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The One Dumbbell Workout

Posted 04-30-2020
In Workouts & Circuit Training

The One Dumbbell Workout

Are you stuck at home with nothing more than a Gymboss timer and a single dumbbell to train with? Don’t worry, even with your very spartan gym set-up, you still have everything you need to have a great workout.

Not convinced? Give this single dumbbell and bodyweight timed circuit a try!

Using your Gymboss timer, do 40 seconds of the following eight exercises, resting 20 seconds between each one. Do two to four laps depending on your fitness.

1. Goblet squats
2. Push-ups
3. Two-handed swings
4. Serratus crunches
5. Sumo deadlifts
6. Surfboard press
7. Alternating dead stop dumbbell row
8. Saxon side bends


Exercise descriptions:

Get the most from your workout by doing all these exercises using the best possible technique. Read the descriptions below and, if you are still unsure, check out reputable trainers on YouTube for further instructions.

1 – Goblet squats

Goblet squats are a handy alternative to barbell squats. Typically done with a kettlebell, you can also do this exercise with a dumbbell. Goblet squats work all your lower body muscles, especially your quads.

How to do it:

1. Hold your dumbbell vertically in front of your chest with the innermost weight plate cupped in your upturned hands.
2. Step out and into a shoulder-width stance, and toes turned slightly outward.
3. Bend your knees and squat down until your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor. Do not round your lower back.
4. Stand back up and repeat.

2 - Push-ups

Push-ups are probably the most widely performed exercise in the world. They work your chest, triceps, and deltoids, and your core and even your legs get an indirect workout too. Done correctly, the humble push-up is an excellent choice for home and conditioning workouts.

How to do it:

1. Squat down and place your hands on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Walk your feet back until your legs and hips are straight, and your shoulders are directly over your hands. Pull your shoulders down and back and brace your abs.
2. Bend your arms and lower your chest to within an inch of the floor. Do not allow your hips to drop.
3. Push yourself back up and repeat.
4. Raise your feet to make this exercise harder or bend your legs and rest on your knees to make it easier.

3 – Two-handed swings

While swings are customarily thought of as a kettlebell exercise, they can also be done with nothing more than a single dumbbell. Two-handed dumbbell swings work your hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and upper back, and will drive your heart rate sky-high.

How to do it:

1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold your dumbbell with both hands, interlacing your fingers if necessary.
2. Hinge forward from your hips and lower the weight down between your knees. Drive your hips forward and, keeping your arms straight, swing it up to shoulder-height.
3. Lower the weight and repeat. Do not round your lower back as this may lead to injury.

4 – Serratus crunches

This exercise works your abs, and also the muscles that frame your upper abs – the serratus anterior. This muscle is so-called because, on lean people, it looks like the seated edge of a knife or saw.

How to do it:

1. Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Press and hold your dumbbell over your chest by its ends.
2. Lift your head, shoulders, and upper back off the floor, pushing your dumbbell straight up toward the ceiling. Really reach for the sky!
3. Lie back down and repeat.

5 – Sumo deadlifts

As well as working your quads, hamstrings, and glutes, this one dumbbell exercise also targets your inner and outer thighs.

How to do it:

1. Stand with your feet about 1 ½ shoulder-widths apart, toes turned slightly out. Stand your dumbbell on its end between your feet. Squat down and grip the top of your dumbbell. Straighten your arms, lift your chest, brace your abs, and arch your lower back slightly.
2. Without rounding your lower back, drive your feet into the floor and stand up straight.
3. Push your hips back, bend your knees, and return the dumbbell to the floor.

6 – Surfboard press

Also known as the shoulder to shoulder press, this is an excellent deltoid and triceps exercise. The side to side motion of this exercise also increases core activation.

How to do it:

1. Lift your dumbbell up and hold it in front of your left shoulder. Place your right hand on top.
2. Press your dumbbell up and overhead and then lower it down to the opposite shoulder. The weight should travel in an arc over your head.
3. Press the dumbbell back up and over to return it back to the start. Continue for the prescribed duration.

7 - Alternating dead stop dumbbell row

This exercise is a modified version of the barbell Pendlay row, which is a back-building exercise invented by weightlifting and powerlifting coach Glen Pendlay. Starting each rep from a dead stop helps eliminate momentum, making this a useful exercise even if you use a light dumbbell.

How to do it:

1. Place your dumbbell on the floor between your feet. Bend your knees slightly, hinge forward from the hips, and reach down and grab the weight. Without rounding your lower back or using your legs, row the dumbbell up and into your side.
2. Place the dumbbell back on the floor, grab it with the other hand, and repeat.
3. Continue alternating sides for the duration of your set.

8 – Saxon side bends

This killer core exercise is named after Arthur Saxon, a golden-era strongman. He was one of the most famous strength performers of his time.
1. Press and hold your dumbbell over your head to arms’ length. Stand with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart.
2. Without twisting your shoulders or your hips, lean over to the left and then to the right. Move as far as your flexibility allows.

Modifications for beginners

This is a timed circuit, so it’s up to you how many reps of each exercise you do. Pace yourself and just do as many as you can without overexertion. You can also shorten the work periods from 40 seconds to 30 seconds and take longer rests between stations. Just change the settings on your Gymboss timer. Alternatively, do fewer laps of the circuit to make it more manageable. Finally, use a lighter dumbbell if you have one.

Wrapping up

It’s very easy to become disillusioned or frustrated with how little exercise equipment you have. But, in reality, you really don’t need much to get and stay in shape. Just a single dumbbell, combined with some well-chosen bodyweight exercises, means you can train all of your major muscles in the comfort of your home. Yes, more equipment WOULD be helpful, but it’s definitely not essential. And remember that any workout is better than no workout, so make the most of what you’ve got!