Whether you’re heading back to the gym or working out from home, adding weights to your workout can be daunting. One man who knows his stuff about working out from just about anywhere is Joe Wicks, a.k.a The Body Coach, who became somewhat of a national treasure in the UK during the Coronavirus pandemic as he ran PE With Joe YouTube classes to help kids stay fit from home.
Unsurprisingly, Wicks’ 35-minute home dumbbell workout has more than 1.3 million views on YouTube, so on a recent trip to the gym, I followed along with the full-body workout, using a number of different dumbbells and an exercise mat. (Still working out from home? We’ve hand-picked the best adjustable dumbbells on the market here).
The workout itself is a circuit of seven exercises, repeated four times. You do 30-seconds of work and then rest for 30 seconds. After 28 minutes, you rest for 90 seconds before going into a 5-minute ab blaster. It’s designed to keep your heart rate elevated for the full 35 minutes, torching calories in the process. It’s perfect for all levels, as Wicks talks you through each exercise and gives you prompts on your form. Those who are new, or just returning to weight lifting should opt for lighter weights, whereas those with more experience should opt for a weight that’s challenging, and difficult to lift by the final rep.
Not for you? Read what happened when I tried this 10-minute ab workout with 65 million views (spoiler, it's a killer!)
What is the Joe Wicks dumbbell workout?
As mentioned above, the workout consists of four sets of this circuit of seven exercises. You perform each exercise for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds, for the full 28 minutes. The circuit is as follows:
Front squat: Holding the dumbbells on your shoulders, with your feet shoulder-width apart and your feet slightly pointed outwards, squat down and thrust back up, squeezing your glutes at the top of the move.
Shoulder press: Holding the dumbbells on your shoulders, press them up above your head, then back to your starting position. Keep the movement controlled. You can bend the knees and bounce upwards slightly if you need the extra momentum.
Reverse lunges: Holding one dumbbell in each hand, step back, one leg at a time, into a reverse lunge, lowering the back knee down until it is a few inches off the floor. Repeat on the opposite side.
Bicep curls: For this exercise, hold one dumbbell in each hand and take it in turns to curl the weight up to your torso, working one arm at a time. Be careful not to swing the weights back and forth — keep the movement slow and controlled and make sure it’s the bicep that’s doing the work.
Thrusters: With a dumbbell in each hand, squat down and touch the dumbbells to the floor, then in one move, thrust upwards and finish with your arms straight above your head. The whole exercise should be one fluid movement.
Goblet squat: Holding one dumbbell close to your chest, and your feet turned out slightly wider than they would in a normal squat, lower down into a slow and controlled deep squat, the drive up, keeping your weight in the heels of your feet.
Romanian deadlift: Holding the dumbbells to the side of your body, lower the dumbbells down to the floor, keeping a slight bend in the knee, and your back straight for the entire move. Keep the entire movement slow and controlled. You should feel a stretch along the back of the legs.
You’ll repeat this circuit four times, before moving into the ab finisher, which is 20 seconds of work, and 10 seconds of rest. You’ll perform the following exercises twice through.
Crunches: Keeping your back flat against the floor, your knees bent, and your arms outstretched, crunch upwards, thinking about reaching your hands over your knees.
Bicycles: Lying on your back with your knees in tabletop position, put your hands on your temples, with your elbows out to the side. Engaging your core, slowly touch your right elbow to your left knee before straightening the leg out. Repeat on the opposite side.
Reverse crunches: Again, keeping your lower back pressed into the floor and your arms out to your side, engage your core and lift your hips up off the mat, then drop your heels down to tap the floor.
Single leg crunch: Lying flat on your back with your feet flat on the floor, crunch up and extend your right leg up. As you crunch, reach your left arm to your right leg, tapping your calf, shin, or foot. Lower back and repeat on the opposite side.
Plank: Leaning your body weight on your elbows, engage your core and hold the plank. Think about sucking your belly button into your spine.
I tried the Joe Wicks dumbbell workout — here’s what happened
I went to the gym for this workout so I could increase or lower the weights of the dumbbells as I completed each circuit to ensure it stayed challenging. Unlike Joe, I did most of the exercises with two 7kg dumbbells rather than 10kg, but the beauty of this workout is that you can customize it with a weight that feels challenging for you.
For the goblet squats, I opted for a 10kg dumbbell to really push myself, but for the bicep curls, I dropped down to a 5kg dumbbell, as I felt like I was losing my form trying to lift the heavier weights. If you only have one set of dumbbells at home, this is fine, but investing in a set of adjustable weights can really help elevate your workout.
For the entire workout, my heart rate stayed at around 160 beats per minute, which is definitely in my tempo heart rate mode. I burned more calories than I normally would in a strength session, and I think this is down to the 30-seconds on, 30-seconds off format. Knowing I only had 30 seconds, I really pushed myself hard, and by the ab finisher, I could feel it in my body.
I also found that by the fourth and final circuit, I was more confident in the moves and pushed myself to get one more rep in. For beginners, the repetitive nature of this workout helps build confidence, which is something many of us are looking for as we take our first steps back in the gym.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Joe Wicks — I’ve trained with him a few times in London, and tuned in to his home workouts throughout the pandemic. He’s got brilliant energy, and he really pushes you to work hard. This is definitely one I’ll return to, once my legs stop shaking.
Looking for more workout inspiration? Read what happened when I tried this ab workout with dumbbells, the Pamela Reif six-pack abs workout, and this Heather Robertson HIIT workout. We’ve also found the best ab workouts you can do for free and explain how to do a sit-up properly.