Your entire life doesn’t need to revolve around shedding pounds.
By fitting in intense but quick bouts of circuit training, you’ll be able to take your physique to the next level.
If you’re short on time, yet big on lean ambitions, then circuits should be your weapons of choice.
In fact, they’re so effective that studies in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found doing them for eight weeks made people lose more fat than traditional sets, all while still gaining more muscle and strength. The real kicker is that you only have to do one set on each exercise.
Although this runs contrary to reason, research in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that doing one set on a circuit burnt as many calories 72 hours after the workout as doing three sets did.
The exercises below can be put into a 15-minute circuit workout.
Use them to sharpen up your cuts and increase your fitness in record time.
Works: shoulders, chest, triceps, abs
- Lie prone on the ground. Support your body with the balls of your feet and have your hands narrower than shoulder-width apart. Have a training partner place a weight plate on your back.
- Bend your elbows to lower yourself to the floor then straighten them to return to the start position.
Adding weight to a classic push-up recruits more muscle fibers to intensify the movement.
Each rep will be much harder than the last. You may not be able to do as many of these as traditional push ups, but your strength and endurance will be challenged in a whole new way.
Works: biceps, forearms, lats
- Grab the parallel handles of a chin-up station, so your palms face each other. Hang with straight arms.
- Bend your elbows until your chin crosses the bar, then lower to the start position.
This exercise helps to enhance posture and works the lower trapezius (upper back muscle) much more than a regular-grip chin-up. It also places less stress on the shoulder as both the forearm and shoulder stay in a ‘normal’ position.
Works: glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, abs
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart in front of a bench. Rest a barbell on the backs of your shoulders.
- Bend your hips and knees to lower yourself towards the bench. Stop when your glutes rest on it and straighten your legs to the start position.
Bench squats focus mainly on the lower body and can help to sharpen your form if you’ve recently upped your lifting weight. Checking yourself out in a mirror can help you check you’re doing it right. The exercise can aid poor flexibility and range of motion.
Lying hamstring ball curl
Works: hamstrings, abs
- Lie supine on the floor with your calves resting on a Swiss ball and your arms outstretched.
- Squeeze your glutes and bend your knees to raise your hips off the floor and roll the ball towards your backside. Straighten your legs to roll the ball away from you.
These curls will give you hamstrings of steel as well as training your stability. It will also toughen your anterior-cruciate ligaments (ACLs) and lower risk of injury when you bend your knees.
The exercise also strengthens the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. And by engaging your core for stability, you get the added benefits of a midsection sculpt.
Standing dumbbell shoulder press
Muscles: shoulders, abs
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and hoist them up so they’re on either side of your head.
- Straighten your arms to push the weights above your head. Lower back to the start.
Standing to perform this exercise engages more core muscles to maintain balance and control the weight.
The use of dumbbells forces each arm to work independently, meaning your weaker arm is forced to press the entire weight, as well as increasing your range of motion. You can also add twists in to add variety and challenge.
Abs wheel rollout
Works: abs, shoulders, lower back
- Kneel in front of an abs wheel and place your hands on the handles.
- Roll the wheel forward, extending your body as far as you can without letting your hips sag. Pause for two seconds, then reverse the move to return to the start.
This exercise wheel is for core strengthening exercises as these muscles need to work together, making them work together as a group. It’s also a useful tool if you’re looking to jazz up your routine.
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