This One Dumbbell Workout Proves a Single Weight Is Really All You Need

Photo: Anthony Cunanan

No need for a full rack of weights. Challenge every muscle group during this one-dumbbell workout.

01 of 07

How to Exercise with One Dumbbell

Anthony Cunanan

There are plenty of ways to work your body to exhaustion: You can perform strength moves at home using nothing but your own bodyweight, you can hop around the gym using all the latest state-of-the-art equipment, or you can try exercises that use just one dumbbell. (

"[One-dumbbell workouts are] one of my favorite types of workouts because it's so effective — especially since a lot of people (including myself) probably struggled with finding weights during the pandemic," says Nancy Chen, NASM certified personal trainer and group trainer at Rumble Boxing. "There's actually a ton you can do with a single dumbbell that hits full body. One dumbbell workouts are also great for core work!"

As a bonus, working out with a single dumbbell is an effective way to prioritize unilateral training, says Chen. "With single dumbbell workouts, I find that I work more single-sided movements (like the alternating snatch), which helps me focus more on core stabilization and helps build strength evenly on both sides of the body," she explains.

This one-dumbbell workout created by Nora Tobin and demonstrating by Chen uses — you guessed it — one dumbbell to challenge every major muscle group. It's appropriate for all fitness levels; just modify the amount of weight you use. "Depending on the weight of your dumbbell, you may have to modify some moves," says Chen. "If you're finding that your dumbbell is too light, try doing more reps or slowing the tempo down (this creates time under tension, forcing your muscles to work harder for longer). If your dumbbell feels too heavy, try doing fewer reps and really focusing on your form."

For best results, be sure to do a dynamic warm-up beforehand and a cool-down stretch routine after these one-dumbbell exercises.

How it works: Do three sets of the prescribed number of reps for each exercise.

You'll need: A 10- to 15-pound dumbbell (depending on your strength level, you may want a lighter or heavier weight)

02 of 07

Single-Arm Dumbbell Snatch

Try using one dumbbell for this single-sided power movement to build strength evenly on both sides of your body.

A. Grab the dumbbell with right hand and stand with feet hips-width apart, knees slightly bent, hips shifted back. Lower the weight in between legs.

B. Explosively drive hips forward while raising right elbow up and back, bringing the weight overhead with a straight arm. Release weight back between legs to return to the starting position.

Do 10 reps on each side.

(New to this move? Here's more on how to master the dumbbell snatch, as well as any other snatch exercises you might encounter.)

03 of 07

Standing Dumbbell Core Twist

Improve your core stability with this one dumbbell exercise.

A. Hold one end of the dumbbell with each hand and stand with feet hips-width apart, knees slightly bent, tailbone tucked. Raise dumbbell to chest height, extending arms straight out from shoulders.

B. Twist toward the right, keeping hips facing forward and arms straight. Return to center and slowly twist toward the left.

Do 8 reps on each side.

04 of 07

Bulgarian Split Squat

For this lower-body move, you'll hold a single dumbbell at your chest for an extra core challenge; the goal is to keep your torso upright throughout the move without letting your dumbbell pull you forward.

A. Start in lunge position with left foot up on a bench or step behind body and right foot directly in front of right hip. Make sure right knee is in line with right ankle and torso stays upright. Hold the dumbbell with both hands at chest height.

B. Slowly lower down until right knee is bent at 90 degrees, pause, then press through right foot to come back up to starting position.

Do 15 reps on each side.

05 of 07

Step-Up with Static Shoulder Press

This single-dumbbell exercise is especially effective for runners, since it requires stepping up onto a bench and balancing. Improving your balance is essential for preventing injuries and perfecting your running form.

A. Stand facing a bench or step, holding the dumbbell overhead in left hand. Draw left shoulder down away from ears. Place entire right foot on top of the bench.

B. Step up onto the bench so right leg is fully extended, keeping left foot off the bench just behind hips. If needed, you can tap left foot on the bench to help with balance. Keep chest tall and weight overhead for the entire move.

C. Step down to the ground with left foot, followed by right foot.

Do 10 reps on each side.

06 of 07

Weighted Glute Bridge

While this single dumbbell move primarily works the glutes, you can target the hamstrings by walking your feet out a few extra inches.

A. Grab the dumbbell and lie face-up with knees bent, feet flat on the floor and hips-width apart. Hold the dumbbell horizontally across hips.

B. Engage glutes and press into both feet to lift hips off the ground. Make sure to avoid overarching back. Lower hips back to the floor and repeat.

Do 30 reps.

07 of 07

Single-Arm Press

This unilateral exercise is a sneaky core crusher. Since you're only working one arm at a time, the muscles on the other side of your body have to work extra hard to stabilize you and prevent you from leaning toward the side that's working.

A. Hold the dumbbell in left hand at shoulder height. Draw shoulders down away from ears and engage core.

B. Press the weight up, extending left arm straight overhead.

C. Lower the weight back to shoulder height and repeat.

Do 10 reps on each side.

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