You only need 20 minutes and these 5 dumbbell exercises to build full-body strength

Woman holding two dumbbells
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If there’s one bit of gym kit worth having at home, it’s a set of dumbbells. Having weights at home allows you to progress your workouts beyond bodyweight exercises and help you build strength, and you can also use them for cardio workouts to get your heart pumping.

Once you have your dumbbells, or better yet a set of the best adjustable dumbbells which will give you a full range of weights in one easy-to-store package, you just need a dumbbell workout to follow.

This 20-minute full-body dumbbell workout was put together by fitness trainer Kat Boley and uses a smart selection of combination exercises to work your upper and lower body in five moves.

Watch Kat Boley’s 20-minute dumbbell workout

The workout involves doing five exercises, all of which are made up of a combination of movements that work muscles in the lower and upper body. So you’ll be pairing a squat or lunge with an overheard or lateral press, for example. 

Boley is using 10lb weights for the session, and mentions you could lower the weight you use for the final exercises, which pairs squat pulses with lateral raises. To pick your weight consider the arm exercise involved in the movement more than the leg exercise, because that will be the limiting factor – most people can squat a lot more weight than they can lateral raise, for example.

Squats are definitely on the menu with this session, with split, side and sumo squats on the menu, along with squat pulses. You also test your balance by doing overhead presses on one leg while kicking out — maybe do your first round of those without any weight to get used to the movement.

You do three rounds of the five moves in the workout, so if you’d prefer a no-repeat session where you only do each exercise once, you can give this 20-minute low-impact dumbbell workout a go instead. If you’d prefer to train without any weights, this 20-minute bodyweight workout strengthens the whole body and is a great way to lift your mood as well.

Along with the follow-along video on her YouTube channel, Boley has posted demonstrations of each of the moves to her Instagram account.

Once you’ve got the form down you can use these instead of having to watch the whole video every time you do the workout. It’s worth doing the follow-along at least once though, to get the rep counts along with other useful advice from Boley.

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Nick Harris-fry
Senior Writer

Nick Harris-fry is an experienced health and fitness journalist, writing professionally since 2012. He spent nine years working on the Coach magazine and website before moving to the fitness team at Tom’s Guide in 2024. Nick is a keen runner and also the founder of YouTube channel The Run Testers, which specialises in reviewing running shoes, watches, headphones and other gear.

Nick ran his first marathon in 2016 after six weeks of training for a magazine feature and subsequently became obsessed with the sport. He now has PBs of 2hr 27min for the marathon and 15min 30sec for 5K, and has run 13 marathons in total, as well as a 50-mile ultramarathon.

He runs 50-80 miles a week and races regularly with his club, which gives him a lot of opportunity to test out running gear: he has tested and reviewed hundreds of pairs of running shoes, as well as fitness trackers, running watches, sports headphones, treadmills, and all manner of other kit. Nick is also a qualified Run Leader in the UK.