If you’re looking to get strong and lean — or, much more simply, move well and feel better — all you need is one month, a few dumbbells and consistency. This 30-day dumbbell plan lays out the blueprint for gradual improvement that, if followed to a tee, will result in serious increases in strength, muscle and movement quality.
The plan focuses on two tried-and-true principles for improving fitness:
- Master fundamental compound exercises that target multiple muscle groups at once.
- Use progressive overload to slowly but surely force the body to adapt and get stronger.
Why Compound Movements?
This plan primarily uses exercises that work multiple muscle groups instead of one at a time. When you only have 30 days to make a change, you need to be efficient with your time. For example, if you can work your quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes with a squat instead of just your quads with a leg extension, you’ll get better results in less time.
Why Progressive Overload?
The body is pretty smart. It will only adapt to what it’s asked to do, so if you don’t challenge it, it won’t change. On the other hand, if you ask it to do too much, too soon, your progress will plateau quickly. This plan applies just enough stress to your body to make a positive change in only 30 days without burning out or falling short of your goals.
You’ll perform four different workouts (two upper body and two lower body) in six days. Every third day, you’ll rest so your body can recover. Each workout consists of four exercises, and you’ll aim to increase the weight you can do for 10 reps over the course of 30 days.
The first four workouts are “testing days,” where you’ll aim to find the most weight you can use for 10 reps with perfect form for each exercise (or the heaviest weight you can carry for 10 seconds for the Farmer’s Walk). After that, you’ll use that same weight for the whole program while slowly increasing the number of reps per workout. After 30 days, you’ll dramatically increase your strength and the weight you can do for 10 reps.
The Grand Finale
Once you’ve finished the 30-day plan, rest for two to three days, then repeat the first week of workouts to retest your 10-rep max. You’ll find that by slowly increasing the number of reps you could do over 30 days, you’ll have made substantial progress in the weight you can do for 10 reps at a time.
- Make sure you use proper form on all exercises to ensure safety and target the appropriate muscles.
- Use different weights for each exercise. You’ll be able to use way more weight for a goblet squat than you could for reverse flyes, so you choose your weights wisely.
- Err on the side of going a little too light when testing your 10-rep max. If you’re too ambitious and pick a weight that you can do 10 times but the reps get sloppy, you’ll struggle to perform all the workouts in the 30-day plan.
- Don’t skip rest days! These are essential for recovery so that your muscles rebuild bigger and stronger.
- Find a friend to try the plan with you and help keep you on track.