With the weather getting colder outside, it may feel like it's time to head back indoors to work out. Whether you prefer to exercise at a gym, or within the comfort and convenience of your own home, the indoor cardio circuit described below can help to strengthen just about all of your major muscle groups.
Not only does circuit training boost strength it can also play a role in improving cardiovascular function, injury prevention, and rehabilitation, in sports conditioning, and can enhance mobility and flexibility.
Circuits happen to be one of the most calorie-burning workouts, causing a temporary boost in your metabolism as your heart and muscles recover for up to 24 hours afterward (this is called the "afterburn effect").
Benefits of Circuit Workouts
Circuit training is a type of workout format that involves completing alternating exercises.
Usually, the most effective circuits incorporate at least several full-body exercises, this way you're strengthening multiple parts of your body within one workout — such as your back, legs, core, and arms.
The unique thing about circuit workouts compared to traditional weight lifting sessions is that there's minimal rest between exercises. This keeps your heart rate up, serving as a cardio workout in addition to a strength-training workout.
The fast-paced nature of the circuit allows you to build stamina and boosts calorie-burning while also toning your muscles.
Types of Circuit Workouts:
It's possible to do circuit training at the gym if you prefer using weight machines, however, you can also do them at home (or even outdoors) using just your own bodyweight or other minimal equipment, such as dumbbells.
This makes circuit workouts very convenient, plus they're versatile considering there are endless ways to switch up the exercises you include. You don't need a lot of space to do a circuit, just a small open area where you can move around a bit.
There are a few different formats that circuit workouts follow:
Timed Circuit — you keep doing an exercise for a set time period, usually 30 to 60 seconds. Then you rest for the same amount of time, before moving to the next exercise. Typically this involves doing 30 seconds of exercise and 30 seconds of rest on repeat.
Competition Circuit — you push yourself to see how many repetitions you can do in the set time period, usually 30 to 60 seconds.
Repetition Circuit — you take as much time as required to complete a certain number of reps, for example, 10 to 20 pushups, then you rest for 30 seconds and start the next exercise.
Indoor Cardio Circuit To Do At Home (Or Anywhere Else)
Circuit workouts typically last about 25 to 45 minutes, depending on how many circuits you complete.
This might seem like a short workout, but remember that you're moving quickly from one exercise to the next with little rest, so you'll feel the effects even though your workouts may be shorter than you're used to. Essentially, circuits give you maximum results in minimum time.
To warm up prior to your workout, start by doing some light dynamic stretches, such as leg and arm circles, toe touches, and marching in place. The idea is to boost circulation and warm up your muscles while moving your body and stretching gently, rather than holding static stretches.
Below is an example of an effective, full-body circuit workout done in the repetition format.
Complete the following bodyweight exercises back to back, with no more than 30 to 45 seconds of rest in between (note: if you want to increase the difficulty, you can hold weights or medicine balls while doing these exercises):
1. Jump Rope (Or Jumping Jacks): 60 seconds.
Tip: When jumping rope, try to jump on the balls of your feet, don't jump too high, focus on breathing and landing softly, and try not to swing your arms too widely.
2. Squat Jumps: 10 to 20 repetitions (depending on your fitness level)
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Start by doing a regular squat, bending at your knees, and sitting back in an imaginary chair while keeping your spine elongated.
Engage your core as you lower, and after lowering down, jump up explosively, then repeat.
3. Standard or Modified Push-ups: 10 to 15 reps
Tip: Keep your hands directly under your shoulders and engage your core so your stomach doesn't droop down.
If regular push-ups are too tough, place your knees on the floor (use a blanket or padded mat if it's more comfortable).
4. Forward Lunges: 15 to 20 reps on each side.
Start standing with feet together, then step one foot forward and bend your knee until your leg reaches a 90-degree angle. Keep your front foot above your angle.
Return to stand with feet together and repeat with the other leg.
5. Abdominal Crunches: 20 to 30 repetitions
Tip: Lie down on your back with feet on the floor, hip-width apart with bent knees.
Place your arms crossed across your chest. Contract your abs as you lift your shoulders/upper body off the ground.
Keep your neck relaxed and if it feels better, support the back of your neck with your hands.
6. Glute Bridges: 10 to 15 reps
Laying on your back, bend your knees, and place your feet under your ankles. Engage your core and buttocks as you push your feet into the floor and lips your hips in the air.
When hips are lifted as high as possible, hold for a couple of seconds, then lower back down and repeat. Keep your knees close together rather than letting them open out.
After you complete the circuit of all 6 exercises above, rest for 3 minutes. Then complete another circuit round, or even two more, depending on your fitness level.
Be sure to stretch afterward for 5 to 10 minutes to improve recovery and mobility. This is a good time to do static stretches like butterfly pose, forward folds, other yoga poses, etc.
Once you've mastered the circuit above, consider varying your workout to challenge your muscles by incorporating other exercises, such as:
Crunches on a Swiss ball