Can You Get a Full-Body Workout with Dumbbells?

How can you tap into training both the cardiovascular system and the strength system during a workout that involves just a single set of dumbbells? Learn the exact strategy that I use in this episode.

Ben Greenfield
3-minute read
Episode #279

I've been traveling quite extensively recently. But it seems like no matter where I go, I can always get my hands on at least one set of dumbbells—whether I'm in a hotel gym, at a friend’s house, or at just about any health club on the face of the planet.

You may be wondering what exactly to do when you have access to a single set of dumbbells and want to get the best workout possible: a workout that challenges both your cardiovascular system and your strength system. Why is it important to target both?

When you work your cardiovascular system, you accumulate a post-exercise oxygen debt that keeps your metabolism elevated for several hours after the workout. You also build new mitochondria, which are responsible for creating cellular energy. In addition, as you may already know, cardiovascular exercise boosts cardiac health, builds new blood vessels, and even increases the growth of new brain neurons.

On the other hand, strength training produces several different unique effects. For example, strength training has been shown to decrease the rate at which telomeres shorten, which means that it has a potent anti aging effect. Strength training also maintains muscle, a key component of maintaining joint integrity, decreasing risk of injury, and perhaps most importantly, avoiding the "skinny fat" look that doing cardio training alone can tend to give you. Finally, what I find most interesting is the fact that strength training can upregulate specific transporters called GLUT4 transporters, and these transporters are responsible for shoveling categories and carbohydrates from food that you eat into muscle, so that those food components do not get converted into storage fat. Considering the fact that I love to eat when I travel, this is a nice bonus indeed!

So, how can you tap into training both the cardiovascular system and the strength system during a workout that involves just a single set of dumbbells? Here's the exact strategy that I use:


About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.