The Only 9 Circuit Workouts You Need
In a perfect world, there would be one workout that you could do all of the time and still see results and never get bored. In reality, your wants and needs are always changing, as is the space and equipment you have access to and the time you have to spend. Plus, to continue improving and stay motivated, you need an arsenal of routines at your disposal.
The routines provide fresh ways to get in a great workout — no matter what kind of time you have, or place and tools you’re working with.
If You Don’t Have Any Equipment
You can get a great total-body strength workout, even when you don’t have a set of weights. “These bodyweight exercises involve big movements that get your heart rate up, burn lots of calories, and strengthen your back, arms, chest, glutes, legs, and abs,” says Guy. Perform one set of the following moves and then repeat, doing 5 fewer reps with each set, until you get down to 20 reps (three sets total).
Prisoner Lunges: Stand with feet together, hands behind head, elbows out to sides. Lunge forward with right leg, then return to start. Repeat on left, and continue alternating sides for 15 reps each.
Push-Ups: Start in a plank position, holding the spine neutral, no sagging. Lower your chest to the ground and press up. Do 30 reps.
Alternating Knee to Elbow Mountain Climbers: Stay in a push-up position. Bring your right knee in to meet right elbow. Return to start, switch sides, and repeat. Continue alternating sides for 15 reps each.
Prone Snow Angels: Lie facedown on floor with arms extended by sides, palms down, legs extended and together behind you. Lift head, chest, arms, and legs off the floor, and then sweep arms out to sides and overhead as you press legs out to sides. Keeping everything lifted, sweep arms and legs back to start. Perform 30 reps.
Broad Jumps: From standing, jump forward as far as you can, landing with soft knees. Do 30 reps.
If You Have a Jump Rope
“The jump rope is one of the best calorie-burning tools available, and it’s great for toning your calves,” says Guy. This workout also incorporates some straight-up strength moves, so you’ll get your heart rate up and work every major muscle group.
- Jump Rope: 1 minute
- 20 Shoulder-Tap Planks: Hold plank position as you alternate tapping opposite shoulder with opposite hand.
- Jump Rope: 2 minutes
- 20 Bodyweight Squats
- Jump Rope: 3 minutes
- 20 Push-Ups
- Jump Rope: 4 minutes
20 Jackknife Sit-Ups: Lie face-up on floor with legs extended in front of you, arms extended overhead. Engage your core to simultaneously lift upper and lower body off floor, bringing arms and legs together in jackknife position.
- Jump Rope: 3 minutes
- 40 Alternating Lunges
- Jump Rope: 2 minutes
- 20 Supermans: Lie facedown on floor with arms extended overhead, legs extended behind you. Lift both arms and legs off floor, head facing down. Lower and repeat.
- Jump Rope: 1 minute
If You Have a Pair of Dumbbells
“There are tons of exercises you can use to build a workout using only dumbbells,” says Jameson. This is a full-body routine, but will especially help you build a stronger back, chest, and core. Perform three rounds, with 30 to 60 seconds of rest between each, but none between sets.
Front Loaded Squat: Stand with feet shoulder width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, elbows bent in front of you, dumbbells resting on shoulders. Drive hips back into a squat, lowering as far as possible with chest up and back flat. Press back up to start. Do 10 reps.
Alternating Lunges: Stand with feet together, arms by sides, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Lunge forward with the right foot, bending knees 90 degrees. Return to start, switch legs, and repeat. Continue alternating sides for 12 reps on each leg.
Alternating Renegade Rows: Start in plank position, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Pull your right elbow behind you, bringing the dumbbell up to your chest, and return to start. Switch sides and repeat. Continue alternating sides for 10 reps on each side.
Floor Dumbbell Chest Press: Lie face-up with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and holding a dumbbell in each hand. Bend elbows out to sides, and then the press weights up, extending arms over chest. Do 10 reps.
Standing Bicep Curls: Stand with feet together, elbows bent by sides, holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing up. Keeping shoulders down and elbows in, curl weights up to shoulders. Hold for two seconds, then lower back to start. Do 12 reps.
Floor Skull Crusher: Lie face-up on floor with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing in. Lift arms toward ceiling, above shoulders, keeping shoulders down. Bend elbows, lowering dumbbells toward floor behind you, and extend arms back toward ceiling. Do 12 reps.
