Improv Workout: Single Dumbbell Circuit


Editor’s Note: Mike Simone

Improv Workouts is a series of workouts specifically geared for people stuck in jam-packed gyms or are faced with limited equipment such as a single barbell, kettlebell, 45 lb plate or a jump rope. Each week will highlight a unique workout. 

There are lots of scenarios where you can be left with even less equipment than a barbell and a variety of interchangeable plates. What if you’ve got less? A high octane workout is just the ticket to give your body the conditioning it needs.

When equipment is scarce at the gym, and the 17 year olds clean out all the barbells to do bench presses and biceps curls in the squat cage, it means it’s time to think on your toes. This quick circuit takes advantage of just one heavy dumbbell.

A1) DUMBBELL GOBLET SQUAT – 15 to 20 reps.

Goblet squats encourage lifters to get into a deeper range of motion due to the counter balance of the front load. On top of this, it’s a lot easier to achieve desirable form since the weight can be adjusted to the perfect position for your body type. If you’re tall, for many people that height creates issues with the depth of your squat. Goblet squats are often a quick solve for that problem. 

A2) DUMBBELL SNATCH – 10 reps per arm.

Snatches are a great way to challenge the athletic capacities of any lifter and get away from the droning sets and reps of fixed isolation movements. Coordination, explosiveness, balance and timing are all tested with properly performed dumbbell snatches. As a bonus, they get the heart racing. 

A3) TURKISH GETUPS – 3 getups per arm.

Remember to keep the arm perpendicular to the floor for the entire duration of the movement. To work the core even more, pause during each “phase” of the movement and keep the upper body erect. 

Rest for 3 minutes between circuits, and perform 3 to 4 rounds.

B1) ONE ARM DUMBBELL ROW – 12 reps per arm.

B2) REAR LEG ELAVATED SPLIT SQUAT – 10 reps per leg.

Keep the single dumbbell in the hand opposite the lead leg (In the video that would mean I’d keep the dumbbell only in the hand closest to the camera). If that’s too difficult or uncomfortable, then hold the dumbbell in the goblet position, just like the goblet squats above. 

Rest for 3 minutes between rounds, and perform 3 rounds.


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About the Trainer: Lee Boyce

Lee Boyce, CPT is a strength coach based in Toronto, ON. A former Kinesiology Major, Lee competed as a sprinter and long jumper at the National level. His work has been featured in many major magazines including Men’s Health, Musclemag, TNATION, and also on national television. For more on Lee, check him out at, @coachleeboyce and Facebook.

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