Circuit Training Workout For Weight Loss
Circuit training is a workout that involves performing a series of exercises at high intensity with little to no rest in between. The goal is to keep your heart rate elevated and burn more calories than you would with traditional cardio.
People who are new to circuit training should start with 3 sets of 10 repetitions per exercise, with each exercise taking no more than 90 seconds. If you’re new to exercise or haven’t been working out for very long, it’s important not to go too hard or lift too much weight—you don’t want to risk injury.
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Circuit Training Workout For Weight Loss
When many people decide they want to lose weight, they typically turn to cardio or aerobic training like running on a treadmill or sweating buckets in an indoor cycling class. But while cardiovascular exercise can be effective for burning the calories required for weight loss, it’s not always the best option for those who don’t enjoy it.
Fortunately, there is another way to use exercise for weight loss: circuit training, which involves doing a series of resistance-training exercises for different movements or body parts with little-to-no rest between each exercise. An effective circuit alternates between upper- and lower-body parts or movements like from push-ups to pull-ups for muscles responsible for different movements in the same region of the body.
The following sample workout can help you get started with circuit training for weight loss so that you can reach your goals without having to live on a cardio machine. You can perform this body-weight circuit from the comfort of your own home or in a limited amount of space in a commercial fitness facility. These exercises combine multiple movements and muscle groups in an effort to increase the oxygen demand and subsequent energy expenditure.
Inchworm Walkouts to Reverse Lunge With Arms Overhead
Start with feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Hinge at the hips, place your hands on the floor and walk forward to come to a high plank position. Hold for 5 seconds, walk back with the hands and return to a full standing position awhile reaching both arms overhead. Next, step backward into a reverse lunge with the right leg. Pull yourself forward with the left leg and then step immediately back with the left leg; return to standing. This is one repetition. Complete six to 10 repetitions (start at six and work up to 10).
Side Lunge to Single-leg Balance
Start with feet hip-width apart. Step the right foot to the right. As the right foot hits the ground (make sure the right foot is parallel to the left foot), push your weight back into your right hip. With your left hand, reach for your right foot. To return to standing, press your left foot into the ground to pull yourself up. At the top, contract your glutes to hold a single-leg balance for five to 10 seconds. Complete eight to 12 repetitions before alternating sides.
Squat to Push-up
Start with feet shoulder-width apart. Push your hips back to lower into a squat. As you sink your weight back, bring both hands to the inside of your legs and place them on the floor. With your hands pressed into the floor, step back one foot at a time so that you are in a high-plank position. Brace your abdominals and keep your body straight as you lower yourself into a push-up. At the bottom of the movement, press both hands into the floor to return to the high-plank position. Step forward, one foot at a time, to return to standing position. Complete six to eight repetitions and work up to doing 12 to 15 reps.
Side Plank With Rotation
(Note: This exercise is NOT recommended for individuals with shoulder or back pain.)
Begin by lying on your right side with both legs on top of one another. Place your right elbow directly under your right shoulder. Squeeze your legs together, contract your glutes and push your left hip up so that you are balanced on both feet and your right elbow (this is the starting position). Place your left hand behind your head and rotate your left elbow down toward the floor to rotate your trunk. Return to the starting position and repeat six to eight times and then switch sides.
Transverse Lunge With Reach to Foot
Begin standing with feet hip-width apart. With your right foot, step back and rotate your right hip so that when it lands your right foot is pointing in the 4 o’clock direction. Once your foot is on the floor, reach down for your right foot with your left hand while reaching for the sky with your right hand and rotating your trunk to your right. To return to standing, press your left foot into the floor and pull yourself back to the upright position. Complete eight to 10 reps on one side before switching sides; work up to completing 12 to 15 reps with each leg.
Body-weight Turkish Get-up (TGU)
The best description for the TGU, as it’s commonly called, can be seen here. Instead of holding a weight, simply hold your arm extended and outstretched to receive the benefit of the exercise for your hips, obliques, spinal stabilizers and shoulders. Start with four to six reps on each side and work up to eight to 10.
After you have completed the circuit, jump rope or perform jumping jacks for 45 seconds, rest for 15 seconds and repeat three times. Rest for 90 seconds before performing the next complete circuit (including cardio).
Start with two circuits every other day and allow two weeks for your body to get used to the movements. After the first two weeks, continue doing the workout every other day, adding one additional circuit each week, gradually working up to five circuits. After your reach five circuits, test yourself to see how many circuits you can complete in a specific amount of time (such as 15, 20 or 30 minutes).
