It only takes 20 minutes to build upper body strength and muscle with this workout

This upper body circuit is quick to complete and effective for developing muscle and improving strength

Woman picks up a set of dumbbells from a full rack
(Image credit: Getty)

There are lots of ways you can train your upper body but to keep things simple, especially for those busy days where you don't get a second to plan your workout, you'll want to pick up this quick 20-minute upper body dumbbell routine.

If you're training at home it's worthwhile investing in your own set of the best adjustable dumbbells. With this type of dumbbell, you can modify the load mid-workout, and since they fit multiple weights in one, you'll save yourself space by not requiring a full rack of weights. Or, if you're using this routine at the gym, take yourself over to the free weights section where you should find a dumbbells rack to work with.

You could argue in the cardio vs weights debate that weight training requires more time and effort especially if you are new to working with weights. However, once you read up on these beginner strength training tips and then tackle this short Madfit (opens in new tab) upper body routine, you will quickly realize that weight training is not only a great way to build muscle fast but it's also efficient at burning body fat.

Maddie Lymburner, the personal trainer behind the popular MadFit workout channel, will lead you through the workout moves showing you how to build and define your arms, chest, back, and shoulders in just 20 minutes.

While Lymburner chooses to use a set of 10lbs/4.5kg dumbbells you should choose to work with a weight that challenges you without causing you to sacrifice good form. The better your form is, the less likely you are to injure yourself and the greater chance you have of promoting muscle growth.

Watch MadFit's 20-Minute Upper Body Dumbbell Routine

The workout is made up of intervals, meaning you will perform an exercise for 40 seconds, take 20 seconds for rest, and so on. This is known as high-intensity resistance training, which is like any other HIIT workout for fat loss but it adds weights into the mix to increase the challenge and build on muscle hypertrophy.

Due to the nature of high-intensity resistance training, you really don't need to be exercising for long, hence why Madfit's workout only takes 20 minutes of your time. Plus, the combination of intense bouts of exercise and weights should prompt a more significant post-exercise oxygen consumption. In simpler terms, this means your metabolism and energy expenditure stays elevated for a while after your exercise leading to greater calorie burn.

If you want to further your muscle-building results you should consider the different types of protein that you can add to your diet to further your fitness goals. Protein aids muscle recovery and growth after exercise. Plus, it takes longer to digest, which also can increase the number of calories your body burns. You should try your best to consume protein in your meals and you can top things up using one of the best protein powders for weight loss.

Jessica Downey
Staff Writer

Jessica is Staff Writer at Fit&Well. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. 


When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.