Just two dumbbells and five moves are all you need for this quick full body workout

Work your whole body with this beginner-friendly routine

Older lady does a full body dumbbell workout
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're new to working out, it's a good idea to master some simple moves like the squat and lunge. These foundational exercises form the basis of a lot of workouts and they're great for building lower-body strength. You can also turn these moves into full-body exercises by adding dumbbell curls and raises to them, which will target your upper body. 

This is the approach NASM-qualified trainer Elethia Gay adopts in her full-body, beginner-friendly workout below. She uses a series of compound exercises to make sure you're hitting muscles in your legs, arms, shoulders and core

You don't need a lot of equipment to try the routine, just a couple of dumbbells at a challenging weight and a mat to support you during floor-based exercises. 

Elethia Gay
Elethia Gay

Elethia Gay is a NASM-qualified trainer and yoga teacher. She is the founder of the Roots to Wellness program, a virtual training platform for women, and the non-profit group Hiking for Hope.

How to do this full body workout

  • Donkey kick: 10-12 reps
  • Hover: 10-12 reps 
  • Weighted side-to-side jab: 10-12 reps
  • Lunge with knee-lift and curl: 10-12 reps
  • Squat with weighted front raise: 10-12 reps

Repeat the above routine up to three times, depending on your fitness level. 

The exercises

1. Donkey kick

Personal trainer Elethia Gay performs a donkey kick

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Reps: 10-12 Sets: 1-3

  • Start by getting on all fours, with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees below your hips. Engage your core muscles to stabilize your body. Keep your back flat and your head in a neutral position.
  • Slowly lift one leg and kick it back behind you, while keeping your knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Squeeze your glutes as you do this. 
  • Hold the position for a moment and then lower your leg back down. 
  • Repeat the movement with the other leg.

2. Hover

Personal trainer Elethia Gay demonstrates a hover

(Image credit: Elethia Gay)

Reps: 10-12 Sets: 1-3

  • Start by getting on all fours again, with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees below your hips.
  • Hover off the ground by pressing your hands down and gently lifting both knees up. Focus on maintaining a calm and relaxed posture. To make the exercise more difficult you can perform a "walking hover," where you slowly walk one hand forward, followed by the opposite leg. Another variation you can try is to tap each hand to the opposite shoulder and then bring each knee up to your chest in a sequence.

3. Side-to-side jab

personal trainer Elethia Gay performs side-to-side jab with dumbbells

(Image credit: Elethia Gay)

Reps: 10-12 Sets: 1-3

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and keep your arms close to the ribs, with your elbows bent.
  • Shift your weight to the ball of your left foot. Simultaneously rotate your hips and shoulders to the right side, while extending your left hand out in a punching motion.
  • Return to the starting position, then repeat the movement on the other side. 

4. Lunge with knee lift and curl

Personal trainer Elethia Gay demonstrates a lunge

(Image credit: Elethia Gay)

Reps: 10-12 Sets: 1-3

  • Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Step forward with your right foot into a lunge position, ensuring your right knee is bent at a 90-degree angle. Remember to keep your back straight and chest lifted throughout the exercise.
  • As you push back up from the lunge, bring your right knee up towards your chest. Engage your core to help you balance. 
  • Add a double biceps curl at the top of each knee lift to work your upper body.

5. Squat with front raise

Personal trainer Elethia Gay performs a squat with dumbbell front raise

(Image credit: Elethia Gay)

Reps: 10-12 Sets: 1-3

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Hold a single dumbbell in front of you, letting it rest on your thighs. 
  • Lower your body down into a squat position and raise the dumbbell up in-line with your chest. 
  • Straighten your legs to return to the starting position and let the dumbbell fall again. Pause at the top of the movement, squeezing your glutes and engaging your core.

Need help finding a new set of dumbbells? Our guide to the best adjustable dumbells can help.

Lou Mudge
Fitness Writer

Lou Mudge is a Health Writer at Future Plc, working across Fit&Well and Coach. She previously worked for Live Science, and regularly writes for Space.com and Pet's Radar. Based in Bath, UK, she has a passion for food, nutrition and health and is eager to demystify diet culture in order to make health and fitness accessible to everybody.

Multiple diagnoses in her early twenties sparked an interest in the gut-brain axis and the impact that diet and exercise can have on both physical and mental health. She was put on the FODMAP elimination diet during this time and learned to adapt recipes to fit these parameters, while retaining core flavors and textures, and now enjoys cooking for gut health.