As a runner, I’m guilty of neglecting my arms when it comes to workouts. I’ll spend time working on my leg and core strength in the gym, but often avoid lifting the best adjustable dumbbells over my head for shoulder presses.
That said, a strong upper body is important for runners, whether you’re taking on a 5K or a marathon, as it allows you to run more efficiently. So I set out to find a dumbbell arm workout to try on my lunch break.
I turned to Caroline Girvan’s 15-minute arm and shoulder workout, with more than 5.2 million views on YouTube. All you need for the workout is a set of dumbbells (I grabbed a 3kg pair and a 5kg pair), and an exercise mat.
The main appeal is the workout didn’t repeat exercises, and that the whole thing was wrapped up in 15 minutes, meaning I still had some time to walk the dog and make some lunch before returning to my desk. Read on to find out why I’d recommend this arm and shoulder workout from Caroline Girvan..
First, a reminder that what works for me and my body might not be right for you: If you’re new to exercise, or you’re returning to exercise following an injury, it’s a good idea to get your form checked by a personal trainer.
Looking for more workout inspiration? Read what happened when this writer tried a 15 minute dumbbell core workout, as well as these 5 push-up variations to try on your next chest day.
What is the 15-minute dumbbell workout?
The Caroline Girvan workout follows a pattern of working for 45 seconds, and resting for 15. There’s 15 different exercises you work through, hitting the shoulders, biceps and triceps. None of the exercises are repeated, and you move from standing to lying on your back throughout the workout.
Grivan performs the exercises in real time, so you can follow along during the workout. She also gives you form pointers, and recommends you keep your knees soft during standing exercises and your core engaged throughout the workout.
I just tried this 15-minute dumbbell arm workout — here’s why I’d recommend it
Looking for a workout for your next arm day? Here’s why I rate this one.
1. It works into all the different arm muscles
If you’re not really sure what to do on arm day, this workout works into all the different muscles in the arm. You’ll fire up your biceps in the hammer curls and bicep presses, but also work your shoulder muscles and tricep muscles.
Girvan used two 8kg dumbbells for this workout, but I was working with much lighter weights to ensure I was getting my form right, and I still felt the burn. As a reminder, when selecting the right set of dumbbells for a workout, you should opt for a weight that feels heavy enough to be challenging by the final few reps, without compromising your form.
2. It’s beneficial for beginners
Another thing I loved about this workout is how versatile it was. If you’re a complete beginner, Girvan shows you how to do the move before the 45-second countdown begins, and then shows you the exercise from two different angles. There’s also form pointers that pop up on screen — such as leading from your hands in the frontal raises, and engaging your core throughout.
If you’re not a beginner, there’s no reason why you couldn’t increase the weight of your dumbbells for this exercise, or skip the 15-second breaks entirely to work for a full minute for each exercise.
3. It’s a slow burner
While it didn’t leave me overly sweaty (a plus, as I didn’t have to shower before my next meeting), this workout definitely builds up over time and I could feel it in my arms by the end of the workout. I’ll definitely be repeating this one again in the future, and challenging myself to use heavier weights as I get more confident with my form.
Next: Also check out — pull-up vs chin-up: Which is better for building strength?
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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.