This simple—yet effective—workout routine hits all of your major muscle groups from head to toe in the shortest amount of time, using as little equipment as possible. By Myatt Murphy, author of the Ultimate Dumbbell Guide
Credit: David Martinez

For most people, it’s not actually doing a strength training regime that’s the difficult part—it’s getting the time to spare throughout the spring and summer months to do it that’s the real struggle.

You don’t have to sacrifice family fun, spend less hours working around the house, or cut into your vacation time to accomplish your fitness goals. Feeling stronger and looking leaner by adding the right amount of weight training to your week is easy, if you take the time to simplify how you break a sweat. All you need is an exercise plan that hits all of your major muscle groups from head to toe in the shortest amount of time, using as little equipment as possible.

Even if you’ve never used weights before, this simple—yet effective—routine is all you’ll need to build a body you can be proud of, without spending any more effort than you have to.


In my book, the Ultimate Dumbbell Guide, I figured out a way to show readers how to effortlessly design over 21,000 different exercises. But even though there are countless moves you can use to get in great shape, there are a few basic exercises that are ideal because they recruit as many muscle fibers as possible, and/or, they are perfect for targeting certain key muscle groups.

Here are the only eight moves you need to know to see results fast:

Dumbbell Squat
Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing in. Your arms should hang down by your sides. Keeping your head and back straight, slowly squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Push yourself back up into a standing position and repeat.

Chest Press
Lie back on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand, the weights resting along the outside of your chest (palms facing forward). Slowly press the dumbbells straight up above your chest, elbows unlocked. Lower the weights back down alongside the sides of your chest and repeat.

Dumbbell Lunge
Stand with a dumbbell in each hand, arms hanging at your sides, feet about six inches apart. Keeping your back straight, step forward with your right foot and lean forward until your right thigh is almost parallel to the floor. Push yourself back up into the starting position and repeat, this time stepping out with your left foot.

One-Arm Back Row
Stand with your left side to an exercise bench (or the side of a high bed) and a dumbbell in your right hand. Rest your left hand and knee on the bench. Bend forward at the waist until your back is almost parallel to the floor, your left arm hanging straight down towards the floor, palm facing in. Slowly draw the weight up close to the body until it reaches the outside of your chest. Lower the weight back down and repeat for one set. Afterwards, switch positions to work your left arm.

Shoulder Press
Sit on a chair, feet firmly on the floor with a dumbbell in each hand. Bring the weights to the sides of your shoulders, palms facing out. Slowly press the weights over your head, keeping your back straight as you go. Pause, then lower the weights back down to your shoulders.

Biceps Curl 
Stand holding a pair of dumbbells with an underhand grip; arms hanging down in front of you. Keeping your upper arms tucked into your sides, slowly curl the weights up to your shoulders, then lower them back down.

One-Arm Extension
Sit on the edge of a chair with a light dumbbell in your right hand. Raise the weight over your head, palm facing left, and tuck your upper arm against the side of your head. With your left hand cupping your right elbow for support, slowly lower the weight behind your head as far as you can. Raise the weight overhead until your arm is straight—finish the set, then switch the weight to the opposite hand to work your left arm.

Bicycle Crunch
Lie flat, knees bent and feet together. Place your hands lightly against the sides of your head. Draw your left knee toward your chest while simultaneously extending your right leg. Simultaneously curl your torso up and twist to the left, so that your right elbow and left knee touch. Lower yourself back to the floor, then repeat, this time pulling your right knee in as you curl and twist your torso to the right—touching your left elbow to your right knee. Continue to alternate for the entire set.

You’ll do one set of each exercise in the order below—performing every exercise eight to 12 times—before immediately moving onto the next exercise.

1. Dumbbell Squat

2. Chest Press

3. Dumbbell Lunge

4. One-Arm Back Row

5. Shoulder Press

6. Biceps Curl 

7. One-Arm Extension

8. Bicycle Crunch

You’ll rest for only as long as it takes you to set up the next exercise in the circuit. Once you’ve completed all eight exercises, rest for 60 to 90 seconds, then repeat the eight-move routine once or twice more for a total of two to three circuits.

Do this workout three times each week, but take a day of rest in between each workout. For example, try scheduling your workouts every other day (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) to give your muscles enough time to recuperate and rebuild. In just three to four weeks, you’ll see a leaner, tighter physique staring back at you in the mirror—a body that only takes less than twenty minutes a day, three times a week to build, maintain, and best of all, impress!