This full-body workout takes just 30 minutes, 6 moves and 1 dumbbell

woman doing goblet squat exercise with dumbbell
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you’re short on time, space and equipment, we’ve found the workout for you — and all you need is one dumbbell. The workout, devised by trainer Rhiannon Bailey, is a full-body workout, designed to help you build lean muscle mass, without having to spend hours lifting in the gym. If want to get in shape, this is a workout worth bookmarking. Read on to find out more. 

All you’ll need for this workout is one of the best adjustable dumbbells — as you’re only using one dumbbell, don’t be afraid to reach for a heavier weight. If you don’t have a dumbbell, a kettlebell will also work. Remember the right weight for you should feel difficult, but not impossible, by the final few reps — you should never feel like you are comprising your form to finish the workout. 

If you’re new to an exercise, or you’re returning to exercise following an injury, it’s a good idea to check your form with a personal trainer before adding weight, or reps, to avoid putting yourself at risk of an injury. 

Build full-body strength in 30-minutes using one dumbbell and these six moves 

If you prefer to see things written down, here’s the 30-minute workout. You’ll be working for 45 seconds, and resting for 15 seconds between exercises. If you want to make things harder, skip the rest and work for the entire 60 seconds. If you want to make things easier, work for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds. Complete five rounds in total. 

Goblet squats

To do a goblet squat, stand with your feet a little further than shoulder-width apart. Imagine you’re standing on a clock-face, and point your toes to 11 o’clock and one o’clock. Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell against your chest, underneath your chin. To start the squat, bend your knees and hips as if you’re sitting on a chair that’s directly beneath you. As you squat down, push your knees outwards so that they track directly over your middle toe.

As you squat lower, push your chest out, and keep your eyes looking straight ahead to keep your back flat and avoid hunching or rounding your spine. Squat down as low as you can while keeping your knees in line with your feet and your back flat, then push with your feet to stand back up to your starting position. Here’s more on how to do a squat

Alternating snatches

To do a dumbbell snatch, start with a dumbbell in front of you. Squat down and grab the dumbbell with one hand, keeping your back flat. Once you grab the dumbbell, explode up, flipping the dumbbell so you raise it above your head in one smooth motion. Make sure you keep the elbow high during the process and drive the dumbbell up with a straight arm. 

Lower the dumbbell back down with control, swap it into your other hand, then repeat, leading with the opposite side. Keep alternating sides throughout the workout. 

Bent over row

For this bent over row, pick up the dumbbell with both hands. Keep a slight bend in your knees, and your back straight. Slowly, and with control, bring the dumbbell up towards your chest, hinging at the elbow. The movement should come from your back and shoulder muscles, not from your arms. Pause at the top of the movement, before lowering the dumbbell back to your starting position. 

Goblet reverse lunge

To do a reverse lunge, you’ll want to start at the top of your exercise mat with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding the dumbbell with two hands against your torso. Engage your glutes (squeeze them together) and brace your core as you step backward with your right or left foot, making sure your legs stay shoulder-width apart and your hips stay facing forward. 

Keeping your spine perpendicular to the floor, lower your body to the ground until both legs are at a 90-degree angle. The front knee should be over the front ankle, and your back knee should be underneath your hip. Press back from the back foot into your starting position and repeat the move on the other side. 

For more details, and for information on variations, check out our guide on how to do a lunge.

Bicep curl

Begin by standing tall, feet about hip-width apart, holding the dumbbell with both hands, palms facing inwards. With your upper arms stationary and your shoulders relaxed and back, exhale and bend your elbows to raise the dumbbells to your shoulders. Hold for a moment at the top of the move, then inhale as you lower the weight back to the start position. That’s one rep. Keep your elbows close to your torso throughout; if they tend to flare out, lighten the load for now.

Here’s what happened when this fitness writer did bicep curls every day for a week

Dumbbell plank transfer

To perform the plank transfer, grab one moderately heavy dumbbell and place it in front of you, lying horizontally. Place your left hand slightly ahead of and to the right of the dumbbell. Place your right hand directly across from your left, and align your shoulders directly above your wrists. Step back behind you and come on to your toes, as if you were going to perform a push up. Draw your belly button in, squeeze your glutes and quads, and maintain a neutral spine.

Without shifting the hips, pick your right hand up off the floor, reach underneath you, grab the dumbbell with your right hand, and pull it over to the right side. Be sure to keep the hips aligned with the rest of the body - don’t allow them to elevate or lower towards the floor. Repeat by lifting the left hand off the floor, reaching underneath you, grabbing the dumbbell with your left hand, and pulling it over to the left side. Alternate between the two sides.

What are the benefits of dumbbell workouts? 

This is a resistance training workout, designed to build muscle and strength with the addition of weight in the form of the dumbbell. The short rest periods allow your muscles to recover ever so slightly, so you can go into the next set with good form and power. If you skip the rest, you might need to drop the weight by the final few circuits, and it’s the heavier dumbbell and good form that’ll help stimulate muscle growth. 

Weight training can boost your metabolism, help you lose weight, help you build stronger bones, and reduce your overall body fat by building muscular endurance. This workout targets most of the major muscle groups in the body, so it is a good one to add to your repertoire, whether you’re just starting out or more experienced. It’s also a good one to have up your sleep in January when the gyms tend to be busier. 

Are you looking for more workout inspiration? Here are 5 of the best kettlebell exercises for building muscle and strength, plus 9 of the best exercises for firing up your quads. We’ve also found this kettlebell workout that only uses 3 moves and 25 minutes to work your entire body

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.