You Just Need 20 Minutes, Five Moves And Two Dumbbells To Build Strength And Improve Your Fitness

Shirtless muscular man performs bent-over row with dumbbells outside
(Image credit: Georgijevic / Getty Images)

If you’re used to muscle-building gym workouts that take upwards of an hour, you may wonder if it’s even worth performing a 20-minute workout when time is tight. Good news, it is worth it, and you only need a pair of dumbbells as long as you know what you’re doing, or know someone who knows what they’re doing.

Someone like certified strength and conditioning specialist Ideen Chelengar whose routine below targets the entire body with just five moves, helping you develop strength and increase your fitness.

“This workout is mostly about efficiency,” Chelengar told Coach. “If you’re tight on time but want to get some lifting in, this five-exercise circuit is structured using non-competing muscle groups so it can be moved through with minimal rest.”

You’ll complete a leg exercise, then an upper-body push move, followed by another lower-body movement, an upper-body pull exercise and finally some core work. 

“This is also good for conditioning, as while muscle groups get a break when you switch exercises, our cardiovascular and systemic energy production doesn’t,” says Chelengar.

Watch Chelengar’s workout below.

Complete three rounds of this workout, performing 12 reps of each exercise in the first round, 10 reps in the second round and finally 8 reps in the final round.

“I have the rep counts reducing each round deliberately as if the weight is challenging enough on round 1 at 12 reps it should be hard to hit the same rep count with the shorter rest periods,” says Chelengar.

Chelengar demonstrates each exercise, but has some extra advice for the single-leg Romanian deadlift. “The first exercise—the single-leg deadlift—is a lower-body exercise not a back exercise,” says Chelegnar. “The glutes and hamstrings of the standing leg are the target so you want to move through it by pushing down through the standing leg and keeping the spine relatively still throughout.”

As this workout is fairly short and covers a range of muscle groups, it’s best for people looking to improve their general strength and fitness. If you want to increase muscle mass, you’ll better off following a progressive plan. If you own a pair of adjustable dumbbells like Chelegnar (he’s using PowerBlock adjustable dumbbells in the video which feature in our guide to the best dumbbells), then this dumbbell workout plan is a great option. Or if you’re a gym regular, try this workout plan for muscle.

Alice Porter

Alice Porter is a journalist who covers health, fitness and wellbeing, among other topics, for titles including Stylist, Fit & Well, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Grazia, VICE and Refinery29. When she’s not writing about these topics, you can probably find her at her local CrossFit box.