Dumbbell exercises are a great way to increase the intensity of your HIIT and Tabata workouts to burn more fat and build more muscle tone. But you better be doing the right selection of exercises to avoid wasting your time and motivation on fruitless workouts!
The best weighted HIIT and Tabata exercises use dumbbells or kettlebells to work the whole body with explosive compound movements. These movements engage multiple muscles, around different joints, in a single motion. This helps the user to maximize fat loss and muscle gain in a short amount of time.
I used these types of exercises in my dumbbell workouts to lose 15lbs of fat in 3 months, after my bulking phase.
But you may simply be looking to lose some belly, arm, and thigh fat.
Regardless of your motives, these are 11 potent exercises you should try!
Which Exercises Are Best For Dumbbell Weighted HIIT/Tabata Workouts?
It’s easy to spot a good dumbbell HIIT/Tabata exercise.
They’re almost always dynamic movements that cause your whole body to move (rather than remain stationary like in a simple bicep curl).
When a dumbbell HIIT program is combined with a calorie deficit, you’ll rapidly lose fat and increase muscle tone.
Here are some of the best dumbbell exercises for HIIT workouts:
|Dumbbell HIIT/Tabata Exercise
|Recommended Weight (Male/Female)
|Deadlift With Dumbbells
|Clean And Press
|Deadlift To Upright Row
|Bent-Over Dumbbell Row
|Dumbbell Bench Press
|Bicep Curl To Press
There’s a wealth of different exercises you can perform in a HIIT/Tabata workout, but they’re all mostly based on the movements detailed in this post.
Let’s explore these in more depth below!
1) Goblet Squat With A Dumbbell
The dumbbell goblet squat is an effective HIIT/Tabata exercise because it works the entire lower body. The goblet squat mainly engages the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes as the primary drivers. But the lower back, shoulders, and arms are also activated to stabilize the dumbbell.
Squatting in general is a potent lower-body fat-burner and muscle-builder.
And goblet squats are one of the easiest, as well as effective, ways to do this movement at home using dumbbells!
How To Do It:
- Hold a dumbbell upright and tight to the chest using the palms of both hands.
- Keep your elbows tucked tight to your torso.
- Lower your body until the thighs are 90° and parallel to the foor.
- Drive back up with your legs.
- Keep your back straight and head up throughout.
Actively think about sticking your bum out throughout the movement. This helps you to keep a straight back and helps you to minimize lower-back fatigue and injury (both of which will decrease the effectiveness of the goblet squat).
2) Reverse Dumbbell Lunge
The dumbbell lunge is a good lower-body exercise for HIIT and Tabata workouts. The movement mainly targets the glutes, hamstrings, calves, and quadriceps. But the back, shoulder, and arms are also activated to stabilize the dumbbells. This helps to burn a lot of calories and tone the whole body.
What’s the difference between the dumbbell reverse lunge and the goblet squat?
The reverse lunge places more emphasis on the posterior chain muscles (glutes and hamstrings), whilst the squat is quad-dominant!
How To Do It:
- Stand holding a pair of dumbbells in each hand using a neutral grip (palms facing the legs).
- Use the right leg to take a 2-3 foot backward stride, whilst keeping the left leg planted firmly onto the ground.
- Land on your right foot using the balls of your toes to lower your body.
- Stop when both knees reach 90° (right thigh should be perpendicular and left thigh parallel to the floor).
- Drive with your left leg to bring your body back to the starting position.
- Repeat with the other leg.
Balance is key to this exercise. Practice without dumbbells first to get a sense of stability, before adding light dumbbells to maximize the fat-burning effect of this exercise!
3) Deadlift With Dumbbells
The dumbbell deadlift is a whole-body exercise which makes it ideal for HIIT and Tabata workouts. The bottom phase activates the lower body, whilst the top lock-out emphasizes the upper body. When performed properly, the dumbbell deadlift is great for burning calories and building lean muscle.
The barbell deadlift is commonly associated with building muscle, strength, and power.
But using dumbbells allows you to do higher repetitions to rapidly increase your heart rate and burn fat.
How To Do It:
- Stand with your feet at a shoulder-width apart with the handles of two dumbbells stat in front of your feet.
