Updated: Oct 10
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With this bodyweight circuit, you’ll be able to keep fit and trim anywhere. The circuit can be adapted to accommodate a range of training facilities. For example, you could complete it at home or at your local park. And because the circuit is easily adjustable, you can use it as your main workout or bolt it onto the end of a bout of cardio.
Though this is billed as a bodyweight circuit, there’s no saying that you can’t add resistance if you want to make it more challenging One of the best and least disruptive ways to do this is by wearing a weighted vest. Donning a weighted vest reduces your power-to-weight ratio meaning you have to exert more with each rep.
Other simple ways of increasing the intensity include using resistance bands, holding dumbbells during certain exercises (dumbbell burpees are beasts!), or adding a designated resistance station. In the hints and tips section below, I outline a few other methods of modification.
Before we break open the bodyweight circuit, I’ve briefly outlined the key health and fitness benefits.
Bodyweight circuit benefits
The chief benefit of this bodyweight circuit is enhanced endurance in the major muscle groups. Characterised as the ability to sustain output for protracted periods, muscle endurance is important as it enables us to sustain greater output before fatigue sets in. Those with high levels of muscular endurance can get more out of each workout.
In addition to developing muscular endurance, this circuit also burns fat. Bodyweight exercises such as plyometric jump squats, burpees, and skipping activate a broad range of muscles. (For example, burpees involve all the muscles of the legs – calves, soleus, quads, hamstrings and glutes – including the lower back, core, chest, shoulders and triceps.)
Powering all this muscle engagement serves to stimulate the cardiovascular system. Together, these outcomes facilitate the increased metabolization of fat which over time can improve body composition.
Circuit health & fitness benefits summarised
So, if you find a regular slot in your weekly training routine for this bodyweight circuit, here are some of the health and fitness benefits you could bag.
Improved muscle endurance
Improved body composition
General fitness conditioning
Increased strength (if you use additional resistance equipment – weighted vest, resistance bands, and dumbbells)
How to do this bodyweight circuit
To maximise performance through the circuit and reduce injury risk, it’s wise to warm up first. Donald Chu, author of Jumping Into Plyometrics, states that we should always ‘devote’ a minimum of ‘10 minutes’ to preparing the body for exercise. Warm-ups, Chu observes, can start with walking and progress into skipping.’ As the intensity increases and your core and muscle temperature rise, begin progressing through a series of exercises that feature in the circuit.
Now that you’re warm, you’re ready to start the circuit. Here’s how it works.
The exercises that comprise the circuit have been organised into two distinctly different formats. In addition to providing you with more training options, the objective of each format tests your physicality in different ways.
For example, the first format consists of the classic circular circuit configuration. Exercises are arranged in a loop that takes between 6 and 12 minutes to circumnavigate. Your aim, after selecting the difficulty level of choice, is to complete the stipulated number of laps.
Level 1: Beginner = 3 Laps @ 30-second per station
Level 2: Intermediate = 4 Laps @ 45-second per station
Level 3: Advanced = 6 Laps @ 1-minute per station
The intensity of the circular circuit remains consistent throughout. Because the number of laps and station duration is fixed, there’s no urgency. Thus, the focus should be on performance and technical proficiency.
Format two, in contrast, is a high-octane linear circuit. The exercises are arranged into a list – much like a to-do list. And like a to-do, the aim of the game is to tick off all the exercises on the list in the shortest time possible. From start to finish you should aim to sustain near-maximal output while keeping rest to a minimum.
When you’ve completed the circuit, record your time as this can be used as a benchmark to compete against next time. Also, documenting your time can provide a means of monitoring fitness progression.
Bodyweight circuit key points
Heed Chu’s advice and devote 10 minutes to warming up before starting the circuit. If you forgot to bring a warm-up, here’s one you can use: 2 min mobility exercises (joint rotations/extensions/flexions and knee bends, bounces and jumps) → 5 min skipping (running or rowing) → 1 up to 10 reps air squats into press-ups → 3 min skipping → Start the circuit!
Select the circuit format of choice. To recap, format one is a circular configuration. The number of laps and station duration are pre-set in accordance with the difficulty level. Format two is a fitness challenge. Exercises are organised in a list. The objective is to tick off all the exercises in the shortest time possible.
Circuit hints and tips
As well as repeating throughout the circuit, the exercises have been kept simple not because of a lack of imagination on my part, but to make the workout more accessible to a wider audience. I could’ve jazzed things up a bit by popping in ‘spotty dogs,’ ‘geckos’ and the like. The problem is this exotic zoo of exercises will need explaining and, as a lot of beginners do not know what a gecko press-up is, let alone how to perform it, part of the circuit would be off limits – at least until the techniques are safely mastered.
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As it is, most people know how to perform press-ups, squat jumps, and burpees. Thus, they can get stuck straight into the workout without needing a crash course in a new exercise. If, however, you’d like to make the circuit more complicated, feel free to replace any of the bodyweight movements.
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The difficulty levels are open to negotiation. A beginner may regard three laps at 30 seconds per station as a bit beneath their current physicality. This being the case, you could either stick to the original number of laps and extend the station timings (45 seconds or one minute) or vice versa: more laps same timings.
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Another way of manipulating the intensity is by reducing or increasing the rest period. Typically, once you start a circular circuit, you won’t stop to rest until after completing the full lap. If you need to rest between stations, do so. Of course, because the objective of the linear circuit is to achieve the best time possible, little to no rest should be taken. Again, if you must rest do so. Either way, rest or no rest, once you establish a time, this will provide you with a benchmark to compete against the next time do you the circuit.
Relevant: Check out the Best Bodyweight Exercises
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About Adam Priest –
A former Royal Marines Commando, Adam Priest is a content writer, college lecturer, and health and wellbeing practitioner. He is also a fitness author and contributor to other websites. Connect with Adam via LinkedIn or firstname.lastname@example.org.