20 minutes, dumbbells, and this upper body workout to build arm muscle

This muscle-building routine uses high-intensity supersets to get results in just 20 minutes

Women performing dumbbell renegade rows
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You don't need to spend hours at the gym if you want to work on your upper body and develop strength in your arms, shoulders, and chest. All you need is a set of dumbbells and a short upper body routine.

If you're looking to train at home, it's worth keeping a set of the best adjustable dumbbells nearby. These customizable weights are a space-saving alternative to a weights rack, as they combine several dumbbells in one, and you can quickly switch the load mid-workout.

Then you can tackle personal trainer Fraser Wilson's 20-minute dumbbell workout to build upper body strength. Wilson, who posts accessible, effective workouts on his YouTube channel (opens in new tab), guides you through several moves for muscle building without leaving the house.

It might not sound long enough for you to see results, but your training intensity is key to success in this routine. To fit 25 moves into 20 minutes, you'll do two exercises for 30 seconds each, take a 30-second rest, then start on the following two exercises.

To get the most from your training, you'll also want to focus on your form, which will help you avoid injury. Wilson demonstrates each exercise and does the whole routine, so you can follow along and perfect your weight lifting technique.

Watch Fraser Wilson's 20-minute upper body workout

This workout blends two styles of muscle-building exercise; high-intensity resistance training (HIRT) and supersets. HIRT is similar to the more cardio-focused high-intensity interval training (HIIT), but the aim of both is to train intensely for short bursts.

Typically, this means performing an exercise for 30 or 40 seconds, taking a short break, then continuing to the next move. This keeps your heart rate high, improving your metabolism, and working your muscles for a time-efficient workout.

This is why many people use a HIIT workout for fat loss, as your improved metabolism means you burn energy and fat throughout the day. But Wilson also adds the extra challenge of supersets, where you do two exercises back-to-back before taking a rest.

If you're looking for a pure HIRT workout without the supersets, we tried Wilson's 15-minute dumbbell arm workout. We found that it was a surprisingly intense way to train, but also enjoyably challenging and effective.

Although this routine is a great way to train your upper body, it's worth grabbing one of the best kettlebells and learning how to do kettlebell swings also to burn fat, work your lower body, and build core strength.

James Frew
Staff Writer

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.