A few weeks ago, I posted about how Circuit Training might be the exercise of choice for busy people who also want to train both their aerobic and anaerobic capacity. Circuit Training is also a good way to boost your metabolism which simply leads to more calories burnt compared to the usual resistance training.
To reap the full benefits of a High Intensity Interval Training workouts (which includes Circuit Training), the total volume should be high, which makes it a bit reserved for the elite athlete. However, the format of Circuit Training can be adapted for the novice exerciser and still gain most of the benefits that the workout can give.
If you are trying to start your healthy habit to exercise, or you are just looking for an easy alternative workout, here is a beginner’s Bodyweight Circuit Training workout that you can do with minimal or no equipment at all. I assume that you will ‘practice‘ exercising at home, so you only need improvised gym equipment that can easily be found in your house. The most that you need might be an exercise mat – if you don’t have one, you can use a big towel for exercises on the floor. Another good thing about this body weight circuit training is that you can do this while watching T.V. during commercial breaks!
You can workout somewhere near your stairs and a wall (of course your house has a wall anywhere). For additional resistance, get two regular 500ml water bottles (filled with water or any liquid). Alternatively, you can use two equal-sized and equal-weighed books.
Remember to warm-up properly by doing slow head rotations, arm circles (forward and back), arm cross overs, alternating leg/foot reach while standing, lunges, and jumping jacks. (10 to 12 repetitions of each). Warm up is important to make sure that your body is ready for more work and so that your heart won’t get surprised by the stress from the exercises. If you are new to exercise, add a few more repetitions to warm-up for 5 to 10 minutes.
Start by doing 12 repetitions or 12 counts for each exercise for your first set. If you feel 12 reps is too easy, you can do 15 to 20 reps for each exercise on your next sets.
- Do Jumping Jacks for a metabolic start. Hold one water bottle for each hand and do moderate to fast jumping jacks.
- Wall Squats. Lean with your back against the wall and squat down until your legs are bent to about 90 degrees. Hold the squat position for 12 slow counts. You can hold on to your water bottles for this one, but for additional intensity, you can alternate lifting your heels.
- Stand from your squat position and do bicep curls using your books or water bottles. You can do it either one arm at a time or both arms at the same time.
- Next, do alternating front and lateral arm raises with your water bottles. With both arms straight, lift them up sideways to shoulder level and bring them down, then lift both arms again to shoulder level but this time bring them in front of you, then bring them down. That counts as one repetition. Do 12 to 15 repetitions for bicep curls and arm raises.
- Crawl Leg Extension. Go down to your hands and knees to do a crawl to work the back of your legs and your buttocks. Do a minimum of 12 repetitions, one leg at a time. This exercise also works your core muscles – abdominal and back – if you maintain proper form while kicking by not letting your tummy or your chest sag.
- Lie on your side to do Side-lying Leg Lifts. Lying on one side with your shoulders on top of each other and the bottom arm supporting your head, align your spine by making a straight line from your bottom foot to your hips and to your shoulders and head. Lift the top leg up and slowly lower it down. Do a minimum of 12 repetitions for each leg.
- If you’re watching T.V., quickly run to the bottom of your stairs to do the Stair Climb with Overhead Raise. Yes, this includes an arm exercise so if you forgot your books or water bottles, go back and grab them! Holding on to your home equipment, reach both arms straight up and overhead, reaching towards the ceiling without arching your back. Keep your arms up as you do moderate to fast stair-climbing. Use your right foot first to step up, followed by your left foot, then use your right foot to step down, followed by your left. After a minimum of 12 steps, continue doing the exercise but this time starting with your left foot and followed by your right. Your core muscles are also challenged in this exercise as you keep your arms up and your spine stable throughout the exercise. This exercise is also great for your posture!
- Catch your breath, then lie down on your back to do the Hip Bridge also known as the Glute bridge. As the name implies, this mainly works your glutes, but I included this exercise to this circuit for another purpose. If you have been sitting all day or haven’t been stretching regularly, then you might be having chronic low back pain. Low back pain sometimes arises from tightness on your hip flexors – the muscles opposite your low back (i.e., in front of you) which connects from your pelvis to your spine. The Hip Bridge alleviates the tightness by putting a good stretch on the hip flexors. Also, it challenges your core muscles to stabilize the position of the exercise. The photo below shows a good variation of this exercise by reaching your arms up – this adds some stretch to your upper back and shoulders. When you reach this position, lower your hips without touching the mat then push your hips up again to bridge position. Do this for a minimum of 12 repetitions.
- Straighten your legs then roll over on your belly to do the Dry Swimming. This is a good Pilates exercise that you can add to your circuit to work out your back muscles and shoulders. Hold on to your water bottles and straighten both arms and legs. Make sure that you keep your abdominal muscles engaged by ‘sucking in‘ your belly button all throughout the exercise. Keep your gaze down on your mat as you reach both arms and legs up. And as the name implies, alternately lift and lower opposing arms and legs, as if you’re swimming on land. Count at least to 12 seconds for this exercise.
- End the circuit with a nice Front Plank. If you’re starting and haven’t done a plank before, hold it for at least 15 to 20 seconds. If you think you’re an expert on this exercise, hold the plank for at least 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Rest and stretch by doing the prayer position, kneeling with your feet relaxed and your hips almost touching your heels. Curl your spine down and reach your arms straight and forward. Relax your shoulders every time you exhale on slow breaths for 15 counts.
That makes one set of 10 easy body weight exercises for your home circuit workout. Rest for at least 30 seconds to 1 minute (or wait for the next commercial) before doing another set. Try doing 3 sets of this routine to reap maximum results. You can do this 2 to 3 times a week for around 2 weeks, gradually increasing the intensity, then you will be ready for a more intense circuit.