This 8-Move Dumbbell Routine Will Work Your Entire Body

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

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 stressed 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," said Summers.

Each exercise targets the arms, legs, and core together and boosts your heart rate. All you need are lightweight dumbbells and maybe a yoga mat if you need a little padding when kneeling or laying on the floor.

Summers designed an interval-style routine: Work for 40 seconds and rest for 20 seconds, so you can finish this in half an hour. Move slowly through each exercise, even if you're up against the clock—this will help you nail the form. You can pick up the pace on the next round, said Summers.

Summers also suggested 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 to go all-in, try the modification listed for each exercise instead.

Alternating Dumbbell Rotation Thrusters


This exercise works the core, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, back, and shoulders.

  1. Start standing, with the feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand at the shoulders, elbows bent.
  2. Bend the knees, pushing the hips down and back, to lower into a squat.
  3. Drive through the feet to stand up, simultaneously pivoting on the right foot and rotating the hips to the left, and press the right arm straight overhead, bicep by ear. (Body should form a diagonal line from wrist to ankle.)
  4. Rotate forward as you bring the dumbbell back to the shoulder.
  5. Repeat the squat, then stand and pivot on the left foot, rotating the hips right, and pressing the left arm overhead.
  6. 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.

Watch it: Because this move gets the whole body involved, you may want to avoid it if you have knee, hip, lower back, neck, or shoulder issues.

Alternating Lateral Lunge + Reverse Fly


This works the core, quadriceps, abductors, hamstrings, upper back, and shoulders.

  1. Start standing with the feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, and your arms down by your sides.
  2. Step the right foot out to the side, hinge at the hips, and bend the left knee, bringing the chest toward the floor with the back flat, coming into a lateral lunge. The right leg stays straight, and the knee is soft.
  3. While holding the lateral lunge—making sure the hips point straight back, knee and toe point forward, gaze toward the floor—raise your arms straight out to the sides and up to shoulder height with palms facing down, squeezing shoulder blades together, and keeping core engaged the entire time.
  4. Lower the arms back down.
  5. Bring the right leg back in to stand.
  6. Repeat the lateral lunge on the other side, with the reverse fly at the bottom.
  7. Continue alternating lunges, with a reverse fly on each side.

Modify it: Skip the reverse fly, and focus on lateral lunges side to side.

Watch it: Lunges may not be for you if you have hip or knee issues, as proper form could be compromised. You may want to skip the reverse fly if you have upper back or shoulder problems. If you're pregnant, be careful of your shifted center of gravity.

Alternating Plank Rotation to Press


This exercise works the core, glutes, upper back, shoulders, and triceps.

  1. Start in a straight-arm plank position with both hands on a dumbbell, shoulders over wrists, and feet wider than hip-width apart.
  2. Bend the left elbow and pull the dumbbell toward the ribs as you rotate the hips to the left and pivot on the feet, bringing the heels toward the right side.
  3. Then press the left dumbbell straight up, forming a "T" with the arms.
  4. Bend the elbow to lower the dumbbell back to the chest, and place the dumbbell back on the floor as you return to a forward-facing plank position.
  5. Repeat on the 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 the rib cage, lowering it back down, and repeating on the other side—also known as a renegade row.

Watch it: Avoid this move if you have pain or injuries to your fingers, hands, arms, or shoulders.

Bridge and Chest Fly


This works the core, hamstrings, glutes, and chest,

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

Modify it: Eliminate the bridge, and perform the chest fly with hips lowered and butt on the floor.

Watch it: If you have a chronic or recent injury to your back, neck, or knees, leave out the bridge. You may want to avoid this move if the shoulders are the issue, If you're in the third trimester of pregnancy, avoid it altogether.

Dumbbell Overhead Sit-Up


This exercise works the core, abs, chest, shoulders, and arms.

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

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

Watch it: This may not be a good move if you have existing back or neck problems.

Alternating Dumbbell Kneeling Halos


This works the upper back, shoulders, and triceps.

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

Modify it: Stand up for more stability.

Watch it: If you have back issues, especially in the lower back, or limited mobility of the shoulders, you may not be able to do this with proper form. If you're pregnant, your center of gravity is forward of where it usually is, so pay attention to your posture.

Russian Twist and Press


This works the core, hips, and back.

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

Modify it: Keep your heels on the ground.

Watch it: If you have chronic back pain, a back injury, or issues with your hips, avoid this exercise.

Superman With Dumbbell Squeeze


This works the back, especially the muscles that support the spine.

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

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

Watch it: If you have chronic back pain or a back injury, this may not be the move for you. Skip it if you are pregnant.

A Quick Review

Dumbbells might be your go-to piece of equipment for an at-home workout. This eight-move routine using lightweight dumbbells works your entire body in 30 minutes. Go through the movements slowly with proper form to avoid injuries. Always talk with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise routine.

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