I tried Matthew McConaughey's one-move dumbbell workout: here is what I think

This one-exercise dumbbell workout requires some mental resilience but can help you locate muscle imbalances in your body

Matthew McConaughey dumbbell workout
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Matthew McConaughey is a fit guy. He's always been fit and not just from an aesthetical point of view: McConaughey lives a healthy lifestyle that involves regular workouts, proper nutrition and even mental wellness exercises (e.g. journaling). Most importantly, at least from this article's point of view, he does a bunch of seemingly odd workouts, such as the one-move dumbbell workout that I couldn't help but give a try. 

An excellent example of this is one of his favourite full-body dumbbell workouts – at least according to his trainer Peter Park – that's really just one exercise done for 15 minutes. It's an isometric dumbbell hold exercise that requires you to do nothing for the duration, apart from keeping the weight in your hands as it travels around your body. Literally.

As Park explains, "It's not as simple as it seems. You shift the weight from high above your head in your right arm to your left, then rest it on your shoulders, adding more weight to your back, then your legs." Park says this exercise gives you a full-body workout and challenges you by pinpointing the imbalances in your body. You might realise your left shoulder is not quite as strong as your right, or maybe your grip is better (or worse) on one side than on the other.

Can a workout like this be beneficial, or is it just a silly Hollywood fad you should ignore? I gave it a try to find out.

Matthew McConaughey 15-minute dumbbell workout: How to do it

I have a set of adjustable dumbbells, which made it easier to find the best weight for this workout. I recommend using a medium-heavy weight that you can comfortably press over your head for at least 15-20 reps. Your shoulders are the weakest point in the workout, and you should be extra careful not to overload them.

Once you pick the correct weight, it's time to work out. But before that, you might want to warm up a bit by doing some shoulder circles and hamstring stretches, at least. After all, this is a full-body workout, and you must make sure you're ready for it. I even used a foam roller on my back/legs and a massage gun on my arms to ensure my muscles were warmed up and prepared for the challenge. 

I partitioned the workout into six sections: two minutes each with my left/right arm raised above my head; then I held the dumbbell on my shoulders for two minutes each, and for the rest of the time, I kept the dumbbell in each hand for three and half minutes with my arms hanging by my side.

Not surprisingly, the first two sections (arms raised) were the most challenging. With the weights farthest away from the body, small muscles switch on and off to keep the heft in place. Breathing is essential, and I also found it easier to move the weight forward/backwards slightly to rest the back/front shoulders a bit.

The rest of the workout is a bit easier, but since your shoulders are already tired, they are not too easy; I found holding the dumbbell by my shoulders more challenging than anticipated. The final two sections, when your arms are dropped, are the easiest to endure, but your grip will be tired by the end of the 15 minutes.

Matthew McConaughey 15-minute dumbbell workout: Should you do it

It was fun to do this workout but it's not the most intense, so don't expect to build muscle or lose weight using only this one move. It's an excellent complementary exercise, though, to strengthen supporting muscles and to check for imbalances in strength, especially in the shoulders.

It's also a good mental practice. You are standing still for longer which can be strange in a world where we can't spend two minutes without staring at a screen. I recommend not watching anything but focusing on your muscles and paying attention to your breathing instead. Both of these help build the muscle-mind connection which is said to be the key to building huge muscles. 

Matthew McConaughey 15-minute dumbbell workout: Alternatives

Fancy trying out different celebrity workouts? We have loads!

Just to mention a few, you can try Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's Baywatch workout. Mr Johnson is famous for being huge and his workout can indeed help you get big, too. Speaking of huge people: follow Arnold Schwarzenegger's Blueprint to Mass Plan if you want to get as chunky as the Austrian Giant.

Less humongous but still sizeable are two other Hollywood actors, Chris Hemsworth and Henry Cavill. The ultimate Chris Hemsworth workout plan to get you in Thor shape for sure and Henry Cavill's Witcher workout might also do the same.

If you haven't got a dumbbell for this workout, check out the best dumbbell deals below and get one today!

Matt Kollat
Matt Kollat

Matt is T3's Fitness Editor and covers everything from smart fitness tech to running and workout shoes, home gym equipment, exercise how-tos, nutrition, cycling, and more. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and he collaborated with other fitness content creators such as Garage Gym reviews.