Workout: Total-Body Dumbbell Circuit

By John Sinclair

These total-body compound moves use dumbbells to put the big muscles in your upper and lower body to work. Bonus: The warm-up includes core activation and rotation to get your stabilizers ready, and the cool-down gives attention to those big muscles as well as areas that get tight thanks to sitting during the day.

Grab a couple of dumbbells and start the circuit!


  • Perform each movement for 60 seconds, then rest 60 seconds before advancing to the next move.

Sit to Standing

  • Start in a seated position.
  • Get up any way that you can, but get up as fast as you can without using your hands, if possible.
  • Reverse the exact sequence on the way down as you did on the way up.

Twisting Jumping Jacks

  • Stand tall with your hands by your sides.
  • Rotate and jump to a 2 o’clock position while driving your hands across your body and up to the ceiling.
  • Rotate and jump the opposite way to 10 o’clock, driving your hands across the body and up to the ceiling.


GIF of shadow boxing exerciseShadow Box

  • Throw jabs, straight rights, hooks and uppercuts against your mirror image.
  • Don’t forget to slip and dodge those deadly strikes.


  • Perform each movement for 30 seconds and rest 30 seconds before advancing to the next move.
  • Complete the entire circuit.

Dumbbell Swings

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells in both hands.
  • Keeping your feet symmetrical, swing the dumbbells forward and pull them down toward your hips, bending your knees, like you are cross-country skiing.
  • Repeat as many times as you can in 30 seconds.

Dumbbell Squat

  • Hold dumbbells in your hands at your sides. Your feet should be wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Sit your hips back and down as you bend your knees to squat. Keep your chest lifted.
  • Drive through your heels to stand.
  • Repeat as many times as you can in 30 seconds.

Dumbbell Squat to Overhead Press

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand, with your hands at your sides.
  • As you sit your hips back and down into a squat, curl the dumbbells up to shoulder height.
  • Push through your heels and keep your knees wide as you rise to standing, and brace your core as you press the dumbbells straight up until your biceps frame your ears.
  • Bend your elbows and lower the dumbbells to shoulder height as you sit down and back into a squat again. Continue for 30 seconds.
  • TIP: Move smoothly from squatting and curling to standing and pressing and back again.

Dumbbell Row to Triceps Kickback

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grasping a lightweight dumbbell in each hand, bend your knees slightly and hinge forward.
  • Engage your core, pull your shoulder blades together and bend your elbows to row the dumbbells to either side of your rib cage.
  • Keeping your upper arms still, extend your lower arms behind you to raise the dumbbells to the ceiling.
  • Keeping your upper arms still, bend your elbows and move only your lower arms to return to your ribs. Then extend your arms to the floor to return to your starting position.
  • Continue for 30 seconds.

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift to Arm Curl

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, with your hands at your sides. Option for single-leg movement: Shift your weight to one leg.
  • Slowly hinge forward at your hips, letting your arms extend to the floor and the dumbbells lower to knee height or slightly lower. Single-leg option: As you hinge, let your free extend behind you.
  • Engage your glutes and core as you rise to standing. Single-leg option: Lower your free leg as you rise to standing.
  • Bend your elbows to curl the dumbbells to your shoulders and then lower the dumbbells slowly to return to your starting position.
  • Single-leg option: Work one side for 15 seconds, and then complete 15 seconds on the other side.


  • Perform each movement for 60 seconds in sequence, then repeat the sequence.

Hamstring Stretch

  • Stand with feet under your hips, hands at your sides.
  • Hinge forward from your hips, keeping your back flat. Bend your left knee slightly and extend your right heel in front of you, keeping your right leg straight and flexing your foot so your toes point to the ceiling.
  • Reach with your hands for your right foot.
  • When you find tension in your right hamstring, hold the position for 20 seconds.
  • Switch legs and repeat twice.
  • Return to your standing position and widen your stance.
  • Shift your weight to your right side, bending so that your head is over your right foot. Leave your left (trailing) foot in contact with the ground.
  • Push your hips back and hold this position for 60 seconds. Keep a long spine to stretch the groin further.

Side-Lying Quad Stretch

  • Lie on your right side, and with your left hand, grab your left foot and bring your heel to your glute.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Roll onto your left side and perform the stretch with you right hand and foot, holding for 30 seconds.

Video credit: SimonSkafar, Getty Images
Photo credit: Aleksej, Adobe Stock
GIFs: Mark Kuroda,
Model: Justin Palopoli, 24 Hour Fitness


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John Sinclair

John is a faculty member and programming officer for Institute of Motion (IoM), where he designs programs and solutions for the largest companies in the industry, including Nike, Zumba, 24 Hour Fitness and Equinox. He also travels globally, representing the top vendors in the fitness industry: ViPR PRO, Power Plate North America, Hyperwear, Pavigym and Technogym. John is the Founder of Authentic Health Coaching, and specializes in holistic movement therapies and programming for personal executive performance and health, fitness and wellness companies. He's also the co-founder of Seven Movements, an online system that brings wellness solutions to the workplace in simple, cutting-edge methods that decrease pain and anxiety.