This Simple Total-Body Dumbbell Workout Builds Muscle at Home

Swerve the gym without skipping your sessions with this simple (but tough) workout that uses just one piece of kit 

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There are a lot of reasons you might not want to go to the gym right now. For one, they’re rammed with January’s new sign-ups, which means queues for every piece of kit. Plus when it’s this dark and cold, just leaving the house is tough enough. So why leave the house at all?

This total-body workout from Huel’s own Chris Roche requires just one piece of kit – a pair of dumbbells. And technically, you don’t even need those. A kettlebell would do just as well, as would some tote bags full of books, if you fancy going DIY.

For this session, you’ll be working to time: 45 seconds of work, 15 secs rest, repeat for four rounds. Do each exercise in order: one set of squat presses, enjoy your 15-second rest, then follow with Romanian deadlifts, rest, reverse lunges, rest, and so on. After the scapula flyes, give yourself a 60-second breather, then tackle the whole thing again.

If you’ve only got one dumbbell – or you’re making do with something weighty from your living room – do an entire round on one side, then switch to the other side for the next round. If that’s too easy, add in more rounds.

If you need to make it easier, either reduce the weight you’re lifting or make your work-to-rest ratios a bit more forgiving (and if you’re still struggling, do both). Finally, pick a weight that means you can do the toughest move without cheating. Because proper form always matters more than lifting the heaviest thing in your house.

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Home dumbbell workout

1. Squat press

Time: 45 seconds

Sets: 4

Rest: 15 seconds

Grab your dumbbells and stand with your hips shoulder-width apart, toes turned slightly out. Hold the weights at your shoulders with your palms facing forward. Sink down as if you’re sitting on a chair, keeping your weight on your heels. Squat as low as you can, then drive back up explosively. As you rise, push the weight over your head – your legs should be doing most of the work here, rather than your shoulders. Pause briefly at the top, then slowly lower – no, slower than that. Don’t let gravity do the work for you.

2. Split Romanian deadlift to row

Time: 45 seconds

Sets: 4

Rest: 15 seconds

Hold your dumbbells in front of your thighs, palms facing you. Stand with your weight on your right heel, your left foot slightly back, with about a 12-inch gap between your toes and heel. Keeping your front leg straight, bend forward at your hips and lower the weight towards the floor, bracing your abs to keep your back flat. When your torso is parallel to the floor, pause and row the weights up to your hips by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Lower the weights, then slowly straighten up. For your next round, repeat with your left foot forward. (Confused? Here’s an example).

3. Reverse lunge and rotate

Time: 45 seconds

Sets: 4

Rest: 15 seconds

Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold one dumbbell in both hands in front of your chest. Step back with your left foot – your weight should be on your right heel and left toes – and sink down into a lunge. When your left knee is almost touching the floor, pause and rotate to the right before stepping back to standing. Repeat with the opposite foot, rotating to the opposite side.

4. Renegade rows

Time: 45 seconds

Sets: 4

Rest: 15 seconds

Get into a press-up position on your dumbbells, holding them under your chest. Brace your abs, then row your right hand up to your hips – try not to rotate your torso too much. Slowly lower, then repeat on the other side. If you don’t have weights, do it without. If you’ve only got one, swap hands between rows.

5. Curl to press, into lateral raises

Time: 45 seconds

Sets: 4

Rest: 15 seconds

A lot of moving parts to this one, but it’s worth it. Stand with the weights in front of your hips, palms facing forwards. Curl them up to your shoulders – keep your elbows locked so your biceps do the work – then rotate your elbows outwards so your palms are facing forwards but the weight stays in the same place, in front of your shoulders. From here, drive the weight up above your head. Now, reverse it – lower the weight, rotate so your palms are facing your shoulders, and uncurl so the dumbbells are at your hips again. Before repeating, add in a lateral raise – lift both arms straight out to the side until they’re level with your shoulders, as if you're about to fly into the sky, then lower them and repeat the whole thing.

6. Scapula fly

Time: 45 seconds

Sets: 4

Rest: 60 seconds

OK, almost done. Lie down on your front, arms straight out at your sides (the same T-shape as in the lateral raises). Keeping your arms straight, squeeze your shoulder blades to lift the weights in the air (if you can’t do this with weight, it’s still tough enough holding nothing). Pause at the top, slowly lower – don’t let them fall – then repeat. Enjoy that 60-second rest before you go again.

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