Celebrities and PTs alike love strength training - 7 seriously effective 20-minute dumbbell workouts you can do from home

Short, simple workouts FTW.

20 minute dumbbell workouts from home: A woman working out at home
(Image credit: Getty Images)

On the hunt for 20-minute dumbbell workouts that are PT-approved and promise to get a serious sweat on? Well, you're in luck, as we've scoured the web for weighted workouts that pack a punch in a short amount of time.

Let us explain why weight sessions are so effective, first. One study published in JAMA saw that individuals who resistance trained for six weeks gained muscle and lost fat. One form of resistance training that we can definitely get on board with, plus can be done from home, too? Dumbbell workouts.

In fact, they're probably my favourite piece of kit in the gym. As a Health Editor and fitness trainer, I resistance train up to three times a week and dumbbell exercises are always part of that workout. Why? Because they're versatile, simple to use and effective, not to mention can make shorter sessions - like, say, 20 minutes - seriously effective.

If you don't know where to start with dumbbell training, don't fret. While I'd always recommend following a workout split designed by a professional, sometimes we just want to get moving. And that's where 20-minute dumbbell workouts from home can come in super useful, especially if you're following a video devised by a pro. Which is exactly why we've rounded up some good workouts to follow. 

Keen to include more strength training exercises in your workout rotation? Scroll our PT-approved guides to the best strength training workouts and strength training for beginners, while you're here. Want to up the length of your dumbbell workouts? 30 minute dumbbell workouts, at the ready.

20 minute dumbbell workouts from home that PT's swear by

What are the benefits of 20-minute dumbbell workouts?

"Dumbbells are a key part of resistance training and it's a fitness myth that we need to spend hours at the gym," says personal trainer Eleanor Heaton-Armstrong. 

Lillie Bleasdale, a personal trainer, run coach, and founder of PASSA agrees, saying: "The best way to look at training is that something is always better than nothing - if fitting in a 20-minute workout is feasible for you, but a 40-minute workout isn't, then get that 20-minute workout done."

Some of the biggest benefits of a 20-min dumbbell session include: 

1. They're simple

Workouts that require one type of kit are the easiest to follow. While it's best to have multiple dumbbells at your disposal so you can use a variety of weights (the weight you can lift in lower-body workouts won't be the same as in upper-body workouts), dumbbells are easy to learn to hold and use and comfortable to grip.

2. They're effective

Dumbbells are one of the most effective pieces of kit to use, confirm the PT's we spoke to for this piece. That's because some people can find other weights, like barbells, a little tricky to hold and often too heavy and bulky to maintain good form. Dumbbells, on the other hand, are a smaller piece of kit that means you can lift well while also challenging your body and building strength. 

"Without the stability a barbell provides, a greater range of motion can be achieved with dumbbells and thus more muscle fibres utilised. Dumbbell training is a great way to improve unilateral strength and isolate muscle groups," says Heaton-Armstrong. Bleasdale adds: "Using free weights like dumbbells over resistance machines can help us to engage our core slightly more as we are forced to be our own centre of balance."

3. They're versatile

Dumbbell workouts can offer a huge amount of variety. You can use one or two dumbbells, and mix up your weights, reps and stances for extra ways to challenge the muscle. They can also be used in big, compound lifts like squats and presses that work multiple muscles and in isolation movements that target individual areas, like glute bridges and lat raises, for all-over strength, power and hypertrophy. 

"Because of the wide range of weight they are not only beginner-friendly but great for techniques such as progressive overload and drop sets," adds Heaton-Armstrong. 

4. They can be effective in a short space of time, too

20-minute workouts are easier than lengthy, hour-long sessions to commit to for the obvious reason that they won't monopolise your day. It's fair to say that even the busiest of people should be able to squeeze 20 minutes of movement into their day, whether it's on their lunch break when working from home or in the evening while waiting for their dinner to cook. 

This means you're probably more likely to stick at them, too, as they'll feel more attainable in the long run and actually work with your lifestyle. After all, the best workouts are ones we can stick to. "With the right weights and movement patterns you can easily pack a decent workout into a shorter amount of time," says Heaton-Armstrong. 

7 best 20-minute dumbbell workouts

As a disclaimer: there's no such thing as an overall "best" workout, and the ideal exercise for you depends on your goals, fitness levels and preferences. However, if you're looking for general guidance, here are some fun workouts you can try at home to support your strength training

1. 20-minute upper body dumbbell HIIT workout by Carly Rowena

What? Using dumbbells alongside cardio moves, this workout focuses on all-round fitness in just 20 minutes.

Why? "Carly Rowena is probably one of the best people I would recommend here both in terms of accessibility and knowledge," says Bleasdale. This workout is great for all skill levels and includes a warm-up so you're fully prepped. 

How long? 20 minutes.

2. 20-minute full-body workout by MadFit

What? A full-body workout with one set of dumbbells. 

Why? Packed with combination moves, like squats to presses and deadlifts to front raises, this workout effectively targets every single muscle in the body. That's a mean feat for just 20 minutes. 

How long? 20 minutes.

3. Dumbbell strength workout by Joe Wicks

What? Another full-body workout, this time pairing cardio moves and dumbbell exercises together. 

Why? We couldn't do a dumbbell workout roundup without including Joe Wicks. His workouts are approachable but this one is definitely spicy too - yes, it includes burpees. 

How long? 20 minutes.

4. 20-minute upper-body dumbbell workout by Juice & Toya

What? An upper-body focused workout you can get done in little time. 

Why? "When I have just 20 minutes, I like to do a workout that isolates one area of my body, such as upper-body or lower-body, so I have enough time to fatigue the muscles. I like this workout because it's varied and engaging but challenging," says Heaton-Armstrong. 

How long? 20 minutes.

5. Total body dumbbell workout by Fit By Mik

What? Another full-body session, this time packed with loads of isolation moves.

Why? Adding isolation exercises into your workouts targets specific muscle groups, especially smaller ones that tend to be underused when our training only focuses on big, compound exercises. You'll feel the burn in your side lying hip raises and lat raises. 

How long? 20 minutes.

6. Full body dumbbell workout by Mr and Mrs Muscle

What? A full-body workout with brilliant - but silent - instruction. 

Why? If you like to know exactly where you should be feeling a muscle then this workout is brilliantly labelled and instructed. But your coach won't do any talking, so you can crack on with your own motivational mantras. 

How long? 20 minutes.

7. No-repeat dumbbell workout by Nourish Move Love

What? A workout that builds strength in 20 minutes without making you repeat any movements.

Why? For people who want to be one-and-done with their exercises, this no-repeat workout is a great one to try. Plus, with over 600,000 views at the time of writing and no thumbs-down, it's clear audiences love it. 

How long? 20 minutes.

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Chloe Gray
Contributing Health Writer

Chloe Gray is a freelance journalist who writes and talks about health, fitness, and wellbeing through a feminist lens. She was part of the launch team for Stylist magazine's fitness brand, Strong Women, and has written for i news, Women's Health, Red magazine, Good Housekeeping, Refinery29, and more. She's all about building mental and physical strength, eating delicious food that fuels you well, and making the fitness industry more accessible and enjoyable. She's also a qualified fitness trainer and research nerd, so you can be sure everything you read is backed by proper science.