You only need 20 minutes and two dumbbells to build upper-body strength

This short, high-intensity routine burns fat and works your arms, shoulders, and chest with only a set of dumbbells

Woman performing dumbbell renegade rows
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Unless you have a specific fitness goal, you don't need to sweat over what to do in a workout. There are some basic targets to hit (opens in new tab), such as strengthening your muscles at least twice a week, and there are plenty of great workout ideas online to help you do just that, including this high-intensity session from fitness YouTubers Juice & Toya (opens in new tab).

The workout is split into four groups of three exercises, completing three rounds of each. And you'll do each move for 20 seconds, followed by a 10-second rest. Between the four groups, you get an extended 30-second break to have a drink of water and catch your breath.

Like all good workouts, Juice & Toya begin by warming up. That’s especially important here because Juice & Toya are lifting weights at pace.

You'll need a pair of dumbbells to complete the workout. Choose a weight which allows you to perform 20 seconds of shoulder presses with perfect form, but which becomes challenging towards the end. 

It's crucial to perform each exercise with flawless form. Get it wrong and not only will you be getting less out of the session by not working the target muscle, you raise your risk of injury. If you’re confident with strength training, follow Toya's, but if you're starting out on a fitness kick, it may be worth watching the video first and practicing the moves with light weights and looking up form guides for any moves you're not familiar with. 

Watch Juice & Toya's upper-body dumbbell workout

This workout format is known as Tabata training (opens in new tab), named after its creator Dr. Izumi Tabata. The idea is to train intensely for short bursts with minimal rests, and it's been taken up by proponents of high-intensity resistance training (opens in new tab) , which works your muscles hard, but there are other benefits. 

Keeping the intensity high also raises your heart rate, so you'll burn more energy than you would during an equivalent steady-paced routine. And sustaining this elevated heart rate with short rest periods creates long-term changes and boosts your metabolism, the amount of energy you burn at rest. 

This is why Juice & Toya's workout is so effective, helping you build muscle and burn fat in just 20 minutes with minimal equipment. You'll also need to keep your protein levels topped up to help your body repair and grow your muscles, like with a post-workout shake made with one of the best protein powders for weight loss (opens in new tab)

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.