The Ultimate One-Dumbbell Workout

Train for symmetry and strength with this 15-minute one-dumbbell workout.

Photo: Cory Sorensen

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Whether the gym is a zoo or you’re training at home, it’s always good to have a total-body workout like this in your pocket: It can be done in a small square of space, and all you need is a single, solitary dumbbell.

“Doing a one-dumbbell workout allows you to do unilateral movements — those that use a single arm or a single leg,” says Samantha Lusk, CF-L1 and owner of Strange CrossFit in North Hollywood, California. “Unilateral movements prevent your body from compensating with the stronger side, forcing you to use both sides of the body equally. This helps isolate and correct muscle imbalances and requires you to utilize your core muscles more than you would with bilateral exercises.”

Choose a dumbbell with which you can complete all five moves, then use Lusk’s workout anytime, anywhere.

The One-Dumbbell Workout

Do three rounds of the below workout. Rest 30 seconds between rounds.

Reps Exercise
12 Sumo Squats
8 Arnold Press (right arm)
8 Arnold Press (left arm)
6 Suitcase Lunges (each arm)
8 Sit-Ups to Presses
12 Half-Burpees Over Dumbbell

The Exercises

Sumo Squat

Photos: Cory Sorensen

Hold a dumbbell with both hands in front of you and stand with your feet outside shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly. Keep your shoulders back as you bend your knees and drop your glutes straight down, lowering until your thighs come parallel to the ground. Drive through your heels to return to the start.

Trainer tip: As you stand, squeeze your glutes and push your hips forward just a little for extra glute work.

Arnold Press


Hold a dumbbell in one hand at shoulder height with your palm facing your shoulder, elbow down, and extend your other arm out to the side at shoulder height. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent and core braced. Press the dumbbell straight up over your shoulder, rotating your wrist so that at the top, your palm is facing forward. Reverse these steps to return to the start.

Trainer tip: Keep your core engaged and your rib cage tucked in (not flared) to keep your spine aligned and protect your back.

Suitcase Lunge


Hold a dumbbell in one hand at your side, palm facing inward. Take a big step forward with one leg, then bend both knees to lunge straight down toward the floor. When your rear knee “kisses” the ground, push off your rear foot to bring your legs together as you stand. Continue moving forward, alternating legs.

Trainer tip: Keep your hips and shoulders square throughout; don’t lean or twist toward or away from the weight as you lunge.

Sit-Up to Press


Lie faceup with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and hold a dumbbell with both hands at your chest. Curl your head, shoulders and torso off the floor, and as you sit up tall, extend your arms and press the dumbbell straight up overhead. Reverse these steps to return to the start.

Trainer tip: Sit up all the way so your chest is close to your quads and extend your elbows completely to press the weight overhead.

Half-Burpee Over Dumbbell


Place the dumbbell on the floor and stand to one side of it, feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides. Crouch and place your hands on the floor, then jump your feet behind you into plank. Bend your elbows and lower into a push-up, then extend back up to plank. Jump your feet underneath you, and as you stand, leap laterally over the dumbbell, landing softly on the other side. Drop right into your next rep and continue, alternating sides.

Trainer tip: If you’re going for speed, keep your feet together on the jump, and stay low and compact.


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