Build Muscle, Strength and Stamina With Our Three-Day Dumbbell Plan

Whether you’re strapped for time, equipment or both, this muscle-boosting, stamina-building plan has you covered.

Utilising just a single pair of dumbbells, and with workouts ranging from just 20-35 minutes in length, this is the ultimate ‘no excuses’ playbook for home gym heroes and leisure club legends alike.

Split into three unique sessions, days one and two will see you tackling your upper body and lower body separately, focusing on adding serious size to your back, chest, shoulders, arms, quads and hamstrings. Day three then turns up the heat, hitting your entire body with a vicious calorie-sapping circuit, cranking up your metabolism, building real world stamina and melting calories. Combined together this hybrid approach unlocks the best of both worlds — building a bigger, stronger and faster body in just three days.

Cycle through the workouts in order, letting rest days fall where they may, but try to leave at least 24-48 hours between sessions for adequate recovery. Make sure you’re fuelling your body correctly to maximise each workout too, ingesting high-quality carbohydrates around your training and taking in adequate protein to aid in muscle building.

Hit the plan hard for four-to-eight weeks, before upgrading to bigger dumbbells and repeating.

Day One: Back, Chest and Triceps

You’ll be working with four moves, grouped into two pairs of opposing movements to help you get the most out of this workout. Begin with pair ‘A’. Complete as many high-quality reps as possible in 40 seconds of movement 1, rest for 20 seconds, then perform a 40-second bout of movement 2. Rest for 80 seconds before repeating the pairing. Cycle through this pairing for 5 total rounds, or just under 15 minutes on a running clock. Rest for 2-3 minutes before repeating this same protocol with your ‘B’ pairing.

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A1. Bent Over Row x 40 seconds work/ 20 seconds rest

Hold your dumbbells at your sides and hinge at the hips until your chest is parallel to the floor, dumbbells hanging below your knees (A). Keeping your elbows close to your body, row both dumbbells towards your hips (B). Squeeze your shoulder blades down and together and lower under control to the start before repeating. Avoid using momentum from your torso and focus on squeezing your back, hard.

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A2. Close-grip Press-ups x 40 seconds work/ 80 seconds rest

After your final row, ditch your dumbbells and drop into a strong plank position, bringing your hands close together until they're almost touching. (A) Bend your elbows to slowly bring your chest to the floor (B). Keep your elbows close to your body as you push back up explosively. Repeat. Ensure you take your time lowering on each rep, keeping your form sharp.

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B1. Dumbbell Floor Press (or bench press) x 40 seconds work/ 20 seconds rest

Grab your dumbbells and lay flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground (use a bench if you have one). Press the weights up, locking out your elbows (A). Lower them slowly until your upper arms are resting on the floor (B) close to your body. Pause here before explosively pressing back up. Squeeze your chest hard and repeat.

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B2. Hang Power Cleans x 40 seconds work/ 80 seconds rest

Get back to your feet and stand tall with your dumbbells, holding them at your sides. Hinge at the hips to lower them to your knees (A). Stand back up with a slight jump, using the momentum to pull the dumbbells up on to your shoulders (B). Stand up straight, then lower under control to your sides and repeat. Keep this fast and explosive; if your heart rate doesn’t hit the roof, you’re doing them wrong.

Day Two: Legs

As with day one, this leg day splits four movements into two complimentary pairs. Use the same protocol as your upper-body day— working in 40 second windows, resting 20 seconds between movement and 80 seconds between rounds, and completing 5 rounds each, of both pairings.

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A1. Goblet Cyclist Squats x 40 seconds work/ 20 seconds rest

Raise your heels up on a weight plate or block, keeping your feet within six inches of each other, heels close together. Hold your dumbbell close to your chest. Squat down until your thighs pass parallel to the ground (A). Stand up explosively, stopping just short of locking your legs out to keep the tension on the quads (B). Repeat.

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A2. Sumo Deadlift x 40 seconds work/ 80 seconds rest

Lower your dumbbell to the ground between your legs. Assume a wide stance and with a straight back squat down. With the dumbbell standing upright, grip it by the top of the ‘head’ (A). Keeping your chest up and core braced, push the floor away, driving back upwards to a standing position (B). Repeat. If you can easily achieve 20-30 reps, use two dumbbells.

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B1. Reverse Lunge x 40 seconds work/ 20 seconds rest

Stand tall with your dumbbells at your sides (A). Keeping your chest up at all times, take a step backward with one leg, bending your front knee until the back knee touches the ground (B). Stand up explosively, pause and repeat with the other leg. Complete 20 total reps, alternating between left and right. For an extra challenge hold your dumbbells in the front-rack position, atop your shoulders.

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B2. Split Squat Jump x 40 seconds work/ 80 seconds rest

Step one foot backward and sink into a deep lunge, with your rear knee lightly touching the floor (A). Explode upward, switching legs mid-air (B) to land in a lunge position with the opposite leg forward. Repeat the movement, alternating legs each rep. You should be moving two-to-three times faster than in your reverse lunges – high and fast is the name of the game.

Day Three - Full Body Metabolic Burn

On day three you’re going to up the ante — hitting your whole body in one single, stamina sapping set and working your shoulders, legs, back and biceps while cranking up your metabolism. Hit this hard and you’ll build strength, size and fitness while melting calories.

Complete the first three movements in 30-second max effort bouts, leaving no rest between the next movement. After the fourth and final movement, rest for 120 seconds. Complete five rounds for a total of 20 minutes.

Keep your form tight throughout, but push yourself — serious results require serious effort.

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A1. Push Press x 30 seconds work/ No rest

Clean your dumbbells onto your shoulders, palms facing in. Take a breath and brace your core. (A) Dip at the knees and use your legs to help (B) press your dumbbells overhead. Lower under control with a slow tempo to your shoulders and repeat.

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A2. Front Squat x 30 seconds work/ No rest

After your final press, keep the dumbbells racked on the front of your shoulders (A). From here, drop into a front squat, until your thighs pass parallel to the ground (B), before driving back up. By this point fatigue will be setting in, but focus on your breathing and keep your form tight.

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A3. Dumbbell Deadlift x 30 seconds work/ No rest

Drop your dumbbells to the floor just outside your feet, hinge down and grip them with a flat back and neutral spine (A). Engage your lats and stand upright, ‘pushing the ground away’ with your feet, keeping your chest up and black flat throughout (B). Lower them back to the ground in a hinging motion and repeat.

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A4. Single Dumbbell Bicep Curl x 30 seconds work/ 120 seconds rest

Finally, jettison one of your dumbbells so that you’re working with a single bell, gripping the outer ‘heads’ with both hands (A). With minimal momentum, curl the dumbbell upwards until it’s beneath your chin (B). Squeeze here and lower the weight under control, fighting it all of the way and repeat. Rest for 2 minutes before beginning again.

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