A bodyweight circuit workout —nearly or totally equipment-free exercises performed successively and repeatedly for a given amount of time—is the perfect solution to those days when getting to the gym is a bit of a stretch. You can do an amazing home workout in as little as 10 to 15 minutes that hits all your major muscle groups and gets your heart rate up.
Plus, research shows these types of functional, varied, and high-intensity circuit workouts burn more fat and calories compared to steady-state cardio (and, we’ll argue, are fantastically more interesting), although both types of training are certainly beneficial.
Circuit workout in themselves are essentially unlimited in their scope. You can use just about any movement and rep scheme possible within the limits of your physical ability, environment, and imagination.
4 Different Ways to Design a Killer Bodyweight Circuit Workout
Perform the circuit with a 1-minute “station” per movement. Allot 1 minute (or 2 minutes, or 30 seconds, etc.) to perform as many repetitions as you can of a specific movement. In the following minute, do as many reps as you can of a second movement, and so on, returning to the first movement again once you complete a full “round” (that is, run through all the stations once). For example, a 5-round circuit with 1 minute of squats, 1 minute of burpees, and 1 minute of dumbbell hop-overs will take you a total of 15 (grueling-but-awesome) minutes.
Perform the circuit in terms of “rounds for time.” Instead of having a set length of time to perform each movement, have a set number of reps to do. This type of circuit can be written like this: “5 rounds for time of 5 pull ups, 10 push ups, and 15 squats.”
Perform several short circuits in a “cluster” formation. Consider this an Inception-style HIIT, where you have several mini-bodyweight circuits all performed within one broader time frame.
Example: perform 3 rounds for time of 5 push-ups, 5 dips, and 5 dumbbell shoulder presses. Rest 2 minutes, then perform 3 rounds for time of 10 ring rows, 10 bent over barbell rows, and 10 hanging dumbbell cleans.
Customize your workout to bias upper body strength, lower body strength, or aerobic capacity (or a combination thereof). Consider your training goal for the day and select movements that will zero in on the aspect of your fitness you really want to work on.
Try This Awesome Bodyweight Circuit Workout
The following circuit workout is one of the infamous CrossFit benchmark workouts collectively known as “The Girls.” It’s a doozy, so modify movements and reps in order to match your current skill level:
Perform 5 rounds of the following circuit as fast as possible, taking a 3-minute rest between each round:
- 20 pull ups (or ring/TRX rows)
- 30 push ups
- 40 sit ups
- 50 squats
Go ahead, give it a spin—and good luck!