Forget the gym — you just need a pair of dumbbells and 6 exercises to build full-body muscle

woman lifting dumbbells above her shoulders
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Building stronger muscles isn't just something that happens at the gym. Sometimes, all you need is a set of the best adjustable dumbbells, and a good variety of upper and lower body exercises to work through. Fortunately, we've found a six-move routine that ticks all of the above.

Fitness trainer James Stirling has designed a simple and easy strength and conditioning workout that leans on both your bodyweight and dumbbells to tone and improve your overall body strength.

The term strength and conditioning refers to so much more than just weight lifting. It's a form of exercise designed to target strength, power, agility, and endurance to enhance your overall physical performance. Here's how to get started. 

How to do James Stirling's full-body workout

To complete Stirling's full body workout you will perform each of the six exercises for 40 seconds followed by 20 seconds of rest in between each move, and you should aim to do this for five sets. 

This is a high-intensity resistance training (HIRT) structured routine. This is essentially a form of interval training that incorporates strength based exercises into a workout. It's a great way to improve your fitness, build muscle and burn fat all at once.

If you've completed any of our beginner HIIT workouts then you'll know the drill with what's to come below, just be prepared for the added challenge of the dumbbells and don't lift too heavy.

Check out the full workout in the below Instagram post which shows demonstrations of how to perform each exercise.

Beginning with squats combined with rotational presses, you will engage the lower body, core, and upper body simultaneously, and will be working on improving your functional strength and stability.

Dumbbell deadlifts are next and these will focus on the posterior chain muscles like the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back, promoting strength and power in popular weight lifting movements.  Meanwhile,  the hand-release push-ups will challenge the chest, shoulders, and triceps while working your core stability

The weighted lateral squats help to improve hip mobility and strengthen the inner and outer thigh muscles, which will contribute to overall lower body strength and flexibility. 

Then, as you near the end of the workout, you will use your bodyweight to perform broad jumps, which will work on your lower body explosiveness and agility. Finally, the jackknifes target the core muscles, helping to promote overall stability and balance.

If you don't have a lot of time to spare, HIRT helps ensure you can still exercise, despite your busy schedule. Although this style of workout is typically shorter than a standard strength workout, it allows you to still achieve significant gains because it maximizes effort and intensity during the intervals of exercise.

All six exercises included in Stirling's routine use resistance, whether that be from your body weight or the dumbbells, to help promote muscle growth. Plus, HIRT sessions help to improve your functional fitness. 

This enhances muscular strength, power, and endurance, all of which we need to perform everyday tasks like getting up from sitting down or lifting something. So, go on, give this routine a go — HIRT could be your new favorite workout.

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Jessica Downey
Fitness Writer

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her love for keeping fit and fueling her body with healthy and enjoyable food quite naturally led her to write about all things fitness and health-related. If she isn’t out testing the latest fitness products such as the latest running shoe or yoga mat for reviewing then she can be found writing news and features on the best ways to build strength, active aging, female health, and anything in between. Before then she had a small stint writing in local news, has also written for Runners World UK (print and digital), and gained experience with global content marketing agency, Cedar Communications.


Born and raised in Scotland, Jessica is a massive fan of exercising and keeping active outdoors. When at home she can be found running by the sea, swimming in it, or up a mountain. This continued as she studied and trained to become a PPA-accredited magazine journalist in Wales. And since working and living in London, she splits her time between weight training in the gym, trying new fitness classes, and finding scenic running routes. Jessica enjoys documenting this on her fitness-inspired Instagram page @jessrunshere where she loves engaging with like-minded fitness junkies.


She is a big fan of healthy cooking and loves learning more about this area with expert nutritionists she has met over the years. Jessica is a big advocate for building healthy relationships with food rather than building restrictive attitudes towards it. When she isn’t eating or running she also enjoys practicing yoga in her free time as it helps her to unwind and benefits her performance in other sports.