An Effective Total Body One-Dumbbell Workout

You already know that strength training is a crucial component to any workout routine if you want to get fit, get healthy, and lose weight.

Lifting weights allows you to build lean muscle tissue and burn more calories overall and all of this happens by challenging your body with more resistance than it can handle.

Yes, you can use your body weight, of course, but if you really want to make significant changes, you need equipment and there's a lot of that out there.

Walk into any gym or sporting goods store and you'll see dumbbells, barbells, bands, machines... there are so many pieces of equipment, it can be overwhelming. It's no wonder so many people stick with cardio and avoid the weight room.

There's a way to solve that problem by simplifying your workouts and the equipment you use. In fact, you can get an excellent workout with barely any equipment at all if you have the right exercises.

One Dumbbell, Multiple Exercises

Imagine you're in a crowded gym with everyone fighting over a set of dumbbells or a weight bench. Or imagine you're at home, you're in a hurry, and the thought of having to lug all those weights around the room is just too much.

What if you had a go-to routine that only required one thing: one dumbbell? That's what this workout is all about. Effective, total body conditioning with just one dumbbell.

The Exercises

This workout is all about power and strength, taking the body through dynamic, sometimes ballistic movements that will not only challenge your strength, they'll get your heart rate up so that you burn even more calories.

It's almost like having a cardio and strength workout in one, something that will save you time without compromising your results.

These moves aren't your traditional strength exercises but, instead, unique, compound movements that involve your entire body. What makes this great is that the moves are functional. You move in all different planes of motion while working multiple muscles at the same time, which is how our bodies work in real life.

The Weights

Best of all, you don't need much space and you only need one piece of equipment, a dumbbell.

One note: There is one caveat—you may not be able to do all the exercises with the same weight, so while you only use one weight at a time, it's a good idea to get three different dumbbells: Light (3-8 pounds for women, 5-10 pounds for men), medium (8-10 pounds for women, 10-20 pounds for men), and heavy (10-20 pounds for women, 20-30 pounds for men) so you have some choices.

You can also choose to perform these moves with a kettlebell or medicine ball.


Skip any moves that cause pain or discomfort and see your doctor if you have any medical conditions or illnesses.


  • Warm up with about 5 or more minutes of cardio.
  • Grab 1 to 3 dumbbells of different weights and find a space about that's about 4' x 4'.
  • Do each exercise as directed, performing each with slow and controlled movements for the suggested time.
  • Do each move one after the other with no rest in between.
  • Complete one circuit for a 15-20 minute workout or do 1-3 circuits for a more intense routine.
  • End the workout with a cooldown and a stretch.

Pulsing Squat With Dumbbells

Close up of kettlebell weights on floor of dark gym
John Fedele / Getty Images

Grab your heavy weight and stand with feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Hold the dumbbell in both hands and bend the knees into a squat.

Send the hips back, keeping the torso straight, and squat as low as you can.

Holding that position, press up a few inches and then lower back into a squat. Repeat the for 8 pulses and stand up.

Continue squatting with 8 pulses each time for 60 seconds.


Side Lunge With a Triceps Extension

With a moderate to heavy dumbbell in the right hand, take a giant step out to the left and bend the knee into a side lunge. The right leg should be straight.

As you lunge, extend the right arm out into a triceps extension. Lower the arm, step back to start and repeat for 30 seconds and then switch sides for 30 seconds.


Side Squat With Weight Exchange

Holding your heavy weight and step out to the side into a squat, sending the hips behind you, elbow bent and the weight next to the ear.

Stand up and bring the foot back in while taking the weight overhead, switching hands. 

Squat to the other side bringing the weight down towards the ear.

Repeat for 60 seconds.


One Leg Row

With a weight in the right hand, put all the weight on the right leg. Now lift the other leg straight up behind you as you lean the torso forward.

You should be balanced on the left leg and the head should be in line with the toe, parallel to the floor (hold onto a wall or chair for balance if you need to).

With the weight hanging down, bend the elbow and pull the weight up, bringing the elbow to torso level.

Staying balanced on one leg, continue to do one arm rows for 30 seconds before switching sides.


Squat and Reach

With the weight in the right hand, arm bent, and the weight next to the right ear, lower into a squat, torso up and hips going back.

As you stand press and reach the weight overhead. Lower and repeat for 30 seconds before switching sides.


Triceps Extension With Kicks

Hold a heavy weight in both hands and take the right foot behind you, toe touching the floor.

Bend the elbows, taking the weight behind the head. As you straighten the arms, squeeze the triceps and kick the right leg up as though you're going to touch your toe with the weight.

Repeat for 30 seconds and then switch sides.


Squat With Dumbbell Swing and Leg Lift

Hold a heavy dumbbell in both hands, feet hip-width apart.

Bend the knees into a squat and swing the weight down and back between the legs.

As you stand, swing the weight up and lift the right leg straight up just a few inches in a leg lift.

Lower the leg and swing the weight again, this time doing a leg lift on the left leg.

Lower and repeat for 60 seconds.


Pivot Squat Curl

Hold a weight in the right hand and begin in a wide squat, feet wide and knees in line with the toes. The elbow should be bent, the weight at the shoulder as in a biceps curl.

Pivot to the left, taking the left foot back into a squat as you straighten the arm.

Pivot back to the front, squat and curl the weight into a biceps curl.

Repeat for 30 seconds and then switch sides.


Single Arm Clean and Press

Start with the feet a little wider than hip-distance apart, heavy weight in the right hand.

Squat, touching the weight to the floor if you can, and then power the weight up as you stand, pulling the weight up in an upright row.

In one smooth move, flip the elbow so that the weight is over the shoulder and then press the weight overhead.

Lower and repeat for 30 seconds on each side.


Stand to Kneel Lunge With Dumbbell

Making sure there's a mat or soft surface behind you and hold a weight in the right hand, taking the arm straight up overhead.

Keep the weight there as you step the right foot back and kneel on the floor.

Now take the left foot back so that you're kneeling on both knees, right arm still straight up in the air.

Step the right foot back and then the left foot back. Try to keep the weight up the whole time, if you can. 

Repeat for 30 seconds and then switch sides.


Crossback Lunge With Front Swing

Hold a weight in the right hand and take the right foot back behind you in a crossover lunge, lunging diagonally behind the body.

Bring the right leg back and tap the toes to the floor. At the same time, swing the weight up to shoulder level.

Lower and repeat for 30 seconds before switching sides.


Dumbbell Pullover

On a mat or bench, hold a heavy weight in both hands. Brace the core and, elbows slightly bent, lower the weight behind you very slowly, stopping when you feel a stretch in the lats.

Squeeze the back to pull the weight up. Lower and repeat for 60 seconds.


One Arm Chest Fly

On a mat or bench, hold one weight in the right hand straight up over the body.

Brace the core to keep you steady and, elbow slightly bent, lower the weight towards the floor, only lowering it to torso level.

Bring the weight back to start and repeat for 30 seconds on each side.

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