Three Blistering Dumbbell Workouts You Can Do In 30 Minutes

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One of biggest obstacles people face when trying to make exercise part of their daily routine is not having enough time. But how is it that other busy people somehow find the time to get to the gym?

In this article I’ll reveal just how they do it so you can do it too.

Claiming you’re busy is not an exclusive reason for you to skip the gym. We’re all busy these days, juggling several goals and projects at one time. In fact, those who are millennials will often forge a career that looks more like a portfolio instead identifying with one company or job.

More and more people are cultivating a multi-careerism approach to work. For instance, someone you might be a journalist, a consultant and a partner in a start up. You might be a sales rep, an uber driver and the base player in your band.

It’s not surprising that we routinely miss opportunities to act on our fitness goals when our lives are getting busier.

I’m not claiming that we shouldn’t work hard. Hustling is good. But what if the sliver lining was found in behavior design?

Meaning, instead of writing off your fitness goals because you’re to busy, you take a hard look at how you design your behavior each day; finding the gaps in your efficiency and using that to leverage workout time.

If you’re reading this, I know you want to be focused with your fitness. Instead, you get distracted by co-workers, your inbox swallows you up, traffic eats at your soul, and small unimportant tasks like shopping online for new fly knits that don’t need absorbs your day.

On some days, the workout gods line everything up for you. You get all your work done, inbox is at zero, there’s no traffic, all your clients sing you praise and you have enough time to crush the gym for 60-90 minutes.

But how often does that happen?

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Wanting to have a consistent workout routine is different than actually adhering to one. You need to find a way to effectively deal with the days that don’t go according to plan. What’s your strategy when the distractions and delays put a wrinkle in your day?

For most people, the first thing thrown out the window is their gym time.

Fortunately, there is a very simple strategy to protect you from missing anymore workouts. It’s called the contingency method. It’s a powerful way to side-step the “I don’t have time” excuse.
The contingency method takes form this way: If X happens, then I will do Y.

In your case, the contingency method will look like this: If I’m to busy to get to the gym, I will do one of the three 30 minute dumbbell workouts.

Why is this so effective? The best way to be consistent with any habit is to make it simple to practice. By having a plan of action to employ when you are most vulnerable to skip the gym, it relieves you of thinking about what to do in the situation. This reserves willpower.

Secondly, since the workouts require only a set of dumbbells, it makes it very convenient.
Here’s the deal with these workouts:

  • They’re short. When your days run long, the last thing you want to try and tackle is a 90 minute grinder. This workout takes about 30 minutes. Just because it’s short, doesn’t mean it lacks intensity.
  • They requires minimal equipment With a pair of dumbbells, you’re all set.
  • They combines cardio and strength. When you have the time, breaking up your training in two sessions (strength and cardio) in the day is can be done. But on days when that can’t happen, these workouts fill the gap and hit multiple energy systems during one session.
    They give you variety: If you struggle with ADD in your workouts, having a pool to choose from keeps you engaged.
  • They’re scalable. Regardless of fitness level, these workouts can be adjusted to meet your needs. For a male, dumbbells between 25-40 pounds will probably do the job. For a female, dumbbells between 15-30 pounds will work.

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Benefits of Dumbbell Circuit Training

#1 – They involve the whole body

Since you don’t have 90 minutes to split your training into body parts, you need a workout that is metabolically demanding.

All of the dumbbell circuits use the entire body; upper, lower, and core muscles. Since muscle is the most metabolically active tissue, the more muscles you work, the more calories you burn. The more calories your burn the more efficient your workouts will be.

#2 – Rep ranges and tempo is varied

All of the dumbbell circuits are challenging due to the variance in rep ranges and tempo’s at which the lifts are executed.

By using reps in the one to six range, you’ll be increasing strength and improving neural adaptation. By mixing in rep ranges in the eight to 15 range you’ll be inducing muscle size (hypertrophy). Since this rep range requires more reps at a lighter load it creates a more metabolic stress in addition to a wicked pump.

