This 6-move workout sculpts your chest, triceps, and shoulders in 20 minutes

a photo of a woman with strong arm muscles
(Image credit: Getty Images/skynesher)

If you’re looking for a workout that’ll sculpt the muscles in your chest, triceps, and shoulders, we’ve found exactly what you’re looking for. All you’ll need is a set of the best adjustable dumbbells and 20 minutes of your time. The best part is, that this entire workout can be completed lying down on your exercise mat, so if you prefer to lie down for your arm workouts, or you have accessibility issues that make moving from lying to standing difficult, this is one to bookmark. 

The workout, created by Sweat app trainer Britany Williams, involves two different circuits, each consisting of three exercises. There are a number of benefits to adding weights to your workouts — strength training has been found to increase the size and strength of your muscles, reduce body fat, improve bone density, and boost your metabolism.

As always, if you’re new to an exercise and you’re not sure how to do it while maintaining the correct form, it’s always a good idea to check in with a personal trainer, to ensure you’re not putting yourself at risk of injury. When it comes to selecting the right weight for your workout, remember that it should feel difficult, but not impossible, by the final few reps — at no point should the weight force you to alter your form. 

What is the workout? 

Ready to get started? The workout consists of two sets of three exercises. You’ll do each exercise for 40 seconds, followed by a 20-second rest. Complete three sets of circuit one, then take a 2-3 minute break, before moving on to circuit two. 

Circuit one

Neutral press to chest fly 

For this exercise, start by lying on your back with a dumbbell in each hand. Ensure that your knees are bent, your feet are pressed into the floor, and your lower back is pressed into the exercise mat. Hold each dumbbell next to your chest, with your elbows bent and your palms facing toward your body, then slowly press them towards the ceiling, pause here, before lowering each dumbbell out to the side of your body, completing a chest fly. Once you’ve done the chest fly, bring your arms back above your chest, and move into another dumbbell press.

Lat pullover to narrow press 

You’ll start this exercise by completing a lat pullover — to do this, hold a dumbbell in each hand, and extend your arms to the ceiling, keeping your dumbbells pressed together. From here, lower both dumbbells back behind your head, moving slowly and with control, then reverse the movement. Once your arms are back above your chest, complete a narrow dumbbell press, moving both dumbbells pressed together towards your chest, with your elbows lowering to the ground on either side of your body. 

Tempo chest press 

For this exercise, keep your feet firmly on the floor and hold the dumbbells above your chest — one in each hand — with your palms facing up. Be sure to keep the dumbbells over your chest as you do this movement; it is a chest press after all, not a face press! Next, press the dumbbells up, locking out the elbows. Then slowly lower the dumbbells back down to your chest, keeping the elbows wide as you do so. As this is a tempo chest press, you’ll lower the dumbbells down for a count of three seconds, moving slowly and with control, then press back up in a count of one second.

Circuit two

Alt body skull crusher 

For this exercise, start with a dumbbell in each hand, and your arms extended over your chest. Keeping your left arm still, perform a skull crusher on your right side, bending at your right elbow and lowering the weight down to the side of your head, before extending back to your starting position. Keep alternating sides. 

Alt neutral press

Again, you’ll be working one side at a time during this exercise, and alternating between the two. Start with your arms extended above your chest, holding a dumbbell in each hand, with your palms facing in. Keeping your left arm extended to the ceiling, lower your right elbow down to the ground in a neutral press, before returning to your starting position and repeating the exercise on your left side. Keep switching sides throughout. 

Alt chest press 

For the final exercise in this circuit, again, start with both arms extended above your chest, with your palms facing your knees. Keeping your left arm extended to the ceiling, slowly lower the right dumbbell down to your chest, keeping the elbow wide as you do so. Extend it back up to the ceiling, locking out the elbow, and switch to do a chest press on the left side.

What are the benefits? 

Strong arms not only look great, but they are essential for carrying out daily activities, like lifting something down from a shelf or picking up an unruly toddler mid-tantrum. Working on your arm muscles can also prevent injury, improve your posture, stabilize your joints, and help protect your bones. Adding dumbbells to your arm workouts helps your muscles grow, while also developing functional strength.

Unlike barbells, dumbbell training helps to work muscles more evenly without your stronger side taking over. Free weights also allow you to work unilaterally (single-sided), which helps to develop strength, balance, and coordination, specifically in weaker areas that need your focus. The second circuit in this workout focuses on working one side of your body at a time, helping you isolate and strengthen any weaknesses. 

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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.