Improve Your Fitness Fast with This 30-Day Dumbbell Plan

Tony Bonvechio
by Tony Bonvechio
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Improve Your Fitness Fast with This 30-Day Dumbbell Plan

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.

The Plan

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 Workouts

30 Day Dumbbell Plan workout

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.

Tips

  • 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.

About the Author

Tony Bonvechio
Tony Bonvechio

Tony Bonvechio (@bonvecstrength) is the co-owner of The Strength House in Worcester, MA, where he trains primarily powerlifters and team sport athletes. A former college baseball player turned powerlifter, he earned his Master’s degree in Exercise Science from Adelphi University. You can read more from Tony at bonvecstrength.com.

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30 responses to “Improve Your Fitness Fast with This 30-Day Dumbbell Plan”

  1. Avatar bbthevidiot says:

    Starting this tomorrow. Seems like an good way for this 50yo dude to get stronger without losing weight.

  2. Avatar Gretchen says:

    Copied the workout and starting Monday!

  3. Avatar hframe1 says:

    This looks like a great workout. Very effective and efficient.

  4. Avatar Nat says:

    How do you count max for 1 leg hip thrust? Is it how many hip thrusts in ten secs per leg?

  5. Avatar Neil says:

    Started this last night, but I was left wondering how long to rest between exercises. I ended up going with 60 seconds. Does this sound about right? Once I get into the actual training how much should I plan for rest between sets and exercises?
    Would it be a bad idea to run/bike on the prescribed rest days?

  6. Avatar Josh says:

    I was toned and cut when i was in the military and worked out everyday. I am now the not proud owner of “dad bod” without the excuse of having children. This is a great way to get back into it and get my body and health back.

  7. Avatar Leann says:

    55yo outtashape Mid-life female. this looks like a good way to start regaining my strength? Crazy how I can’t trust my own strength anymore! Would never have believed it… but crossing the 50 mile marker really does start taking you down. I also have questions about adding cardio. A simple 30 minute walk daily shouldn’t be a threat to this workout, no? I always feel I need to do more… (head games)… but enough about what I think…. what are your thoughts? Weight loss is my ultimate goal, while gaining strength. ty.

  8. Avatar Pidgeroo says:

    Is there a website that shows you how to do these? I’m particularly unsure of the ‘half get up’

  9. Avatar Gaye Clark says:

    Missing something. What weight do u start with? 5 8 10 20 or ?? I didn’t see that anywhere.

  10. Avatar Sara Helman says:

    How can I get a printable copy to take with me when working out? This just doesn’t print!!

  11. Avatar Kingsley Small says:

    Hi Tony

    Two questions:

    1. Does this workout help to lose weight too and
    2. Each week are we suppose to increase the weight also? In your description, it says we will aim to increase the weights over the 30 days workout, but in your diagram, you only increase the rep by 1.

    Please clarify.

    Thanks

  12. Avatar Jeanette Valdez says:

    Hi Tony!
    If I miss two work outs do I have to start from the beginning of can I just start where I left off and add the two days i missed?

  13. Avatar Fupe says:

    Hey Tony,

    Tomorrow is the last day of the workout plan for me and I have not missed a single day and made sure I was doing the moves correctly. 🙂 I have a few questions about the workout plan.
    1. I realized that I could do all of the 3 sets, in a row on 8 pound dumbbells during some moves but on others I needed to take a break. So I decided on all of the moves that use one dumbbell I would use a 15 pound dumbbell. I don’t know if this is the right decision. I do now have to take breaks for every move but I have not seen very much improvement in any area of my body. So am I pushing myself enough? (My heart rate does get up into my target heart rate zone during the workout)

    2. On some of the moves where you only use 1 arm or one leg, are you supposed to do all the 3 sets for each limb or divide the sets up? (After I switched to the 15 pound dumbbell I divided all the lunges)

    3. For some reason I get a little depressed after a workout I’m not sure if I’m just tired or what, is this normal? It usually goes away in about an hour though.

    4. I heard that its bad if you raise your arm above you head with a dumbbell because it hurts you shoulder, (the half-kneeling move does this) what are your thoughts about that?

    5. I want to continue you work out plan after the month is over so should I just increase the number of reps like usual or should I start over with heavier dumbbells?

    6. Last question, How many calories does this burn? Because I want to add this to MyFitnessPal but I cant find any of the moves in the app.

    (BTW I am a young teenager)

    Thanks So Much!!!

  14. Avatar Jackie says:

    Thank You for this awesome routine. I am a nearly 40 year old woman and I am working through the plan for the second time with increased weights, I have a lot of weight to lose, but already I can see my shape changing for the better and my strength has increased and I feel great. I enjoy the challenge of the workout and how it doesn’t take hours.
    Thanks again
    Jackie

  15. Awesome. Thats a complete body exercise with dumbbells. Dumbbell workouts should be very effective.

  16. Avatar Kelly Jones says:

    Hey Tony, great article and an awesome plan! Thanks for sharing this. And also the tips at the end… need to choose the weights more carefully… and find a partner!

  17. Avatar Cathy Brown Verdier says:

    Hi, I want to do this at home after weight loss surgery. I want to print a copy and put it on my home gym wall. Is there a printable version?

  18. Avatar Kendra Pullum says:

    i have the MyFitnessPal on my phone

  19. Avatar Stella says:

    This is a very effective program. Myself and training partner increased our max on all exercises anywhere from 10 to 30 lbs. There were difficult days when we didn’t like Tony very much. But the results were worth it.

  20. Avatar Stella says:

    Forgot to mention I am 61 and partner is in her fifties. You can gain strength when you are less young.

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