No matter who you are, if you want to build muscle and get lean, you need to do strength training. Strength training, whether it’s through bodyweight exercises or lifting dumbbells, helps build muscles and strengthen bones. And per the American Cancer Society, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn—making it easier to burn fat and get leaner.
But not all strength training is created equal. You also need to choose the right exercises in order to get the lean body that you desire. As a trainer, I typically recommend that strength exercises be full body and composed of mostly compound movements (meaning they involve more than one joint). That way, you’re working multiple muscle groups in every move—making your workouts more efficient and calorie-burning.
Sure, some folks love to split up their strength training to target specific body parts (like chest day, leg day, etc.) This can be helpful if you have a particular group of muscles that needs some extra love. But most people are better off training their whole body instead for maximum results. In fact, a 2019 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that men who did five total-body workouts per week saw greater gains in muscle thickness than men who split up their five workouts between muscle groups.
Additionally, every strength-training workout needs to incorporate the four major movement patterns: push, pull, squat, and hinge. This ensures that you’re working all of the muscles in your entire body, and balancing all of the body parts. (Translation: You’ll avoid the common gym problem of having a ripped upper body and super-weak legs.)
This is admittedly a lot to keep track of. Don’t worry, I got you covered. Here’s a four-move workout you can do at home that’ll help you build muscle and carve out your figure. Plus, it incorporates all of the types of movements I discuss above to ensure you’re getting a balanced workout. Add this routine into your workout regimen and you’ll see great changes to your body.
All you need is motivation and a pair of dumbbells. Perform each exercise back-to-back with no rest. Aim for three to five sets of each exercise and you should be set. (For more exercise routines, read: Try This Simple Bodyweight Workout to Burn Fat and Get Lean.)
Start by standing tall and holding a dumbbell close to your chest. Keeping your core tight, push your hips back and squat down until your hips are parallel to the ground. Drive through the heels and hips to stand back up, flexing your quads and glutes to finish. Do this 12 times before continuing to the next move. (For more intel on squats, check out: This Is What Doing Squats Does to Your Body, According to Science.)
Position yourself parallel to a bench, with one leg on the floor, your opposite knee and hand firmly pressed into the bench. Grip the dumbbell with the opposite arm and begin the motion by pulling the dumbbell towards your hip, squeezing your lats and upper back at the very end of the movement. Straighten your arm afterward and get a nice stretch at the bottom before performing the next rep. Complete 12 reps on each arm before moving on.
Start in a standing position, holding the dumbbells up next to your shoulders. Keeping your core tight and glutes squeezed, press the dumbbells up, flexing your shoulders and triceps at the top. Lower the weight under control before performing another rep. Do that nine more times before moving to the last set. If you are looking for more arm workouts, check out: This 5-Minute Full-Body Blast Will Pack on Muscle and Melt Fat Fast.
Take your dumbbells and hold them in front of you. Keeping your chest tall and knees soft, push your hips back while lowering the weights down your thigh. Once you get a nice hamstring stretch, drive your hips forward to bring the weights back up, squeezing your glutes to finish. Now go back to the first exercise and do everything again two or three more times to complete the workout. Read more: These Are the 5 Best Exercises for Toning Your Abs, Says Trainer.