All you need is three moves and 20 minutes to strengthen your shoulders and build muscular arms

Boost your metabolism, build strength, and prepare yourself for everyday life with this dumbbell workout

man holding two dumbbells
(Image credit: Getty Images/ LuffyKun)

Your upper body plays a vital role in allowing you to do everyday movements. Think pushing, pulling, carrying, lifting—all of these require upper-body strength, so working these muscles is a must if you want a fit and functional physique.

It figures, then, that arm and shoulder exercises aren't just for show; you'll also be priming your body for the demands of day-to-day life. With that in mind, why not give this short upper-body workout from personal trainer Joe Wicks a go? 

All you need is 20 minutes and a light, moderate and heavy pair of dumbbells (or one set of the best adjustable dumbbells, which allow you to change their weight to suit the exercise you're doing).

For the routine, you'll use just three moves; the shoulder press, biceps curl, and floor press. Each one is performed as a drop set, which means decreasing the weight you're using and increasing the number of repetitions you perform with each set. 

So, for each move in turn, perform six repetitions with your heaviest dumbbells, quickly followed by eight repetitions with your moderate-weight set and 10 repetitions with your lightest pair. Repeat this sequence twice through to complete the workout. 

If you're new to any of these exercises or the drop set format, you can follow Wicks' video below for a demonstration of how to use them for this workout. 

Watch Joe Wicks' upper body dumbbell workout

If lean arms are your goal, it's important to remember that you can't spot-reduce body fat. Or, in other words, choosing an exercise that works a certain part of the body won't prioritise fat-burn in this area. 

What the resistance training exercises in this workout can do is help you build strength and muscle in the targeted areas, which can contribute to a toned physique. 

Research published in Current Sports Medicine Reports states that resistance training can also help increase your resting metabolic rate (the amount of energy your body burns at rest). This, twinned with a healthy and balanced diet, can be used to create a sustainable calorie deficit, which is a key component of weight loss. 

As part of a healthy diet, protein is essential to help your muscles recover and grow after a resistance training session. The best protein powders for weight loss  can be a good way to boost your daily protein intake and support your exercise plans, providing your muscles with the nutrients they need to repair and rebuild. 

If this session has left you wanting to try more dumbbell resistance training workouts, Fit&Well has got you covered. Check out our guide to the best dumbbell exercises for your biceps and triceps, or take a look at our feature on high-intensity resistance training (HIRT) if you're after a time-efficient twist on this exercise style. 

Lois Mackenzie
Fitness Writer

Lois Mackenzie is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering strength training workouts with weights, accessible ways to stay active at home, and training routines for runners. She joined the team from Newsquest Media Group, where she was a senior sports, trends, and lifestyle reporter. She is a dedicated runner, having just completed her first marathon, and an advocate for spending time outdoors, whether on a walk, taking a long run, or swimming in the sea. 

Lois holds a Master's degree in Digital Journalism, and has written for Good Health, Wellbeing & The Great Outdoors,, and Newsquest Media Group, where her reporting was published in over 200 local newspapers.