If You Have a Kettlebell
Kettlebells offer a unique combination of cardio and strength in a short period of time. This killer, high-intensity circuit will work your shoulders, back, arms, abs, glutes, and legs, all with one simple tool, says Guy. Perform this circuit three times, taking as little rest as possible.
- 30 Double-Arm Russian Swings: Swing to chest height, driving with your hips, not your lower back.
- 20 Goblet Squats: Hold the weight in front of your chest, squat down with feet slightly wider than shoulder width.
- 20 Push Presses: With the kettlebell held in front of your shoulder, bend the knees slightly then push up through your legs to drive the weight up. Do 10 reps on each side.
- 30 Single-Arm Russian Swings: Swing to chest height, driving with your hips, not your lower back. Do 15 on each side.
- 20 Kettlebell Push-Ups: Hold a plank with the kettlebell under one shoulder. Place your hand on top of the weight and lower your chest as close to the ground as possible. Do 10 reps and switch sides.
- 20 Bent-Over Rows: Lean forward about 45 degrees with soft knees. Pull your elbow up, drawing the weight to your chest. Do 10 on each side.
- 30 Double-Arm American Swings: Driving with your hips, swing bell overhead with locked out elbows.
- 20 Russian Twists: Sit with knees bent, feet lifted off floor, holding the bell in front of your chest. Twist to tap bell on floor beside your right hip, repeat on opposite side for one rep.
If You Have a Pool
You know swimming is a great cardio workout, but you can get a solid strength session in a pool, too. “Don’t underestimate the power of water resistance,” says Jameson. “Full-body exercises performed in water can test your heart rate and provide ample resistance to any fitness program.” Perform three consecutive rounds, with 15 to 30 seconds rest between each.
Squat Jumps: Stand in the shallow end with feet shoulder width apart, arms by sides. Push your hips back, bending your knees about 90 degrees, and then jump up in the water, landing softly. Do 10 reps.
Alternating Step-Up: Use the pool steps while your body is halfway underwater. Step up, return to start, switch legs and repeat. Do 10 reps on each side.
Angled Push-Up: Stand on pool steps (or just below) and place palms on edge of pool. Perform a push-up, keeping body in straight line and abs engaged. Do 15 reps.
Upper Body Fly: With your shoulders just under the surface of the water, arms extended in front of you, hands cupped together, elbows slightly bent. Push hands back and out to the side, then return to center. Do 15 reps.
Surface Bicycle: Stand with your back against an edge of pool, with arms extended out to sides, hands holding the edge. With your feet underwater, pedal like a bicycle. Do 20 reps.
If You Only Have 5 Minutes
“‘No time’ is no excuse,” says Guy. Anyone can squeeze five minutes in, and that’s all it takes to perform a high-quality, high-intensity training session. The secret: Tabata, a 4-minute circuit in which you go all-out for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds rest, for eight total intervals.
- 0:00-0:20 Burpees
- 0:20-0:30 Rest
- 0:30-0:50 Burpees
- 0:50-1:00 Rest
- 1:00-1:20 Dumbbell thrusters (squat with weights at shoulders, then stand and press them overhead)
- 1:20-1:30 Rest
- 1:30-1:50 Dumbbell thrusters
- 1:50-2:00 Rest
- 2:00-2:20 Kettlebell swings
- 2:20-2:30 Rest
- 2:30-2:50 Kettlebell swings
- 2:50-3:00 Rest
- 3:00-3:20 Renegade rows
- 3:20-3:30 Rest
- 3:30-3:50 Renegade rows
- 3:50-4:00 Rest
- 4:00-5:00 Plank hold
If You Have No Space
When you’re working with limited space, you’ve got to get creative, says Jameson. This workout gets your heart rate up, boosts calorie burn, and will target your muscles from multiple angles — it’s also a great no-equipment workout. Perform two rounds, with 15 to 30 seconds rest between them.
Prisoner Squats: Stand with feet together, hands behind your head, elbows out to sides. Keeping your chest up, squat, pushing hips back and bending knees 90 degrees. Return to start. Do 15 reps.
Push-Ups: Do 15 reps.
Prone Snow Angels: Lie facedown on floor with arms extended by sides, palms down, legs extended and together behind you. Lift head, chest, arms and legs off floor, and then sweep arms out to sides and overhead as you press legs out to sides. Keeping everything lifted, sweep arms and legs back to start. Do 15 reps.
Alternating Reverse Lunges: Stand with your feet together, hands on hips. Lunge the right leg back, bending both knees to 90 degrees. Return to standing, switch legs, and repeat. Do 10 reps on each leg.
