If you haven’t had circuit training FOMO, you’re about to! Because not only is circuit training a fun, fast-paced way to make healthy happen, it also makes squeezing your cardio AND resistance training into a one hour-long gym visit possible for those with a busy schedule (see ya later, boring cardio machine). In fact, thanks to the combo of strength and endurance movements, you are building muscle, burning calories, while spiking your metabolism to help with fat loss and getting in shape!
Circuit training can be a great full-body workout, but in order to get the full benefits (there’s a lot of them), it’s important to incorporate both strength and cardio movements into the session—if you have questions, ask a personal trainer or coach for help (and keep reading 😉).
30-Minute Full-Body Circuit Workout
Muscle Groups: Upper Body, Lower Body, Core
Equipment Needed: Pair or Pairs of Dumbbells (for different weights), Kettlebell, TRX Straps (optional), Resistance Band, Bench or Box, Yoga Mat
Fitness Level: Beginner to Advanced
Directions: This full-body circuit workout is the perfect combination of strength training and cardio—all in one session! And that’s not even the best part. This circuit training workout routine will build muscle and burn calories throughout your entire body.
You’ll start with a quick warmup routine to get each muscle group ready for the activities ahead, followed by four different circuits. Complete all reps of each exercise and move to the next movement, similar to a “superset.” Aim to take a minimal rest period in between stations in order keep the intensity up, but not too little that you are breathless or fatigued for the sets and reps to come. Repeat as many rounds (sets) as listed. Take a 60–90 second break in between sets in order to give yourself a moment to recover. The goal is to take as minimal rest as possible, while still being able to perform each rep with proper form and strength.
Since this workout incorporates strength training exercises, it makes sense that we would want to use some sort of weight—whether it be free weights, machines, or resistance bands. In fact for this workout, we recommended using a combination of free weights (dumbbells and kettlebells) and resistance bands for exercises that call for weights. If you are a beginner and you don’t feel comfortable with weights yet, that’s OK. Complete each exercise with bodyweight and check for optional modifications. If you’re more advanced and have been weight training for some time, go ahead and use heavy weight, just make sure that you’re not going overboard. You don’t want that to prevent you from getting the most out of each rep!
And remember: This full-body circuit training workout is NOT a race, and it’s not based on time. Put everything you have into each rep and take your time. The best way to get hurt during a weight training workout is to use too much weight or to speed through each rep! If you are uncomfortable performing any of these movements, stop and consult a personal trainer or coach first.
Out of all of the 30-minute workouts we’ve seen, this is one of our favorites and we think it will be for you, too—but of course we’re a little biased. Let’s get to it!
- Foam Roll Spine (30 seconds)
- Foam Roll Quads (30 seconds)
No treadmill here!
Circuit 1 – 5 Rounds
Get ready to work each major muscle group in your upper body with every rep of these two exercises! For this circuit, we’ll alternate between a single arm row and a single arm dumbbell press—two unilateral exercises. Unilateral exercises engage primarily one side of your body to make sure your left and right sides are equally as strong, and that you avoid developing a “dominant side.”
For equipment, you’ll need one dumbbell and a TRX strap system. If you don’t have access to TRX straps, you can substitute them with a dumbbell instead.
TRX Single Arm Row – 10 reps (each arm)
Muscles worked: Upper and Lower Back, Shoulders, and Core
- Face the anchor point with your feet shoulder-width apart on the floor. Hold both handles together in one hand and rest your other hand on your hip or at your side.
- Walk your feet forward, so that you are leaning back on the strap with a straight arm. Your body should form an angle of roughly 45 degrees with the floor. (Note: the further you walk your feet out, the harder the exercise gets.)
- Keeping your shoulders blades engaged and abs tight, pull yourself up until your pulling hand is in at your chest.
- Lower back down with control to start position and repeat.
OR Single Arm Dumbbell Row:
- Place your left leg on a bench (if you have one), so that your knee and shin are resting on the pad and your left foot is hanging off the end. The palm of your left hand should also be flat on the bench somewhere in front of your knee. Check to see that your knee is under your hips, and that your hand is under your shoulder.
- Pick up the dumbbell with your right hand and extend your arm towards the floor, being sure to keep your shoulders back and a straight spine. Place your right foot wherever feels comfortable and helps with your balance.
- Row the dumbbell up towards your chest, without twisting your torso or rotating your body. Focus on driving your elbow towards the ceiling and pinching your shoulder blades for maximum effect.
- Return to the starting position and repeat.
Single-Arm Dumbbell Overhead Press – 10 reps (each arm)
Muscles worked: Chest, Triceps, Biceps, Shoulders, Core
- In standing position, place your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell just outside your shoulder with your palms facing inward to form an angle of 90 degrees.
- Tighten your core and press the weight up over head until your arm is straight and bicep by your ear.
- Return to starting position at shoulder height.
