Beginner Series: 20-Minute Full-Body Workout with Cardio

Beginner Workout - 20 minutes, full-body, little to no equipment required, and perfect for doing at homeWhere 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)
  • Chair
  • 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: target-rep-numbers

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.Beginner Workout - 20 minutes, full-body, little to no equipment required, and perfect for doing at home

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.


  • Ditch the weights. Just do bodyweight squats into the chair and when you stand back up, reach overhead.


  • 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.


  • Hold on to a chair with your left hand as you do it to help with balance.

Beginner Workout - 20 minutes, full-body, little to no equipment required, and perfect for doing at home-lunge-modification


  • Hold a dumbbell in your hands as you do this (you’d still keep arms outstretched and straight).

Incline Burpee

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.


  • Eliminate the push up.
  • Instead of jumping your feet back into plank, step them one at a time.



  • 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!).

Jumping Jacks

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.Beginner Workout - 20 minutes, full-body, little to no equipment required, and perfect for doing at home

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. Beginner Workout - 20 minutes, full-body, little to no equipment required, and perfect for doing at home

WEARING | tank: Alo Yoga c/o Carbon38 // leggings: Zara Terez c/o Carbon38 // sports bra: Nike c/o Kohl’s // sneakers: Nike

SHOT in a Breather room (Gloucester St #2) — you can get an hour of room rental time fo’ free if you sign up using the code PUMPIRON

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!


At-Home Bodyweight Core Workout

Bodyweight Core Workout - perfect for doing at home on busy days!If you’ve been following along for a while, you’ve probably caught on to the fact that I love me some bodyweight workouts and I lurve me some core workouts. I’m gonna skip the chit-chat and get right to today’s quick core workout. It’s a great one to do at home on buys days!

Bodyweight Core Workout

You’ll do each of the six exercises for 30 seconds, trying not to rest in between each move. Once you’ve completed them (3 mins total), rest for 30 seconds and then repeat three more times for a total of 4 times through the circuit of 6 exercises.

Most of the exercises target one side of your body. First time through, do them all on the right side; second time through do them all on the left side; and alternate back and forth for the remaining two rounds as well.

Bodyweight Core Workout - perfect for doing at home on busy days!

  • Plank Knee Sliders (alternate sides each round) | Start in a plank position with wrists aligned underneath shoulders, abs engaged and spine straight. From here, lift your right leg and bend your right knee in towards your right wrist, making physically contact if possible. From this starting position, you’re going to slide your knee up and down your arm, zipping it towards your armpit as you pull your abs in and round your back slightly up towards the ceiling (think of a mini-cat stretch) and then sliding it back down to the wrist. At the bottom, you want the knee at a hover; try not to rest it on the floor. The goal is to keep the knee lightly touching your arm the whole time, but just keep the knee pulled in as close to the arm as possible.
  • Hand Release Push Ups | Start in a plank position and begin to bend your elbows as if you were doing a push up, but instead lower your body all the way to the ground. From here, lift your chest and hands off the ground, squeezing your upper back. Lower your hands back down to the ground by your rib cage and press your body back up into a high plank position.
  • Side V-Up Crunches (alternate sides each round) | Start laying on your side, balancing on that bottom hip with your bottom hand on the floor in front of you for support. Top arm is bent with hand behind your head and elbow out wide; legs should be extended and hovering off the ground. This is your starting position. From here, you’re going to crunch up and in, bending your legs and bringing your knees in towards your top elbow as you lift your torso up and in to meet them. Use that bottom hand for support, but try to push off it minimally. Slowly lower back down and extend back out to a hover.
  • Seated Leg Circle Crunches (alternate direction each round) | Start in a seated position with your fingertips lightly on the ground behind you for support. Extend your legs straight out. From here, keeping your legs straight, you’re going to circle them over to the side, up, down to the other side and back down to a hover. Think of your feet as the hands on a clock. At 6 o’clock, your torso will be reclined back at a hover; at 12 o’clock, you’ll lift and crunch your torso up and in, bringing your body into a “v” shape. Fair warning: these can be uncomfortable if you have tight hips (bend your knees slightly to make it more manageable). Circle your legs clockwise the first round; counter clockwise the second; and continue to alternate the last two rounds.
  • Bicycle Crunches to One Side (alternate sides each round) | Start laying on your back, hands behind your head (but not pulling on your head) and legs extended straight out, hovering off the floor a couple inches. From here, bend your left knee in, keeping the right leg extended out straight, and crunch your upper back up off the floor, twisting the right elbow across your body to meet the left knee. Lower back down as you extend your left leg back out to meet the right (still keep the legs hovering and try not to rest your upper back and head completely on the floor) and then continue to repeat to that same side.

To make it harder: When you crunch the right elbow towards the left knee, pick your torso all the way up (instead of just the shoulders) so that you come into a seated twist. Bodyweight Core Workout - perfect for doing at home on busy days!

