Where my newbies at??! Today’s (and the five Tuesdays’) post is for you. I’m going to get super detailed with exercise breakdowns, modifications, and ways to make everything harder when you’re ready to take it up a notch. We’re going to focus on foundational movements (squat, lunge, push up, etc.) and mix in a little cardio. Even if you’re not a beginner, you could always advance the exercises and get a great workout in! I’ll go over all that.
Beginner Series: 20-Minute Full-Body Workout with Cardio
Equipment I Used:
- Light set of weights (optional)
- Gymboss Interval Timer (there are lots of interval timer apps available for smart phones, too!)
- Pen & paper for recording rep numbers.
Set an interval timer for 20 rounds of 40 seconds of work and 20 seconds of rest. You’ll go through the following circuit of five exercises four times. At the end of each work interval, write down the number of reps you were able to complete of the exercise in the 40 seconds. Do this for each round. As you tire toward the end of the workout, challenge yourself to stay within a couple reps of what you got the first time through. Here are some rep goals so you have an idea of what to shoot for:
Don’t get hung up on these rep numbers. They’re to motivate and challenge you, not to discourage you. Do the best you can do, and next time you try this workout, focus on improving from your previous numbers. Never sacrifice proper form to get high numbers.
Squat, Stand and Press
Start seated in a chair with knees bent at a 90-degree angle and feet flat on the floor. Sit upright (shoulder blades rolled down and back, tailbone tucked and core engaged) and hold two dumbbells at your shoulders. I’m using 10-lb dumbbells here, but I’d recommend 5-8 lbs to start. If you’re a true beginner, don’t use any weights. Master the movement and then grab some dumbbells.
From this starting position, hinge forward slightly from your hips, shifting your weight into your heels as you begin to stand. Activate your glutes and press your hips forward as you stand upright. From here, press the weights overhead, making sure not to shrug your shoulders up toward your ears as you do.
Reverse the movement: Lower the weights to shoulder height and begin to squat down, sliding your hips and bum back as you bend your knees and lower to a seated position in the chair. That’s one rep.
MAKE IT EASIER
- Ditch the weights. Just do bodyweight squats into the chair and when you stand back up, reach overhead.
MAKE IT HARDER
- Use heavier weights.
- Ditch the chair. Squat down low, still sending your hips and bum back and down as if there were a chair seat to catch you, and then power up, squeezing your glutes and pushing your hips forward to a standing position.
- Make it explosive. Instead of breaking it into two movements (squat then press), initiate the overhead press as you power up from the bottom of your squat. Only do this once you’re comfortable squatting without a chair.
Lunge to Torso Twist
Start standing with arms held straight in front of you. From there, lunge forward, stepping your right foot in front of you as you bend both knees to opposing 90-degree angles. Holding this low lunge, twist your torso to the right, keeping arms straight as you do (you always twist over the front leg). You want your whole upper half moving as one unit on this—imagine your waist is a wet towel that you’re wringing out as you twist. Reverse the sequence, twisting back to center and pushing off that front right foot to return back up to standing. That’s one rep.
MAKE IT EASIER
- Hold on to a chair with your left hand as you do it to help with balance.
MAKE IT HARDER
- Hold a dumbbell in your hands as you do this (you’d still keep arms outstretched and straight).
Changing the angle of your body can make exercises harder or easier, so this is just a modified version of your standard burpee. Start standing in front of a chair or bench (bench/flat surface is best), feet about shoulder-width apart and arms overhead. Swoop down, bringing your hands to the chair and planting them firmly underneath your shoulders. Jump both feet back into an incline plank position. Do a push up, lowering your chest towards the chair seat/bench and keeping your body in that straight plank position. It doesn’t have to be a full push up; if you’re a true beginner, even just lowering a couple inches and then pressing back up to plank is a great place to start. Jump your feet back up by the chair and stand upright, bringing your arms overhead to your starting position. That’s one rep.
MAKE IT EASIER
- Eliminate the push up.
- Instead of jumping your feet back into plank, step them one at a time.
MAKE IT HARDER
- Jump up in the air to finish each rep instead of just standing upright.
- Use a lower chair/bench (or bring your hands all the way down to the ground!).
Chances are you don’t need a written description of a good ol’ jumping jack, but I’m doing it anyway. Start standing with your feet a couple inches apart and your arms down by your sides. Keeping your knees soft (we never lock out the knees when doing a jumping move–think of landing softly), jump your feet out wide as your swing your hands out wide and up overhead. Immediately jump your feet back together as your hands come back down by your sides. That’s one rep.
LOW-IMPACT OPTION: Jumping might not be in the picture right now. For a low(er)-impact alternative, march in place instead of doing the jumping jacks. Pump your arms as you drive one knee at a time up into the air, engaging your core as you do.
The “Why” Behind This Workout
I told you I was going to get detailed in these posts. I really do think that for beginners, learning about exercise is just as important as the actual exercise–knowledge is power, baby!
Using a chair will help you master proper squat form. One of the biggest form errors with squats is sticking your knees out farther than your toes instead of sitting back into the position as you lower. Having the seat of a chair to catch your bum will get you comfortable with sliding your hips back, shifting your weight into your heels, and keeping those knees stacked over your ankles.
Mixing in some single-leg work (lunges) improves balance. Fitness isn’t just about your body’s strength; you have to work on improving range of motion (flexibility), agility and balance, cardiovascular endurance, etc. All these factors work together, and improving one will help improve the others.
Foundational exercises improve your body’s ability to function in everyday life. The key word with movements like squats, lunges, overhead presses and burpees is functional. These are all movements you do in everyday life! Sitting down in a chair; getting up from a seated position; bending down to pick something off the floor; lifting things above your head to put them on a top shelf; walking up the stairs–the list goes on.
Interval training is effective and gives you a way to track improvement (counting reps). Interval training improves your body’s ability to recover (with respect to cardiovascular and muscular recovery). The first time you do this workout, you might find your rep numbers dramatically dropping with each round because the 20 seconds of rest time won’t feel long enough toward the end. If you continue to incorporate this type of training into your workout routine, you’ll find your body becomes better able to recover from the cardiovascular and muscular strain of the work intervals, improving your performance (especially in those later rounds!). This will be reflected in steadier (and higher!) rep counts.
Alrighty, I’ll have another beginner workout for you next Tuesday! You can look forward to an upper body workout, lower body workout, two core workouts and a cardio workout. Happy sweating!