Some people have elaborate training accommodations in their homes (a power rack, full sets of dumbbells, bars and plates, one of those decked-out home gyms, etc.). You’re not one of those people. You have the bare minimum: a bench and one pair of dumbbells sitting in the basement. The guy with the decked-out gym can do pretty much any of the complete programs we publish every month. You, on the other hand, need to get a bit more creative.
Let’s say those dumbbells you have are a pair of 30-pounders. And like most people, you have limited time on your hands, yet you still want to get the most out of your time.
The following workout will tax your entire upper body (chest, back, shoulders, biceps and triceps) in less than a half-hour. Because 30s are the only dumbbells you have, the order in which you do the exercises listed is crucial. Reason being, performing bent-over rows and dumbbell bench presses with such light weight won’t suffice for most guys. However, if you do those movements after a series of other exercises, your upper-body muscles will be fatigued to the point that 30s are plenty heavy to get a good pump without having to do 50-100 reps per set.
Notice which exercises you’ll start with: bent-over lateral raises (for rear delts), kickbacks (triceps), lateral raises (middle delts) and so on. Thirty-pound dumbbells will easily be heavy enough on those movements for most guys, since you have less of a mechanical advantage with them—in other words, they’re more difficult, causing you to use a lighter weight. As you get further along in the circuit, the exercises become easier in terms of mechanical advantage, while at the same time getting tougher because you aren’t resting between exercises. Typically, you’d want to train your larger muscle groups before smaller ones, but not when all you have is a pair of 30s.
Do one set of each of these moves consecutively without rest (circuit style). After completing the circuit one time through, rest one minute, then repeat. Take each set of each exercise to failure. Go through the circuit as many times as possible in the limited time you have (in 20 minutes, that should be 4-5 sets per exercise).