- Bend at the knees to lower your body and grab each dumbbell.
- Keep your back straight, head up, and pull the dumbbells off the floor by extending your legs.
- Push your hips forwards and continue pulling the dumbbells until your torso is upright.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
Maintaining tension in the hamstrings throughout the movement is key to doing this exercise properly. Actively stick your butt out at the bottom phase to feel a hamstring stretch. You should also stick your chest out and contract your glutes at the top of the deadlift.
4) Dumbbell Swing
The dumbbell swing is one of the best full-body dumbbell exercises to include in a HIIT or Tabata workout. It is a dynamic and effective movement for beginners. The hamstrings, glutes, and quads are the primary drivers, whilst the shoulders, arms, back, and core serves to stabilize the dumbbell.
Notice a trend here?
Total-body dumbbell exercises are generally excellent for burning fat and building a toned physique.
And the dumbbell swing is an easy full-body exercise that any beginner can do at home!
How To Do It:
- Stand above a dumbbell using a stance that’s just wider than shoulder-width.
- Bend down and use both hands to firmly clasp the handle of a dumbbell on the floor.
- Extend your legs and thrust your hips forward to swing the dumbbell up.
- Use your arms to slow the dumbbell as it approaches eye-level.
- Let the dumbbell drop down and in between the legs in a controlled manner (the dumbbell should remain in the air and shouldn’t hit the floor)
Keep your back straight throughout the movement to maintain tension in your hamstrings and reduce lower back fatigue. Try and hold the dumbbell at eye level for a split second, whilst contracting your glutes at the top of the movement, for maximum fat loss benefits!
You can also check out my other article if you want to learn how to use dumbbells to lose belly fat.
5) Dumbbell Clean And Press
The dumbbell clean and press is an effective whole-body HIIT exercise. It’s great for rapidly increasing heart rate, burning calories, and building upper-body pushing strength. The bottom half of the exercise works the legs whilst the top half of the movement engages the arms and shoulders.
The clean and press is a hybrid between a deadlift and a shoulder press, two of the biggest lower and upper body exercises (respectively).
Since this exercise utilizes so many different muscle groups and requires so much energy to perform, it’s ideal for rapid fat loss and building muscle along the way.
How To Do It:
- Stand with two dumbbells next to both feet.
- Bend down and enter a deadlift starting position.
- Brace the body and explode upwards by extending your legs and thrusting your hips forward.
- Bring the dumbbells to shoulder level.
- Press the dumbbells upwards by extending both arms.
- Bring the dumbbells back down to shoulder level.
- Drop the dumbbell beside your legs and lower them back down to the floor.
This is a great exercise for fat loss and building muscle and strength. But it’s a complicated movement. Start with light dumbbells first. Or practice the deadlift and shoulder press first to build up a foundation of strength.
You can check out my other article to find out what are considered to be light dumbbells.
6) Dumbbell Snatch
The dumbbell snatch is one of the best exercises for HIIT and Tabata. Each movement requires a tremendous amount of energy to perform and activates the entire body. This makes it great for building muscle, increasing strength, and losing fat.
Think of this as the more explosive variation of the dumbbell clean and press. It’s great for emphasizing upper-body strength along with fat loss.
A staple exercise in Crossfit, the snatch is great for getting a ripped body and toning your arms and thighs.
How To Do It:
- Stand over a single dumbbell with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your knees to squat down and clasp the dumbbell with one hand and use the other hand for balance.
- Keep a straight back in this starting position.
- Drive your heels into the ground and extend your legs and glutes to explosively stand up.
- Simultaneously pull the dumbbell towards your chest as you explode upwards.
- Flip your elbow (so it’s below the dumbbell) as the dumbbell approaches shoulder level.
- Use your arms to press the dumbbell up.
- Lower the dumbbell and repeat for reps.
Don’t just rely on the arms to lift the dumbbell. The perfect snatch transfers power and momentum from the legs to the upper body in one smooth motion. You can practice the dumbbell clean and press before you attempt the snatch!
7) Deadlift To Upright Row
The deadlift to upright row is an effective full-body exercise for beginners to include in dumbbell HIIT and Tabata. The bottom half of the movement engages the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes. In contrast, the top half of the movement works the shoulders, upper back, and biceps.
