,” Kirsch says. From there, holding a three-pound dumbbell and your arms out over your head, sit up. Those who aren’t quite as strong or with lower back issues can do an easier variation of this exercise by keeping your knees bent and doing crunches over full sit ups. (via Kirsch)

Try Dumbbell Side Bends: Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Hold a dumbbell or a jug of water in your right arm. Bend your left arm so that your fingers touch your left temple. From there, tip over (like a teapot) while sliding the dumbbell up your body. Switch sides, doing an equal number of reps on each. (via Pasternak)

The Results


While you might not see results right away (Pasternak and Kirsch estimate one to several months), Kirsch says you’ll begin to feel better almost immediately. “[Clients] immediately start feeling more positive and optimistic and even looking at food in a different way,” he tells us. That’s a good thing, because according to Pasternak, how you eat can be just as key to achieving your dream results as your actual workout. “It really depends on your diet more than anything,” he says.

But don’t rush full speed ahead in an effort to combat those cheese fries. “Move at the same pace as you move [in] everyday life,” Pasternak suggests. “If something feels wrong, painful or uncomfortable…[stop]. Exercise is not supposed to feel wrong.” We definitely hear that.

For more information, check out David Kirsch’s Ultimate Family Wellness book and Harley Pasternak’s new read, 5 Pounds.

Have you tried David and Harley’s Tips Yet? Keep us posted on your progress on our Instagram at @britandco.

(Photos via David Kirsch and Harley Pasternak)