FitFriday #17: Upper & High Intensity Cardio Circuit

So, the plan was to post this FitFriday post last week. I was getting pretty consistent with posting about once a week and getting back into the swing of things. I had quite a bit going on last week, so the blog writing kept getting postponed and got pushed back to doing it Thursday evening. Well, that just so happened to be the same evening that my boyfriend acquired a broken leg. FitFriday, further postponed. (Definitely no negativity in that. I’m enjoying being able to take care of him, I feel extremely useful. Everyone likes to have a purpose, even if it is just being able to cook, clean, and be a chauffeur.)


A little back story about why I do so much high intensity cardio:

After dealing with a bad knee for the last 5 years or so, I finally started physical therapy after running only half a mile to a mile became impossible. I definitely couldn’t just NOT do cardio, so I’ve been relying heavily on high intensity, quick bursts of activity to try to keep up without too much repetitive movement. Plus, this type of HIIT training as it’s called is incredibly beneficial for calorie burn! So, along with upper body (arms, shoulders, back) this is a workout where I decided to incorporate some of that high intensity cardio.


Please feel free to make this workout fit your level. If using a lighter set of weights increase reps or if the suggested number of reps is too many, do a few less. The suggested number of times to go through this circuit is 3, make that a goal, but if necessary don’t do as many or outdo me and do an extra round or two! Whatever you decide to do as far as weight, reps, and sets make sure you push yourself. Don’t give up just when it starts to get tough, that’s when you’re making the most progress!

Exercise Breakdown:


Plank Row

To perform this exercise, start in a high plank position (arms fully extended). Make sure that your body is as flat as possible in the plank. Everything should be in line from your head, shoulders, spine, hips, legs, down to your heels. Don’t let your hips drop or lift them up too high. If using dumbbells, you should have one in each hand so essentially you’re planking on dumbbells. Alternating sides, pull the the dumbbell up bending your elbow. Squeeze your shoulder blades and upper back to accomplish this. Your elbow should be pointed toward the ceiling and you are trying to get the dumbbell to about chest height. A row on the the left and the right is one rep.

To modify this, take the dumbbells out of the equation or just hold a high plank for 30 seconds to 1 minute.


Shuffle with High Knees

For me, this exercise changes depending on where I am and how much room I have. Sometimes I have a 20-foot space to work with, sometimes it’s only 8-10 feet, but the idea is just to keep moving.

As you shuffle from side to side, try to keep your knees bent. The lower you are, the more you’ll feel it. That being said, to modify, straighten your knees a bit and go a little slower.

Set a timer for one minute, begin at one end of your space shuffle to the other end. Do 10 high knees then shuffle to the other end and do 10 high knees. If necessary, modify the high knees to a jog or walk in place. Keep this going until the timer stops.

Upright Row

This exercise will utilize dumbbells if you choose to do so. Start with a dumbbell in each hand, feet hip width apart, and knees slightly bent (this is the basic starting position for any standing weight exercise so you might see it a few times throughout this post and others). Bring the dumbbells straight up to your chest so that your elbows are pointing outward. Lower your arms (slowly with control) to finish the rep.



Start this exercise standing. The basic sequence of this exercise is as follows: (you may wish to start with a jump straight up similar to the jump you do to finish the burpee to get your momentum going) Go into a squat position and place your hands on the floor just in front of your legs; shoot your legs back so that you end up in a high plank position; jump your legs back in to a squat position; and finally jump straight up with your arms up; as you land, bend your knees to go right into your next squat position and continue this flow.

There are a multitude of ways to modify the burpee to increase or decrease the difficulty level.

Decreased difficulty (feel free to do what feels comfortable or a few of each modification)

  • Take out the jump at the end of the movement
  • Instead of shooting your legs back both at one time, step backward and forward one foot at a time
  • Reach or jump up bend over to touch your toes and come back up taking out the high plank position

Increased difficulty (feel free to add one or more of these to your sequence)

  • Add a push up once you get to high plank position
  • When jumping up to finish the movement, perform a tuck jump lifting your knees up to waist height


Hammer Curls

This is another exercise where you will use resistance and begin with your feet hip width apart and knees slightly bent. With a weight in each hand at your side, have the back of your hand facing outward and the palm of your hand toward your leg. Keeping your hands and arms in that same position, bend your elbows and bring your hands up toward your shoulders. Try to keep your elbows glued to your sides with little to no movement of the upper part of your arm. Stay controlled on the way up AND on the way down.


Jump Rope (Forever and always my favorite form of high intensity cardio)

You DON’T need a jump rope! Although I have multiple jump ropes and love them dearly, you can still get benefit from this exercise without one (and you also avoid that inevitable sting of the rope hitting you if you misstep, ouch!). If you have a jump rope then this one is pretty self-explanatory, if you don’t just do the same thing, jumping with the added arm motion.


Tricep Extension

For this exercise, you will again have your feet hip width apart and a bend in the knee. Hold one or both dumbbells above your head with straight arms. Bend your elbows and lower the weight behind your head. Extend your elbows to straighten your arms. Try not to move your upper arm too much, use the back of your upper arm in the extension.


Tuck Jumps

When you do a tuck jump you want to try to get your knees up to hip/waist level. That may not happen for everyone and that’s okay! I like to use my hands to gauge myself on this one. I put my hands right at my hips and then perform my jumps. If I hit my hands, I know I’m getting high enough. This technique may also work for you whether you want to go a little higher or a little lower. If you need to, repeat the jump rope exercise and just jump in place. Any movement is better than no movement! Some people like to do a mini “hop” in between jumps. That’s fine, but if you’ve got this exercise down pretty well, try to do a tuck jump every time your feet come in contact with the floor without that little break in between.