One of the most beginner-friendly and effective dumbbell HIIT exercises, the deadlift to row is the perfect exercise to practice in preparation for doing dumbbell snatches.
This movement essentially replicates the bottom half of the snatch movement.
How To Do It:
- Stand with 2 dumbbells beside both feet.
- Lower your body into a deadlift position.
- Pull the dumbbells off the ground.
- Use your arms to pull both dumbbells up and toward the shoulders as you lockout at the top of the deadlift.
- Lower the dumbbells back to waist level.
- Allow the dumbbells to return to the floor.
Just like with the snatch, treat this movement as two phases that are completed in one seamless motion. Use your legs to transfer explosive energy up to the arms. Beginners can practice the deadlift and upright row separately to build into the deadlift to the upright row.
8) Renegade Rows
The renegade row is one of the most effective dumbbell HIIT exercises to target the back and arms. The pulling side activates the entire back and biceps as the primary drivers. In contrast, the supporting side utilizes isometric contraction in the shoulders, arms, and abdominals for stabilization.
Don’t underestimate this simple-looking exercise.
The renegade row is great for fat loss and building muscle at the same time.
Whilst one side pulls on the dumbbell (building muscle), the other side remains isometrically contracted in a way not too dissimilar to a plank (burning fat).
How To Do It:
- Enter a push-up position with your hands clasping dumbbells laying on the floor (dumbbells running in line with your torso.
- Row one dumbbell towards the chest by pulling it with your arm, whilst keeping the non-rowing arm straight to support your body.
- Lower the dumbbell back onto the floor.
- Repeat and alternate with both arms.
Beginners with low upper body strength may find it difficult to stabilize their bodies as they row one dumbbell. Try spreading your legs and placing the dumbbells in a slightly forward position (i.e. slightly in front of your chin rather than directly beneath it) to spread your weight and increase stability.
9) Bent-Over Dumbbell Row
The dumbbell row is a beginner-friendly dumbbell HIIT exercise that works the arm and back muscles. Each movement recruits the trapezius, rhomboids, posterior deltoids, lats, and biceps to pull the dumbbell towards the body. This makes it great for building upper body muscle as well as fat loss.
This is one of the easiest dumbbell HIIT exercises for beginners to include in their fat loss program.
It’s also a great way to build your upper body pulling strength to prepare for the clean and press and dumbbell snatch (which are two of the best dumbbell HIIT exercises).
How To Do It:
- Hold a pair of dumbbells beside both legs using a neutral grip.
- Bend your legs slightly and lean forward so that your torso is roughly 45° to the floor.
- Keep a straight back and pull both dumbbells towards your navel (belly button) using an overhand grip.
- Lower the dumbbells back down.
Use your entire back to help you pull the dumbbell up. You can do this by pinching your scapulae (shoulder blades) together at the top of the movement. This maximizes muscle contraction to increase fat loss and muscle gain benefits.
If you’re looking for HIIT dumbbells, you may be interested in my other post to find out how heavy your dumbbells should be for HIIT.
10) Dumbbell Bench Pressing
The dumbbell bench press is an effective upper-body pushing exercise for HIIT workouts. The pectorals, anterior deltoids, and triceps serve as the primary drivers, whilst the abdominal and back muscles serve as stabilizers. This makes the dumbbell bench press great for fat loss and muscle gains.
The bench press is one of the best dumbbell exercises to include in your program because it targets the chest (which is kinda rare in a typical HIIT workout).
You’ll need a good bench like this Flybird FB149 to bench press. Alternatively, you could use a cheap yoga mat to do a floor press instead of the bench press.
How To Do It:
- Sit on a bench or floor with 2 dumbbells sat vertically on each thigh.
- Lean backwards to lay on the bench/floor with both dumbbells stabilized above the chest..
- Tuck your elbows into your torso.
- Extend your arms to push both dumbbells upwards at a shoulder-width distance from each other.
- Lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position.
Focus on using your chest to press the dumbbells upwards, rather than only using your arms. Do this by slightly arching your lower back, sticking your chest up, and bringing both dumbbells closer together as you press them upwards. This makes the exercise more energy-intensive which will help to increase your heart rate and burn more fat.
