Learn how to build a full-body workout circuit at home, with no equipment

Do you want to improve your fitness, but you’re not keen on going to a gym? Are you eager to build muscle and endurance, but don’t have any fitness equipment?

No problem! The only thing you need to get fit is a small space to exercise. And if you need a slightly bigger space? Head outside.

We’ll show you how to build a full-body workout circuit at home, with no equipment.

What Is Circuit Training?

Circuit training is a way to alternate bursts of cardiovascular (cardio) effort with strength training exercises.

Cardio raises your heart rate and keeps it high (how high depends on how hard you’re working). Walking, running, and working out on an elliptical are all examples of cardio. So are jumping jacks, burpees, and other jumping exercises.

Strength training, or resistance training, builds muscle. We’re used to thinking of strength training as needing weights or machines. In reality, all you need is your own body weight.

Combining cardio with strength training in a series of repeated efforts (a circuit) is a very efficient way to work out. You can achieve a healthy amount of exercise in a short amount of time.

Another benefit of circuit training is that you can do it anywhere. To start, you don’t need anything other than what’s on hand at home. You can also add weights or resistance bands to your circuit training.

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How to Create Your At-Home Exercise Circuit

Check with your doctor to be sure circuit training is right for you. Then, you can be as creative as you want with your circuit. Change the exercises each time or improvise as you go. The basic structure is simple:

  • Pick 3 cardio exercises and 3 strength exercises from the lists below to start.
  • Beginning with a cardio exercise, alternate your 6 exercises, doing each for 30 seconds.
  • It should take 3 minutes to get through a circuit.
  • Repeat 3 times, for a total of 9 minutes.

Beginner Exercise Circuit Ideas

These suggestions may work better for beginners. However, you can modify nearly any exercise to make it less or more difficult.

Cardio exercises

  • Jumping jacks.
  • Jogging in place.
  • Step-ups (using the bottom stair of a staircase).
  • Climbing stairs (any set of stairs will do).

Strength exercises

  • Modified plank holds or pushups (put your hands on a chair or on the ground, with knees down).
  • Regular squats (feet flat and hip width apart, bend your knees like you’re sitting onto a chair; keep your core tight).
  • Crunches or sit-ups.
  • Hip lifts (lying flat on your back in a bridge position, with feet flat on the floor, raise hips).
  • Side bends (standing with feet flat, reach tall and stretch to each side, engaging your oblique muscles).
  • Calf raises (with hands on a wall or chair, rise up onto your toes with both feet; lower heels to the ground).

Advanced Circuit Exercise Ideas

These exercises tend to be more advanced, either in intensity or because they require you to support more of your body weight.

Cardio exercises

  • Burpees (do a pushup, hop to bring your feet between your hands, jump up, hop back to plank position; repeat)
  • High knees (jog in place, lifting knees high).
  • Mountain climbers (hold a plank position and bring your knee to your nose; alternate knees in a quick hopping motion).
  • Jumping rope (you can practice this motion even without a rope).

Strength exercises

  • Full plank holds or pushups.
  • Tricep dips using a chair or the couch (grip edges of chair and scoot your hips off the chair, so you’re holding yourself up and feet are flat on ground; bend elbows to lower and lift your torso).
  • Hip lifts with one leg (bridge position on your back; lift one leg up toward ceiling and dip your hips).
  • Split squat (feet together, step back into a lunge; straighten and bend both knees simultaneously).
  • Calf raises on one leg (with one hand on a wall or chair, bend one knee and keep it behind you; rise up onto the toes of your standing leg, and then place your heel back on the ground).
  • Bicycle crunches (alternate touching opposite knee to opposite elbow while doing a crunch).

Remember to head outside for even more options. Use park benches, sets of stairs, monkey bars — anything is fair game. Have fun, be creative, and watch your fitness level increase.

To learn more about UPMC Sports Medicine or schedule an appointment, please call 1-855-937-7678 or visit our website.

Create a Circuit Home Workout, American Heart Association. Link.

10-Minute Workout Anywhere, American Heart Association. Link.

Dr. Jordan Metzl and Karen Barrow, The 9-Minute Strength Workout, The New York Times. Link.

About Sports Medicine

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