Four Moves, Two Dumbbells And 15 Minutes Are All You Need To Build Upper-Body Muscle

Kneeling woman adds weight plate to adjustable dumbbell
(Image credit: GrapeImages / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Family, friends and food are quite rightly a priority over the festive period, but this will inevitably eat into your workout time. Our advice? Adapt and thrive with this time-efficient dumbbell workout from certified personal trainer Jay Maryniak.

You only need a couple of dumbbells and 15 minutes to get it done, yet it still succeeds in hitting your chest, back, shoulders and arms for some quick-fire strength gains, not to mention a solid upper-body pump. 

You’ll perform four moves—the bent-over row, close-grip press, half-burpee gorilla row and clap push-up (or an easier push-up variation if needed)—as a circuit, doing eight reps of each exercise. Repeat this sequence for as many rounds as possible in 15 minutes. 

Benefits Of This Workout

This type of workout can be categorized as high-intensity resistance training (HIRT). It’s similar to high-intensity interval training (HIIT), but incorporates resistance training exercises so you can build strength and muscle while also raising and keeping your heart rate high to burn calories and improve your cardio fitness.

Building muscle can also boost your metabolism in the long run. Muscle is a metabolically active tissue, it requires energy to maintain and build, so the more you have, the more calories you will burn at rest.

Top Tips For Tackling This Workout

If you want to get the most from this workout, there are three things you need to consider: pace, weight selection and tempo.

1. Get The Right Pace

This isn’t a marathon, but it isn’t a sprint either. If you come out too hot then you’ll end up exhausted midway through and your form will suffer. If you take it slow, you’ll miss out on the cardio gains this routine is designed to deliver. 

Instead, find a comfortable pace that still challenges you and try to stick to it until the clock hits zero.

2. Choose The Right Weight

Choose dumbbells that are too heavy and you’ll be stopped in your tracks after a round or two. Opt for a featherweight pair and your muscles won’t experience the stimulus needed for growth. Aim to pick a weight that make your muscles burn for the last couple of reps of each set.

3. Stick To An Even Tempo

While AMRAP workouts want you to complete as many rounds as possible, don’t be tempted to rush each rep. Stick to a 2010 tempo (taking two seconds on the lowering phase of each movement and one second on the lifting phase) to get a superior stimulus from each rep. You’ll get a lower score, but a stronger body. 

For advice to help you find the right set of dumbbells for you, read our guide to the best dumbbells for home.

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.