Build full-body muscle in just 20 minutes with this four-move dumbbell workout

Strengthen your whole body, develop your core, and boost your metabolism with this short routine

Man working out with dumbbells
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you want to build lean muscle, you might imagine you'd need to spend hours at the gym to see results. But if you're tight on time, you can develop muscle all over in just 20 minutes with this four-move routine and a set of dumbbells.

When working out at home, it's worth investing in a set of the best adjustable dumbbells (opens in new tab). These customizable weights combine several dumbbells in one and are a great way to increase the load using the progressive overload (opens in new tab) technique gradually.

But if you prefer working out at the gym, you may be wondering what dumbbell weights should you use (opens in new tab). The aim is to find a load that'll challenge your muscles but won't affect your form. Then you're ready to take on personal trainer Rhiannon Bailey's (opens in new tab) routine.

There are just four dumbbell moves, and you'll exercise for 40 seconds, take a 20-second rest, then move on to the next exercise. You can repeat the round five times for a 20-minute muscle-building, fat-burning workout.

To get the most from your training and avoid injury (especially when working with weights) it's crucial to focus on your form. Whether you're new to strength workouts or could use a refresher, you can follow Bailey's demonstrations to practice your technique.

Watch Rhiannon Bailey's four-move dumbbell workout

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This exercise style is known as high-intensity resistance training (opens in new tab) (HIRT), where the aim is to work out intensely in short bursts with minimal rest. You'll work your muscles hard in a short period, but there are other benefits.

Exercising at a high intensity raises your heart rate, increasing the energy you burn compared to an equivalent steady-paced routine. And sustaining this elevated heart rate by only taking short rests also boosts your metabolism, the energy you burn at rest.

If this sounds a lot like high-intensity interval training (HIIT), that's because it is, but with a focus on strength training moves rather than cardio-based exercise. This is why people also often reach for a HIIT workout for fat loss (opens in new tab).

It's one of the reasons why Bailey's routine is so effective, even though it only takes 20 minutes. But just as important is the choice of moves. The routine is based on compound exercises (opens in new tab), which work multiple muscles simultaneously.

And, if you have one of the best kettlebells (opens in new tab) to hand, you can learn how to do kettlebell swings (opens in new tab) for a similarly effective workout. This compound exercise works your whole body, strengthens your core, and boosts your metabolism.

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.