This quick and effective dumbbell workout is all you need to build muscle, strength, and conditioning all over. If your current full-body routine isn’t helping you hit your fitness goals, this one is for you. And the best bit? There’s not a burpee in sight.
The workout comes from Andy Speer of Bodybuilding.com, who specializes in strength and conditioning workouts for all abilities, from beginners to advanced weightlifters. You only need a pair of medium dumbbells to complete the dumbbell circuit, designed as four complexes that challenge your body in different ways to build a seriously efficient engine.
Speer recommends performing the training twice per week for two to three weeks, but you could also slot this into your current routine as I did. Speer recommends scaling the weights and reps to keep it challenging, so there really is something for everyone. Grab one of the best yoga mats, and read on for this top-tier conditioning dumbbell workout.
Watch the ultimate full-body dumbbell workout
For the dumbbell workout, grab a pair of the best adjustable dumbbells and make sure to watch the follow-along video for a full lowdown on each exercise. If you don’t recognize them, fear not, because Speer runs through how to perform them with good form. The workout is divided into four sections designed to work your entire body, improve strength and power, burn calories, and build muscle.
If you haven’t heard of a complex before, it simply refers to movements performed back to back for a set number of reps with the same kit. Speer says, “complexes are great because they force you to complete a high-volume workout in a short amount of time. The key is to hang on to the weight until you've completed all the movements. No rest until you've finished a round!”
Power and strength complex
3 reps per exercise x 5 rounds, rest 60-90 seconds between sets
10 reps per exercise x 4 sets, rest 60 seconds between sets
Reverse lunge (10 reps per leg)
10 reps of 4 exercises right arm, rest 60 seconds, 10 reps of 4 exercises left arm x 2 rounds
Single-arm renegade row
10 reps per side per exercise x 2 rounds
Split stance alternating hammer curls
Split stance alternating shoulder press
Squat curl to press
This is my favorite way to train by a long shot, and it’s a system commonly adopted in CrossFit style strength and conditioning workouts. Not only does it save time, but you’ll be working your muscles to fatigue and burn calories throughout (and after) exercise, which is a process known as the “afterburn effect,” or EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption).
After high-intensity training, your body will attempt to return to homeostasis (balance) by ramping up your metabolism, which will remain elevated for at least 12-24 hours post-workout. Result. This dumbbell workout also adopts a technique called time under tension (TUT) which means your muscles are held under contraction for longer periods, ultimately working them harder.
Adjustable dumbbells are ideal because you’re more likely to lift heavier on exercises like squats than hammer curls, but it’s still doable — just err towards medium weight, and make sure you rest for a few minutes between each complex. During the power and strength complex, focus on keeping your core tight and use explosive power to perform each move. In the hypertrophy phase (muscle building), squeeze your muscles and perform exercises more slowly with control.
The core phase will ramp up your heart rate, and while it doesn’t scream “core,” your core muscles are required to perform each move. Besides, core control and posture are harder to maintain when you’re out of breath but paramount for moves like the snatch.
Speer adds, “the final conditioning complex may not look like much, but if you spend time in a split stance, you’ll see why it’s a finisher. Keep your back glute tucked and tight and your torso vertical while you do the hammer curl, and switch legs before moving to the shoulder press.”
Keep your hips as low as possible during the split switches rather than jumping upwards. The key is to move your feet quickly and keep your torso nice and vertical.