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You don’t need a gym filled with equipment to build serious muscle, strength, and conditioning. All you need is two dumbbells and a plan! I put together four complexes, each using nothing more than a pair of dumbbells and your body. Each complex will challenge you in a unique way.
Complexes are great because they force you to complete a high-volume workout in a short amount of time. The key is to hang on to the weight until you’ve completed all the movements. No rest until you’ve finished a round!
Once you’ve completed the warm-up, grab a set of dumbbells, and get your mind and some weights ready. The first time you do the routine, just work through each complex as best as you can, and don’t worry if it feels a bit awkward or the weights you have aren’t ideal.
If you have more than one pair of dumbbells available, you’ll probably want increase or decrease the weight depending on the complex. In general, use as much weight as you can, but don’t go so heavy you can’t move well. Rest 2-3 minutes between complexes, and be ready to work.
| Complex 3: Core |
You may not see anything in the exercises listed below that screams “core” like, say, the hollow rock from my “Quick Total-Body Workout,” but trust me, you’ll feel these where you should.
To make this work as a complex, perform all exercises with your right arm, rest 60 seconds, and then go through the exercises with your left arm. Keep your core tight the whole time!
During the snatch, keep your core tight and posture solid, even when you start breathing heavily. When performing the farmer’s carry, your body will naturally want to lean away from the weight, but try to lean into the weight to keep your torso nice and straight.
The get-up sit-up, or half get-up, is a great exercise for your core and far less complex than the full get-up. Keep your eyes on the dumbbell and your shoulder locked into the socket. Push through your heel on the bent-leg side. When doing plank rows, I like to elevate my nonworking arm on a dumbbell so I get a full range of motion and don’t sell myself out on the bottom of the movement. Widen your legs, which will help your hips square to the floor.
| Complex 4: Conditioning |
The final complex in this workout will test your conditioning. It may not look like much, but if you spend a little time in a split stance, you’ll see why I use this as a finisher. When you’re in a split stance, keep that back glute really tucked and tight and your torso vertical while you do the hammer curl. Switch legs before moving to the shoulder press.
During the split switch, try to keep your hips as low as possible. You’ll get off the ground a little bit, but you don’t want to be jumping around a lot. The key is to move your feet quickly and keep your torso nice and vertical.
| Implementing This Workout |
Perform this workout twice per week for 2-3 weeks, resting at least two days between the workouts. If you like the results, keep going with it! Once the workouts start to feel static, add weight or reps, or decrease the reps. Do whatever you can to challenge yourself every time!
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