In this workout, I did two different types of push-ups, narrow and wide arm. I start with the narrow hand placement because that’s the one that’s harder for me and I just like to get it over with. Laying on your stomach, your hands should be just outside your shoulders and your arms/elbows snug to your side. Push straight up and come down trying not to let yourself fall but actually holding yourself up and maintaining a low plank position until you push back up again. Your elbows should not point outward but stay next to your body when your lower. Not gonna lie, sometimes I fall and just plop on the floor, it happens, just keep going.


The wide arm push-up is the more traditional push-up for most people. This one your hands will be a little wider than your shoulders and your elbows will be pointed outwards as you lower yourself. In this push-up, try to get to a point where you don’t go all the way down, but you reach a point where your elbows reach a 90 degree angle or where your nose and/or chest lightly touch the ground.


Push-ups are difficult! If you can't do the full 10 and 10, no worries cut it back and make that your goal. It has taken me a long time to be able to perform 10 of each type correctly. To modify, go down to your knees or even do them standing against a wall. If you choose to do the push-ups from your knees, still start in a high plank position with your back flat and body in line and then lower your knees from there. Even though you’re using your knees you want to still be sure to maintain a straight like from your head down to your knees. If using a wall, keep in mind that you can increase the difficulty here by being farther away from the wall having your body at an increased angle. Even using the wall, it is still important to maintain a straight line through the spine, from the head to the heels.



This exercise has pretty basic mechanics but man can it get tough with increased reps. You do exactly what the title says, squat, then jump. When you squat, make sure your weight is in your heels. To help me with this, I usually try to think of lifting my toes up off the ground. From a squat position, launch yourself up into the air, I usually have a bit of an arm swing going too for added momentum. At the bottom of your landing you’ll be back in that squat position ready to go again, but remember, weight in the heels. That being said, don’t land directly on your heels, a bruised heel bone is no fun. Being a dancer I have the “toe, ball, heel” landing mechanism pretty much perfected. When I land, I land toes first and then roll through my foot and end with the weight in my heel. Don’t think about it too much, this is the natural landing mechanism for most people.


For this exercise, being the last thing I did and one of the more difficult for me in high reps, I increased the reps by 5 for every round I did. This could easily be applied to any of these exercises, adding a little more weight or reps as you go or starting with high reps/weight and moving down as you go, but I liked the idea of pushing myself with the final exercise of the circuit and something that I’m trying to improve anyways.


Hope I helped you be a little more fit this Friday!

Always feel free to ask for further explanations or contact me with any questions.

***Also, for anyone in the thumb area***

I am teaching these circuit based classes at the Tuscola Technology Center this fall! The first session starts at the end of September and will be on Wednesdays at 6:40 pm. There is a free preview class Wednesday, September 7th. Find out more and sign up HERE!






FitFriday #6: FitBit Friday

It's FitFriday everybody! Or for today, we can call it FitBit Friday.


Ever since my friends and family had introduced me to FitBit and other wearable health trackers a couple years ago I have been intrigued. I thought it was awesome how you could see how active you were being each day and the friendly competition for the highest step count was something I wanted in on. So, in January, I finally bought myself a FitBit Charge HR.



Before I purchased my FitBit I went and researched other wearable brands and looked into their products as well. For me, FitBit was the best choice. I wanted a wearable that gave me a lot of information. From mine I can get my heart rate without a chest monitor (which is awesome and reliable as I've compared it to the heart rate monitors on the treadmill multiple times), silent alarms, miles traveled, flights of stairs climbed, calories burned and more; plus it's a perfect size. There was a larger option that had more features but felt it was just way too big for my wrist. If you're interested in purchasing a wearable I highly suggest looking into the different brands and products out there to find which product will be right for you. But for now I'll show you what I enjoy about my FitBit.

One of the coolest things ever is the app! You can download the app on your phone and go on your computer to look at your dashboard on the FitBit website. It's amazing how much information you're provided with such as:

  • All-day activity
  • Sleep monitoring
  • Food log
  • Connecting with friends
  • Setting goals

All that just scratches the surface of what the app offers you. Check out this page to see what else the app can offer. The technology is super easy to use and everything is pretty much self-explanatory.

Here are a couple of screenshots from my phone while using the app.

IMG_3282IMG_2377 IMG_1895 IMG_1523

At first, I debated on whether I was the type of person that would actually use a fitness tracker or not. I was already exercising regularly, had my goals set, and had my other apps that I used for tracking exercise. I went with my gut on my decision to buy it and I definitely don't regret it. I'm a competitive person so the feature of connecting with friends and participating in challenges has been a favorite of mine. I also like that I can track my runs and other exercise all in once place. When I use the app to track my exercise it tells me how many steps, calories, and active minutes I have from that workout (you can see that in the photos above). I love having everything in one place and I'm constantly pushing myself to get more and more steps in on a daily basis. If nothing else, it keeps you accountable, which can be a huge help in staying motivated.

As I said above, the FitBit Charge HR was the best choice for me, but that doesn't mean it's the best choice for you. If you're interested in purchasing a fitness tracker definitely do your research. If you don't know where to start there is an article here that can get you started.

That's all for today. If you have any questions about how I chose my fitness tracker or about the one I use feel free to comment below!

Have a great weekend!