These Workout Circuits Are Moderate Intensity. Try Them and See Whether You Agree.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alexandra Singer performs a TRX row exercise at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alexandra Singer performs a TRX row exercise at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Jan. 13, 2020. (Airman 1st Class Zoie Cox/U.S. Air Force photo)

If you are looking for a few ways to add in resistance training, consider a full-body, moderate-intensity circuit complete with calisthenics, dumbbells and suspension training. Pick one of the below circuits or do all three if you have the ability and time.

Prior to working out, I prefer to warm up with a short form of cardio, mixed with some calisthenics, to get the blood flowing through the muscles, warm up the joints and increase body temperature. Try this combination of easy cardio, very lightweight shoulder movements and more difficult calisthenics, depending on your abilities:

Warmup for 5 minutes with a jog, bike, etc. -- This is up to you how you want to get the blood pumping with this five- to 10-minute burst of movement. Keep it easy and mix in some stretching as you prefer.

Lightweight Shoulder -- This three- to five-pound dumbbell circuit has been one of my favorites since I underwent shoulder rehab therapy after a football injury. It has been a staple of my upper-body day workouts for nearly 25 years.

Using calisthenics to continue the warmup as it starts to blend into more of a workout is also a useful option when trying to pass calisthenics fitness tests or just lift heavier weights later in the workout. Continue with movement that keeps the heart moving with jumping jacks, jumping rope or 2 x 25-meter shuttle runs to and from the pullup bar area:

Repeat five times.

  • Jumping jacks 10; jump rope for 20 seconds (or a 50-meter jog if outdoor pullup bar)
  • Squats 10
  • Push-ups 10
  • Pull-ups 5 (or TRX squat/rows)

The next weighted section can be with barbells or dumbbells to create resistance with upper-body movements in a push-pull circuit fashion. Rest as needed between exercises and sets, but the push-pull combo can be a form of active rest from one exercise to the other to save time if it is limited. If you need an upper-body rest, try adding in lunges for a minute to keep moving but "resting" the upper body. Repeat three times.

  • Bench press 10-12
  • Dumbbell or TRX rows 10/arm

Pull-ups are the toughest upper-body calisthenics to do. Try as many as you can, then resort either to assisted pull-ups or machine-weighted pulldowns for this next circuit that mixes in push-push and leg exercises:

Repeat three times.

If you have time to do a bit of cardio, consider some goal-paced, five-minute Tabata sets of bike, elliptical or rowing, or just walking for 10-20 minutes. If you spent all of your time doing resistance training, that is fine. Work to make up the cardio later in the week or weekend.

Supplemental Cardio Spread Throughout Weekend

If you do not have time to add a cardio cooldown to the end of your workouts each day, that is fine. Try to make it up on the weekends with short, brisk walks to unwind, decompress and enjoy the sun.

It does not take much; simply walk, jog, walk/jog mix, bike, elliptical or another cardio machine if you prefer to stay indoors. Work to accumulate 60-75 total minutes of cardio activity over the weekend to burn more calories, unwind and even get your dog healthier (if you have one).

Mix in quick 10-minute walks after meals if you need to fit these activities in sparsely throughout the day. Before or after a meal, get outside or sit on a stationary bike for a few minutes and watch the calories burned add up for the day.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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