Do you have any workouts that you think you should do? Any exercises that are “musts” on your list?
And maybe you’re really not sure whether you even like them … or if they actually work.
Sometimes we get caught in ruts or follow “bro science” (i.e., gym legends and lore) about the right way to do things.
The truth is that, with a little creativity, you can get a fantastic, effective workout wherever you are. And even better, you can accomplish it with no equipment, in only a few minutes.
Right now, I’m expecting a little skepticism: Are bodyweight exercises really as effective as working out with weights?
Let’s answer that question, and then we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of the bodyweight cardio circuit workout that will have you burning fat, fast.
Fat-Blasting Bodyweight Cardio Circuit
As I already mentioned, the primary benefit of bodyweight exercises is their convenience.
Since your body is the main source of resistance, you can literally do these workouts anywhere without having to rely on any specialized equipment.
But there is an additional bonus to bodyweight workouts. They’re incredibly functional – meaning that they readily mimic movements that you perform in your daily routine.
Why does that matter?
By strengthening movement patterns that you do repeatedly on a regular basis, you improve your ability to keep up with the demands of your day-to-day life.
That means your workout can offer benefits that extend far outside of the gym. In fact, this type of training has even been shown to reduce the risk of injury and improve the overall mobility of patients recovering from strokes (1).
Since the majority of bodyweight exercises are compound movements – requiring several major muscle groups to work together – your body will have to burn through a huge number of calories to keep you moving.
The result is that you lose body fat and increase muscle development – all at the same time (2).
By getting all of that equipment out of your way, it’s also easy to chain one exercise into the next, creating a circuit.
Intensity is the Key
So now, with very little extra planning, this bodyweight cardio circuit enters the highly effective realm of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
Although there are numerous forms of HIIT, the basic idea is this: work out as hard as you can for a brief period, and then recover for a short while at a lower intensity. Repeat.
This approach offers a ton of perks, including all of the body composition and health benefits of most exercise routines.
The key difference is that HIIT can get all that done in about half the time (3).
With this bodyweight cardio routine, you’re going to burn through plenty of calories, strengthen your muscles, and help to develop movements that you depend on regularly.
Better yet, you can do all of that in just about 10 minutes, with no gear.
Try This Bodyweight Cardio Circuit
So, let’s get down to the workout. To start, perform each exercise as fast as you can with good form for 30 seconds, with no rest between each.
At the end of the 4-exercise circuit, recover for two minutes. But instead of just collapsing to the floor during this break, keep moving: walking, jogging, whatever, but at a lower intensity than the rest of the routine.
After the break, you’ll repeat the entire routine 3 more times.
These are the exercises involved:
1) Jumping Jacks
Just like in gym class, stand up straight with your arms at your sides and your feet about shoulder-width apart. Jump to simultaneously bring your hands up and over your hand while widening your stance. Jump again and return both your hands and feet to their starting position.
2) Mountain Climber
Also called mountain climbers or sprint-start shuffles, this exercise begins in the push-up position. Plant your hands directly under your shoulders with your legs extended behind you. Bring your right knee to your chest and, without letting your toe touch the ground under your torso, return to the starting position. Repeat with your left leg.
Stay in the push-up position after the tread climbers. Perform a push-up. At the top of the movement, jump your feet forward and plant them near your hands, so you’re in squat position. Stand up straight, jumping when you’re upright. As soon as you land, shoot your feet out behind you to return to the push-up position. Repeat.
4) Quick Steps
You need a small step for this exercise, whether it’s actually part of a staircase or just a sturdy surface that stands no higher than 12 inches. Stand in front of the step and quickly bring your right foot up, followed by your left. Step your right foot back onto the floor, then your left. Repeat.
Workout Cheat Sheet
All chained together, your workout will look like this:
- Jumping Jacks (30 seconds)
- Tread Climber (30 seconds)
- Burpees (30 seconds)
- Quick Steps (30 seconds)
- Recover (2 minutes)
Repeat 3 times
In total, the workout should take about 12 minutes.
The video below is a little bit old, but if you want to see the exercises/workout in action, have a look.
Make sure you warm up and cool down thoroughly before and after this workout – your muscles need to be warm to hit the exercises with intensity, and your cardiovascular system will appreciate it if you keep moving around to bring your heart rate back to normal before you hit the shower.
Ramp it Up
Now, as it stands, this workout is challenging. But it’s possible that you might want to make it even harder. To do that, you have a few options.
First, you could increase the amount of time you perform each exercise. Instead of working for 30 seconds, progress to 45 seconds or even a full minute.
You can also reduce your recovery time from 2 minutes to 90 seconds, or even just 1 minute.
How to Use This Circuit
This bodyweight cardio circuit can serve any number of purposes in your larger routine.
Because it’s so fast and convenient, it makes a terrific workout to keep you on-track while you’re traveling or staying in hotel rooms.
But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a part of your regular workout program. You could do it on days between your strength-training workouts, as a a “finisher” after another workout, or as a stand-alone weekly challenge.
By linking big, compound movements together into a fast-moving circuit, you will improve your strength, endurance and range-of-motion in just a few minutes. All while giving your metabolism a considerable boost.
Want More Equipment-Free Workouts?
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Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.