Just 30-minutes of dumbbell exercise can build muscle in your upper body — here’s how

Dumbbells are a great piece of equipment for activating a number of muscles and stimulating muscle growth

Man performs a bicep curl with a dumbbell
(Image credit: Getty)

Everyone experiences peaks and troughs when it comes to staying motivated to exercise. That's why it's helpful to have short yet efficient workouts to hand for those days when you want to get a workout done and dusted ASAP. This 30-minute upper body dumbbell workout is a great example of how you can build muscle fast.

It also helps that this weight training session requires minimal equipment. All you'll need is access to a pair of dumbbells, or even better, some of the best adjustable dumbbells. With an adjustable pair, you can quickly switch the load mid-workout.

This workout was shared by Zeus Fitness, otherwise known as Grant Davison, and packs in 10 different upper body muscle-building exercises into 30-minutes. Your upper body contains various different and important muscle groups, such as the rhomboid (upper back), deltoids, (outer shoulder), pectorals (chest), latissimus dorsi (back), triceps (back of upper arm), and biceps (front of upper arm). 

Davison has split the workout into different muscle groups to make sure you are able to build and define muscle evenly across the upper body with these moves.

The workout includes two exercises per muscle group. Each move is performed for 40 seconds, followed by a 20-second rest. There are three rounds to be completed and a longer 60-second rest is to be taken in between each round.


Training with dumbbells is great for targeting different muscle groups when you want to use minimal equipment or have limited space to train in.

Plus, this dumbbell routine is suitable for beginners, intermediates, or people who are advanced at resistance training. It's your call how heavy or light you want to go with your weight. A heavier weight will be better for muscle growth but even if you use a very light set of dumbbells for Davison's routine you will still increase tone and definition across your upper body.

If you fancy giving this workout a try, we've listed all the exercises you will need below.

  • Push up 
  • Chest fly 
  • Raise & pull 
  • Row with rotation 
  • Seated shoulder press
  • Seated side lateral raises
  • Isolated bicep curls 
  • Hammer curl rotations 
  • Tricep kickbacks 
  • skull crushers 

According to research published in the European Journal of Physiology, just two sessions of resistance training with dumbbells can increase muscle growth. The scientists recruited a group of men to perform 8-12 reps of shoulder presses and dumbbell curls twice a week for four weeks. After this training period, the results of the study revealed changes in muscle thickness, lean mass, and arm circumference across the group of men.

Often, people don't see the results they want from exercise because they get caught up in prioritizing the length of their workout over quality. Exercising for extended periods of time can lead to fatigue, especially if you are newer to working out. However, establishing shorter workouts with effective muscle-building moves can be more efficient at boosting results. 

It's also important that you nail down proper form for more demanding muscle-building exercises such as how to deadlift properly. We say it often, but muscle recovery is essential for muscle growth, you should always make time to cool down with some stretching or using one of the best foam rollers after a workout.

Jessica Downey

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. 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.