Circuit training can provide the following benefits:
- The body burns 5 calories of energy to use 1 liter of oxygen. Circuit training can use most of the muscles in the body, which significantly increases oxygen consumption when compared to a mode of cardio exercise relying primarily on the lower body. Any mode of exercise that increases oxygen demand also increases energy expenditure, making it an effective strategy for weight loss.
- Exercising at a moderate-to-high intensity (where breathing is much faster than normal, and saying more than a couple of words at a time can be difficult) for more than 50 to 60 minutes at a time could actually lead to burning muscle instead of fat. At a higher intensity of exercise, the body will use primarily carbohydrate for fuel. Once this carbohydrate is depleted, the body uses the hormone cortisol to convert protein to fuel in a process called gluconeogenesis. When this happens, less protein is available to repair muscle tissue damaged during the exercise.
- Doing too much cardio training could actually increase levels of abdominal fat. During low-intensity exercise, cortisol helps mobilize free fatty acids for use as energy (fat takes longer to convert to energy than carbohydrate, which is why higher intensities rely on carbs for fuel). When cortisol levels are elevated, there are more free fatty acids in the bloodstream. The ones that aren’t used for energy can be redeposited in abdominal fat to be stored for later use.
- While resistance-training circuits can actually increase lean muscle mass throughout the entire body, most modes of cardio training involve primarily leg muscles. Resistance training exercises stimulate the type II, fast twitch muscle fibers responsible for improving strength and size. Increasing activation of the type II fibers can result in larger, more defined muscles throughout the entire body.
- Higher levels of lean muscle mass equate to a higher resting metabolism, which means the body will burn more calories while at rest. At rest, 1 pound of muscle can burn up to 7 calories of energy during a 24-hour period. Adding 5 to 7 pounds of lean muscle mass can increase resting metabolism up to 50 calories a day or 350 calories over the course of a week. Given that the body uses approximately 100 calories to walk a mile, this can be considered the equivalent of taking a 3.5-mile walk.
To increase energy expenditure, combining circuit training for weight loss with cardio exercise can be extremely effective. For example, after completing a circuit of resistance-training exercises, hop on a cardio machine for 3 to 7 minutes of steady-state, moderate-intensity exercise. The cardio exercise should focus on the aerobic energy system, so your breathing should be quicker than normal, but you shouldn’t be out of breath.
Circuit Training Workouts For Weight Loss At Home
Question: What’s your favorite type of workout? Are you a runner, weight lifter, yogi, etc.? Do you prefer to mix things up now and then, or do you stick to your routine? If you like mixing things up, you’re going to love circuit training workouts, which is what we’re talking about today!
Even if you prefer consistency in your workouts, there are a lot of positives to circuit training-style workouts. If you’re traditionally a runner, circuit training can help work your upper body. If yoga is your workout of choice, trying a workout program that includes circuit training can help you get your heart rate up and speed up your metabolism. And if you typically do resistance training or strength exercises with heavy weights, circuit training can help you incorporate high-intensity moves using just your body weight. We can’t emphasize it enough: with circuit training, there’s something for everyone!
Another perk of circuit training workouts is that they’re often low on equipment, while still bringing plenty of intensity. The bodyweight exercises in the workout featured below are compound exercises, which means the movements are using different muscle groups, rather than isolating individual muscles, like dumbbell curls do. Compound exercises work your major muscle groups, which is what makes them so effective. And when you’re doing them in circuit format with shorter recovery times and minimal rest, you’re getting cardio exercise in addition to building muscle. Circuit training workouts are basically a total win-win!
Additional bonus: studies have shown that interval training can be incredibly effective for fat loss. One study compared the effects of interval training to the effects of moderate-intensity training over four weeks, and found that the group of people who performed interval training experienced a greater loss in total fat mass. If fat loss is one of your goals, try adding this full-body workout into your workout routine a few times a week. Even if fat loss isn’t your goal, circuit training still has great benefits for all people with a vast array of health goals.
The full-body workout below is primarily focused on strength training, but it’ll torch calories, too. You can think of each move in the workout as a floor station – however, you won’t need physical floor stations for this workout, since it’s equipment-free. When you move to your next exercise, you stay in the same place, rather than moving to a “floor station,” but you’ll still rotate through the moves in the workout. You’ll just need open floor space for moves like squat jumps, push-ups and more.
Ready to give circuit training a try? Let’s get started!
