20 Minute HARD Upper Body Workout with Dumbbells

20 Minute Hard Upper Body Workout is a short but thorough upper body strength workout from Caroline Girvan. And as she warns in the title, it is kind of brutal. She packs a lot into 22 or 23 minutes of work. Many of the exercises you get zero recovery. It really burns you out. Because of this, in the intro she recommends using lighter dumbbells for some of the exercises. So I did. I used lighter weights for shoulder and bicep work and it was still killer! I combined this with her 20 Minute Dumbbell Lower Body Circuits Workout, which is also brutal. Between the two workouts I got a total body metabolic strength workout–that wore me out!

The exercises in this workout are done interval style: each exercise is done for 40 seconds of work and some are followed by 20 seconds of rest. Some of the exercises have no rest/recoveries and that is noted in the breakdown below. There is a timer in the upper left hand side of the screen counting down your intervals and recoveries. During the recovery Caroline previews the next exercise. There is also a little bar at the bottom of the screen that counts down the entire workout time as a percentage.

20 Minute Hard Upper Body Workout is 27:34 minutes; 1:45 minute intro, no warm up and 2 minute stretch. Equipment: dumbbells, a chair and fitness mat. Caroline used 17.5kg/38.6 pounds and 6kg/13.2 pounds dumbbells. The weights listed below are what I used.

  1. Chest press (30# DBs)
  2. Repeat #1 three more times
  3. Single arm bent over row (one 45# DB)
  4. (no rest) Repeat #3 on other arm
  5. (no rest) Repeat #3 & 4 two more times
  6. Rear delt flys (8# DBs)
  7. (no rest) Diagonal raises (front raises but arms are open in a V) (8# DBs)
  8. (no rest) Shoulder press (arms in goal post) (18# DBs)
  9. Repeat #6-8 two more times
  10. Tricep dips
  11. Repeat #10 two more times
  12. Hammer curls (16.5# DBs)
  13. (no rest) Hammer curl hold for 20 seconds (raise halfway into hammer curl and hold isometrically) (16.5# DBs)
  14. (no rest) Repeat #12
  15. Palms up curl (16.5# DBs)
  16. (no rest) Palms up bicep curl hold for 20 seconds (raise halfway into palms up bicep curl and hold isometrically) (16.5# DBs)
  17. (no rest) Repeat #15

Finisher: (80 seconds, each exercise is done for 20 seconds w/ no rest/recoveries)

  1. Alternating lateral raises (8# DBs)
  2. Partial double arm lateral raises (raise both arms halfway) (8# DBs)
  3. Repeat #1 & 2

For more info on Caroline Girvan’s workouts and other (free) streaming workouts I’ve sampled and reviewed, check out my Streaming page.

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