Forget planks — this 5-move dumbbell workout builds your core, legs and shoulder muscles

Woman holding two dumbbells out in front of her at shoulder height during outdoor workout in the sunshine
(Image credit: Shutterstock images)

In the words of Meg Takacz, ‘We’re back!’ This time, it’s a full-body, five-move HIIT torcher to get every muscle group fired up and burning out. Trust us — this one isn’t for the faint of heart.

Although most workouts we publish at Tom’s Guide are for every fitness level, you might want to modify some exercises if you’re a beginner or use a light dumbbell instead. The five moves by running coach Takacz and her pal @amandabutlernyc are creative and fun, designed to be done in synchro with a pal or alone if you prefer to sweat solo.

No gear? Grab a set of the best adjustable dumbbells tried and tested by our team — perfect for scaling up and down quickly during full-body workouts — and bookmark this one for later. 

Person holding two dumbbells during bicep curl close up

(Image credit: Getty images/ Unknown)

Forget the gym for a moment — this five-minute workout raises your heart rate, ticks boxes for cardio and uses one dumbbell to build muscle and strengthen your arms, chest, shoulder complex, back, core, glutes and legs. There’s barely a muscle left inactive, which is just as well, as we recommend factoring in recovery afterward. 

Watch Meg Takacz's 5-move HIIT dumbbell workout

If you haven’t got an adjustable dumbbell, grab a medium-heavy weight that feels challenging for your upper and lower body, or grab a couple of options if you have them. Typically people can lift heavier weights for lower-body exercises because of larger, more powerful muscles like the glutes and quads. So a mix can be useful. 

Here are the moves:

5 reps each side:

Plank up-downs (commando planks) and push-up-row complex

12 reps:

Dumbbell clean and squat

5 reps each leg:

Single-leg deadlift to isolated overhead press and lunge.

Complete as many rounds as you like. I recommend watching the video for tips to perfect your form and learn how to do each exercise. Remember to move with control and keep your core tight, avoid arching your back and slow things down until you’re more comfortable with each move.

Exercise tips

Exercise names in the industry can be misleading, changing as often as your workout gear, so focus less on the titles given to each exercise and familiarize yourself with the video instead. During plank up-downs (also known as commando planks), place the dumbbell in front of you on your mat and tap the dumbbell with one hand at a time after each rep. 

The push-up-row is pretty much a controlled burpee down to the ground, jumping into a bentover lunge position and rowing twice with your dumbbell. Complete reps on one side before switching, and change to a regular push-up if you prefer. Land with a soft bend in your knees and both feet facing forward, hips square, to avoid putting pressure on your joints.

Takacz neglects to mention the lunge portion of the overhead press. The exercise starts with a single-leg Romanian deadlift, then you'll clean the weight to your shoulder and punch it overhead as you lunge. Keep the dumbbell directly over your shoulder and remember to lock out your elbow. 


In order to get this exercise right, you'll need to practice stability, balance and coordination, using your core to help drive each move without falling over. But that’s why we play around with exercises — we get better, stronger, fitter and more confident. And have fun while we do it. The more you practice this one, the more rhythm you can develop and the more you can play with tempo and reps.

If you want to try this full-body workout without weights, here are 5 clever ways to build muscle without lifting heavier weights to give you some ideas. However you choose to tackle it, the five moves are functional compound exercises, targeting more joints and muscles and increasing calorie burn potential. 

And the payoff for wobbling around? The research has shown that unilateral exercises help strengthen underused muscles, improve stability, and even (indirectly) stimulate muscles on the other side of the body — a process called cross-education. Bonus. 

Tom's Guide

Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III qualified fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.