At-Home Circuit Training Workout
This workout features eight exercises that will challenge your entire body. In between each exercise, you can rest for about 20 seconds. If you choose to repeat this workout in the same workout session, we recommend resting a full minute in between sets. As for equipment, you can perform this workout with just your bodyweight! We recommend grabbing a mat if you’re on a hard floor, since you’ll be doing forearm planks and push-ups. If you’d like, you can add dumbbells to the squats, but it’s completely optional, and you’ll be moving so fast that weights might just slow you down!
Here’s all the exercises and some helpful descriptions. Ready, set, go!
15 reps of push-ups
We’re not easing you into this workout! Push-ups will work and warm up every muscle in your body. Challenge yourself with a traditional starting position on the floor, but drop down to your knees if you need to! Good form is the key here, so it’s better to do push-ups on your knees if you feel your form slipping. If knee push-ups are your plan, grab a mat to make the floor more comfortable.
20 second rest
15 reps of burpees
Burpees right after push-ups? You read this next exercise right! Get ready to jump up and then hit the floor. The push-up is optional for this move, but if you want to get the most out of your workout, we’d recommend it. Remember, you can always take the reps slow and do the push-ups on your knees. If you need a lower-impact version of this exercise, you can take the jumping out of the movements.
20 second rest
This plank will give your arms one last challenge, and strengthen your core. Your starting position can either be in high or low plank on the floor, whichever you prefer. If you need to adapt this move, drop down to your knees. You can also perform side planks, switching sides at the 30-second mark. If you want to make it more challenging, try lifting one leg at a time. You won’t be able to lift your legs very high, but even raising each foot a couple of inches will challenge your core!
20 second rest
20 jump lunges
Jump lunges are a great workout for your lower body and a great way to get your heart rate up. To perform them, start by standing on the floor with your right leg in front of you, your left leg back, and your right knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Jump up, pushing through both your right leg and left leg, and land with your left foot in front of you and your right foot behind you. You can land with your legs straight or with your knees bent, whichever is best for your fitness level. Drop back into a lunge position, and repeat for 20 reps. If this is too hard, you can always perform traditional lunges, lunging either back or forward with your right leg and then switching sides to your left.
20 second rest
15 reps of dolphin push-ups
Dolphin push-ups are unfamiliar for most people, so we recommend looking them up. Dolphin push-ups are a great challenge for your core, and they work your leg and shoulder muscles uniquely as well. While it’s tempting to push off the floor from your feet, make sure you’re keeping your left and right leg even and straight, so that you’re getting the most out of this move. Your left and right knee can have a gentle bend, but try to keep them even and straight as well. Dolphin push-ups can be tricky, so feel free to substitute regular push-ups or push-ups on your knees.
20 second rest
20 reps of frog squats
Frog squats are another fun, animal-inspired move and if you’re unfamiliar, it might be best to watch a video to learn! For frog squats, you’re really going to be working your hips. For your starting position, your hips will be very low, close to the floor, like they would be for a goblet squat. Then, raise your hips up from the floor halfway – to a normal squat starting position, so that your hips are in a straight line with your knees. That’s it! You’re going to feel your leg muscles burning, since you won’t be able to fully straighten your hips and release.
If it’s too difficult for you to perform this move with good form, you can always try squat jumps or air squats. Air squats is just another term for bodyweight squats, so for air squats, you’ll be performing regular squats with your bodyweight at a quick pace.
20 second rest
15 triceps dips
Use a nearby chair or coffee table for tricep dips. For your starting position, you’ll face away from the chair, with your right and left hand on it and your legs extended, with your feet on the floor. Tricep dips are an awesome resistance training move for your upper body. Keep your knees straight as you lift and lower your body with your arms. Try to get your hips down to the floor, but it’s OK if you can’t make it there! Even if you can only lower your body a few inches closer to the floor, you’ll see progress after just a few weeks of this workout program.
20 second rest
1-minute wall sit
We’re working your lower body one last time with a wall sit. Good form is crucial to getting the most out of your wall sit, so make sure your feet are flat on the floor, your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle, and your left and right foot are flat on the ground. We recommend one minute, but see how much time you can hold this move for! If wall sits don’t work for you, you can finish with air squats.
1 minute rest
If you’re new to circuit training, try this workout once through and see how it feels. It should be pretty challenging, but remember, it’s only going to make you stronger! If you have another round in you, go for it, and experience an awesome workout! For intermediate athletes who want to get a full session in, we recommend trying this workout three times through.