20 minutes, a set of dumbbells, and four moves to burn fat and build muscle all over

This high-intensity routine is a great way to get a full-body workout and burn fat in just 20 minutes

Woman working out with dumbbells at home
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When you don't have long to exercise, you want your workout to be as efficient as possible. To help you hit your fitness goals when you're short on time, this dumbbell workout's multi-muscle compound moves are the key to getting strength-building results in just 20 minutes.

You won't need loads of equipment either, just a set of the best adjustable dumbbells. These customizable weights are ideal for training at home, as they combine several dumbbells into one, and you can quickly change the load mid-workout.

This high-intensity routine, shared by personal trainers Rhiannon Bailey (opens in new tab) and Bradley Simmonds (opens in new tab), packs five rounds of four moves into 20 minutes. You'll use a pair of dumbbells to add resistance to each move for muscle-building results.

The short workout makes good use of the multi-muscle compound moves favored by Chris Hemsworth's trainer, including dumbbell squat presses, Russian swings, alternating snatches, and Russian deadlift and row combos.

To keep the intensity high throughout the routine and pack all five rounds into the time, you'll do each exercise for 40 seconds, take a 20-second rest, and then start on the next activity. The trainers demonstrate each move so you can get your form just right too.

Watch Bailey and Simmonds' full-body dumbbell workout

It's a workout style known as high-intensity resistance training (HIRT), where the aim is to train intensely with weights in quick bursts and only take short breaks between exercises. This is the key to the routine's effectiveness.

If this sounds similar to high-intensity interval training (HIIT), that's because it is, though there are some differences. HIIT workouts for fat loss typically focus on cardio exercise, although they might also add several bodyweight strength exercises.

HIRT routines use a similar technique but center your workout around muscle-building activities. Keeping the intensity high throughout raises your heart rate, which helps burn energy during the session and improve your metabolism, burning more energy during the day.

It's essential to perfect your form for each exercise, as this improves the move's effectiveness and helps you avoid injury, which is critical when you're training with weights. That's why it's good to learn how to deadlift with dumbbells before getting started.

After an intense session, you might feel the pain of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). You can use one of the best foam rollers to massage your muscles, promote recovery, and help reduce discomfort.

James is a London-based journalist and Staff Writer at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.


In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.