Circuit Training with Dumbbells

Legal notice: this is for entertainment purposes. Do not attempt. If you get hurt doing this, it’s not my fault you didn’t do it right and you cannot sue me. It’s dangerous, so build up slowly.

Chances are you will strongly dislike all forms of exercise. For me, this is one of the exercises I hate the least.

Circuit Training

I do this to train my heart. I slowly add muscle and strength. Reality is my battle is to be on a calorie deficit, and it’s very difficult to add muscle mass on a calorie deficit.

In a perfect world, this will help me keep the muscle I have. At my age (50+), I see small, gradual gains if I put the work in. It involves weights and some bodyweight stuff. The gist of it is cardio training using weights.

It’s kind of the best of both worlds because in theory you’re doing strength training and cardio at the same time. I still have a salsa jar I cannot open. I don’t know what the fuck is up with that damn salsa jar.

Cardiovascular Endurance Training

I take very short breaks between each lift set. I’ll go into more detail later. But by taking very short breaks, you get a good workout in a short time, your heart rate and blood pressure get elevated and stay elevated. This, by definition, is cardiovascular endurance training.

Fifty plus years old ~ Fountain of Youth

Talk to your doctor first if exercise is right for you. Focus on low-impact stuff to start. I’m old and grey, and I spent most of my life sitting at a computer and smoking tobacco and being obese.

When I quit tobacco, I started exercising, and it became a fountain of youth for me. It changed my life. Your mileage may vary. I have had bad serious injuries twice that were a lot of pain. It’s very easy to overdo it. Be careful, go slow.

Ligaments, tendons, and joints

These are my weakest points at my age. I would rather go lighter weights and 15-20 reps, versus risking damaging one of these things again. These are the injuries you don’t want, that will force you to go to a doctor.

Too many reps can be just as bad as too heavy and too few. You must find your own balance for mind and body. Mine is 15-20 reps.

Go Slow

You will not move a mountain in one day. Instead, you move it by moving one rock at a time. Consistency, perseverance, and tenacity are the traits you will need. Start with small weights. I’m generally 15-20 reps on everything. If you can’t do 15-20 motions, maybe the weight isn’t that small.


If I have a headache, I do not lift. Do Not Lift with a Headache. Do not lift if the motions cause pain. Try the motion with no weight or a very small weight. If you’re not pain free, it’s a problem.

Hulking Out

I’m not taking testosterone boosters. The boosters and hormone supplements are out there. Diet is so critical, high protein and healthy fats. My understanding is you go lower on reps and heavier weights to hulk out.

You don’t really hulk at 15-20 reps like I do, supposedly. But you also don’t hulk out on a calorie deficit. I’m really not the guy to ask about hulking out.

The real secret to gains

I don’t do this. But supposedly, the key to gains is pushing to exhaustion on every set. If your muscles aren’t screaming in agony, you’re not getting the gains. Personal choice. I feel like this hard on my joints, ligaments, and tendons.

I’m old too, and chasing gains is more a younger and braver person’s game.

I have changed my ways, I’m now pushing to exhaustion, every set, I seem to see much better results in the mirror, and quickly.

My Brain

My 15-20 reps is what my brain likes. The whole point of exercise for me is making my brain happy, getting the super elusive runner’s high. I get the runner’s high from circuit training.

My Process Upper Body


Dumbbell Rows







(All of these have countless YouTube videos)

I keep a spreadsheet open on the standing desk. I do one set, update the spreadsheet, do the next set, update the spreadsheet. I’m almost always moving when I do these circuits.

Then I take a two-minute breather on the standing desk (I use a kitchen timer for this). I call that one circuit. If I do three circuits, which is 21 sets, it takes me less than 25 minutes. The break is optional. I’m old. I need my two minutes just breathing per circuit.


If you attempt this at the gym, use dumbbells, and secure a bench, surround yourself with the weights you need like a fortress, and just set after set. Some gyms have a circuit training area. Use those machines. I use dumbbells.

Process Lower Body


One Plank

Squats with weight (the weight is optional. I can’t bend all way because I don’t stretch, but you should definitely stretch)

Side Leg Lifts

Calf Raises with Weight (the weight is also optional)

Sit-Ups (these are hard, people hate these, I do mine)

I don’t update a spreadsheet on these. I cycle through exercises, then take a three-minute breather.

One circuit, two circuits

I can do 4-6 circuits, but I don’t feel like it’s sustainable for my body. I seem to do better at 1-3 circuits. Sometimes I really have to push to get 1 circuit, and I tell myself 1 circuit is better than 0.

Sometimes my body will be angry, and I quit mid circuit. If your body is freaking out, you should quit.

Doing one muscle group at a time

A lot of trainers and lifters swear by this, one or two muscle groups per session, then a few days break for those muscles and do something else. It’s really not my thing. I want to do all upper body or all lower body.

This is me exercising my heart. I have been doing upper one day then lower the next, then 1-2 days break to regroup.

My Doctors

My doctors want an hour a day of good heart exercise. I can’t get this much from traditional cardio like a rowing machine or exercise bike or walking. Circuit training is more fun for me, and I get great heart rates and get my sweat on. My rowing machine is on level 8 of 8 for intensity.

I need to mentally row faster to get a better workout, but I generally don’t. It’s really not that amazing. The real workout is the circuit training.

Also, while my doctors want an hour a day of exercise from me, they are both marathon runners, so maybe they’re a little biased.

Runner’s High

Some get it, some don’t. In mice they’ve tied into genetics, some mice don’t have the gene. I feel really good emotionally if I do the exercise. It’s great for my mood.

It’s not like doing cocaine, but for something free your brain makes (if you have the gene), it’s a kind of blessing. If you do the circuit training right, and you have the gene, I would expect you to get the mood benefits.

Copyright Geoffrey C Porter
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