The right circuit training workout makes full use of every minute of your session. It targets every muscle group by combining strength training and cardio. Being a type of high-intensity workout, circuit training triggers anaerobic exercise. This translates into an after-burn that lasts long after your workout session is over.
Sticking with a fitness regimen takes dedication and discipline on your part. It also helps if you keep your workouts simple and mentally engaging at the same time. The exercises you do should be easy to execute, with little or no equipment. Keep reading to find out how to craft a circuit training workout with zero equipment.
Crafting the ideal circuit training workout
A good circuit training workout should fit nicely into your daily routine. It should take up just enough time to work those muscles, without throwing your schedule into disarray. This means that you should dedicate between 30 and 60 minutes to your training session. So how do you structure that time?
- Create a circuit of five to ten stations.
- Each exercise station should take between 60 and 90 seconds, depending on your conditioning and endurance. Try to fit as many reps as you can within that time slice and take care to maintain good form.
- Different exercise stations should target different muscle groups. Remember to include a full-body exercise station in each circuit.
- Arrange the exercises in a circuit in a way that allows one muscle group to rest while you exercise a different set of muscles.
- You can take a minute to rest after each circuit.
Now, let’s weave all the principles together to create a circuit training workout. Say you have a schedule that allows for a 30-minute workout. You can have six circuits with five one-minute exercises.
The first exercise or station can target muscle groups in the upper body. The second one can target the lower body. Do a compound exercise at the third station. This will exercise the whole body. Next, do a minute’s worth of all-out cardio and take a minute before you start a new circuit.
A simple circuit workout: Zero equipment, maximum effect
You can create an effective exercise regimen with your body and nothing else. The following sections detail exercises that target specific parts of the body. We categorize these exercises into separate stations that make up a whole circuit:
1) Upper body exercises
The first station of your circuit training workout can target the arms, shoulders, chest, and core. Upper body exercise is a good way to get the blood flowing.
Exercises like mountain climber reps can be used to work multiple muscle groups in the core. To a lesser extent, these motions also exercise some leg muscles.
- To execute a mountain climber, start at a high plank position. This means body off the floor, with the toes anchoring the legs and extended arms raising the torso. Each hand should be directly under its respective shoulder and the body should form a straight line.
- With the core engaged, fold the right leg so that the right knee bends toward the right elbow. Straighten the leg back to its original position.
- Repeat the same actions with your left leg. Do as many reps as you can in one minute. If you’re in good shape, you can extend each station to 90 seconds. Switch over to the next exercise.
You can substitute mountain climbers for regular pushups, tricep dips, or a Russian twist. Any exercises that work your arms, chest, back, and abs are fine.
2) Lower body exercises
These exercise the hips, lower back, lower abdomen, and legs. Most lower-body exercises that feature in circuit training also work the core, but only to a degree. Let’s take a look at a great lower body exercise: jump lunges.
This exercise doubles as cardio as well as a lower-body exercise. Here is how to do a jump lunge:
- Bend your right leg in front of you, at a 90-degree angle, and extend your left leg behind you.
- Jump; bringing your left leg forward and your right leg back.
- When your feet touch the ground, make sure to bend your left leg in front of you, at a 90-degree angle. Extend your right leg behind you.
- Jump to bring your right leg forward and your left leg back. When your feet touch the ground, bend the right leg and extend the left. You should be at the starting position at this point.
Do as many jump lunges as you can in the space of one minute. The exercise will cause your thigh and calf muscles to burn calories long after you finish your workout.
There are other lower body exercises you can do to keep things interesting. You can do frog squats, air squats, or squat jumps. All these exercises work the legs, glutes, lower back, and abdomen.
3) Compound exercises
Full-body exercises target most or all muscle groups at the same time. They combine cardio and strength training to simultaneously blast calories and build muscle. Here is an example of an intensive compound exercise: dolphin pushup.
- Start by kneeling on your exercise mat and bending forward to rest on your forearms. Clasp your hands in front of you and keep each elbow right below its corresponding shoulder. This is your starting position.
- Now, extend your legs such that your feet and your forearms are the ones supporting you on the mat. You should be in a downward-facing dog position. Make sure to position your head right between your arms. Your face should be facing backward, towards your feet.
- Look in front of you and use your arms as a brace to push your torso forward. This motion should move your head past your clasped hands. Bring your nose forward such that it (pretty much) touches the ground.
- Wind your body back into the downward-facing dog position and repeat.
You can change it up with other compound exercises like the V-up, which is a more intense version of a sit-up. Burpees, planks, and back holds work too.
4) Intense cardio
Cardio exercises range from the simple star jump to skipping to the kind of fast-feet drills that basketball players do. The point is to squeeze as many reps as you can into a minute.
Take a minute to catch your breath before launching into the next circuit.
Mix it up to keep it interesting
Circuit training is effective because it lends itself to constant change. You can have successive circuits with different exercises, or you can make changes with every new workout session. Either way, you can adapt your workouts to keep your mind and body guessing. This should be your goal when you need to burn calories, build muscle, and stay motivated.
No-equipment circuit training allows you to enjoy these benefits, with minimal hassle. These types of exercises allow you to squeeze in a workout session wherever and whenever you can. Get going and enjoy the burn.
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