I trained like the UK’s Fittest Man 2020 using this dumbbell workout — here’s what happened

Dumbbell workout: Image of Zack George on an air dyne working out
(Image credit: Matt Melling)

In need of a killer dumbbell workout? It turns out you only need three exercises and a dumbbell to train like the UK’s Fittest Man. Who knew? Zack George is one of the world’s top CrossFit athletes, and the man himself handed me one of his go-to workouts to try — I regret everything.

This workout will sculpt a stronger body from head to toe and get you sweating up a storm in the process. Aim to finish it as fast as possible, and I recommend using one of the best adjustable dumbbells to tackle it with. For an extra challenge, why not compete against friends in a race for time? 

“I love to do this style of workout — super simple, yet very effective,” George tells me. “I usually do this in the gym, but it can easily be done at home with an alternative weight if you don’t have a dumbbell.” George recommends working continuously with little to zero rest, aiming for all movements to be unbroken. Ouch.

If you’re up for a new challenge, here it is. Fed up with push-ups? These 5 variations will revamp chest day, or read on to see what happened when I got stuck in and trained like the UK’s Fittest Man using this exact dumbbell workout. 

What is the UK Fittest Man’s dumbbell workout? 

Image of Zack George holding dumbbells on his shoulders

(Image credit: Matt Melling)

George explains, “The burpees over the dumbbell will spike your heart rate, so try to use the squats as active recovery to bring that heart rate back down, ready to go again with the snatches.

My top tip would be to stay consistent rather than going too hard and keep a steady pace throughout, then on the last round, push it to your max so you can finish on a high.” If you’re unsure about the exercises, we’ve summarized them below, along with some tips and tricks. 

The workout:

Complete 10 rounds for time 

Perform each exercise as fast as possible for 10 rounds. If you need rest, wait until you’ve completed the round rather than stopping between exercises. 

8 alternating dumbbell snatches 

8 burpees over dumbbell 

12 air squats

How to do: alternating dumbbell snatches 

Start with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and place your dumbbell between your feet. Engage your core, hinge at your hips and squat down to pick up your dumbbell in an overhand grip. Pull your dumbbell overhead as you extend your legs and hips and lift through your feet with explosive power. Extend your arm at the top. Pass the dumbbell to your other hand on the descent and repeat. 

George recommends using the power in your legs to help drive the dumbbell up, keeping the weight close to your body for maximum efficiency. “Keep a flat back and no rounding,” he says. 

How to do: burpees over dumbbell

Perform a squat with your chest proud and back flat. Place your hands in front of your feet and step or jump back into a high plank position. Perform a push-up, lowering your chest to the floor with elbows tucked in rather than flared. Jump your feet behind both hands and then into the air, over your dumbbell, to the other side. 

“With the burpees, stay low as you jump over the dumbbell, as this will help you move faster,” says George. 

How to do: air squats

Learn how to do squats properly first. Then, as you drive through your heels to stand, jump into the air to perform a jump squat — if you want the extra challenge. 

“When performing the squats, keep a nice straight back and upright chest.”

I tried the UK Fittest Man’s dumbbell workout — here’s what happened 

Image of Zack George
Zack George

Zack George is one of the world’s top CrossFit athletes, a fitness influencer, and officially the UK’s Fittest Man 2020. Zack represented Leicestershire as a county athlete in rugby, squash, and table tennis, qualified for the European CrossFit Regionals in 2018, and achieved first place in the UK CrossFit Open 2020. He released his first book 'Start Where Others Stop' in May 2021 and documented his injury recovery and work with other inspiring individuals on his YouTube channel. Zack now has his eyes firmly set on the 2023 CrossFit Games.

I’m used to CrossFit-style workouts, so naively swanned over to the 12.5kg/28 lbs dumbbells concentrating far more on the low reps than the whopping 10 rounds — to my detriment. 

I think I’m still paying for my brave (foolish) decision, although I’m not sure what else I could have expected from the UK’s Fittest Man other than a complete beasting. 

I like that this dumbbell workout targets your entire body without overcomplicating things or programming complex and hard-to-master exercises. We don’t all exercise like Olympic weightlifters, and with George’s workout, you don’t have to either. One dumbbell, three exercises, and off you go. 

The snatches are the most technical movement to practice, so I recommend dropping weight and focusing on your form until you feel comfortable. Any lower back pain is a no-go, so try to brace your core and drive through your legs without dumping into your arms. If alternating the weight causes you more faff than fun, complete all your reps on one arm before switching over. 

Eight burpees won’t seem like much at first, but when you’re five rounds in, they might as well be a thousand, so I tried to slow to a manageable pace early on rather than going balls to the wall in the first few rounds. You can thank me later if this saves you too. 

By adding this fiery dumbbell workout into your repertoire, you can expect gains in cardio fitness and muscle endurance, as well as some shaky shoulders the next day as an instant reminder of your life choices. 

Want to improve your core strength first? This dumbbell abs workout sculpts your core in 15 minutes, and a standing abs workout is one of the most effective ways to build your core. If you don’t have any equipment, Chris Hemsworth’s 200-rep bodyweight workout offers plenty of high-rep, low-weight intensity. 

Next: I did 50 Russian twists every day for a week — here’s what happened. I also did 50 Bulgarian split squats every day for a week — and the results surprised me. We asked Peloton if you can do the Peloton rowing workouts on your own rowing machine — here's what they said.

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.