Do you spend a lot of time stuck at your desk? Do you work from home? I do, and I like to kill two birds with one stone by doing dumbbell circuit workouts right in my home office.
- Bird 1 is my need for frequent breaks to refresh my mind for more writing.
- Bird 2 is my quest to constantly improve my fitness.
Actually, they’re friendly birds and should not be killed, but rather fed and petted. Allow them to sit on your wrist and eat from your hand — they love that.
Anyway, a friend from Twitter asked me to share my workout, so I thought I would write it up here for anyone who’s interested.
Of course of course of course I’m NOT a certified trainer, I don’t know your medical condition or history, and I can’t be relied upon — or held liable — as a source of expert advice. I’m just telling you what I do, and encouraging you to explore what you can do. By all means, consult your doctor and maybe a certified trainer before you begin any course of exercise. And do take it easy as you progress. Slow and steady wins.
My routine is a variation on the Cosgrove Complex developed by trainer Alwyn Cosgrove. Basically, the Cosgrove Complex — also known as the “Evil 8″ because it includes eight exercises — takes a trainee through several different movements in succession. The point is to hit most or all of the body’s main muscle groups in a single round of exercise that takes only a minute or two, and then to stack up those rounds into a short workout that helps you build or maintain strength while also giving you substantial benefits in terms of cardiovascular conditioning and fat burning.
My variation, which I devised after a bit of tinkering with the original, includes these seven exercises:
- Romanian deadlift
- Bent-over row
- Overhead press
- Overhead squat
- Bicep curl
You can see a sample of Cosgrove’s original routine in this video.
If you’re quite fit, you can go heavier, complete more rounds, move directly from one round to the next without rest, or any combination of these. If you’re just getting started, you want to go VERY light — lighter than you even think is reasonable — and not do so many rounds.
For the first round, you might start with 5 repetitions of each exercise. Then you’d reduce it to 4 reps for the next round, 3 reps for the next, and so on. For maximum “evil,” you can do one or both of two things:
- Once you get down to one rep, do more rounds to take you back up the ladder from 1 to 5 reps
- Start at a higher number of reps, e.g. 6 or 8, and thus do that many rounds as you eliminate one rep per round
I found the Cosgrove routine at this page on T Nation:
Screw Cardio! Four Complexes for a Shredded Physique
Ignore the beefcake photos: doing this routine won’t make you a bodybuilder, nor do you need to be a bodybuilder to start. As you read toward the bottom of the page, you’ll see the Cosgrove Complex already referenced, along with a few other variations developed by other trainers.
Keep in mind that you can easily adapt this routine to suit yourself and the equipment you have. For example, I often do my version of it with 5# or 10# dumbbells rather than a barbell. For that matter, you could do all of the exercises using nothing other than your bodyweight — as in this 6-minute circuit workout from personal trainer Jessica Smith.
Great things about workout routines like these:
- They don’t take long to complete.
- They don’t take much (or any) equipment.
- You can do them just about anywhere.
- They’re totally modular. You can do a quick circuit of 5 rounds with 5# dumbbells to get your blood pumping, or you could do the full-monty 8-down-to-1, 1-up-to-8 circuit with a 45# barbell and work up a serious sweat.
- They work great as part of a bigger circuit with anything else you may already be doing for a quick exercise break: pushups, planks, crunches, selected yoga moves, etc.
Will this work for you? How will you put it to use?