Farren Morgan is a serving soldier and founder of The Tactical Athlete, a training approach and platform based on full-body resilience and military-style conditioning.

“The rigorous training involved has pushed me beyond my physical and mental boundaries,” says Morgan. “It’s instilled a progressive mindset that’s allowed me to continually reach new heights” – including breaking the Guinness World Record for a 10km trail run carrying a 27kg pack, and completing the 2021 London Marathon with 34kg strapped to his back.

The following dumbbell circuit might not help you run 26.2 miles, but it will test your lungs, legs and just about every muscle in your body in a way that conventional ‘3 sets of 10’ strength training simply doesn’t.

The ‘reverse Tabata’ format means you’re going to do 10 seconds of work, followed by 20 seconds of rest. The generous rest ratio means these movements need to be performed all out (without compromising form). Get a feel for the movements, before diving straight in, then pick two dumbbells you can continuously move for the entire session.

Once you’re ready, you’re going to 10 rounds of the first exercise – 10 secs on, 20 secs off x 10 – before moving straight onto the next. Perform 10 rounds of each exercise in the order shown. And for once, that’s it: just 1 round to contend with. How hard can that be?

Here’s a list of the exercises in the workout. Read on for detailed instructions. 

  • Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
  • DB Thruster
  • DB Deadlift
  • DB Glute Bridge Floor Press
  • DB Renegade Row
  • DB Pendulum Lunge
  • DB Bent-Over Row
  • DB Step-Up

Full-body dumbbell workout

Build Lean Muscle With This Reverse Tabata Dumbbell Circuit | Men's Fitness UK

1a. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

10 secs on, 20 secs off x 10

  • Stand with feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Point your toes out slightly.
  • Hold the dumbbells over your quads, with palms facing your body.
  • Bend your knees slightly and slowly descend the weights towards the floor as you hinge at the hips.
  • Keep your chest high and look straight.
  • When a stretch is felt (before the dumbbells hit the floor) begin to extend your hips and return to standing.

Build Lean Muscle With This Reverse Tabata Dumbbell Circuit | Men's Fitness UK Build Lean Muscle With This Reverse Tabata Dumbbell Circuit | Men's Fitness UK

1b. DB Thruster

10 secs on, 20 secs off x 10

  • Hold the dumbbells on your shoulders, with your hands in a neutral position.
  • Drop into a squat, keeping your back in good alignment.
  • Drive up through your heels and punch the weights straight up in the air, using the momentum to your advantage.
  • Drop down into the next squat and repeat.

Build Lean Muscle With This Reverse Tabata Dumbbell Circuit | Men's Fitness UK Build Lean Muscle With This Reverse Tabata Dumbbell Circuit | Men's Fitness UK

1c. DB Deadlift

10 secs on, 20 secs off x 10

  • Stand tall with soft knees, shoulders back and the pair of dumbbells at your sides.
  • Press your hips back, keep your chest up and slowly lower the dumbbells towards the ground.
  • Once the dumbbells are midway down your shin, pause, squeeze your glutes and return to the starting position.

Build Lean Muscle With This Reverse Tabata Dumbbell Circuit | Men's Fitness UK Build Lean Muscle With This Reverse Tabata Dumbbell Circuit | Men's Fitness UK

1d. DB Glute Bridge Floor Press

10 secs on, 20 secs off x 10

  • Lie on the floor with your heels close to your glutes, and dumbbells by your sides.
  • Keeping your heels and shoulders down, raise your hips as high as possible.
  • Now grab the dumbbells and press the weights directly above your chest – maintaining the glute bridge.

Build Lean Muscle With This Reverse Tabata Dumbbell Circuit | Men's Fitness UK Build Lean Muscle With This Reverse Tabata Dumbbell Circuit | Men's Fitness UK

1e. DB Renegade Row

10 secs on, 20 secs off x 10

  • With each hand on a dumbbell, begin in the press-up position (palms facing each other).
  • With your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your hips level, row one of the dumbbells up. Keep your elbow tucked in and pause briefly at the top of the move.
  • Return the weight and do the same with the other arm.

Build Lean Muscle With This Reverse Tabata Dumbbell Circuit | Men's Fitness UKBuild Lean Muscle With This Reverse Tabata Dumbbell Circuit | Men's Fitness UK

1f. DB Pendulum Lunge

10 secs on, 20 secs off x 10

  • Stand with the dumbbells held by your sides.
  • Now step forward into a lunge. Make the step big enough to ensure your front knee doesn’t extend beyond your toes.
  • Without lifting your back foot, drive through your front heel to go straight into a reverse lunge with the forward leg.
  • Repeat with the leg that’s now in front.

Build Lean Muscle With This Reverse Tabata Dumbbell Circuit | Men's Fitness UK

1g. DB Bent-Over Row

10 secs on, 20 secs off x 10

  • Holding the weights in front of you, bend your knees, press your hips back, keep your chest up and your shoulders down. This is your starting position.
  • Row the weights up to your side, turning your hands as you go and keeping your elbows tucking in.
  • Pause at the top, then return to the start.

Build Lean Muscle With This Reverse Tabata Dumbbell Circuit | Men's Fitness UK Build Lean Muscle With This Reverse Tabata Dumbbell Circuit | Men's Fitness UK

1h. DB Step-Up

10 secs on, 20 secs off x 10

  • Stand facing a box or bench with your feet together. Keep your core braced throughout.
  • Extend at the hip and knee of your left leg and place your left foot on the box, then push upwards with your right foot to stand on it with both feet.
  • Exhale, step down and repeat on the other side. 

Build Lean Muscle With This Reverse Tabata Dumbbell Circuit | Men's Fitness UK

1i. DB Alternating Biceps Curl

10 secs on, 20 secs off x 10

  • Stand tall, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Curl one dumbbell up to shoulder height, ensuring your elbow stays tight against your sides.
  • Squeeze your bicep at the top of the movement, then lower the weight back down with control.
  • Now repeat with the other arm.

Build Lean Muscle With This Reverse Tabata Dumbbell Circuit | Men's Fitness UK Build Lean Muscle With This Reverse Tabata Dumbbell Circuit | Men's Fitness UK

1j. DB Close-Grip Deficit Press-Up

10 secs on, 20 secs off x 10

  • Position the dumbbells on the floor, with a small gap between them.
  • Assume a press-up position, with palms on the ends of the dumbbells.
  • Now, perform a deep press-up, keeping elbows locked in, hips level and dumbbells held together.
  • Press yourself back up, before going again.

Photography: Redi Bashera