Build full-body strength and train your core like never before with just six moves and one dumbbell

This cleverly programmed session corrects body imbalances, and builds muscle all over while strengthening your core

Trainer Sarah Lindsay
(Image credit: Sarah Lindsay)

You only have 30 minutes to work out. Do you train your core to improve your balance and posture, or opt for a full-body session to build functional muscle? Well, what if you didn't have to choose?

This six-move routine combines an effective core session and utilizes muscles all over your body, and all you need is a single dumbbell. If you're training at home, it's still worthwhile investing in some adjustable dumbbells so you can increase the load as you get stronger. 

The workout was developed by Roar Fitness founder Sarah Lindsay and is designed to strengthen muscles across your entire body, including your core, using several unilateral exercises. 

These sound a lot more complicated than they are. Simply put, they're exercises that  work one side of your body at a time, recruiting your core to maintain balance and stability while ironing out any imbalances in your body. 

How to perform Sarah Lindsay's full-body and core workout

Perform the six unilateral exercises listed below, one after the other. For each one, complete 15 repetitions on one side of your body followed by 15 repetitions on the other side of your body, then move on to the next exercise. 

One you've done 15 repetitions of each of the six exercises on either side of your body, the workout is finished. If you want an extra challenge, you can try repeating this six-move sequence for two or three rounds. 

1. Split squat

Trainer Sarah Lindsay demonstrating split squats

(Image credit: Sarah Lindsay)
  • Stand with your hips square and your legs in a staggered stance, with your right foot forward and a dumbbell in your left hand.
  • Putting your weight through your front foot, bend your right knee to lower your hips towards the ground. 
  • Keep your chest proud and your torso upright throughout.
  • When you've lowered your hips so your left knee is about an inch off the floor, drive through your right foot to return to the starting position. 
  • Complete 15 repetitions in total, then repeat this on the other leg. 

2. Chest press

Trainer Sarah Lindsay demonstrating the chest press

(Image credit: Sarah Lindsay)
  • Lie on your back with your feet planted flat on the ground and your knees raised. 
  • Grasp a dumbbell in your right hand and hold it directly above your right shoulder with your arm fully extended. 
  • With your upper arm at 45 degrees with your torso, slowly lower the weight towards your chest by bending at the elbow. 
  • When your elbow reaches the floor, use your chest, shoulder, and triceps muscles to push it back to the starting position.
  • Complete 15 repetitions in total, then repeat this with your left arm. 

3. Single-arm row

Trainer Sarah Lindsay demonstrating the single-arm row

(Image credit: Sarah Lindsay)
  • Begin in a staggered stance with a dumbbell in your left hand, similar to the split squats. 
  • Keeping your core braced and your spine neutral, lean forward to lower your chest towards the ground. 
  • Using your back muscles to initiate the movement, pull the dumbbell up towards the bottom of your rib cage.
  • Try to do this in one small motion, rather than using momentum to jerk the weight upwards.
  • Hold the dumbbell at the top of the rep for a second, then lower it back to the starting position. 
  • Complete 15 repetitions in total, then repeat this with your right arm.

4. Kneeling shoulder press

Trainer Sarah Lindsay demonstrating the kneeling shoulder press

(Image credit: Sarah Lindsay)
  • Kneel on the floor so your thighs and lower legs form a right angle. 
  • Brace your core and keep your spine straight and upright, then lift a dumbbell to your right shoulder with your right hand. 
  • From here, press it overhead until your elbow is almost locked out, then control it back down to your shoulder. 
  • Push the weight back overhead to start the next rep.
  • Complete 15 repetitions in total, then repeat this with your left arm.

5. Deadbug pull-over

Trainer Sarah Lindsay demonstrating dead bug pull-overs

(Image credit: Sarah Lindsay)
  • Lie on your back with your legs raised so your hips and knees both form a right angle. 
  • Hold a dumbbell with both hands above your chest, your arms fully extended. 
  • Brace your core then, keeping your arms straight, control the dumbbell as you lower it towards the ground behind your head. 
  • Lower it until it gently touches the ground then, still keeping your arms straight, push it back to the starting position above your chest. 
  • Repeat this for 15 repetitions in total. 

6. Pull-through plank

Trainer Sarah Lindsay demonstrating pull-through planks

(Image credit: Sarah Lindsay)
  • Place a dumbbell next to your right hand, then assume a high plank position.
  • Your legs, back, and the top of your head should form a straight line, your arms should be fully extended directly under your shoulders, and your feet and hands should be the only body parts touching the floor. 
  • Lifting you right hand off the floor, grab the dumbbell and move it to the outside of your left hand. 
  • Leave it there, return to a high plank position, then use your left hand to move the dumbbell back to your right side. 
  • This is one rep. Complete 15 reps to finish the exercise. 

Benefits of this workout

This workout doesn't take long, but it's the perfect at-home introduction to training with weights — building strength and muscle across your whole body — but it also serves up a comprehensive core workout thanks to the use of unilateral exercises.

"If you’re doing a single-arm shoulder press, you’re having to use your core to control your body, balance and keep good form," Lindsay says. "This way, the exercise isn’t just for strengthening the shoulder, it’s also going to get you a really strong core." 

Unilateral exercises are great for ironing out imbalances in your body too. "Everyone has a stronger side," Lindsay says. "When you start strength training, if you’re not so aware of these things, you’ll always favor that side. By performing unilateral exercises, you’ll always do the same amount of work with your weaker side."

Strength training is also one of the best ways to boost your body's resilience and longevity, bolstering your bones and joints to reduce your risk of injury. The result? A fit and functional body able to withstand the rigors of everyday life.

But it's also important to support your body as it repairs the tiny tears in your muscle fibers. That's why many people take a post-workout smoothie blended with some of the best protein powders for weight loss. 

  • Subscribe to ROAR Classes On Demand fitness platform at Enter code ROARFOR4 to access the £4 per month summer deal (offer ends 31st August, 2023)
Harry Bullmore
Fitness Writer

Harry Bullmore is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering accessible home workouts, strength training session, and yoga routines. He joined the team from Hearst, where he reviewed products for Men's Health, Women's Health, and Runner's World. He is passionate about the physical and mental benefits of exercise, and splits his time between weightlifting, CrossFit, and gymnastics, which he does to build strength, boost his wellbeing, and have fun.

Harry is a NCTJ-qualified journalist, and has written for Vice, Learning Disability Today, and The Argus, where he was a crime, politics, and sports reporter for several UK regional and national newspapers.