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Breathless Upper Body – A Fast Paced Upper Body & Hiit Workout That Will Leave You Breathless!

Cathe Live Review: Breathless Upper Body

This is a cardio and strength workout from Cathe’s Live streaming service and focuses on circuits of cardio blasts with upper body strength exercises. The cardio blasts are done both on the step and just the floor.

This was an excellent workout and I really enjoyed it. I also really felt the strength work, even though it doesn’t use that heavier weights it is high rep and the fact that many of the exercises are back to back, using the same muscle groups, means that you really burn out your muscles more quickly. The cardio blasts are generally high impact and often done for 32 reps. I was breathing hard throughout a lot of this workout and the fact that you move quickly from one exercise to the next, with little rest, makes it very metabolic by keeping the heart rate high.

The workout starts with 4 cardio blasts and then goes into a number of upper body exercises. This pattern is repeated four times. The upper body exercises start by muscle group but then when you get to the 3rd section the exercises use different body parts in one section. The workout ends with upper body and then four core exercises, which are all standing exercises. One of the core exercises I recognise as a new move from Cathe’s upcoming LITE series – it’s a front lunge, holding dumbbells together at the chest, and twisting to one side – so that was nice to see!

The weights used by Cathe were sufficient to give me a serious upper body challenge (except for the standing side bends where Cathe encourages at home exercisers to use a 20# db) but you can obviously adjust them, as required. I found the shoulder work was particularly challenging, as you are moving more quickly than usual for things, such as, overhead press and doing half way down then up at speed. When Cathe said 12# dbs for this I was wondering if it would be challenging enough but it definitely was! Therefore, the weights listed in ‘The Moves’ section below are what Cathe and class used.

(In case you are not familiar with Cathe Live - it is a streaming service from veteran fitness professional Cathe Friedrich, where she provides access to her live classes filmed at her gym in Jersey. Currently, there are over 200 workouts available in the archive, which you can access at any time and a new class is recorded nearly every week. More details are provided at the end of this article).

The Workout

Breathless Upper Body is a cardio and strength workout focused on the upper body. You will need a full size step with 2 risers each side and a range of dumbbells for this workout. The routine is structured into rounds of cardio blasts then a number of upper body exercises. There are four cardio blast sections, each consisting of 4 blasts. Two of these sections are using the step and two are done on the floor. The blasts are each just one move repeated for a set number of reps, for example, mountain climbers using the step or quarter turn jumps on the floor. The blasts are not repeated.

You will need the step set up horizontally in front of you for the warm up (as you do toe taps) and you will need your dumbbells off to one side, as you will be using the step for two rounds of the cardio blasts and also for some of the upper body exercises.

What You Need To Know

Instructor: Cathe Friedrich. Length: 44 mins. Equipment: 5-15# dbs, full size step with 2 risers each side & mat. Fun factor: 4/5. Sweat factor: 3/5. Coordination required: 2/5

(Rating scale – 1= lowest & 5 = highest).

The Moves

Breathless Upper Body is 44 minutes long and originally aired on 29th November 2018. The routine starts with a long, fairly active 7 minute warm-up on the floor (although you do toe taps on the step so you will need it close by). The warm-up includes both air squats and jump ropes. Once this is complete you then move into the first blast on the step.

Mountain Climbers Using the Step

Round 1

Cardio Blasts on Step

  • Mountain climbers with hands on the step

  • Fast feet tapping the step

  • Power turning squats on step (7 turns & rock back – 4 sets each side)

  • Straddle jumps on step (jump down straddling the step, jump back on to step & jump rope)

W Curls

Upper Body Exercises (Biceps)

  • Standing bicep curls – two 15# dbs

  • Sweeping curls – two 15# dbs

  • W Curls – two 12# dbs

  • Crazy 8’s (half way up & half way down then full reps) – two 10# dbs

Lateral Skates

Round 2

Cardio Blasts on Floor

  • Squat digs

  • Lateral skates

  • Plyo jacks

  • Touch down jacks

Lateral Raises

Upper Body Exercises (Shoulders)

  • Overhead press – two 12# dbs

  • Front raise – one 15# db

  • Lateral raise – two 5# dbs

  • Upright row – two 12# dbs

Power 7's

Round 3

Cardio Blasts on Step

  • Wide box jumps on to step

  • Power 7’s using the step

  • Burpee (with hands on step) & 1 narrow box jump on to step

  • 1 Arm burpees (with hand on step)

Tricep Kickbacks

Upper Body Exercises (Triceps & Chest)

  • Close grip chest press – two 15# dbs

  • Tricep kickbacks – two 12# dbs

  • Incline pushups on step (2 risers on each side)

  • Overhead tricep extensions – Cathe starts with two 12# dbs for the first set then moves to two 10# dbs for the second set

Lateral Hop & Jump Up with Dumbbell

Round 4

Cardio Blasts on Floor

  • Lateral hop & jump up holding one dumbbell horizontally in both hands – one 8# db

  • Quarter turn jumps

  • Ice breakers

  • Shuffle, shuffle, drop

Tricep Dip with Leg Extended

Upper Body Exercises

  • Pullovers (on step) – two 15# dbs

  • Tricep Dips on step with leg extended (for 8 reps each side then final 8 reps with both feet on the floor)

  • Rear delt flys (3 drop sets – 10, 8 & 6 reps) – two 10# dbs

  • 1 Arm row – one 15# & one 10# db (I used one 20# db)

Forward Lunge & Twist


  • Squat & Knee twist – one 10# db

  • Forward lunge & twist – two 8# dbs (this is the move from the new LITE series!)

  • Standing side bends – one 15# db (I used one 20# db)

  • Marching elbow planks (with elbows on the step) & then plank hold on elbows with 1 arm extensions

The workout ends with a 3 minute cool down to stretch out the muscles.

Take Action

Try it today! Cathe Live is a streaming service available from – you can subscribe to monthly ($9.99 pm), six monthly or yearly plans and has over 200 live workouts in the archive for you to access at any time.

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May 12, 2021

This is a fun workout! It definitely works the upper body and the cardio blasts don't go on too long.

My Modifications: I didn't do any of the blasts on the step, except for the power 7s. I modified by doing all the impact jumping on the floor. Also I did plie jacks instead of burpees.

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