Get Results Training Twice A Week With This Six-Move Dumbbell Workout For Women

A woman in the gym performing a goblet squat with a dumbbell
(Image credit: Getty / AldoMurillo)

If you’re looking for an effective way to hit your fitness goals without spending hours in the gym, doing a couple of well-planned dumbbell workouts each week is a great approach.

“Many of my clients only train twice a week as this suits their busy lifestyle,” says Ryan Atkin, head coach of female-focused training company Real World Results

“For this, I’d always recommend two full-body workouts. That way, you maximize recruitment of each muscle group across the body and increase your chances of amazing physical changes.”

To get you started Atkin has provided this muscle-building dumbbell workout for women that he suggests using twice a week. All you need for the session is a pair of dumbbells, so it’s a good option for those looking to get fit at home if you have a set of weights already.

If you don’t have a pair to hand, then our round-up of the best dumbbells can help you find a set that suits you. Bear in mind when buying dumbbells that having a range of weights is useful for tackling different dumbbell exercises and also helping you to progress over time. An adjustable dumbbell will have a range of weight settings, or you could look at buying a set of three or five fixed-weight dumbbells.

While buying a good set of dumbbells represents a large upfront cost, we have enough free workouts to make sure you get a good return on your investment. Once you’ve tried the session below, you can give this 15-minute dumbbell circuit a whirl, or this 30-minute dumbbell workout, or spice things up with this fast-paced dumbbell HIIT workout.

How To Do This Workout

Before diving into the workout, it’s essential that you warm up your body. This warm-up routine only takes 10 minutes and it will help you get the most out of your time exercising. Our guide to warm-up exercises explains why.

This workout is designed using straight sets. Complete the specified repetitions, or reps, of the first exercise, and then rest for your chosen period of time. That’s one set. Repeat that sequence until you’ve completed all the sets for that exercise, then move on to the next exercise.

Atkins has given a range for the period of time you can rest for. This means you can adjust the intensity of the workout to suit you. Try to pick a rest period and stick to it throughout the workout. If in doubt, start with two minutes, and reduce it the next time you attempt the workout.

Atkins has provided video form guides. Click the title of each exercise to read our exercise form guides.

1 Goblet squat

 Sets 4 Reps 10 Rest 1-2min 

“This kind of exercise [a compound exercise] gives you the most bang for your buck,” says Atkin. “Goblet squats work your quads, calves, glutes and core, as well as your arms and grip as you hold on to the weight.” 

2 Dumbbell row 

 Sets 4 Reps 10 Rest 1-2min 

 “Although the dumbbell row mainly focuses on your back muscles, it also provides a solid upper-body workout by activating several other muscle groups, including your chest, core, glutes, lower back, biceps and triceps,” Atkin says. 

3 Hip thrust 

 Sets 3 Reps 10 Rest 1-2min 

The hip thrust is a glute-focused exercise that can be performed with a dumbbell or a barbell as in Atkins’ video above. To use a dumbbell, simply place a dumbbell on your hips and rest your back on a sturdy platform, like a sofa.

“Strong glutes carry over to so many areas of life,” says Atkins. These muscles are used to propel your body forward, improving your acceleration and power when sprinting.

”You’ll not only develop stronger glutes, but also build back strength and improve your balance. Many of my clients have also noted less knee pain.”

4 Lateral raise 

 Sets 3 Reps 12 Rest 1-2min 

“Lateral raises help with muscle development in the shoulders,” Atkin says. “They help increase your shoulder mobility, range of motion and stability—they’ve been a staple in my programs for years now.” 

5 Triceps kick-back

 Sets 3 Reps 12 Rest 1-2min 

“Triceps kick-backs target the triceps, but they can also enhance stability and flexibility in your shoulders and arms,” says Atkin. “Increasing upper-body strength here is super transferable to everyday activities like lifting heavy shopping bags.”

6 Plank

 Sets 3 Reps Max hold Rest 1-2min 

“The plank is one of the greatest core exercises of all time,” Atkin says. Although, he warns, it is only at its most effective when executed properly. 

“The forearm plank is a functional movement that trains the abs and core to support the spine in day-to-day activities. It can improve posture and reverse the negative effects of sitting at a desk all day. Having a stronger core can also enhance other exercises, like your squats, rows and more.”

Harry Bullmore
Staff writer

Harry covers news, reviews and features for Coach, Fit&Well and Live Science. With over a decade of training experience, he has tried everything from powerlifting to gymnastics, cardio to CrossFit, all in a bid to find fun ways of building a healthy, functional body.