Elevated Feet Push-Ups: Get into plank position, with feet on bench, chair, or box behind you. Perform a push-up. Do 15 reps.
Supermans: Lie facedown on floor with arms extended overhead and legs extended behind you. Lift both arms and legs off floor, then lower. Do 15 reps.
Close Grip Push-Ups: Place hands under your shoulders and perform a push-up, keeping your elbows tucked in and close to your body. Do 15 reps.
Plank With Alternating Leg Raise. Holding a plank, lift one foot as high off the ground as possible while keeping a straight leg. Do 10 reps on each side.
If You Have a Workout Buddy
On days when you’re looking for a little extra motivation, a workout partner can help you push harder than if you’d worked out solo. This circuit, designed by Guy, adds a crucial element of competition to push you both harder, too.
Plank Off: Each person holds a plank as long as possible. Winner rests, loser does 10 burpees.
Pause Push-Ups: You and your partner both get in push-up position facing each other. Do 10 push-ups, but at the bottom of each one, see who can pause the longest without breaking form. Best of 10, and winner rests, loser does 5 more regular push-ups.
Squat Rows: Loop two resistance tubes together. Stand facing your partner, with each of you holding a handle in each hand (bands should have tension). Simultaneously squat and then row the handles to your sides, elbows back (creating even more tension). Do 15 reps.
Relay Sprints: One of you sprint to a designated point and back. Your partner does the same while you recover. Each do four sprints.
Wall Sits: Stand with your backs against a wall, feet shoulder-width apart. Slide down until there’s a 90-degree bend in your knees. Hold until one of you breaks. Winner rests, loser does 20 walking lunges (10 each leg).
Medicine Ball Squat-Throws: Stand facing each other, about five feet apart, with knees slightly bent, one of you holding a medicine ball in front of your chest with both hands, elbows bent by sides. The person with the ball squats, stands up, then swings it back overhead and throws it forward to the partner, who catches it and immediately does the same. Continue alternating for 10 reps each.
Jump Off: Jump rope until someone faults. Loser buys the recovery meal.
If You’re Traveling
Next time you’re on the road and there’s no decent gym around, tackle Jameson’s equipment-free, total-body workout right in your hotel room. Perform two consecutive rounds with 30 seconds rest between them.
Bodyweight Squat: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hands on hips or arms in front of you. Squat as low as you can while keeping chest up and back flat. Push through your heels to stand and squeeze glutes. Do 20 reps.
Alternating Reverse Lunges: Stand with feet together, hands on hips. Lunge the right leg back, bending both knees to 90 degrees. Return to standing, switch legs, and repeat. Do 10 reps on each leg.
Decline Push-Ups: Get into push-up position, with hands on floor directly under shoulders, feet elevated on the bed with abs engaged and back flat. Bend elbows behind you to lower your chest toward the floor — don’t let hips sag — and press back up. Do 15 reps.
Luggage Rows: Adjust the weight of your luggage accordingly, and then hold the bag or suitcase in one hand. Place opposite hand on a chair or windowsill and hinge forward from hips so your back is flat. Pull your elbow up and behind you to bring the luggage up toward your chest. Do 12 reps, switch sides and repeat.
Single-Arm Luggage Bicep Curls: Adjust the weight of your luggage accordingly, and then hold the bag or suitcase in your right hand. With the right elbow tucked into your side, curl luggage up to shoulder, keeping shoulder blades down and back. Lower slowly. Do 10 reps, switch arms, and repeat.
Elevated Dips: Position a sturdy chair about three feet away from the bed with the seat toward the mattress. Stand with your back to the front of a chair. Place palms on the front edge of the seat and extend legs straight in front of you so your heels are on the edge of the bed. Lift your butt a few inches in front of seat, and then bend elbows behind you, lowering your hips toward floor. Press through palms to return to start. Do 12 reps.
Alternating Shoulder-Tap Planks: Hold the plank position as you alternate tapping the opposite shoulder with opposite hand for 10 reps on each side.
Supermans: Lie facedown on floor with arms extended overhead, legs extended behind you. Lift both arms and legs off floor. Hold for one beat, then lower, and repeat for 15 reps.
Pullover Tucks: Lie faceup on floor with arms extended overhead, legs extended, and together in front of you. Lift your legs off the floor and tuck your knees in as you lift your upper body off floor to reach hands to toes. Lower back to start. Do 15 reps.