11) Bicep Curl To Press
The bicep curl to press is a good dumbbell HIIT exercise for the arms. Each movement activates the biceps, triceps, and all 3 deltoid heads in the shoulders. This exercise is easy to perform, making it suitable for beginners to use their dumbbells to lose fat and tone their arms.
If you’re a beginner, I highly recommend trying the dumbbell curl to press in your HIIT workout.
It’s not as dynamic or effective as more advanced exercises like the clean and press and snatch, but it’s much easier to perform.
How To Do It:
- Hold a pair of light dumbbells in each arm using an underhand grip.
- Curl the dumbbells up and rotate the wrists into an overhand grip.
- Press both dumbbells upwards.
- Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
The biceps and triceps respond best to moderate rep ranges (at least 12 reps per set) and increased time-under-tension. To fast-track your journey to toned arms, lift the dumbbells with a 2-second count for each portion of the movement (i.e. 4 second total lifting time for each rep).
If you’re trying to increase arm definition, you may be interested in my other article which explains what dumbbell weight you need to tone your arms.
What You’ll Need To Do Dumbbell HIIT/Tabata At Home
To perform the above dumbbell HIIT exercises at home, you’ll need the right equipment. Here are my cost-effective and best-value recommendations for beginners:
1) Light-Moderate Weight Dumbbells
The dumbbells you see me use in this post are the Bowflex 552’s (you can see my hands-on review here).
Whilst these are versatile dumbbells for beginners and intermediates to build muscle and lose fat at home, they are overpriced for just HIIT purposes.
The following fixed-weight dumbbell sets are much cheaper and just as effective for HIIT:
- Hola Hatha handweight set for women.
- Papababe fixed-weight set for men.
Both dumbbell sets will last you at least 2 years of HIIT progression. That’s enough to take a beginner to the intermediate stages of HIIT.
They’re also made from a solid cast iron mold. This makes them very durable and perfect for explosive HIIT movements.
You can also check out my other article which compares 9 of the best dumbells for HIIT.
2) Weight Bench (optional)
A good weight bench like the Flybird allows you to bench press at home.
It’s fully adjustable, meaning you can use flat/incline/decline settings to emphasize the different chest regions.
I also use it for split squats and decline sit-ups.
The best thing about this bench is you can fold it. This means you can conveniently stow it away after your HIIT workout!
You can find my hands-on review of the Flybird bench here.
3) Yoga Mat (optional)
If you rather not buy a bench, you can also use a cheap yoga mat like this Balance From to do the floor press instead of the bench press.
A mat is also important for protecting your dumbbells as well as your floor.
Additionally, a good dumbbell HIIT workout will leave you sweating bucketloads if you’re doing it properly.
And a mat will stop stale sweat from accumulating on your floor!
4) Heart Rate Monitor (optional)
A good HIIT workout should elevate your heart rate to around 125-170 beats per minute to ensure a good fat burn.
Trust me- using the old-fashioned two-finger-pulse method to track your heart rate is cumbersome and annoying in the heat of a HIIT workout.
I use the Fitbit Versa to give me a convenient live feed of my heart rate. It also reveals how many calories you burn.
The Fitbit Inspire also does the same job at half the price.
5) Weight Gloves (optional)
These are entirely optional.
Long-term dumbbell training can cause blisters to form on your palms. And over time, these harden into callouses.
If you would rather not let your hands turn into leathery monstrosities, I recommended getting a pair of cheap weight training gloves like the Ihuan Neoprene Gloves
I’ve shared the 11 dumbbell HIIT exercises that helped me to lose fat and build a toned physique.
These are some of the most popular weighted HIIT exercises for a good reason- they work for multiple muscle groups at one time, giving you more bang for your buck.
If you would like to find out how these exercises can be structured into a dumbbell HIIT workout program, you can check out my complete HIIT dumbbell workout guide here.
Are there any other HIIT dumbbell exercises that worked for you?
Feel free to send me a message if you have any questions! You can find my details on the “contact us” page.
You may also be interested in the downloadable Kalibre Blueprint PDF which details exactly how I gained 40lbs of lean muscle (it’s 100% free!). It details the exact exercises and nutrition (with printable worksheets) I used to go from skinny to ripped!
Thanks for reading guys!
(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)