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A Convenient Dumbbell Workout

Part 2: The Workout

Welcome to the third installment of my “How to use X” series.

In each blog I outline how to use a different piece of equipment — everything from the treadmill (the subject of blog number one: here), to dumbbells (today’s topic), the stability ball, the bike, and a home gym.

The purpose of the series is to connect the dots between buying fitness equipment and actually using it; to empower readers so that their workouts leave them feeling empowered and energized instead of overwhelmed, frustrated, and discouraged.

As mentioned above, today’s topic is training with dumbbells. Dumbbell training is a two-part blog, with today’s blog being the second part. In part one I outlined basic strength training principles so you know how to organize your dumbbell workout. You can read that here.

Today I’ll share one of my favourite workouts.

One of the best parts of dumbbell workouts is that they are convenient: owning just a few sets offers options for a full-body workout. Convenience is key. To achieve any fitness goal you have to be consistent. Convenience breeds consistency; the workout you do once per month is far less important than your daily movement habits. Plus, dumbbell training is functional, effective, and fun.

A Favourite Dumbbell Workout: The Minute Workout

The minute workout provides an intense full-body workout in 20 to 45 minutes, and other than incorporating dumbbells, you are not married to any particular piece of equipment, so you can do it anywhere. You have no excuse to skip your workout! The more convenient your workout is -- especially during the holidays -- the better. You are way more likely to do the workout if it is convenient.

Warm up for five minutes. Do five minutes on any cardio machine, skip rope, dance around, or walk or jog outside.

Main set -- The Minutes:

Pick four strength exercises and two core exercises. Do one minute of each exercise, followed by one to three minutes of intense cardio. Aim to fit in as many good reps as possible for each strength exercise within the one-minute time frame. Rest for one minute. Repeat the cycle one-three more times.

Make your first exercise a "push" exercise. Push exercises work your chest, shoulders and triceps. Try any variation of the push-up, dumbbell bench press, dumbbell flys, or overhead dumbbell shoulder press.


Make your second minute a "pull" exercise. Pull exercises primarily work your back and biceps. Try bent over dumbbell rows, single-arm dumbbell bench rows, reverse flys with dumbbells, or pull-ups.


Make your third exercise some version of the squat holding the dumbbells.


Make your fourth exercise your "favourite" type of lunge. Try walking lunges, reverse lunges, or stationary lunges holding the dumbbells.


For your two core exercises, try any variation of the front plank, side plank, or V sit. I love the V sit dumbbell rotation: sit on your bum. Lean back ten degrees. Chest out and core engaged. Hold a dumbbell and rotate side to side.


If you decide to do a core exercise that involves flexing forward -- like a crunch -- make sure you make your second core exercise an extension exercise like the superman or superwoman.

Do the cardio intervals on any cardio machine. If you're not near a machine, run up and down your household stairs, do burpees or high knees, skip rope, or dance around.

Make sure you cool down and stretch before heading to the shower.

As always, remember health is a process not an event. Try not to get overwhelmed; that is not productive. Relish the process -- the victory is in showing up.


Kathleen Trotter is a personal trainer in Toronto who loves audiobooks, planks and having a growth mindset. You can follow her blog or find her on Facebook.