You don’t need the gym to build muscle all over, just these five light dumbbell moves

This short dumbbell routine strengthens your whole body and builds core strength in just five moves

Man performing a dumbbell biceps curl
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're training at home with limited equipment, this is the perfect routine for you. With only two light dumbbells you can still achieve an effective full-body workout that'll challenge your muscles, build strength, and work your core. 

This routine is a tempo workout, and was developed by fitness trainer Kirra O'Brien, main coach at Strong Sisters United. Rather than doing as many repetitions as you can, you'll focus on the time you keep your muscles under tension. 

For example, instead of doing the movement from start to finish, a tempo workout will depict how long you should take to get into position, how long you should hold it there and finally how long you should take to return to your start position.

To take part, all you'll need is a yoga mat to lie on and a set of light-weight dumbbells. You can use fixed-load weights, or invest in some of the best adjustable dumbbells, which allow you to quickly change the load.

Customizable weights are a great option for at-home routines, as you can gradually increase the load as you get stronger. Increasing the weight as you advance is a training technique known as progressive overload. 

If you want to get the most from your training, it's important to focus on your form. Watch closely as O'Brien demonstrates the moves before mirroring them yourself.

Watch Kirra O'Brien's workout video


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You'll do three sets of each exercise, with 12-15 controlled repetitions of each movement. O'Brien talks you through the routine, explaining how slowly to move into the position and how long you should hold the movements. 

There is no warm-up included within this routine so it is important that you prepare your muscles before taking part. Not sure how to warm-up properly? Check out our guide on how to warm up.

Movements in Kirra O'Brien's routine

These movements can be quite different to how we use our bodies in everyday life, so it is possible you'll feel some muscle pain the next day. This is known as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) caused by tiny tears in your muscle fibers. 

To help your muscles repair and grow after a tough workout, it's important to help your body recover, either by giving yourself a quick massage with a foam roller, or taking a post-workout shake with one of the best protein powders for weight loss. 

Lois Mackenzie
Fitness Writer

Lois Mackenzie is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering strength training workouts with weights, accessible ways to stay active at home, and training routines for runners. She joined the team from Newsquest Media Group, where she was a senior sports, trends, and lifestyle reporter. She is a dedicated runner, having just completed her first marathon, and an advocate for spending time outdoors, whether on a walk, taking a long run, or swimming in the sea. 

Lois holds a Master's degree in Digital Journalism, and has written for Good Health, Wellbeing & The Great Outdoors,, and Newsquest Media Group, where her reporting was published in over 200 local newspapers.