Implementing tempo means you choose how long you will spend in the concentric and eccentric portion of the lift.

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Programming the amount of tension your muscles will endure is just as important as reps, sets and loads. Moving heavy weights fast will increase the amount of type II muscle fibers and increase neural adaptations.

For power and strength athletes, this is crucial. This is why you’ll see them move sub-maximal weight at fast as they can in their training.

For the physique minded athletes and novice lifters, slow tempo lifting has it’s benefits though. Controlled movements under a slow tempo demands that more muscle be recruited resulting in more hypertrophy.

For the novice lifter, this is a great way to push themselves without dangerously loading themselves with weight they shouldn’t attempt.

By mixing all of these methods, you get a vicious cocktail of a workout: Stimulating a range of muscle fibers, increasing work capacity all while building strength and melting fat.

#3 – More muscle and less fat in half the time

Since the workouts are all designed in circuit fashion, you won’t be able to watch the top 10 plays on ESPN while you lift. Instead, you’ll be working your tail off; moving from one movement to the next with minimal rest.

Training in this fashion is tough, but it’s well worth the effort especially if you’re pressed for time. But that’s not the only upside.

In fact, training in circuit fashion has a laundry list of benefits: Better heart health, improved metabolism, better insulin sensitivity, optimal hormonal environment and better body composition.

3 Blistering Workouts With Dumbbells

Perform the following movements in circuit fashion using the same set of dumbbells for each movement. Once you complete the number of reps for each movement, proceed to the next movement with no rest.

Once you complete the last exercise on the list, that will complete one circuit. At the end of each circuit, rest two minutes. Depending on your fitness level, perform 3-5 total working circuits.

I’ve designed these workouts with purpose. Early on in each of the circuits you’ll find movements that are the most neurologically demanding. As you progress through each circuit, progressing sets will be less complex.

Lastly, take notice of the tempo that each lift should be executed. The numbers under “Tempo” dictate the eccentric and concentric portion of each rep. The first number in the tempo represents the eccentric part of the movement followed by the second number, the concentric portion of the rep. For example, a 3/1 dumbbell push up would start from the top; three seconds down and one second up.

Workout #1
Dumbbell Workout Routine
Exercise Sets Reps Tempo
Dumbbell Push Press  4  8  1/1
Dumbbell Squat  4  8  3/1
Dumbbell Hammer Curl  4  12  3/1
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift  4  15  1/1

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The Dumbbell Press

Set up with your feet shoulder width apart while holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing away from you. The three part que in the push press is dip, drive and push.

In the dip you’ll flex the knees while keeping an upright position with the dumbbells racked. Dip about 1/5 of the way down of a full squat. From here extend the knees and hips. This is the drive. Finish the move with the press. Repeat.

Dumbbell Squat

You’ll set up in a squat stance while holding two dumbbells at your sides, palms facing each other. From there initiate a squat by taking your hips back and making sure your knees track outward. Sit back as low as you can while keeping an engaged, upright back.

With a 3/1 tempo you’ll take three seconds to descend to the bottom. Once you get there explode out of the hole and squat up. Repeat.

Dumbbell Hammer curls

You’ll set up with two dumbbells at your sides with palms facing each other. Before each rep, make sure your lower back and abs are engaged. Pull your shoulders back. You’ll start the movement by moving the elbow only to curl both dumbbells up.

Keep your grip neutral (palms facing each other) throughout the entire movement. Once the dumbbells reach about chest height, recover with a three second eccentric portion. Return to starting position and repeat.

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

You’ll set up with the dumbbells in front of your thighs with a overhand grip. While keeping your back straight, you’ll hinge at the hips and bend forward. Your knees should be slightly flexed, but should not change angles throughout the movement. Once your torso is about parallel with the floor drive your hips forward towards the dumbbells and repeat.

