I just did this 1000-rep dumbbell workout — here's what happened

a photo of a woman doing a push-up with dumbbells
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

100 reps of any exercise is an awful lot, so when I saw this 1,000-rep dumbbell workout, I knew it was going to be a challenge. After a weekend of little exercise —and a lot of food and drinking at a friend’s bachelorette party — I decided to put my fears aside, grab a set of the best adjustable dumbbells, and try the workout, devised by home workout coach Matt Fox. What happened next wasn’t pretty. 

Fox specializes in workouts you can do from the comfort of your own home, using very little equipment. If you do end up heading to the gym to try this, I’d recommend picking up two sets of dumbbells — a lighter pair and a heavier set. 

Of course, if you’re a complete beginner, or you’re returning to exercise following an injury, this might not be the workout for you. If you are new to an exercise, it’s always a good idea to check your form with a personal trainer before attempting to add a large amount of weight, or repetitions. 

Matt Fox’s 1000-rep dumbbell challenge 

You can easily watch a video of each exercise on Fox’s Instagram post, but if you prefer to have a look at what’s to come, here are the 10 exercises you’ll do in this challenge. For each exercise, you’ll need to complete 100 reps. “This is a full-body strength workout, try to keep rest breaks to a minimum!” Fox writes. You should complete 100 reps of each exercise before moving on to the next one. 

Arnold press: 100 reps

  • Start by standing with your legs shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, with your elbows bent and palms facing toward you
  • In one fluid motion, raise the dumbbells above your head and rotate your palms out away from your body
  • Pause at the top of the movement, when your arms are extended straight above your head
  • Reverse the movement so you are back at your starting position.
  • Here’s more on how to do an Arnold press with perfect form.

Romanian deadlift: 100 reps

  • Start with your feet hip-width apart, and a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Brace your core and push the hips back
  • Graze the dumbbells down your legs and keep that back flat
  • Your torso should ideally become parallel with the floor and the dumbbells hang at shin level.
  • Once you are at the bottom position, imagine someone as sent an electric shock through your butt and snap back up.
  • As you reach full extension of the hips, be sure to keep the ribcage down and glutes active.
  • Here’s more on how to do an RDL with perfect form.

Bicep curls: 100 reps

  • Begin by standing tall, feet about hip-width apart, with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing forward.
  • With your upper arms stationary and your shoulders relaxed and back, exhale and bend your elbows to raise the dumbbells to your shoulders.
  • Hold for a moment at the top of the move, then inhale as you lower the weight back to the start position.
  • Here’s what happened when this fitness writer did bicep curls every day for a week.

Tricep extensions: 100 reps

  • Begin by standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart, with one foot slightly ahead of the other, for balance. Don’t lock out your knees and make sure your core is engaged, which will help you maintain good posture and form.
  • Grab a dumbbell by the handle with both hands, inhale and raise it over your head as high and straight as you comfortably can.
  • With your arms by your head, and looking straight ahead, exhale and slowly bend your elbows to lower the dumbbell behind you.
  • When your elbows are at a 90-degree angle, slowly raise your arms and return to the start position.
  • Here’s what happened when this fitness writer did tricep extensions every day for a week.

Floor press: 100 reps

  • Grab a dumbbell and lie back on the floor. Keep your feet firmly on the floor and hold the dumbbells above your chest — one in each hand — with your palms facing up.
  • 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.
  • Here’s more on how to do a chest press.

Renegade rows: 100 reps

  • To do a renegade row, start in a plank position with a dumbbell in each hand. Don’t opt for a weight that is too heavy — you need to be able to row without twisting your hips.
  • Engage your core, then row one arm back, until your upper arm is slightly higher than your torso, then slowly lower it back down to the ground and switch sides.
  • Here’s more on how to do renegade rows, and what happened when we did them every day for a week.

Alternating snatch: 100 reps

  • For this exercise, start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and a dumbbell in between your feet.
  • Squat down, pushing your glutes back, and grab the dumbbell with one hand, as you raise out of the squat, lift the dumbbell overhead into a snatch.
  • As you lower back into a squat, lower the dumbbell back down to the ground, and switch the arm you are snatching with.

Walking lunges: 100 reps

  • To do a forward lunge, you’ll want to start at the end of your exercise mat (or yoga mat; we’ve found the best yoga mats for home workouts) with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Engage your glutes (squeeze them together) and brace your core as you step forward with your right or left foot, making sure your legs stay shoulder-width apart and your hips stay facing forward.
  • Keeping your spine perpendicular to the floor, lower your body to the ground until both legs are at a 90-degree angle.
  • The front knee should be over the front ankle, and your back knee should be underneath your hip. Press back from the front foot and step the back foot forward, repeating the lunge on the opposite side.

Lateral raises: 100 reps

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, palms facing toward your body, with a soft bend in your elbows.
  • Brace your abs and, keeping your torso still, raise the dumbbells out to the sides until they are level with your shoulders, and slightly in front of your chest.
  • Hold here for a second before slowly lowering the dumbbells back to the start.
  • Here’s more on how to do lateral raises with perfect form.

Weighted hip thrust: 100 reps

Although Fox calls this a hip thrust, it’s more of a weighted glute bridge, as your back is still flat against the floor, as opposed to a hip thrust, where your back is usually on a bench. 

  • Use a dumbbell or a bar and hold the weight on the hip bones.
  • Push up, engage your glutes, pause at the top, and lower back down to your starting position.
  • Make sure the entire exercise is slow and controlled.
  • Here’s more on how to do a glute bridge, and its benefits.

I did the 1000-rep challenge — here’s what happened 

My whole body was shaking

100 reps into the first exercise, I was humbled. This was going to be a lot harder than I expected, especially as I was testing this workout in my spare bedroom, in the middle of a heatwave here in the UK. I was extremely sweaty, and by the time I reached the walking lunges, I had to stop and get a towel — this one is tough. 

The high number of reps was also pretty humbling. I grabbed a set of seven-pound weights for this workout, as I’d normally go a lot heavier than this for my strength workouts, but found for a lot of the arm exercises, I had to stop and lower the weight. For the lateral raises, I used a set of two-pound dumbbells as I noticed as I got tired, my form began to suffer. As a reminder, when it comes to selecting the right weight for your workout, make sure the weight feels challenging by the final few reps, but at no time compromises your form. 

For the renegade rows or plank rows, as Fox called them, my core was shaking. For the final 50 reps, I decided to drop the weight and switch to plank shoulder taps instead to ensure I wasn’t arching my back during the move. I suffer from sciatica, so being mindful of my lower back during workouts is important. 

By the time I got to the hip thrusts, I had cramp, but as the end was in sight, I continued, all in the name of good journalism. I switched to four sets of 25-reps instead, thinking that this might mentally make things seem easier. 

a photo of a strength workout on the Apple Watch Series 8

(Image credit: Future/Tom's Guide)

I’ll be back for more to try and beat my time

According to my Apple Watch Series 8, the entire 1,000-rep workout took me 41 minutes, which is a lot longer than I anticipated. I’m just coming out of a marathon training block, where I haven’t been as focused on lifting weights, so I’ll be using this as a fitness benchmark in the future to see how I’ve progressed. Once I’ve stopped shaking, that is.  

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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.