Circuit 2 – 3 Rounds
These next two exercises will target each muscle in your lower body, but since they’re both considered a compound exercise, they will incorporate muscles across your entire body. (See, we meant it when we called this a full-body circuit workout.)
For the first exercise, you will need a sturdy bench or box with the option to use a kettlebell or dumbbell. The second exercise calls for only a kettlebell!
Goblet Step Ups – 12 reps (each leg)
Muscles worked: Glutes, Hamstrings, Hips, Calves, Ankles, Outer Thighs
- Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell under your chin with both your left and right hand. Stand in front of a bench with your feet hip-width apart.
- Place your right foot onto the bench first, followed by your left foot. Instead of placing your left foot on the bench, continue the motion by driving your left knee up into the air. (Tip: place feet all the way on the bench—heels and all—for extra stability.)
- Without placing it on the bench, bring your left foot down to the ground, followed by your right foot. You should be standing with both feet on the ground in front of the bench again.
- Step your right foot up again first and repeat the rest of the reps for your right leg, then switch so that your left foot steps up first for your left leg and your right leg drives into the air.
Modifications: If you’re finding it hard to balance, try this movement using only bodyweight. If that still doesn’t help, simply step up and eliminate the knee drive.
Kettlebell Swings – 15 reps
Muscles worked: Shoulders, Back, Chest, Quads, Hips, Hamstrings, Glutes, Abs
- Stand with your feet hip-width or shoulder-width apart and place the kettlebell on the floor in front of your feet.
- Hinge at the hips into a squat position to grab the kettlebell with both hands—don’t tip your head forward. Push your hips backwards and keep your torso upright. Your arms and wrists should be straight, with a slight bend in the elbows.
- Bring the kettlebell back through your legs and swing it up to shoulder height, being sure to use the momentum from your hips and legs, not your arms or back. Keep a slight bend in your knees and elbows throughout.
- With control, let the kettlebell fall back between your legs, but don’t set it down on the ground. Repeat by going into the next rep to use momentum as power.
Tip: Have more questions about the kettlebell swing? Check out this article on how to master the kettlebell swing.
Circuit 3 – 3 Rounds
These two stations are all about… your core! Beginners and new gym-goers often times resort to basic bodyweight exercises like sit-ups and crunches, but you won’t find those here. We’ll be doing two core exercises that will blast your abs, but work other important muscles, too.
For equipment, you’ll need a resistance band and most likely a mat—because is there a single thing worse than knees, elbows, and palms of your hands digging painfully into the hard ground? You’ll thank us later.
Anti-Rotation Presses in Lunge Position – 15 reps (each side)
Muscles worked: Core, Back, Glutes, Hips
- Anchor a resistance band to something sturdy, 2-3 feet from the ground. Stand so that the anchor point is directly to your left with your feet hip-width apart.
- Grab the band with both hands, and get into a split squat stance with your left leg back and your right knee forward. Both knees should form angles of 90 degrees, and your left knee should be hovering a few inches from the ground.
- Press the band straight out in front of you without twisting or rotating your torso—don’t tip to one side either! Your head, shoulders, hips, and knees should point straight ahead in a line. Don’t let your front knee go past your toes.
- Return your hands to your chest.
- Repeat all reps on this side, then face the opposite direction with your right knee back and left knee forward.
Plank to Pushup – 6 reps (each arm)
Muscles worked: Core, Shoulders, Arms, Wrists
- Start in a plank position on your forearms and toes with your feet shoulder-width apart for stability. (Tip: to make this harder, place your feet hip-width apart.)
- Press up with your right hand first, followed by your left hand, to come into high plank position with your palms on the floor (also like you’re about to do some push-ups). Lower yourself down onto your right forearm, followed by your left.
- Repeat all reps by pressing up and lowering down with your right arm, and then switch to lead with your left arm next.
Circuit 4 – 4 Rounds
For the final circuit, we’re going to ramp up the intensity to increase your heart rate and get your heart pumping with… burpees! Before you roll your eyes at us, let us tell you that bodyweight exercises like burpees can double as a sneaky form of cardio and endurance, and they can also be quite the calorie-blaster—so long treadmill! Use that little bit of energy you have left in the tank to give it your all. You’re almost to the end, you got this!
Burpees – AMRAP (as many reps as possible) in 30 seconds / 30 second rest period
- Start in standing position with your feet about shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in your knees.
- Lower your hands to the floor in front of you, about shoulder-width apart.
- Using your hands to support you, jump your feet back so that you’re on your hands and toes, like you’re about to crank out some push-ups—but don’t worry, you only have to do one!
- Complete one push-up and jump your feet back near your hands.
- Stand up and jump into the air as you reach your arms over your head.
- Land with your knees bent, and go directly into your next rep.
Modifications: Remove the push-ups from the burpees, and just jump your feet backwards and then right back to your hands. You also have the option to remove the jump completely; lower down to the ground and step your feet back, and come into standing and repeat!
And that’s it! Great job.
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