Work your shoulders, chest, back, and arms with just 5 exercises for maximum efficiency. All you need is a set of dumbbells and a timer to get a toned upper body in this super quick, yet effective, upper body home strength workout.

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Toned Upper Body in 15 Minutes

I get it, you’re busy! Between taking care of the kids, work, spending time with your significant other, and trying to get a little “me” time. It can be tough to fit in any workout, let alone go to the gym for an hour!

But this 15-Minute Toned Upper Body Workout will sculpt your shoulders, tone your arms, and strengthen your chest and back in 15 minutes flat! Rather than skip your workout when you’re strapped for time, grab your dumbbells, and knock out this super quick, yet effective, workout at home.

Not only will it help you build lean muscle, but it will also get your heart pumping by keeping up a quick pace. Therefore, you’ll also reap some cardio benefits and boost metabolism in just 15 minutes. Not bad for a workout you can probably squeeze in before your morning shower!

Can I really get a toned upper body in such a short amount of time?

Absolutely! As long as you’re lifting heavy enough weights to really challenge your body, you can certainly see physical results. The last few reps of the set should be hard. If you can complete the entire set still feeling like you have a few reps left in the tank, it’s probably time to increase your weight selection.

When paired with a healthy diet and an appropriate caloric intake, you don’t need long, grueling workouts to tone your body. Nutrition is the main factor that drives fat loss (or fat gain), so it must be controlled to lose fat and reveal those toned upper body muscles.

Won’t I get bulky if I lift heavy weights?

No! Women do not produce nearly enough testosterone, the hormone that drives muscle growth. Therefore, women are not able to get bulky (unless they take drugs or dedicate years to bodybuilding).

Because women have 10-30x less testosterone than men, their bodies have a harder time gaining size from strength training. Most importantly, women will develop shapely muscle definition and strength without getting bulky.

In short, lifting weights actually helps you tone your body and burn more fat. In other words, strength training with heavy weights helps women build lean muscle to keep the body in fat-burning mode longer. Subsequently, you’ll burn more fat while minimizing muscle loss to reveal those sleek muscles.

Workout Structure

  • 50 seconds of work
  • 10 seconds of rest/transition
  • Repeat the entire circuit for a total of 3 rounds

The Toned Upper Body workout is an AMRAP (as many repetitions as possible) style workout. In other words, you’ll perform the exercise as many times as possible in the set amount of work time, followed by a short rest/transition period.

Each “work” interval is 50 seconds where you’ll continuously perform the exercise without rest to really burn out the muscles. After that, you’ll get a short rest period of 10 seconds to transition to the next exercise.

Even though it’s called AMRAP, speed is not the goal. That is to say, move at your own pace, lifting as heavy as you can while maintaining good form.

The working intervals are long and the rest intervals are short! Consequently, you may find that you need lower weights than what you’d normally use lower rep strength workouts. Moreover, the short rest periods keep your workout moving along for a fast, efficient workout to get that toned upper body in less time than it takes to drive to the gym.

Don’t stress if you can’t transition to the next exercise before the time starts and you find yourself falling a few seconds behind. The point is to be fast paced to get a little cardio action too. Just focus on being efficient and safe with your transitions.

The Equipment

The Neoprene Hand Weights I’m using in the photos are from Target. They’re durable, comfortable, and available in weights 2-15 lbs. They also go on sale pretty frequently!

As you become stronger, you’ll probably need heavier weights to challenge your body. The weights I use at home (and the best home workout equipment purchase of my life) are the Bowflex SelectTech dumbbells that adjust from 5-52.5 lbs.

The Workout

Set an interval timer (like Gymboss or the Seconds app) for 50 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest and 15 rounds.

Perform each exercise continuously without rest for 50 seconds, then use the 10-second rest to transition to the next exercise.

Complete the entire circuit 3 times.

1. Bicep Curl + Arnold Press

  • Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing forward. Contract your biceps to curl weights from your hip area toward your upper chest, keeping your elbows in.
  • Pause and squeeze your biceps at the top
  • Next, raise the weights in a controlled motion as you rotate the palms of your hands until they are facing forward.
  • Continue lifting the dumbbells until your arms are extended straight above your head.
  • After a second pause at the top, lower the dumbbells to the original position by rotating the palms of your hands towards you until they are at shoulder level.
  • Then, slowly reverse curl the weights down toward the hips back to the starting position.

2. Chest Press

  • Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor with a dumbbell in each hand at chest level, palms facing your feet.
  • Then raise the dumbbells straight up until your elbows are close to being locked.
  • After a short pause, lower the weights back down slowly.

3. Tricep Kickback

  • Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand with palms in and elbows bent to 90 degrees and pulled in to your sides.
  • Hinge forward slightly then begin the movement by extending the elbows and kicking the weights back until your arms are straight.
  • Pause for a moment, then bend your elbows to return to the starting position.
  • Keep your upper arms stationary with elbows in and avoid arching or rotating your back throughout the exercise.

4. Alternating Renegade Rows

  • Assume a plank position with a dumbbell in each hand shoulder width apart. Keep the back straight and core engaged during the entire exercise.
    • Modification: assume a kneeling plank position.
  • Push one dumbbell into the floor and row the other dumbbell using your back muscles by pulling it to your side.
  • Then lower the dumbbell to the floor and repeat on the other side.
  • Brace the core during the movements to minimize tilting from side to side.
  • Challenge: do a push up between each row.

5. Hammer Curl + Shoulder Scaption

  • Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing in and thumbs pointing up.
  • Contract your biceps to curl weights from your hip area toward your upper chest, keeping your elbows in.
  • Pause and squeeze your biceps at the top, then slowly return the weights down.
  • After the hammer curl, keeping the same hand position, raise your arms out in front of you, about 45 degrees off center.
  • Keep your arms straight and continue until your arms are parallel to the ground, then return to the starting position.

Shop my Look

Sports bra/crop top: JoyLab Mini Stripe Longline Sports Bra

Is anyone else obsessed with Target workout clothes as much as I am? Not only is their stuff cute and affordable, but the quality is outstanding. This medium-impact JoyLab Mini Stripe Longline Sports Bra has a high neckline for extra coverage and little keyhole in back for some extra ventilation.

And the casual-cute athleisure looks makes transitioning from the gym, yoga, or barre class to after workout coffee, brunch, or errands easy and stylish. They also have matching High-Waisted 7/8 Leggings!

Shoes: Nike Women’s Downshifter 7

Crops: Lululemon Wunder Under Crops