You Don’t Need Hours On A Treadmill To Boost Your Cardio Fitness—Try These Five Dumbbell Moves Instead

Man and woman perform dumbbell snatch in a gym
(Image credit: Aleksandar Jankovic / Getty Images)

Hear the words “cardiovascular training” and you may well envisage pounding the treadmill or sweating your butt off in an indoor cycling class. But doing a cardio workout with weights brings unique benefits alongside cardio gains, such as improving all-over strength, adding muscle and warding off health problems such as osteoporosis. 

And, as demonstrated by this workout from Jon Stafford, a level 3 personal trainer and the head coach at F45 Surbiton, you just need one dumbbell. 

“Cardio comes in many forms,” says Stafford. “Even resistance training, when programmed at an intensity that challenges your lactate threshold, can be incredibly effective at improving stamina and endurance.”

How To Do This Workout

First, select the right dumbbell weight. It needs to be heavy enough to challenge you when doing the goblet squat and alternating snatch, but light enough that you can hold it overhead for the lunges and keep your balance with the lateral lunge reach.

This session uses the circuit training format, so you perform each exercise for one minute each to complete one circuit. Perform four circuits in total. 

Complete each exercise with good form to minimize any risk of injury. If you feel your form faltering, take a short breather or reduce the weight slightly. 

Ready to get rolling? Grab that dumbbell and let’s go to work.

Workout Overview

  1. Goblet squat
  2. Dumbbell snatch
  3. Overhead reverse lunge
  4. Beast hold dumbbell drag
  5. Lateral lunge with dumbbell reach

Form Guides

1 Goblet squat 

Time 1min 

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding one end of the weight close to your chest in the palms of both hands with your fingers pointing up. Bend your knees and push your hips back to drop into a squat, aiming for your hips to go lower than your knees. Keep your chest up and facing forward throughout and your weight in your heels. Exhale and drive through your heels to stand.

2 Dumbbell snatch

Time 1min 

Start with a dumbbell on the floor between your feet. Squat down to grasp the dumbbell with one hand, keeping the other arm out to the side for balance. Explosively drive up extending your ankles, knees and hips to lift the weight. As you near full extension pull the weight up, leading with your elbow, to press the dumbbell overhead. Allow a very slight bend in your knees and hips as you “catch” the dumbbell overhead, then extend your knees and hips. 

From here you can either swap the weight to your other hand and lower it to the floor, keeping it close to your body throughout, or lower it with your same hand and switch sides with the dumbbell on the floor. Aim to touch the weight to the floor very briefly, then explode into the next rep.

3 Overhead reverse lunge 

Time 30sec each side

Hold the dumbbell overhead (performing a snatch to get into position), keeping the weight directly over your center of gravity, with your elbow extended and chest proud. Hold your other arm out to your side for balance. Take a big step back and bend both knees to lower into a lunge, allowing your back knee to gently tap the floor, then drive back to standing. Alternate sides with the lunge for 30 seconds, then switch arms and continue.

4 Beast hold dumbbell drag

Time 1min 

Start on all fours, with a dumbbell by the heel of your left hand. Brace your core and lift your knees just off the floor. Keeping your hips level throughout, reach over with your right hand to take hold of the dumbbell and bring it across your body to place it on your right side. Repeat with your left hand and keep alternating for the full minute, using slow and controlled movements throughout. 

5 Lateral lunge with dumbbell reach 

Time 1min 

Hold the dumbbell in front of your right thigh in your right hand. Take a big step to your left and bend your left knee to lower into a lateral lunge, keeping your weight on your left heel and your chest up. As you lower, reach across with your right hand to touch the weight to the floor by your left foot, challenging your core to maintain your balance. Drive through your left foot back to the starting position. Switch hands and repeat on the right side. Alternate sides with each rep.

Lucy Gornall

Lucy is an experienced health and fitness journalist, and was formerly health editor for TI Media’s portfolio of women’s titles. Lucy qualified as a level 3 personal trainer with Train Fitness in 2016, and also holds qualifications in pre- and post-natal fitness, as well as in nutrition for exercise.