HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a method of training you’ll most often associate with cardiovascular feats of endurance. Whether you’re a distance runner or just trying to shed pounds in the gym, HIIT is a great way to burn through fat without the time consuming, steady state cardio training methods like distance running or cycling.
In the weight room, HIIT exercises are usually reserved for post-lifting sessions of intense cardio to shred through fat and get your abs showing ahead of competitions or days on the beach. That said, HIIT training principles can also be applied to weightlifting.
The science behind HIIT is simple. Periods of high-intensity exercise followed by slower active rest periods increases your metabolism, takes very little time to perform and promotes an ‘afterburn’ effect known as the Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC.)
However, HIIT isn’t just great for cardio and shredding. By incorporating dumbbells into your HIIT exercises, you’ll be building lean muscle as you rid yourself of bodyfat – creating a dual effect that’ll leave you in great shape.
With that in mind, here are our six best dumbbell exercises you can do in HIIT style to start building a better physique.
Dumbbell goblet squats
Goblet squats are the best way to get your lower body shredded and strong when performing HIIT style lifting. Grasp the dumbbell by one of the weight ends like you’re holding a goblet, hold it just below your chin and squat down. Explode back up to complete a rep.
Because we’re aiming for HIIT style workouts, we’re going to be doing 100’s – this means 10 x 10 reps at 50% of your max with 30 seconds of rest between each set. If you’d like to add difficulty, do some gentle bodyweight squats in between each set.
If 10x10 is too difficult, perform the exercises for time and do 30 seconds on as hard and fast as you can with, 30 seconds off. Repeat 4 times.
Bent over rows
Trying to build a ripped back? You’ll need to get some rows added to your routine. Normally done with a barbell, bent over rows with dumbbells are a great compound movement and are ideal for incorporating into our dumbbell HIIT workout as you don’t need a bench – just a set of weights and some determination.
Like the goblet squats, you’ll be aiming to perform 10 sets of 10 reps with 30 seconds rest in between. Again, you can tailor this down to 4 sets of 30 seconds on/30 seconds off if you’re struggling.
Clean and Press
Another compound lift, the dumbbell clean and press is one of the best dumbbell exercises. It’s an all over compound technique that builds your core, legs and shoulders, as well as offering a greater range of motion compared to barbell versions of the exercise.
The lift starts with the weights on the floor. You’ll be holding the dumbbells in a position similar to the bottom of a squat or beginning of a deadlift, then you’ll lift them quickly to your midsection and explosively switch the lift so your arms are now pointing upwards and the weights can be pressed overhead.
Perform these with a lighter weight as they’re going to be tough. Go for 10 x 10 if you’re experienced or opt for 4 sets of 30s on/30s off. Either way, prepare to feel the burn and embrace the challenge.
So far we’ve incorporated exercises that will build your back, shoulders, arms and lower body. However, one of the main things most people want when they’re shredding fat is a set of abs. Renegade rows are a dumbbell exercise great for building your triceps and a powerful core and are great as part of a HIIT workout.
Place dumbbells on the floor, shoulder width apart. Get in a pushup position and hold the dumbbells. Lift one weight up and row it close to your body. Hold it for a second then return to the ground and repeat on the other side.
Perform these 10x10 (5 each side) or 4 sets of 30s on/30s off depending on your preferred level of difficulty.
Another exercise designed to burn fat from your lower body, lunges are an exercise almost purpose-built for dumbbells as they allow you to get a deep range of motion on your lunge and isolate one leg at a time. As a compound lift, they help boost fat-melting testosterone production and help prevent muscle imbalance.
Grasping a dumbbell in each hand at waist level, lunge one leg forward. Bend the trailing leg so that your knee almost touches the floor. Use the heel of your foot to push back into the starting position and then repeat on the other leg.
Perform these 10x10 or 4x30s on/30s off. You’ll definitely be feeling the difficulty by this stage – but persevere and you’ll have toned legs like never before.
Dumbbell bench press
A muscle group you should never avoid, your chest is a key part of a good physique. The dumbbell bench press helps build your upper and lower pectorals and also your deltoids and arms when performed for high reps.
Lie on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand, held almost level with your torso. Press them up together so you have straight arms and the weights above you. Lower them back down. That’s one rep.
Perform 10x10 if you’re up for a challenge, or 4 sets of 30s on/30s off.
Putting the best dumbbell exercises into a workout routine
Ultimately, combining these lifts provides a compound workout that can be done fairly quickly but accesses all the major muscles in your body. From your chest and shoulders to your core and legs, these exercises will help you build a leaner, stronger you.
If you’re going for the 100s route, you could end up performing 600 reps in a single workout – so it’s best to split these routines into two days. Clean and press, lunges and goblet squats for day 1, bench press, renegade rows and bent over rows for day 2.
If you’re going for 4 sets of 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off, you should be able to get through all 6 exercises in a single session.
Whichever route you choose, you’ll be pushing hard and giving it your all. HIIT is about going all out when you’re working – so stick to your goals and start seeing results.