Build muscle all over in just 30 minutes with strength coach Melissa Kendter’s five-move dumbbell workout

See strength gains, develop your core and improve posture with this routine you can do at home

Man exercising with dumbbells at home in living room
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The most important ingredient for a successful exercise routine isn’t spending hours in the gym performing fancy-looking moves or regularly reducing yourself to a sweaty mess. 

"Consistency trumps everything," says functional strength coach Melissa Kendter

To help you stay consistent she’s created a 30-minute workout you can do at home with just a couple of dumbbells. Her one condition? You give it your all. 

"I tell people you can get results from two or three sessions a week, but you have to put in the effort. You have to challenge your muscles, making sure the last two or three reps of each set feel difficult, while still using proper form," she says. 

Functional strength coach Melissa Kendter
Melissa Kendter

Melissa Kendter is a functional strength coach, UESCA running coach and ACE (American Council On Exercise) certified personal trainer. She is also a multi-time marathon finisher, Boston marathon qualifier and triathlete. She's the founder of personal training business TrainMK and owns a private studio for training clients one-to-one. 

How to do Melissa Kendter’s full-body dumbbell workout

  1. Dumbbell sumo deadlift 3 x 10-12
  2. Dumbbell floor press 3 x 10-12
  3. Alternating dumbbell row 3 x 10-12 (on each arm)
  4. Dumbbell split squat 3 x 10-12 (on each leg)
  5. Dumbbell suitcase march 3 x 60 seconds

"The five exercises alternate between lower body and upper body and then finish with a core-strengthening carry," says Kendter. 

This means your lower body can recover while the upper body works, and vice versa, allowing you to perform this workout as a time-saving circuit. Kendter recommends completing three to five total rounds of this circuit, depending on how much time you have, and your fitness level. 

1. Dumbbell sumo deadlift

Functional strength coach Melissa Kendter performing a dumbbell sumo deadlift

(Image credit: Melissa Kendter / TrainMK)

Sets: 3-5 Reps: 10-12 

  • Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, knees soft and toes pointed slightly outwards. Hold a medium-weight dumbbell in each hand, with your arms extended towards the ground in front of you. 
  • Brace your core, keep your back flat and your shoulders back and down, then hinge at the hips to lower the dumbbells towards the ground.
  • Hinge until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings. Pause in this position, then squeeze your glutes (butt muscles) as you return to the starting position. 

2. Dumbbell floor press

Functional strength coach Melissa Kendter performing a dumbbell floor press

(Image credit: Melissa Kendter / TrainMK)

Sets: 3-5 Reps: 10-12

  • Lie on the floor, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Your upper arms should be on the floor, close to your torso, and your forearms should be vertical so your elbow forms a right angle. 
  • Pull your shoulders back and down then press the dumbbells up until your arms are fully extended above your chest. 
  • Pause at the top of the rep, then slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position. 

3. Alternating dumbbell row

Functional strength coach Melissa Kendter demonstrating an alternating dumbbell bent-over row

(Image credit: Melissa Kendter / TrainMK)

Sets: 3-5 Reps: 10-12 (on each arm)

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart holding a pair of medium-weight dumbbells.
  • Brace your core, then, keeping your back flat, hinge at the hips to lean forward until your torso is almost parallel with the floor. This is your starting position. 
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together then row the right dumbbell to your lower rib cage area.
  • Slowly lower it back to the starting position. Repeat with the left dumbbell. 

4. Dumbbell split squat

Functional strength coach Melissa Kendter performing a dumbbell split squat

(Image credit: Melissa Kendter / TrainMK)

Sets: 3-5 Reps: 10-12 (on each leg)

  • Stand upright holding a dumbbell in each hand with your arms by your side. 
  • Assume a split stance by taking a large step backward with your right leg. This is your starting position. 
  • Keeping your chest up, bend both knees to lower your hips towards the floor. Your knees should track over your toes and your back knee should remain below your hips. 
  • Drive through your front foot to return to the starting position.

5. Dumbbell suitcase march

Functional strength coach Melissa Kendter performing a dumbbell suitcase march

(Image credit: Melissa Kendter / TrainMK)

Sets: 3-5 Reps: 10-12 (on each leg)

  • Stand upright with a dumbbell in each hand and your arms at your side. 
  • Brace your core, keep your glutes engaged and stand tall, then lean forwards slightly.
  • March on the spot, bringing your knee above your waistband or as high as you are comfortably able to with each step. This should be done in a slow, controlled manner. 
  • Avoid rocking or swaying side to side during this exercise. 

What are the benefits of loaded carries?

If the dumbbell suitcase march is a new move for you it may feel odd at first, but there are benefits to this type of exercise: loaded carries. 

"I love them," says Kendter. "They help with your grip strength, which is beneficial for lifting heavier weights when you’re doing deadlifts and pull-ups, but it also translates to daily life: being able to carry your kids or your groceries. They also help with posture and core strength because you’re resisting moving from side to side or swaying while you’re moving."

Want more full-body, beginner-friendly routines like this? Have a look at this beginner bodyweight workout, or try this full-body resistance band workout instead. 

Need some new weights to try out this routine? Have a look at our guide to the best adjustable dumbbells

Harry Bullmore
Fitness Writer

Harry Bullmore is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering accessible home workouts, strength training session, and yoga routines. He joined the team from Hearst, where he reviewed products for Men's Health, Women's Health, and Runner's World. He is passionate about the physical and mental benefits of exercise, and splits his time between weightlifting, CrossFit, and gymnastics, which he does to build strength, boost his wellbeing, and have fun.

Harry is a NCTJ-qualified journalist, and has written for Vice, Learning Disability Today, and The Argus, where he was a crime, politics, and sports reporter for several UK regional and national newspapers.