This 20-Minute Dumbbell Ladder Workout Will Give Your Arms and Shoulders the Ultimate Burn

Make your biceps curls more challenging by curling both weights at the same time.
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There are a few surefire ways to make just about any workout a little more challenging. Going slower on the lowering portion of an exercise, adding a pause at the top of a move and — one you might not be as familiar with — ladder workouts.

No, we're not talking actual ladder (though agility ladders can give you a great cardio workout); we mean increasing your rep count with each set. So for example, if you start with 5 reps, then you might do 7, then 9, then 11.

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Give your arms and shoulders the ultimate burn with this 20-minute dumbbell ladder from Carolina Araujo, New York-based certified personal trainer. Each time you do this workout, challenge yourself to do more reps than you completed last time — your upper body will thank you.

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Try This 20-Minute Dumbbell Ladder Workout

Do:​ each of the exercises below for 3 reps, pausing 40 seconds after you complete the circuit. Then, you'll do each exercise for 4 reps, taking a 40-second recovery afterward. Give yourself a 20-minute time cap and see how many rounds you get through, adding one rep of every exercise to each round.

Move 1: Dumbbell Shoulder Press

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Skill Level All Levels
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Shoulders
  1. Begin standing or seated with a flat back, feet rooted into the ground, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Lift the weights above your shoulders with your elbows bent at 90 degrees.
  3. On an exhale, brace your core and press both dumbbells overhead.
  4. Lower the weights back to the starting position with control.

Move 2: Dumbbell Lateral Raise

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Skill Level All Levels
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Shoulders
  1. Start standing with a dumbbell in each hand, arms at your sides. Keep your back flat and knees slightly bent.
  2. Keeping your core braced, raise the weights out to your sides until they reach shoulder height.
  3. Lower the weights slowly back down to the starting position.

Check out more of our 20-minute workouts here — we’ve got something for everyone.

Move 3: Alternating Dumbbell Curl

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Skill Level All Levels
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Arms
  1. Start standing with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Brace your core and on an exhale, curl the right dumbbell up to your shoulder, keeping the elbow close to your side.
  3. Lower the dumbbell back down to your side with control.
  4. Then, repeat the motion with the left dumbbell, bringing the weight up to your shoulder, elbow tucked.
  5. Lower down to the starting position with control. That's one rep.
  6. Alternate left and right with each curl.

Tip

To make this exercise more challenging, curl each dumbbell at the same time. Otherwise, curling both arm counts as one rep.

Move 4: Dumbbell Front Raise

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Skill Level All Levels
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part [ "Shoulders", "Arms" ]
  1. Begin either seated or standing, holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.
  2. Brace your core and raise the weights in front of your body until they reach shoulder height, palms facing down.
  3. Lower the weights back to the starting position with control.

Tip

If raising both dumbbells at the same time is too difficult, alternate lifting one arm at a time.

Move 5: Dumbbell Kickback

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Skill Level All Levels
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part [ "Arms", "Back" ]
  1. With a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hinge your hips back, maintaining a flat back. Your upper body should be at a 45-degree angle to the floor.
  2. Bring your arms to your sides, pretending your elbows are glued to your body. This is the starting position.
  3. Extend your arms straight back with control and squeeze your triceps at the top.
  4. Bend your elbows and slowly lower your arms back to the starting position.

Tip

As you perform this exercise, keep your neck long and back flat.

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