You only need 10 moves and a set of dumbbells to build full-body muscle

This high-intensity workout develops muscle and boosts your metabolism in just 20 minutes

Man performing dumbbell presses
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You might imagine you need a gym full of equipment and hour-long workouts to build muscle. Fortunately, there are alternatives if you're low on time or prefer shorter exercise sessions, like this 20-minute full-body dumbbell workout. 

If you're training at home, we think it's worth investing in a set of the best adjustable dumbbells (opens in new tab). These customizable tools offer several weight options in one compact package, making them an ideal space-saving workout companion. You can easily adjust the load as you get stronger too, allowing you to take advantage of the muscle-building progressive overload (opens in new tab) principle without having to buy new fixed-load weights. 

Whether at home or the gym, the aim is to choose weights that challenge your muscles without causing your form to fail. Once you find the right weights, you'll be ready to start on the Body Coach's (opens in new tab) 10-move dumbbell workout to build functional full-body muscle. 

You'll do each exercise for 35 seconds, take a 25-second rest, then start on the next move until you reach the end of the round. Repeat this 10-move circuit for two rounds for a full-body 20-minute session. 

As you'll be working with heavy weights, perfecting your technique is crucial to avoid injury. You can follow along with the Body Coach's demonstrations to practice your technique, and it's also worth refreshing yourself on how to deadlift with dumbbells (opens in new tab) before starting. 

Watch The Body Coach's 10-move dumbbell workout

Part of the reason this session is so effective, despite its short running time, is the style of exercise known as high-intensity resistance training (opens in new tab) (HIRT). The aim is to perform resistance training exercises while working intensely in short bursts with minimal rests to pack the most into the session. 

This works your muscles hard, but there are other benefits too. Keeping rest times to a minimum helps raise your heart rate, so you burn more energy than during an equivalent steady-paced routine. Sustaining your increased heart rate has the added benefit of boosting your metabolism (the amount of energy you burn at rest). 

The moves themselves also play a crucial role, as the Body Coach has designed this routine around compound exercises (opens in new tab). These work multiple muscles simultaneously, so they're an extremely efficient way to train compared to single-muscle isolation moves like bicep curls. 

As a result, you can pack a fat-burning, muscle-building workout into just 20 minutes — all you need is a set of dumbbells and some space. As there are a few bodyweight exercises like burpees, we think it's worth rolling out a yoga mat (opens in new tab) if you've got one for some extra grip and support. 

To get the most from your training, it's essential to keep your body fuelled with the right nutrients. Adding one of the best protein powders for weight loss (opens in new tab) into your post-workout routine is a great way to help your body repair and grow your muscles. 

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.