Grab a set of dumbbells, and get ready to build total-body strength.

By Mallory Creveling
September 08, 2020
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What’s the go-to tool for a solid at-home workout that takes up little space, helps you build lean muscle mass, and strengthens your bones? The dumbbell.

That’s why it’s the star of this multitasking workout from Morit Summers, NSCA-CPT, owner of Form Fitness Brooklyn, who often works with curvy women. Summers stresses that size shouldn’t stop anyone from conquering their strength goals. “I believe that having a strong body leads to a strong mind, and when the world tells you that because you’re plus-size you can’t or shouldn’t do many things, I want to help combat that,” she says.

Each exercise targets the arms, legs, and core together, and boosts your heart rate. Plus, Summers designed an interval-style setup, in which you work for 40 seconds and rest for 20 seconds, that you can finish in half an hour.

Move slowly through each exercise, even if you’re up against the clock—that will help you nail the form. You can pick up the pace on the next round, says Summers. She also suggests reaching for a set of dumbbells that’s a little lighter than your typical pick; if you’re feeling strong, increase the weight. Or, if you’re not ready togo all-in, try the modification listed for each exercise instead.

Alternating dumbbell rotation thrusters

Credit: ANTHONY CUNANAN

(A) Start standing, feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulders, elbows bent. Bend knees, pushing hips down and back, to lower into a squat. (B) Drive through feet to stand up, simultaneously pivoting on right foot and rotating hips to the left, and press right arm straight overhead, bicep by ear. (Body should form a diagonal line from wrist to ankle.) Rotate forward as you bring dumbbell back to shoulder. Repeat the squat, then stand and pivot on left foot, rotating hips right, and pressing left arm overhead. Continue alternating rotational presses with squats between each.

Modify It: Remove the rotation, and stand straight up from the squat, still pressing one dumbbell straight overhead and alternating sides.

Alternating lateral lunge + reverse fly

Credit: ANTHONY CUNANAN

(A) Start standing with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms down by sides. Step right foot out to the side, hinge at hips, and bend left knee, bringing chest toward floor with back flat. Right leg stays straight, knee soft. (B) Holding the Lateral Lunge—making sure hips point straight back, knee and toe point forward, gaze toward the floor—raise arms straight out to sides and up to shoulder height with palms facing down, squeezing shoulder blades together and keeping core engaged the entire time. Lower arms back down. Bring right leg back in to stand. Repeat Lateral Lunge on the other side, with the Reverse Fly at the bottom. Continue alternating lunges, with a Reverse Fly on each side.

Modify It: Skip the Reverse Fly, and focus on Lateral Lunges side to side.

Alternating plank rotation to press

Credit: ANTHONY CUNANAN

Start in straight-arm plank position, both hands on a dumbbell, shoulders over wrists, and feet wider than hip-width apart. Bend left elbow and pull dumbbell toward ribs, as you rotate hips left and pivot on feet, bringing heels toward right side. Then press left dumbbell straight up, forming a T with arms. Bend elbow to lower dumbbell back to chest, then place dumbbell back on floor as you return to forward-facing plank position. Repeat on right side, and continue alternating.

Modify It: Stay in a straight-arm, forward-facing plank position the entire time, alternating rows on each side by pulling one dumbbell to rib cage, lowering it back down, and repeating on the other side—also known as a Renegade Row.

Bridge + chest fly

Credit: ANTHONY CUNANAN

(A) Start lying on back, knees bent, feet planted on floor hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand straight over shoulders, palms facing each other. Press through feet, and squeeze glutes to lift hips toward ceiling. Slightly tilt pelvis toward ceiling so you form a straight line from knees to hips to shoulders. (B) With a slight bend in elbows, lower dumbbells down and out to the sides. Then press them back up toward center, over shoulders. Repeat the Chest Fly. Keep hips lifted, with glutes and abs engaged the entire time.

Modify It: Eliminate the Bridge, and perform the Fly with hips lowered, butt on the floor.

Dumbbell overhead sit-up

Credit: ANTHONY CUNANAN

(A) Start lying on back, knees bent, and feet planted.Hold a dumbbell in each hand, arms overhead and behind you, palms facing each other. (B) Keeping arms straight overhead, slowly roll up, rounding spine. Sit tall at the top, spine neutral and shoulders directly over hips, biceps by ears. Slowly lower back down, and repeat.

Modify It: To make the move a bit easier, straighten legs out in front of you.

Alternating dumbbell kneeling halos

Credit: ANTHONY CUNANAN

Start kneeling, knees hip-width apart, holding one dumbbell at your chest with both hands. Keeping hips steady and core engaged, circle dumbbell to the left and around head, keeping elbows as close to body as you can, and bring dumbbell back around to chest. (Pretend you’re balancing something on your head, aiming not to move anything other than the shoulders as you go.) Repeat, circling dumbbell to the right and around head. Continue alternating.

Modify It: Stand up for more stability.

Russian twist + press

Credit: ANTHONY CUNANAN

(A) Start sitting, knees bent, holding one dumbbell with both hands at chest. Lean back about 45 degrees from hips, and lift feet off floor. Rotate torso to the left; then return to center. (B) Press dumbbell up, on a diagonal. Then lower it back to chest. Next, rotate torso to the right; then return to center. Repeat the press. Continue alternating rotations, with a press between each.

Modify It: Keep your heels on the ground.

Superman with dumbbell squeeze

Credit: ANTHONY CUNANAN

Start lying on stomach, arms and legs extended, with one dumbbell held vertically between feet. Keeping gaze toward floor, lift arms, chest, and legs off floor, squeezing glutes. Lower back down, and repeat.

Modify It: Ditch the dumbbell if it feels too heavy between the feet.

This article originally appeared in the October 2020 issue of Health Magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

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