15-Minute Upper Body Workout with Dumbbells


Upper body workouts always seem to be a hit around here, so I’m dishing up another one for you today. All you’ll need is a set of dumbbells and 15 minutes. Technically only 13 1/2 minutes but “thirteen-and-a-half-minute workout” isn’t exactly SEO-friendly. 😉

My friends at Express gifted me the cute workout outfit I’m wearing in today’s post, and I’m totally obsessed with the leggings. They’ve got a ton of other fun prints as well so be sure to check out their activewear collection, EXP Core.

15-Minute Upper Body Workout with Dumbbells

Equipment I Used:

There are six exercises in this workout. You’ll do each back-to-back for 30 seconds (3 minutes of continuous work), rest 15-30 seconds and then repeat. You’ll do that a total of four times through. 15-Minute Upper Body Workout with Dumbbells

Push Up Burpees with Thruster

Start standing, feet about shoulder-width apart, elbows bent and dumbbells held at shoulders. Squat down, bringing the weights to the ground by your feet and jump both feet back into a plank position, still gripping the dumbbells. Quickly jump your feet back up by your hands and shift the weight into your feet, bringing your torso upright into a low squat position with weights back at shoulders. From here, stand up, pressing weights overhead. Squeeze your glutes and thrust your hips forward as you do this. Lower the weights and go immediately into your next rep.

Low Push Up Hold

For this, I want your hands close in to the sides of your body (tricep push up). To get into the hold with proper alignment, start in a plank position with your hands stacked underneath your shoulders. From here, roll forward slightly onto your toes so that your hands are now a little further back, aligned with your ribs (this will allow you to bend elbows to 90 degrees). Keeping your elbows close to your body, lower down to a low push up position and hold there with your body hovering off the ground, abs held in tight.

MODIFY by holding the push up from your knees. Just make sure your hips are still lowered so that your butt isn’t sticking up into the air. Think of lowering from your knees rather than your hips to achieve this. 15-minute-dumbbell-upper-body-workout-6

This one is so hard for me but I’ve been working on it a lot in yoga and have seen improvements. I can hold it for 15 seconds from my feet and then typically drop to my knees real quick to reset before popping back up into it for the last 10 seconds.

Renegade Row – Kickback (right arm)

Start in a plank position, hands gripping dumbbells stacked underneath your shoulders. From here, row your right elbow up towards the ceiling, bringing the dumbbell up towards your armpit. From here, straighten your right arm, kicking the dumbbell back and up. Try to keep your hips level as you do this. Reverse the movement back to starting plank position. If you need to modify, do these from your knees in a tabletop position.

Renegade Row – Kickback (left arm)

Same thing on the left. Try to seamlessly transition from right side to left, not dropping out of the plank at the end of the first 30 seconds.

Arnold Press

This is a shoulder press where you fluidly circle your head with your forearms at the bottom. It’s easiest to start in the middle of the movement: elbows bent to 90 degrees out to your sides in goal post position. Shoulders should be down and back, not shrugged up towards your ears. From here, press the weights overhead and together. Lower them back down to 90-degree bends (elbows should be at armpit height, no lower) and as you do, close your forearms in front of your face, rotating the palms to face you. When weights tap together in front of your face and your forearms form the number 11, reverse the movement, opening up your arms to goal post as you rotate your palm outward and press the arms straight overhead.

If you’re doing these standing, make sure you have a soft micro-bend in your knees, abs are engaged and tailbone is tucked. This will help prevent any undue stress on the low back.

Shoulder Press Ups

Imagine your forearms and elbows have magnets on them. Holding a weight in each hand, palms facing your face, hold your forearms in front of you, elbows bent at 90 degrees. Fight to hold the elbows as close to each other as you can throughout the whole movement so that they form the number 11. From here, you’re going to press your hands straight up, lifting the elbows, keeping forearms close together. Be careful not to shrug your shoulders up towards your ears as you do this. After pressing up as high as you can, slowly return back to starting.

EXP-workout-outfitWEARING | Leggings, tank & sports bra c/o EXP by Express // Sneakers: Nike

Alrighty enjoy the rest of your day!


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  1. This looks like a great one, Nicole. Those burpees with thruster are one of my favorites. And I found that shoulder press move through you – my group fitness classes hate it! 🙂

  2. Love this workout!! And those Express clothes are so cute! I didn’t even realize Express sold workout apparel! PS Is that your apartment?? I love it 🙂

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