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Forget hour-long sessions — you can build full-body strength with 30-minute home dumbbell workouts

Updated: Mar 25

Give these a go to build strength from home.


By Chloe Gray, 19th March 2024


Ever wondered - can you really build strength with 30-minute dumbbell workouts from the comfort of your own home? Short answer: yes, you can.


Let's deep dive into the research on the subject, first. One 2017 review from German Sport University Cologne found that resistance training improved strength and reduced pain, even when the training was brief and of low intensity.


Similarly, using free weights has been shown to improve muscle size and strength in middle-aged women, according to a BMC Women's Health paper. The researchers also pointed out that strength training can be useful for reducing everyday stresses and strains on the hip and shoulder joints. 


In short: using dumbbells to build strength is an effective and vital way to look after your body. Take it from me - my name's Chloe Gray and I'm a health and fitness editor and fitness trainer. I've also picked the brains of Nancy Best, a PT and founder of Ladies Who Crunch


Below, we share why 30-minute dumbbell workouts are objectively brilliant for those of you who want to build stronger bodies and bigger muscles. Don't miss our guides to home workouts with dumbbells, dumbbell exercises and lower body workout with dumbbells, while you're here.


Yes, 30-minute dumbbell workouts can seriously boost your fitness - here's how


WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF DUMBBELL WORKOUTS?


When first starting out on your workout routine, a dumbbell is likely the first piece of kit you gravitate towards. Available in all gyms and ready to buy online, dumbbells are an excellent and diverse piece of kit for people wanting to add more resistance to their training. 


"The best thing about dumbbells is that they give you an opportunity to implement progressive overload with a controlled approach. Dumbbells are available, broadly speaking, in 1kg increments, so you can slowly increase the weights to avoid injuries and closely track and progress your numbers as you get stronger," says Best. 


Dumbbells can also be more versatile than, say, barbell training. That's because dumbbells can be more easily controlled and are easier to use when implementing dynamic or unilateral work into your routine. 


IS 30-MINUTES ENOUGH FOR STRENGTH TRAINING?


There are lots of questions about what makes a good workout - but it turns out, training for long periods might not be the answer. In fact, research from the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports found that doing one three-second bicep curl a day for four weeks led to an 11.5% increase in strength. 


While we recommend you do more than three seconds a day (the NHS advice is to aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week, or 75 of vigorous-intensity), we do agree that you don't need to do the most to see big benefits. In fact, another paper found that doing six bicep curls a day for five weeks built more than 10% more muscle than those who did 30 in one sitting. It proves that spreading out our movement little and often is a great way to train (exercise snacking FTW). 


Best agrees: "The concept of whether a workout is "enough" is directly correlated to your goal. The more important consideration is consistency. I often remind my clients that the best workouts are the ones you can maintain as a habit and it’s far more realistic for them to complete multiple thirty-minute workouts in a week, rather than try to fit in an hour for exercise each day, which often slides and doesn’t happen at all."


8 best 30-minute dumbbell workouts, chosen by an expert


A reminder: the "best" workout will be different for everyone depending on your goals, abilities and preferences. Following a plan that's designed to support your personal goals that also encourages progressive overload is, factually, the best way to build strength. Following ad-hoc videos won't necessarily help you see trackable gains. 


That said, they are brilliant for people who care more about moving for mental and physical health than specific muscle building or PB-setting, plus are a good way to keep fit while travelling or away from home. We've recommended some of our favourites below.


1. FULL-BODY SLOW DUMBBELL WORKOUT BY JOE WICKS


What? Everyone's favourite P.E. teacher takes you through a full-body workout using dumbbells. 


Why? We love Joe Wicks for a reason: he has unmatched motivational energy, clear instruction and never-boring workouts that are designed to actually make you stronger.


How long? 30 minutes.


2. NO-REPEAT WORKOUT WITH WEIGHTS BY GROWINGANNANAS


What? A 30-minute workout in which you won't repeat any of the same moves. 


Why? For those who get bored easily or like to challenge their muscles by moving across plenty of different ranges of motion, try this dumbbell session. 


How long? 30 minutes.


3. FULL-BODY DUMBBELL WORKOUT BY MADFIT


What? A half-an-hour dumbbell workout designed with building strength in mind.

 

Why? Using lots of combo moves (think overhead lunge and squat to curls), this is an efficient muscle-burner that will work your whole body. 


How long? 30 minutes.


4. 30-MINUTE UPPER BODY AND CORE WORKOUT BY ZANNA VAN DIJK


What? A core and upper-body workout that will strengthen the arms, shoulders, back, abdominals and glutes.


Why? If you think upper-body doesn't mean heavy, compound lifts, think again. While this may be targeting the upper half of your body, it's still using all of the midsection and stabilisers in the whole body. 


How long? 30 minutes.


5. DUMBBELL PILATES WORKOUT BY MOVE WITH NICOLE


What? A Pilates-inspired dumbbell workout for your whole body.


Why? If slow and controlled is your thing but you want the resistance of dumbbells, you can't go wrong with this session. 


How long? 30 minutes.


6. 30-MINUTE DUMBBELL WORKOUT BY KRISSY CELA


What? A 30-minute workout you can keep in your back pocket for when you hit the gym or need a good home workout.


Why? Sometimes we don't want instruction, we just want a really good workout. This guide is a great one for you to follow along with in your own time and own reps. 


How long? 30 minutes.


7. FULL-BODY BURN WORKOUT BY GAINS BY BRAINS


What? A great combination of sweaty circuits and strengthening, weighted work for 30 minutes.


Why? High-intensity weight training is a good idea for those who want to improve their cardio and muscular fitness in one go, as this workout proves.

 

How long? 30 minutes.


8. LEGS AND GLUTE DUMBBELL WORKOUT BY GROWINGANNANAS


What? A lower-body workout with dumbbells that will get your glutes on fire.

 

Why? Did you know your glutes are the powerhouse of your body? Well, now you do - and strengthening them with dumbbells will build an all-around stronger physique. 


How long? 30 minutes.


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