Workout #1
Dumbbell Workout Routine
Exercise Sets Reps Tempo
Dumbbell Bent Over Row  4  8  1/1
Dumbbell Thruster  4  8  1/1
Dumbbell Swing  4  20  1/1
Dumbbell Push Ups  4  30  3/3

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Dumbbell Bent Over Row

You’ll hold a dumbbell in each hand using a neutral grip so your palms are facing each other. This grip should be right outside shoulder width.

Bend at the hips keeping your back straight and tight so that your torso is about parallel to the floor. Your knees will be flexed about 20 degrees. With the dumbbells hanging below you, you’ll row them into your sides at belly button level.

Dumbbell Thruster

Hold two dumbbells on your shoulders with a squat stance. Initiate by squatting down, pushing your hips back while staying in your heels.

Once you get to the bottom of your squat, explode out from the hole and once you are almost fully extended in the knees and hips, thrust the dumbbells overhead to finish the movement. Return dumbbells to rack position and repeat.

Dumbbell Swing

With your feet shoulder width apart, you’ll hold a dumbbell in each hand. You’ll initiate by hinging at the hip and driving your hips back while directing the dumbbells between your legs.
Once your forearms touch your inner thigh, aggressively reverse the motion by thrusting your hips to extension while swinging the dumbbell upward to eye level.

Swing dumbbells back through the legs and repeat.

Dumbbell Push Ups

You’ll anchor your hands into the dumbbells on the floor by taking a neutral grip that’s about shoulder width apart.

You’ll start at the top with the eccentric portion of the movement. Lower yourself down in three seconds. Allow yourself to go deep in the stretch position at the bottom. Once you’re here, push up and perform the concentric portion in three seconds. That’s one rep.

Workout #3
Dumbbell Workout Routine
Exercise Sets Reps Tempo
Dumbbell Renegade Row  4  20  2/2
Dumbbell Jump Squat  4  20  1/1
Dumbbell Upright Row  4  10  1/1
Dumbbell Split Lunges (Long Stride)  4  12  3/3

Dumbbell Renegade Row

You’ll assume push up position with your hands gripping the dumbbells on the floor. Again you’ll start at the top of the movement to initiate the eccentric portion. Lower yourself down in two seconds, hit the hole and push up in two seconds.

This time before you descend back down, you’ll perform a one-arm row. As you approach the top of the push up row the dumbbell in your left hand into your rib cage. Return the dumbbell to the floor. Perform the eccentric portion of the push up and repeat. The next time around you’ll row with your right arm. Each row completes one rep.

Dumbbell Jump Squat

You’ll use the same exact mechanics as the DB squat, except her there isn’t a slow tempo component. Instead, you’ll drive out of the hole in the squat into a jump. Once you recover, initiate the next rep immediately by going down into a squat.

Dumbbell Upright Row

You’ll set up with the dumbbells in front of your thighs with a overhand grip. Hinge slightly at the hips with a small flex in the knees. From here, you’ll pull the dummbbells up to your chin region while keeping your elbows high and outside. Lower the dumbbells to starting position and repeat.

Dumbbell Split Lunge – Long Stride

Stand with your feet hip width apart and hold a dumbbell at your sides. Take a big step backwards with one leg and then drop your body so the back knee touches the floor. From there without changing foot position, squat up.

This is your starting position. To initiate, you’ll squat down in the split stance with an eccentric portion of three seconds. Once your knee hits the floor, perform the concentric portion for three seconds. Repeat.

Wrapping Up

Gone are the days when you drive past the gym and drive through the burger joint. You now have 3 solid workouts in your back pocket on call whenever your day gets disrupted and you can’t make it to the gym.

With a set of dumbbells and 30 minutes you can build muscle, gain strength and melt fat.
But even though these workouts are convenient and short, you still gotta show up and #dothework.

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Name: Brian McFadden

Bio: Brian teaches motivated but overwhelmed active individuals the importance of adopting an integrative approach to their health and fitness, so they can finally make the gains they want in the gym, but also live a healthy life outside of it.