Build muscle and boost your metabolism in just 7 moves with this dumbbell HIIT workout

Man doing a dumbbell workout
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We’ve created the ultimate HIIT workout with dumbbells to build full-body muscle in seven moves. These exercises should push your limits and spike your heart rate, sculpting muscles from head to toe if you’re short on time and looking for a quick and efficient home workout.

Sneaking in a session throughout the day can be a game-changer, boosting productivity, mood, and well-being, and you only need a set of the best adjustable dumbbells to get it done.

Below, we cover the seven dumbbell exercises in more detail, any equipment you’ll need, and how to smash this quick HIIT workout wherever you exercise — whatever your fitness level. 

How to do this 7-move dumbbell HIIT workout

For this high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session, you’ll need a set of medium to heavy adjustable or fixed dumbbells and some space. Depending on the time you have available, scale this workout from 20 to 60 minutes. Aim to measure intensity on the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) — with 10 being maximum effort, aim for a moderate intensity of around 6-8. 

Perform the moves as one giant circuit, completing 3-6 rounds of each exercise. Work for 45 seconds, followed by 15 seconds of rest, moving between exercises each round. Adjust the number of sets and rest periods based on individual fitness levels and goals and customize them to suit you. 

If you enjoy traditional hypertrophy sessions, you can switch from the high-intensity format and perform each exercise for 6-12 reps (or 13+ reps for muscular endurance sessions) and 3-6 sets, taking 30-40 seconds of rest between sets for recovery. Complete all sets of one exercise before moving to the next.

1. Dumbbell pullover

While many dumbbell exercises for the back involve rows, which are horizontal pulling movements, the dumbbell pullover stands out as a vertical pull exercise. Despite being performed while lying on your back, the move targets the latissimus dorsi, serratus anterior, triceps, deltoids, pecs, and core muscles.

  • Lie on a bench or the floor with your upper back supported and feet planted firmly on the ground or bench
  • Hold a dumbbell with both hands above your chest, arms extended
  • Lower the dumbbell behind your head until you feel a stretch in your arms, lats, and chest
  • Pause, engage your lats, and pull the dumbbell back up to the starting position, focusing on using your back muscles to perform the movement

2. Dumbbell Romanian deadlift

The hip hinge movement primarily targets the posterior chain muscles, including your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings, and the hip flexors and core muscles for stability. Unlike the conventional deadlift, the Romanian deadlift hits the hamstrings harder and requires a soft bend in the knees.

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing your thighs
  • Engage your core and retract your shoulder blades
  • Hinge at your hips, pushing your glutes back while keeping your back straight, and lower the dumbbells towards the ground
  • Lower the dumbbells until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, keeping them close to your body and maintaining a slight bend in your knees
  • Keeping your back flat, once you reach the maximum stretch, reverse the movement by driving through your heels and extending your hips to return to the starting position
  • Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement

3. Dumbbell Arnold press

Vertical pushes like the Arnold press target all three deltoid heads — posterior, lateral, and anterior — and the upper pecs and triceps. You can perform standing to engage your core and legs or seated to support your lower back.

  • Sit on a bench with back support, or stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height with palms facing your body (neutral grip)
  • Press the dumbbells overhead while simultaneously rotating your palms outward (supinated grip) until your arms fully extend overhead
  • At the top of the movement, your palms should be facing away from you, and your arms should be straight
  • Reverse the movement by lowering the dumbbells to shoulder height, and rotating your palms back to the starting position

4. Dumbbell Bulgarian split squat

The Bulgarian split squat primarily targets the quads, hip flexors, glutes, core, and hamstrings, isolating one leg at a time in the static position. Hinging slightly forward with a straight back helps hit the glutes harder than the standard split squat.

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand by your sides
  • Take a big step backward with one foot and place the top of your foot on a bench or elevated surface behind you
  • Keep your torso upright and engage your core for stability
  • Lower your body by bending both knees until your back knee nearly touches the ground and your front thigh is parallel to the ground
  • Ensure your front knee is directly above your ankle and not beyond it to prevent overextension
  • Press through your front heel to return to the starting position
  • Complete your reps, then switch sides

5. Dumbbell bent over row

The bentover row utilizes a horizontal pull from a forward-leaning 45-degree angle. The hip hinge activates the posterior chain muscles, hip flexors, and core, primarily working the biceps and back muscles, including the latissimus dorsi, mid and lower trapezius, rhomboids, and posterior deltoids.

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in your right hand with a pronated grip (palm facing down)
  • Bend at the waist, keeping your back flat and chest lifted, until your torso is at a 45-degree angle to the ground
  • Extend your right arm towards the floor, allowing the dumbbell to hang naturally
  • Pull the dumbbell towards your ribcage, squeezing your shoulder blade towards your spine
  • Lower the dumbbell back towards the floor with control
  • Complete your reps, then switch sides

6. Dumbbell chest press

The dumbbell chest press is a horizontal push that hits the pecs, anterior deltoids, and triceps, utilizing your core muscles for stability. You can increase the range of motion using free weights, allowing your elbows to track further below the chest and shoulders than a barbell allows, working muscles harder for longer.

  • Lie on your back on a bench or the floor, holding dumbbells in each hand at chest level with palms facing away from you
  • Press the dumbbells upwards until the arms fully extend
  • Lower the dumbbells back to chest level with control — avoid holding the weights over your head and squeeze your pecs as you move

7. Dumbbell woodchoppers

A core exercise at heart, woodchoppers use rotation to hit the obliques, abs, shoulders, arms, hip flexors, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles and generate trunk stability as you control rotation and resist gravity. Golfers can benefit from adding this exercise to the routine, as it mimics the swing. 

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding one dumbbell with both hands to the outside of the left hip
  • Engage your core and keep a soft bend in the elbows
  • Rotate your torso, driving the dumbbell diagonally across your body above the right shoulder as you pivot on the left foot
  • Return to the starting position with control 
  • Complete your reps, then repeat on the other side

How long does it take to see workout results?

It depends on your goals. The process of losing fat and building muscle is known as body recomposition. It takes months to achieve and years of consistency to maintain. As a beginner, you can expect to start noticing changes around four weeks; significant changes can take 12 weeks or more.

Again, this depends on your fitness level, how often you exercise, and factors like lifestyle and exercise consistency. We recommend reading up on progressive overload techniques to help you learn how to build muscle and what to expect. 

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