Smart Moves With Dumbbells

Target your whole body with this short, sweet workout.

Roman Thauern
Photo: Katy Whitt

This workout is a great choice if you’re looking for a challenging training session with minimal equipment. It is ideal for travelling, small home gyms or simply to spice up your regular training routine. The exercises cover all the main movements including push, pull, squat, hinge and lunge, and can be modified to fit your fitness level and experience.


  • Five minutes of moderate cardio work (running, treadmill, rowing, etc.)
  • Activate hip muscles and mobilize hip joints through active, dynamic stretches
  • Activate shoulder muscles
  • Prepare nervous system by performing a light warm-up set for each exercise


Batwing Row

3-4 Sets/6-10 Reps

Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Hinge forward until your upper body is in an almost horizontal position. Bring both dumbbells towards the side of your body and retract your shoulders. Imagine that you are squeezing a grape between your shoulder blades. From here, lower one arm at a time towards the floor and row it back to the side of your body. Keep alternating between left and right.

Beginner: Support chest with incline bench
Intermediate: No chest support
Advanced: Complete all repetitions on one side before
advancing to the next

Batwing Row
Photo: Katy Whitt

Alternating Dumbbell Press

3-4 Sets/6-10 Reps

This exercise perfectly complements the Batwing Row as it basically reverses the movement.

Lie on a bench with your feet on the ground and your glutes and shoulder blades making contact with the bench. Arch your back slightly but not excessively, and retract your shoulders as much as possible. Lower your elbows to 90° while maintaining a 30-45° shoulder angle. From this position, press one dumbell up, alternating between the left and right arm.

Beginner: Light/moderate loads
Intermediate: Moderate/heavy loads
Advanced: Complete all repetitions on one side before switching sides

Alternating Dumbbell Press
Photo: Katy Whitt

Goblet Squat

3-5 Sets/5-8 Reps

Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell vertically in front of your chest. Keep your spine in a neutral position and look forward. Initiate the movement with your hips moving back followed by bending your knees. Don’t allow your knees to collapse towards the inside. It helps to imagine that you’re spreading the floor with your feet. Squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground or until you feel/see your pelvis tilting backwards. Ensure you keep your spine straight throughout.

Beginner: Light/moderate load, lower down onto box or bench instead of full squat
Intermediate: Moderate to heavy load / increase range of motion (ROM)
Advanced: Moderate/heavy loads/ full ROM

Goblet Squat
Photo: Katy Whitt

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift to Reverse Lunge

3-4 Sets/6-8 Reps

Hold a dumbbell in each hand with arms by sides, standing tall with your back straight. Lower the dumbbells towards the floor by hinging forward through the hip, raising one leg. Drive back up with your weighted foot to load your hamstrings and glutes. Keep your spine in a neutral position throughout the entire movement. Return to starting position and lunge back with the same leg that was raised before. One repetition consists of a single leg deadlift and a reverse lunge.

Beginner: Light/moderate loads; use only one dumbbell
Intermediate: Use two dumbbells
Advanced: Moderate/heavy loads; use two dumbbells

Suitcase Carry

3-5 sets/1 rep each side

Hold one dumbbell beside your body, standing tall with your back straight, your chest up and your shoulders retracted. Without losing form, walk in a straight line for 20 meters and return to your starting point. Switch hands and repeat. Don’t lean away from the weight but feel free to extend your arm away from your body to balance yourself.

Beginner: Reduce distance or load
Intermediate: Increase distance or load
Advanced: Modify to an overhead carry


Suitcase Carry
Photo: Katy Whitt

Apparel courtesy Under Armour.