Five moves and two dumbbells are all you need to strengthen your whole body and build muscle all over

Save time and money with this efficient strength and muscle-building home workout

Man doing bicep curl with dumbbell in a gym
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The fitness space is filled with complex jargon nowadays, and a scroll through relevant Instagram tags is likely to throw up acronyms and impossible-looking exercises galore. 

It can be easy to get hung up on what's the "best" or "optimal" way to train, when in reality the best workout for most people is the one they'll actually do, rather than the one they won't. 

With that in mind, I tasked certified personal trainer Ali Malik (founder of Fit Labs Kensington) with creating an efficient full-body strength-boosting routine that could be done at home with just a couple of dumbbells.

In response, Malik served up a five-move workout that works every major muscle group in just 40 minutes—ideal if you don't have time to spare for an hour-long session or a trip to the gym. 

Scroll down for the full workout, then it's time to get up, warm up and start lifting. 

How to do Ali Malik's full-body dumbbell workout

  • Suitcase squat 4x10-12
  • Glute bridge chest press 4x10-12
  • Bent-over dumbbell row 4x10-12
  • Triceps kickback 4x10-12
  • Dumbbell hammer curl 4x10-12

Malik's workout challenges you to complete four sets of 10-12 repetitions (or reps) of the five exercises listed above. 

These are to be performed as straight sets, meaning you'll work through all four sets of an exercise before moving on to the next one. 

Rest for 60-90 seconds between sets, depending on how much recovery time you feel you need, and rest for two minutes after each exercise.   

Following this format, Malik's routine should take about 40 minutes to finish. 

1. Suitcase squat

Sets: 4 Reps: 10-12 Rest: 60-90 seconds

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing forward, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Keep your chest up, shoulders back, and engage your core muscles to stabilize your spine.
  • Begin the squat by pushing your hips back, as if you are sitting back into a chair. Bend your knees and lower your body down, keeping your back straight and chest up. Go as low as you comfortably can, aiming for at least a 90-degree angle at your knees.
  • Drive through your heels to stand back up, straightening your hips and knees.

2. Glute bridge chest press

Sets: 4 Reps: 10-12 Rest: 60-90 seconds

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, with your arms extended above your chest and your palms facing forward. Engage your core and press through your heels to lift your hips toward the ceiling, creating a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Squeeze your glutes and keep your hips high throughout the exercise.
  • Bend your elbows and lower the dumbbells towards your chest.
  • When they reach your chest, press them back up to the starting position. 

3. Bent-over dumbbell row

Sets: 4 Reps: 10-12 Rest: 60-90 seconds

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand, letting your arms hang towards the floor with your palms facing your body. With soft knees, hinge at the hips to bend forward, maintaining a straight back. Your torso should be almost parallel to the ground, but your gaze should be forward.
  • Retract your shoulder blades then, keeping your elbows tucked into your sides, row the dumbbells toward your hips. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement.
  • Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position. 

4. Triceps kickback

Sets: 4 Reps: 10-12 Rest: 60-90 seconds

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a dumbbell in each hand. Bend your knees slightly and hinge at the hips to lean forward. Keep your back straight, and maintain a neutral spine. Keeping your elbows tucked into your sides, row the dumbbells up so your upper arm is almost parallel with the ground. 
  • Keeping your upper arms still, straighten your arms behind you, fully extending your elbows. Focus on squeezing your triceps at the top of the movement. 
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position, maintaining control throughout the descent.

5. Dumbbell hammer curl

Sets: 4 Reps: 10-12 Rest: 60-90 seconds

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms by your sides, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your torso. Keep your back straight, chest up and shoulders back.
  • Keeping your elbows tucked into your sides, curl the dumbbells up towards their respective shoulders. At the top of the movement, when the dumbbells are near your shoulders, squeeze your biceps for a moment to maximize the contraction.
  • Lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position in a controlled manner. Avoid letting the weights drop.

If you're looking for a versatile set of weights to help you build strength and muscle at home, take a peek at our editor-approved roundup of 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.