  • Plank Jump Jacks | Start in a plank position with hands aligned underneath shoulders. Jump both feet up towards your hands and then quickly back to a plank. Then jump feet out to the sides (like a horizontal jumping jack) and quickly back together. That’s one rep. When doing the “jack” part of this move, try to hold a strong plank alignment with your upper body—don’t let your butt pike up into the air or hips sag downward.

Bodyweight Core Workout - perfect for doing at home on busy days!Bodyweight Core Workout - perfect for doing at home on busy days!

WEARING | leggings c/o W.I.T.H. (<–I’m obsessed with these!) // tank: Fabletics // bra: Nike c/o Kohl’s

I shot this workout in Breather’s Boylston Street room (which is AMAZING). You can get your first hour free using code PUMPIRON.

Hope you all had a fun weekend!



The One Piece of Workout Equipment You Need in Your Dorm Room (+A Workout)

The best piece of workout equipment for a dorm room (+ a workout!)In all fairness, you could argue that this could be a lot of things. In fact, at the end of the day the only piece of equipment you really need to workout is your own body. But if I were to recommend one exercise tool for your home or dorm it would have to be a kettlebell (whatever weight you swing).

My rationale behind the kettlebell is that it offers you quiet cardio, which is important when you’re sharing space with a roommate or on a top floor with people living below you. With bodyweight moves, most exercises that get your heart rate up involve jumping around. With kettlebell swings, on the other hand, your feet are stationary on the floor while getting a killer cardio (and strength) challenge.

Heart-pumping swings aside, you can do countless exercises with a kettlebell that will work your entire body, and it doesn’t take up much space so you can easily store it in the smallest of dorm rooms. I know most campuses have student gyms, but it’s still great to be able to mix in quick workouts between studying and writing papers (or socializing–let’s be real here). Here’s a workout to get you started–it’s perfect for dorm rooms, apartments, your home, or even the gym!

20-Minute Kettlebell HIIT Workout

Equipment I Used:

  • 25-lb kettlebell (use whatever weight you’re comfortable swinging)
  • Interval timer

Set an interval timer for 20 rounds of 45 seconds of work and 15 seconds of rest. You’ll go through the following five exercises four times. 20-Minute Kettlebell HIIT Workout (great one for small spaces/apartments)

  • Kettlebell Swings | Start with kettlebell on the floor between your legs and lift it up to starting position with both hands, flat back, using your legs to lift. With kettlebell hanging between your legs, use your arms as a pendulum, and swing the bell to chest-to-eye level by thrusting with your hips while keeping your core tight as you stand up straight. Swing back down and repeat. Your knees should remain slightly bent, but the main source of movement is hinging at the hips—not so much squatting.
  • Halos | Start standing with your feet about hip’s width apart, a soft bend in your knees and tailbone tucked (hold in your lower abdomen) so that you have a supportive base. Hold the kettlebell upside down with your hands around the bottom at the base of the handle. Start with the kettlebell in front of your face, elbows bent at about shoulder height. From here, circle the bell carefully around your head, keeping it at roughly the same height. When it’s to the right side of your head, your right hand is the main support of the weigh; when it’s to the left, your left arm bears the brunt of it. Use your core the entire time; try not to wiggle your hips to counter the movement of the kettlebell—you’re not hula-hooping!
  • Goblet Squat | Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart with your toes angled slightly outward. Hold a kettlebell in both hands, cradling it at the base of the handle at your chest. Keeping your torso as upright as possible (you don’t want to hunch forward with the weight of the bell), squat down, trying to get your bum lower than your knees. As you bend the knees, they should track in line with the angle of the toes and not jut forward of them. Once you reach the bottom of your squat, weight in your heels, power up to standing, thrusting the hips forward slightly at the top as you squeeze those glutes.
  • Russian Twist | Start seated, holding the kettlebell in both hands at your chest, feet lifted off the ground with your knees bent. Lean back slightly, core engaged, balancing on your tailbone. Twist to one side, bringing the kettlebell to the outer side of that hip; then repeat in the other direction. Really twist at the waist—you want your chest to be totally facing whatever side you’re bringing the bell.
  • Single-Leg Squat (alternating legs each round) | As far as upper body goes, I want you to think “deadlift.” Lower body, think “single-leg squat/curtsey lunge.” Start standing on your right leg holding the kettlebell in both hands in front of your body. Start to squat down on your right side, sending the left leg behind you into a hover. Make sure your right knee doesn’t jut out farther than your toes by thinking about sending your hips and butt back and down. Weight should be in your right heel at the bottom of your squat. Lower until the kettlebell lightly taps the ground and then stand back up. As you do this, make sure you’re engaging your abs to avoid undue stress on the lower back.

20-Minute Kettlebell HIIT Workout (great one for small spaces/apartments)

WEARING | Nike sports bra, Fila leggings & Nike sneakers c/o Kohl’s

Do/did you have any workout equipment in your dorm room? How do you plan to #MakeYourMove back at school?


This post is sponsored by FitFluential on behalf of Kohl’s.