Build upper body strength in just 15 minutes and a set of dumbbells

This short routine strengthens your whole body, works your core, and burns fat

Woman exercising with dumbbells
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When you're tight on time, it can be hard to squeeze in an extended gym workout. Fortunately, all this short workout routine requires is a set of dumbbells and 15 minutes to build muscle around your shoulders, arms, and chest.

If you're training at home, it's worth picking up a set of the best adjustable dumbbells. These combine several weights in one for easy storage, and you can change the load as you get stronger, in line with the progressive overload technique.

You might be wondering which dumbbell weight should you use at the gym when you've got a selection of fixed-load dumbbells. The aim is to choose a load that'll challenge your muscles without affecting your form.

With weights by your side, you're ready to take on fitness YouTubers Tiff x Dan's (opens in new tab) five-move dumbbell workout. To pack a muscle-building session into just 15 minutes, you'll exercise for 40 seconds, take a 20-second rest, then start the next move.

It's essential to perfect your form if you want to get the most from your training and avoid injury, a concern when exercising with weights. Fortunately, you can use Dan's demonstrations to practice your technique before starting.

Watch Tiff x Dan's five-move dumbbell workout

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

High-intensity workouts raise your heart rate, which helps burn more energy during the session than a steady-paced routine. Plus, sustaining that high heart rate boosts your metabolism, the amount of energy you burn at rest.

HIRT routines are much like high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts but with a focus on strength-building exercises — like the dumbbell rows and swings in Tiff x Dan's routine — rather than cardio-based exercises.

Because of the metabolism-boosting effect, many people also use a HIIT workout for fat loss when they're looking to drop pounds. But this 15-minute workout combines muscle-building moves with fat-burning effects.

If you like the idea of a time-efficient workout with weights, consider investing in one of the best kettlebells and learn how to do kettlebell swings. This multi-muscle compound exercise works your whole body 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.