Crash Course in Total Body Fitness

As you read this post, you probably are taking a break from making your fall hunting plans and might be realizing you've ignored the most important piece of equipment you own, your body. September will be here before you know it and you are feeling extremely unprepared for the physical task looming. Or maybe you are feeling okay about your physical state but are looking for a little something extra that could help. Either way, this crash course will help you revamp your total body fitness routine.

What I want to present to you is a singular exercise so physically comprehensive that it contributes to total body fitness, flexibility, mobility, strength, power, and cardio all at once.

I first found this movement being utilized by one of my assistants, who was working with our National Championship Cross Country Ski Team! These kids are tough as nails and could outwork any other team in the athletic department.

This Dumbbell Complex Routine starts and ends with a pair of light dumbbells. The exercise is several movements performed consecutively and with a predetermined number of rotations.

Movement 1

While standing with a dumbbell in each hand (I recommend starting with 15 to 20-lb. dumbbells), bend at the waist with a little flex in the knees and place the dumbbells on the floor in the same location you would place your hands for a pushup. Then, jump back with your feet to allow yourself to attain a nice flat-backed pushup position. For those of you familiar with doing burpees, this is the first half of a burpee.

Movement 2

Perform a pushup (by using dumbbells, you’ll be able to stretch your chest deeper than normal, so use care. You may also want to consider warming up with regular pushups first.)

Movement 3

Now, jump back into the exact position you were in when you first placed the dumbbells on the floor, with your feet squarely under your hips. Try to maintain as flat of a back as you possibly can. This can be difficult when using small dumbbells, but with the weight being so light, you shouldn’t feel undue pressure on the lower back. If you do experience discomfort, drop down to lighter dumbbells.

Movement 4

Stand up, with your head and chest leading the way.

Movement 5

At this point, you have two options: 1) perform a biceps curl movement with both dumbbells, or 2) a power clean movement, which requires pulling the dumbbells as close to the body as possible in a version of an accelerated upright row, which ends by catching the dumbbells at shoulder height.

Movement 6

Whether you perform a curl or a power clean, the dumbbells should be firmly in hand, positioned at shoulder height with palms facing in. It’s now time to squat as low as your flexibility and mobility allow. The deeper you go; the more muscle will be utilized as well as increasing mobility in the hips. It should feel like a good stretch, with the weight of the dumbbells and position of the elbows aiding the movement by forcing the knees out and allowing you to get into a nice deep position. From the bottom of your squat position, simply stand back up.

Movement 7

From the erect position, now perform a shoulder press by pushing both dumbbells overhead simultaneously (movement 6 & 7 should really become one movement). Fully extend the dumbbell to a lockout position before lowering them to your shoulders and then in a reverse biceps curl down to your sides.

Movement 8

The final movement is to simply bend slightly forward at the waist in a natural jumping position, legs slightly flexed, dumbbells at your side, and jump as high as you can. This is a power move and is one of the reasons why I’m okay with not performing the power clean in movement 5. A dynamic movement like jumps really prepares the body for the natural power movements that occur in the field.


That was all wordy, so let me summarize the movements quickly. Stand with dumbbells at your sides, then: 1) place dumbbells on floor, 2) jump back, 3) perform a pushup, 4) jump forward with feet under hips, 5) stand up, 6) curl or “clean” the dumbbells, 7) squat and then into 8) shoulder press, 9) return dumbbells to your side, and 10) jump.


Poor shape: Try one complete rotation and then stop to rest until you feel ready to go again (1-2 minutes). Perform five sets as a starting point and build on it.

Intermediate: If you’re in decent shape, you can probably attempt three complete rotations non-stop before pausing to rest for one minute. Perform five sets as a starting point and build on it.

Advanced: If you’re already in good condition, you may be able to go five complete rotations non-stop before pausing to rest 30 seconds to one minute. Perform six sets and build on it.

If you’re doing the math, for the advanced person, the total movement reps would look like this:  10 movements per rotation x 5  = 50 x 6 sets = 300 total movements.

It’s easy to see where the cardio comes in when you’re hammering out those kinds of numbers. The amount of oxygen being consumed by all the muscles involved makes it an incredibly efficient exercise for total body fitness.

If you feel like you’re missing a particular muscle group, simply add a movement that addresses them. For example, if you want to include more thigh work, add a lunge to the left followed by a lunge to the right just prior to the jump movement.

What also makes this exercise so doable is the fact that you’ll complete the workout in less than 20 minutes. This is a flexible routine, so avoid the train wreck, use your head, and make it work for you. Go further, stronger. ~ Coach P.


Mark Paulsen