I just tried this dumbbell workout that hits your entire body with just 3 exercises

a couple using dumbbells in the gym
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

It’s the time of year where even getting through the doors of a gym feels like an achievement, but if you’re looking for a quick workout to raise your heart rate, grab a set of dumbbells (at home or the gym) and try this one. 

“You don’t need an hour or a full gym or to be jumping around to get a great full-body session. This one is advanced, yet can be done in 30 mins or less, with only a pair of dumbbells!”, personal trainer Kelsey Wells writes. Wells is a trainer on the Sweat app — an app that made it onto our best workout apps list. Read our full Sweat app review here. 

The exercise uses just three compound exercises to target all of the major muscle groups in your body. If you’re short on time, compound exercises, which work multiple muscle groups simultaneously, are a great way of getting more out of your workout. Read on to find out what happened when we gave this one a go. 

And if you’re working out from home, check out the best adjustable dumbbells to suit all your workouts.

What is the Kelsey Wells full body dumbbell workout?

The workout involves 3-4 sets of 10-reps of the following exercises: 

Single arm clean and press: To do a single arm clean and press, start with your feet hip-width apart, with a dumbbell in front of you. Squat down and pick up the dumbbell in one hand. Engage your core as you stand up, driving from your feet to push up. Bend your elbow and press the dumbbell up and above your head, squeezing your glutes and abs to stand tall. With control, lower the dumbbell back to your starting position. That’s one rep. 

Dumbbell Romanian deadlifts: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes forwards. Position the dumbbells so that they are over your shoelaces when you look straight down. In this position, the torso must be upright, the arms are straight, and the shoulder blades are dropped down. This will allow you to “lock” the back and minimize strain on the neck.

Brace your core and push the hips back like you are opening a door with your butt. Whilst doing this, graze the dumbbells down your legs and keep that back flat. Your torso should ideally become parallel with the floor and the dumbbells or barbells hang at shin level. When done correctly, you should feel tension developing in the hamstrings and across the back (lower and middle, especially around the shoulder blades).

Once you are at the bottom position, imagine someone has 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. Read more about how to do a Romainan deadlift and the variations to try here.

Weighted burpee push-ups with mountain climbers: This is another slightly complicated one. Start holding a dumbbell in each hand and lower both to the floor, jumping your legs back, so you are in a high plank position with a dumbbell in each hand. Lower your chest to the floor to do a push-up (if this is too difficult, drop your knees to the ground). As you push back to a high plank position from the push-up, do 8 mountain climbers, before jumping your legs back outside your hands, lifting the dumbbells to your chest, and then standing back up, pressing the dumbbells up above your head as you do so. 

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I tried this dumbbell workout — here’s what happened 

This workout is a great one for raising your heart rate without taking too much time, or needing too much equipment. I grabbed a set of 15 pound dumbbells and got to work — when it comes to selecting the right weight for you, go for a set that feel difficult by the final few reps, but not impossible — you should still be able to complete the workout with good form. 

Talking of form, Wells puts an emphasis on moving “slow and steady” throughout this workout to really get the benefits of each move. When you rush, you tend to move with sloppy form, and without engaging your abs and glutes. 

I found the workout tough — I did 10 reps of the single arm clean and press on each side, before moving to the Romanian deadlifts. The final exercise was for me, by far, the hardest, and I struggled to hold my body weight on the metal handles of my dumbbells for 10 reps. This probably tells me I need to work on my grip strength, but I found swapping to dumbbells with a rubber handle slightly better. 

Four rounds later, I felt like I’d gotten an excellent workout, without setting foot in the gym or having to carve out hours for a strength training session. Tis' the season to eat, drink and be merry, but if you’re packing dumbbells in your suitcase, add this workout to your list.


Looking for more workout inspiration? Here’s what happened when our fitness writer did ab rollouts every single day for a week, plus this shoulder workout that only takes 10-minutes to build muscle

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.