Beginner Bodyweight Circuit Workout

You’ve decided to get into shape, but you’re not ready for the gym. All good. We’ve got you covered!

An exercise program doesn’t have to restrict you to 4 walls and weight plates. Take a look around you right now. Can you spot anything that will get your heart pumping using your bodyweight? I did this when travelling around Europe. That’s me up there getting my push-ups on, in the German Alps.

Time and a lack of confidence tend to be the biggest reasons why people put off going to the gym. Other folks just don’t enjoy the environment of commercial gyms. I’m a strong believer in using all available tools to maximise your results. However, I too go through stages of mixing up where I train and what sort of exercises I do. Check out my post on variety in training.

Fortunately, bodyweight circuit training is a fantastic supplement to get into shape without going to the gym. You can burn fat and lose weight without pounding the pavement with repetitive steady state cardio. In fact, steady state cardio has been proven to be ineffective for weight loss. A study conducted by UNSW examined the changes in body composition in 45 overweight women for 15 weeks. The women were divided into two groups. Group one cycled non-stop for 40 minutes. Group two used interval training, cycling hard for 8 seconds and resting for 12 seconds for a total time of 20 minutes. Those who conducted interval training lost three times more body fat.

By using the same method, and the addition of resistance training and a solid diet can be the same as throwing rocket fuel onto a fire.

Why Bodyweight Circuits

What makes bodyweight circuits work so well?

Almost every exercise that you do uses multiple muscles, gets your blood pumping, and burns loads of calories. Try lying face down on the ground and then standing up. How did it feel doing your first burpee? Circuit training involves doing multiple sets of resistance exercises, generally for a given time or repetition without any rest.

There is a continuous rate of effort throughout the program which keeps your blood pumping, burning calories and boosts your metabolism. While you are sleeping the body starts repairing any “damage” done to the muscles from activities during the day. Essentially you’re getting more bang for your buck. Coach Poliquin highlights the main effects of cardio training here.

I’m going to take you through a basic workout that you can do at home, at the park, at your mate’s place, on a mountain… you get the drift. As always, check with your doctor before starting any physical training including this – proceed at your own risk.

Beginner Bodyweight Workout

Here is a basic bodyweight circuit. In a circuit routine, you are to complete each exercise on the list without a break, unless it’s specified. Your mission is to complete one full circuit with no breaks. If this is a piece of cake, go for a second or even a third. The goal is to complete three full circuits using perfect form. Getting fatigued and tired is inevitable doing bodyweight circuits. So if you need to stop and take a breather, that’s cool, stop and take five deep breaths and start again. It’s important to do each repetition using perfect form to get the most out of each workout.  If you are blitzing through each set, try reducing your rest period or add some more reps into the mix. This will give you something to work towards.

Warm-up before you start – ALWAYS warm up. You will greatly reduce the likelihood of sustaining any serious injuries if you get your blood pumping and muscles moving through the motions before you start the workout. It’s important to take your muscles, tendons, and ligaments through the range of motion that you will be performing during the workout. The objective is to get the blood flowing, not completely tire yourself out.

The workout

Here is a quick list of the program so you can write it down – 

  • 5 Glute Bridge with a 3-second hold
  • 10 Push-ups (on knees or toes)
  • 10  Static lunges (each leg)
  • 20-second plank
  • 20 Frog hops
  • 10 Bent over bag rows

This program is designed to get your hips and shoulders mobile again. If you spend a lot of time sitting on your bum, this workout is a perfect start for you.

After each workout spend a few minutes stretching as it promotes blood flow and lengthens contracted muscles.

How to

Glute Bridge – Start by lying on your back with your hands either by your side or under your bum (palms facing down). Keep your hands and feet pressed firmly to the floor. Now, thrust your hips to the sky squeezing your bum at the top of the movement for three seconds. Make sure that your back is straight from your shoulders to your hips. Drop your hips back down, and that is one repetition.

If you want to make this harder, lift one foot off the ground when you perform the movement so that your only using one leg each time as this makes the glutes work harder. You can even use a heavy backpack across your hips for more resistance.

Push-ups – These can be done either on your knees or toes. If either of these is too hard, start with a wall press. It’s the same movement except you’re standing up and pushing against the wall.

Static Lunge – If you’re finding it hard to balance as you do each movement, make sure your stance is nice a wide. If you find yourself walking on a tightrope, you’re going to have trouble staying balanced. If this doesn’t help, then use the support of a broom or a wall. Make sure that your back is straight and you’re leading with your hips. The knee should just hover over the ground and not touch it.

Plank – This can either be done with your hands or elbows on the ground. If either of these is hard, drop your knees to the ground and work your way up to lifting them off the ground.

Frog hops – Make sure you keep your eyes looking towards the horizon and your chest up. You want to your feet to be light on the ground so try not to spend too much time between each hop.

Bent-over Row – You can use anything that provides resistance in this movement. If you don’t have a chair or bench to lean on, you can use the wall or a tree or anything that allows you to rest your non-working arm.

Frequency

Do the bodyweight workout every other day as you’re starting out. Remember, your body builds muscle while you sleep, so we need to make sure that there is enough time for recovery. I like to mix things up by doing interval training on the days that I don’t do resistance training.

As a result of training hard, you’re going to need to make your fuel and sleep are up to scratch. We encourage folks to eat natural, unprocessed foods. That makes me a massive fan of the Paleo Diet because it provides us with a good foundation to start from. You can find an in-depth guide to the Paleo Diet in my old school weight loss post. Your diet makes up 90% of your progress, so get it right from day one.

Help me Help you

Leave a comment and share your experience, and your fitness level (just starting out or fitness guru and everything in between). As you hit 3 full rounds, let us know how long it took.

If you blitzed through this routine, stay tuned for the advanced bodyweight circuit. It’s a doozy!

– Sean

 

Written by Sean Odisho