2 dumbbells and this upper body workout to build muscle in your arms, pecs, back and core

Half an hour is all you need to work all major muscle groups in your upper body – here's how to do it

Strong Athletic Fit Man in T-shirt and Shorts is Doing bicep curls Exercises with Dumbbells at Home in His Spacious and Bright Apartment with Minimalistic Interior
(Image credit: Getty Images)

No matter how well-educated men are about the importance of working all the muscles in their bodies to get fit and avoid imbalances, most of them will focus on their arms, chest and ab muscles during their workouts, even if they don't admit it outright. And as sad as it is for us to say, others will notice these so-called 'beach muscles' first – no wonder men want them to be the most prominent. You won't turn heads by having a strong lower back or abductors. 

That said, strength training builds more than muscles. Numerous research papers studied the connection between resistance training and joint health, with one suggesting that "strength training has particularly strong functional benefits for older adults with osteoarthritis." A meta-study found that "11 [of the 12 observed by the researchers] studies revealed that resistance training improved pain and/or physical function." Don't work out for your muscles; do it for your joints!

This 30-minute workout consists of eight sets and a finisher. Each set has four exercises which you'll perform for 40 seconds, followed by a 10-second rest. There is a 30-second rest between sets. Sets repeat each other, as illustrated below. The finisher is four moves performed for 40 seconds each without a break. The exercises are as follows:

  • Set 1 & 2 (Arms)
  • Single arm curl to press (alternating)
  • Hammer curls
  • Curl to press (both arms)
  • Overhead triceps extension
  • Set 3 & 4 (Core and Back)
  • Bent over row
  • Renegade row
  • Superman
  • Pull over
  • Set 5 & 6 (Chest)
  • Chest press
  • Narrow press
  • Chest flyes
  • Push up
  • Set 7 & 8 (Shoulders)
  • Shoulder press
  • Front raise
  • Bent-over lat raise
  • Pike push up
  • Finisher
  • Hammer curl
  • Narrow push-up
  • Hammer curl
  • Narrow push-up

And you're done! As you might have guessed, you'll need a set of dumbbells for this workout, although resistance bands or any heavy objects you can safely lift would do. In any case, check out T3's best dumbbells and best adjustable dumbbell guides for inspiration. We also have a roundup of the best resistance bands available today. For those wanting to expand their workout library, may we recommend this two-day push-pull upper body workout or our guide on how to build muscle (it's a simple one; only five steps)?

Matt Kollat
Section Editor | Active

Matt Kollat is a journalist and content creator who works for T3.com and its magazine counterpart as an Active Editor. His areas of expertise include wearables, drones, fitness equipment, nutrition and outdoor gear. He joined T3 in 2019. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and more. Matt also collaborated with other content creators (e.g. Garage Gym Reviews) and judged many awards, such as the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's ESSNawards. When he isn't working out, running or cycling, you'll find him roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment.