Circuit training makes an excellent fat-shredding workout because it involves endurance training, resistance training, and high-intensity aerobics. A circuit is a combination of six or more exercises performed with short rest periods between them. One circuit is when all the chosen exercises (called sets) have been completed.
I have always loved circuit training because it is challenging and because it gets your heart rate up. It also offers variety to help avoid workout boredom and includes short periods of rest so that you can recover. A nicely designed circuit works different parts of your body with different exercises. You perform one specific exercise, and then while those muscles are recovering, you are working on other movements that target different muscle groups.
The goal is to run a circuit more than once, which means that you will go through each set of exercises at least two times. As your endurance progresses, you can both modify movements to be more challenging and increase the number of times you run the total circuit, which extends the total length of your workout.
Circuit training is one of the most efficient forms of exercise to burn fat, lose weight, and build muscle. It sends your metabolism soaring. You will burn more calories in 20 to 30 minutes than you would in an entire hour lollygagging on an elliptical or recumbent bike… and I do see this happening ALL the time in the gym. It’s true that many people who walk on a treadmill or take a slow stationary bike ride may just be clearing their minds. However, if the objective is to trigger fat-burning, you want to level up the intensity, involve as many muscle groups as you can, keep your heart rate up, and test your endurance. Circuit training delivers all of the things that fire up your metabolism; plus, you will continue to burn calories for up to 48 hours after your workout ends!
There are benefits to circuit training, whether you love cardio or not. Cardio should always be combined with weight or resistance training for maximum fat burn. The use of circuit training as a tool for shredding fat offers the best of everything. It combines intervals of high-intensity cardio along with weight or bodyweight resistance, offering a highly comprehensive total body workout.
During the times I’ve been in the best shape of my life, I’ve joined in on a group circuit class and find that for the first few days, I feel muscles that I haven’t felt before. That has always been surprising to me because I believed that I was routinely challenging all my muscles in a variety of exercise forms like weightlifting, rowing, and running. Surprisingly, an exercise circuit will challenge anyone at any level.
I put this circuit together with the intention of it being highly customizable to your fitness level. It’s a great place to start as a beginner, or with a few tweaks, it will challenge you at a higher level. Get ready to torch some serious calories and tap into those fat stores in your body and command your body to burn them as fuel.
You will want to familiarize yourself with the jump squat as you will be doing this exercise between a series of different sets. The jump squat will be the exercise in this circuit that will challenge your cardio the most. If you find that some of the exercises are giving you a bit of a breather (for example, as you’re working your arms), you will soon be heading right back into 8 reps of jump squats between sets and trust me, it will keep you fired up!
Modifications: If needed, squat without the jump or hop. Keep the tempo of your movements up so that your heart rate remains at an increased level. If you need more of a challenge, add weights, and increase the tempo.
With the weighted squat to shoulder press, you’re engaging many muscle groups. The weighted squat will target your glutes, hamstrings, and quads, while the shoulder press brings your upper body into action.
Modifications: If you are just beginning, you can either lower the weight of your dumbbells or get rid of them altogether. You can still do this movement with no added weights; your muscles and cardio will continue to be challenged. You can add or increase weight as you progress in cardio and muscle strength. If you need more of a challenge, increase the amount of weight and move faster.
Bodyweight exercises are important. They teach balance and stability. An old-fashioned pushup doesn’t require any additional equipment, although I do like to use the dumbbells to support my wrists, and you can modify movements to make a pushup more or less difficult. Remember that even from the knees, when doing a pushup to tempo, in sets of 8, and as part of a larger circuit, you will be challenged. It’s not only the weight resistance that’s important but also the tempo/cardio that’s being deployed.
Modifications: Spread your arms closer or wider apart for more or less of a challenge. Do pushups from knees or toes, depending on what works for you. If you need the most challenge, perform your pushup from your toes and do them faster.
The dumbbell curl to shoulder press is great for creating shoulder definition. That is because it is working opposing muscle groups, thereby creating more of a definition between those upper arm muscles that lead into the shoulder. This gives the nice shoulder bump that people refer to when they say they want “tank top arms.”
Modifications: Lower or raise the weight of your dumbbells so that you are being challenged without compromising form. If you’re compensating by throwing your weights up using the muscles in your lower body to project you upward, the weights are too heavy. Either lower the amount of weight or set the weights down completely while still performing the movements. You may find that using the weights the first time through your circuit is easily manageable but that it’s necessary to lower the amount of weight or remove the weight when performing your final circuit. If this is not enough of a challenge for you, increase the weight on your dumbbells and do the movements faster.
I’ve always loved this movement. I feel that it’s fluid, and it engages the lower body, core, and upper body. It’s a simple movement that doesn’t require a lot of coordination, and it provides effective full-body training and resistance.
Modifications: If the weights are too heavy, you’ll definitely want to lower the amount of the weight or drop the weights altogether to ensure that your form is exactly where it needs to be. You also don’t want to put unnecessary strain on your elbows or shoulders. If your side-to-side punches are too easy, use heavier weights or punch faster.
Bent-over rows engage your upper body and back. Rows have always been a “feel good” exercise for me. There’s something about them that feels like somewhat of a rest when you’re in the middle of intense cardio, but the row engages muscles in the back and sides that feel good to target, stretch, and challenge.
Modification: If the weight of the dumbbells is too much, lower the weight or drop them completely. If the exercise is too easy, pick up heavier weights. If you are able, do your rows with the heaviest weights you have available to you. In this position, you should be able to lift on the heavier end of what is typical for you. For example, it is common to pull more weight in a bent-over row than the amount of weight you’re pushing in a shoulder press. If you have a heavier set of weights, use them here.
Your final set of squat jumps is guaranteed to have your legs on fire and your fat furnace burning.
You should be able to run through a circuit one time within 3 to 5 minutes, depending on your pace and the length of time you rest between circuits. The goal is to do each set of exercises without resting between then taking a break between each circuit. Adjust as necessary for you, and focus on delivering the most personal challenge so that you receive the greatest fat-burning benefit. There’s so much room for growth within this workout, including the options to add weight, increase tempo, take fewer rests, and perform the entire circuit more times. Most of all, have fun!
Disclaimer: As always, you will want to consult with your doctor if you have any health concerns that may prevent you from exploring routine fitness, as well as receive recommendations from them regarding what activity level will be best for you. It is also advised that if you have questions about proper form and muscle function, that you work directly with a certified personal trainer for personal evaluation.
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