20 moves, 20 minutes, and a set of dumbbells to build full-body strength

This routine helps build upper and lower body muscle, develop core strength, and boost your metabolism in just 20 minutes

Man performing dumbbell exercises at home
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're tight on time, you'll be relieved to hear you don't need an extended gym session to build muscle. Longer workouts have their place, but with this high-intensity dumbbell routine, you can build upper and lower body muscle, strengthen your core, and burn fat in 20 minutes.

It can also help to have a set of the best adjustable dumbbells (opens in new tab) to hand. These customizable weights are ideal for at-home workouts since they combine several dumbbells, making them easy to store away. And you can quickly increase the weight as you get stronger to continually challenge your muscles. 

If you're at the gym or have some fixed-load weights, then you should aim for a weight that will challenge you to get through a set but aren't heavy enough to affect your form. Then you'll be ready to take on YouTube fitness duo Tiff x Dan's (opens in new tab) 20-minute dumbbell routine to build full-body strength.

Across 20 minutes, you'll take on 20 moves plus a three-move finisher to close out the session. To pack all of this into the time, you'll exercise for 40 seconds, take a 20-second rest, then start on the next move. It's a high-intensity routine, but you can take it at your own pace as there aren't repetition targets. 

It's essential to focus on your form to get the most from your training and avoid injury, which is a concern when working with weights. The crucial part is not to rush and take time with each repetition. Helpfully, you can follow along with Dan's demonstrations to improve your technique. 

Watch Tiff x Dan's 20-minute dumbbell workout

The training style is why Tiff x Dan's routine is so effective in such a short amount of time. This routine is an example of high-intensity resistance training (opens in new tab) (HIRT), where the aim is to exercise intensely in short bursts with few breaks. This works your muscles hard, but there are other benefits. 

Reducing your recovery time between moves keeps your heart rate high, helping you burn more energy during the session than in an equivalent steady-paced 20-minute session. Plus, sustaining that higher heart rate creates longer-term effects, like boosting your metabolism, the amount of energy you burn at rest. 

If this sounds similar to a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) routine like a HIIT workout for fat loss (opens in new tab), that's because it is, but with a focus on strength-building moves rather than cardio-based exercises. Both are designed to help you fit in a time-efficient workout with minimal equipment, making high-intensity workouts ideal when you've got a packed schedule. 

But you'll also need to support your body's recovery with a post-workout shake made with the best protein powders for weight loss (opens in new tab). These high-protein, low-sugar powders are designed to repair the tiny tears in your muscles and promote lean muscle growth.

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.