Forget squats — you only need 1 dumbbell and 5 exercises for this full-body workout

a photo of a man with strong abs holding a dumbbell
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you’re traveling for the holidays, you might not have time to fit in your normal strength session in the gym, but don’t worry, here on the Tom’s Guide fitness desk, we have your back. Looking to build full-body strength, it only takes one dumbbell (or kettlebell) and these five exercises to do so. Read on to find out more. 

As always, it’s important to flag that if you’re new to exercise, you’re returning to exercise following an injury or pregnancy, this might not be the right workout for you and your body. It’s always a good idea to check with a personal trainer or your doctor before taking on a new workout routine. If in any doubt, ask a personal trainer to take a look at your form before adding weight to the workout. 

What is the workout? 

The workout, created by home workout personal trainer Matt Fox, uses five different compound exercises and one weight to work multiple muscle groups in the body. All you’ll need for the workout is one of the best adjustable dumbbells or one of the best kettlebells, and your body weight. When it comes to selecting the right weight for your workout, remember that the weight should make the exercise feel challenging, but not impossible, by the final few reps. At no point should the weight compromise your form. 

The workout follows the format of 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off. You can complete the circuit twice for a 10-minute workout, or as many times as you’d like to up the ante. 

Here are the exercises involved: 


This exercise involves a kettlebell swing, followed by a goblet squat. To do the exercise, start by holding your kettlebell or dumbbell with both hands, with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Engaging your core, swing the kettlebell back between your legs. As you swing upwards, engage your glutes and your abs, and keep your arms outstretched as the kettlebell swings upward. From here, change your grip on the kettlebell or dumbbell, hold it against your chest, and complete a goblet squat, driving through your feet to stand up and return to your starting position. That’s one rep. 

Single leg clean and press

To do this exercise, start by standing with your legs hip-width apart, with a kettlebell in one hand. Engage your abs and hinge forward, lifting the leg on the same side as the dumbbell off the floor, as you lower the dumbbell towards the ground. Slowly and with control, reverse the movement, and as you do so, clean and press the dumbbell up above your head. That’s one rep. If you’re doing an odd number of circuits, switch sides after 20 seconds. Alternatively, complete 40 seconds on one side, and switch to the other on your next circuit. 

Overhead press to racked lunge

For this exercise, start with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, with a dumbbell or kettlebell between your feet. Squat down to pick up the weight with one hand, and engage your core and glutes to press it over your head. From here, bring the weight to your shoulder, and complete a lunge on the same side, before lowering the weight back down to your starting position. On your next rep, pick up the weight and then lunge on the opposite side. 

Jumping lunges and lateral jump

This one will get your heart rate up! Start by standing next to your dumbbell or kettlebell on the floor. Engage your abs and complete a jumping lunge on each leg (if you’re looking to modify the exercise, do a reverse lunge and remove the jumping element), then complete a lateral jump over the dumbbell, and complete two more jump lunges on the opposite side of the weight. Keep your core engaged and your torso upright throughout. 

Crush grip curl and press out

For this exercise, start with your legs hip-width apart, your core engaged and hold a dumbbell with both hands against your chest with your elbows bent. Press the dumbbell out and away from your chest, then as you reverse the movement, complete a bicep curl, lowering the weight down towards your legs. That’s one rep. 

What are the benefits? 

There are several benefits to adding compound exercises like these to your training routine. Firstly, you get a lot more bang for your buck — you’re working multiple muscle groups at the same time, meaning you’ll target more areas of your body, and burn more calories as you do so. 

Secondly, compound exercises like these closely replicate daily tasks or movements you’d perform, like climbing, pushing or jumping. Working on your functional fitness can help reduce your risk of injury when completing these daily tasks. 

Compound movements like these are also pretty versatile, meaning beginners and more advanced exercisers can benefit from them. If you are a beginner, complete the workout using a lighter dumbbell, and really focus on your form. 

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Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.