Build stronger arms and work your core with this 30-minute upper-body dumbbell workout

Juice and Toya performing a dumbbell press
(Image credit: Juice & Toya / YouTube)

Your arms, chest, shoulders, and core play a vital role in everyday activities like lifting, walking, and carrying groceries, so it’s essential to focus on building upper-body muscle. And you don’t need a gym full of equipment to get started — all you need is 30 minutes and a set of dumbbells.

If you’re training at the gym, choose a weight that’ll challenge your muscles but won’t affect your form. But if you regularly exercise at home, it’s worth investing in a set of the best adjustable dumbbells. These space-saving weights combine several ‘bells and you can quickly change the load between moves or gradually as you get stronger.

Then, with weights by your side, you’ll be ready to take on this short but effective routine from personal training duo Juice and Toya. The session is designed to target your arms and abs but uses several multi-muscle exercises to work muscles across your chest, shoulders, arms, and core.

You’ll do two sets of 12 exercises, taking you up to the 25-minute mark with a five-minute warm-up to get your muscles prepared. The aim is to do each exercise for 45 seconds, take a 15-second rest, then start the next move. At the end of the set, you’ll break for 30 seconds.

It’s an intense way to train, so it’s important that you do each move with proper form to get the most from the workout and avoid injury. You can follow Juice and Toya’s demonstrations, but if you feel your form slip, drop down to a lighter weight or take an extended break.

Watch Juice & Toya’s 30-minute upper-body workout

You pack a lot into a short session thanks to the style of exercise; high-intensity resistance training (HIRT). This is a lot like a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout but with a focus on muscle-building moves rather than cardio-focused exercise.

But both forms use a similar technique — you train intensely in short bursts with minimal rest. This works your muscles hard but also helps raise your heart rate, so you burn more energy than during an equivalent steady-paced routine.

Plus, sustaining this high heart rate has longer-term effects, like boosting your metabolism (the amount of energy you burn throughout the day), which is part of the reason Juice & Toya can pack a muscle-building, fat-burning workout into just 30 minutes with only a set of dumbbells.

But the duo also uses several compound exercises, like presses, rows, and curls, that work several muscles simultaneously for an efficiency boost. These moves require stability too, which is where your core — a section of mid-body muscle — plays a vital role.

Strengthening your core, which includes the rectus abdominis six-pack abs muscle, connects your upper and lower body, boosts your balance, and improves your posture. This is also why building mid-body muscle can help you keep proper form during HIRT workouts like this.

If you want to focus on your core specifically, then it’s worth adding some compound core exercises into your routine. You could program these as a standalone session or add them to your existing workouts as a way to spend some quality time on your core.

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James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is Tom's Guide's Fitness Editor, covering strength training workouts, cardio exercise, and accessible ways to improve your health and wellbeing.

His interest in fitness started after being diagnosed with a chronic illness, and he began focusing on strengthening his core, taking regular walks around the city, and practicing meditation to manage the symptoms. He also invested in fitness trackers, home workout equipment, and yoga mats to find accessible ways to train without the gym.

Before joining the team at Tom’s Guide, James was the Fitness Editor at Fit&Well, where he covered beginner-friendly exercise routines, affordable ways to boost your wellbeing, and reviewed weights, rowing machines, and workout headphones.

He believes that exercise should be something you enjoy doing, so appreciates the challenge of finding ways to incorporate it into everyday life through short muscle-building sessions, regular meditation, and early morning walks.