The Ultimate Home Workout Plan

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The fitness industry can sometimes seem like a bewildering blur of new ideas, with novel diets, workout classes, and equipment cropping up constantly surrounded by the hype that claims they’re the best possible way to get fit. If that sort of thing leaves you cold, it should be reassuring to know that it can all be ignored in favor of a far more traditional route to fitness – a set of dumbbells and a few well-planned home workouts.

You might well already have the dumbbells, sitting at the back of a cupboard or under your bed. If you don’t then head over to our best dumbbell round-up and pick out a pair. There’s nothing flashy about a set of dumbbells unless you opt for the semi-magical ones that change the weight for you at the click of a button but rest assured they are just as effective a way to get yourself in shape as any other.

That’s as long as you know what to do with them because whatever method you use, the key to getting fit is a consistent training plan. Like the four-week training plan below. The plan involves doing three workouts a week (on Monday, Wednesday and Friday), using the set, rep and rest count detailed below. Aim to increase the weight you use each week as a tangible measure of the progress you’re making throughout the plan – it will keep you motivated.

How To Warm Up

One of the advantages of home workouts is that you don’t have to spend any time traveling to and from the gym, which means you definitely have the time to get a thorough warm-up in before you tackle one of the sessions below.

You only need to spend a few minutes warming up before the workout to be firing on all cylinders from the off, rather than creaking your way through the first couple of sets with cold muscles. Warming up also reduces your risk of injury during a workout, and it should help reduce any muscle soreness you experience in the days afterward.

The key to a good warm-up is to work the muscles you’re intending to use in the workout itself. There’s little point in jogging on the spot or doing jumping jacks if you’re about to do a weights session. Instead try this routine, which involves seven stretches that target muscles all over the body, followed by movements that mirror the workout you’re about to perform. Your best bet is simply to perform the exercises you intend to do in your workout using light weights or no weight at all, which will get your muscles used to the relevant movements before you challenge them with added resistance.

Workout 1: Monday

1 Dumbbell swing

Sets 3 Reps 10 Rest 60sec

Send the dumbbell between your legs by hingeing at the hips, then push your glutes forwards powerfully so you use the hip drive to raise the dumbbell to shoulder height. Reverse the movement to the start and go straight into the next rep.

2 Overhead squat

Sets 3 Reps 10 Rest 60sec

Start with both weights held directly overhead, then simultaneously bend at the hips and knees to lower into a squat, without letting the weights come forwards.

3 Side lunge

Sets 3 Reps 8 each side Rest 60sec

Start with a dumbbell in each hand, then take a big step to one side and bend your leading knee, keeping your foot pointing forwards and your knee in line with your toes. Push off your leading foot to return to the start, then take a big step the other way to repeat the move. Alternate sides with each rep.

4 Press-up  renegade row

Sets 3 Reps 8 Rest 60sec

Holding a dumbbell in each hand, perform a press-up then at the top, row one dumbbell up to your side. Lower the weight, then row the other dumbbell up to complete one rep.

5 Leg raise

Sets 3 Reps 10 Rest 60sec

Hold a dumbbell between your feet with your heels raised slightly off the ground. Keeping your legs straight, raise them until they are vertical, then lower slowly under control without letting your heels touch the floor.

Workout 2: Wednesday

Like the first workout of the week, this session focuses on functional movements. And you can’t get more functional than a power snatch, which involves shifting weight from a low position to above your head in one explosive move. The next move is the jump squat, which is a safe way of improving power just as you start to fatigue in the workout. The two abs move at the end of the session are among the most effective exercises you can do in your quest to develop a rock-hard six-pack.

1 Power snatch

Sets 3 Reps 10 Rest 60sec

Hold a dumbbell in one hand between your legs with your knees bent. Explosively extend your hips, knees, and ankles to raise the weight overhead. Once your body is straight from head to toe, drop into a half squat to “catch” the weight overhead, then stand up straight.

2 Squat press (or thruster)

Sets 3 Reps 10 Rest 60sec

Start with the dumbbells at shoulder level and lower into a squat, then stand up and press the weights directly overhead. Lower the weights and return to the start position.

3 Jump squat

Sets 3 Reps 6 Rest 60sec

Start with the dumbbells by your sides and lower into a half squat. Jump straight up off the ground, land softly and go straight into the next rep.

4 Windmill

Sets 2 Reps 10 each side Rest 60sec

Hold a dumbbell overhead, then bend at the waist by guiding one hand down your leg. Make sure you keep looking at the weight throughout the move.

5 Roll-out

Sets 3 Reps 10 Rest 60sec

Kneel with the dumbbells below your shoulders. Roll the weights forwards as far as you can, using your abs to control the movement, then return to the start.

Workout 3: Friday

It’s the final workout of the week – but the moves don’t get any easier. In fact, the first one may be the most challenging you’ve ever attempted. It may not look particularly complex or heavy, but pressing weights directly overhead from a squat position requires impressive levels of mobility and control. The session ends with Turkish get-ups, where you go from lying down to standing up with the weight overhead. It’s so good that it’s almost an entire workout in itself.

1 Back of steel

Sets 3 Reps 10 Rest 60sec

Start with the dumbbells above your head, then lower into an overhead squat. While still in a squat position, lower the weights to shoulder height, then press them overhead. Continue to repeat the lowering and pressing movement while in a squat.

2 One-leg Romanian deadlift

Sets 2 Reps 10 each side Rest 60sec

Stand on one leg with the weights hanging down by your thighs. Hinge at the hips to lower the weights towards the floor, keeping them close to your leg – don’t come too far forwards because that will put a strain on your lower back.

3 One-leg squat

Sets 2 Reps 6-8 each side Rest 60sec

Stand on one leg with the dumbbells by your sides. Keeping your chest up, bend at the hips and knees to lower into a single-leg squat. Press back up to the start. Complete all the reps on that leg, then switch to the other leg.

4 Woodchop lunge

Sets 3 Reps 8 each side Rest 60sec

Start with a dumbbell over one shoulder. Lunge forward with the opposite leg and simultaneously bring the weight down and across your body. Do all the reps on one side, then swap sides.

5 Turkish get-up

Sets 2 Reps 6 each side Rest 60sec

Lie on the floor holding a weight above your face. Bend your knee on that side then come up onto your elbow, then your hand and push your hips off the floor. Bring your straight leg back below your body, then take your hand off the floor and stand up.


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