Circuit Training Workout: Burn 30 Percent More Calories

Circuit training is a great boredom buster. It offers more cardio benefits, and it will help you burn 30 percent more calories. Sculpt every muscle and blast fat with this step-by-step workout.

Why We Love Circuit Training

Circuit training is a great boredom buster: Moving quickly from one exercise to the next means your mind doesn’t have time to wander or tune out.
An all-strength circuit burns 30 percent more calories (about nine per minute!) than a typical weight workout and offers more cardio benefits.
A circuit that combines cardio and strength moves will blast fat and sculpt muscle. It can also burn up to 10 calories a minute.

How It Works

A circuit is a series of strength or cardio exercises (or both) repeated two or three times with little or no rest between sets. You’ll need a watch with a second hand, the cardio equipment of your choice, plus a set of 3- to 5-pound dumbbells. Find the workout that suits your needs below.

Putting It All Together

The right circuit for your goal

Goal 1: Melt fat, firm muscles

Do the strength moves for one minute each in the order listed, alternating one minute of cardio that matches your fitness level between each strength exercise. Complete the circuit three times through.
270-360 calories; 36 minutes

Goal 2: Sculpt all over

Do the strength moves for one minute each in the order listed, moving from one to the next without resting. Complete the circuit four times through with no rest in between.
210 calories; 24 minutes

Goal 3: Bust boredom, blast calories

Do five minutes each of low-, medium-, and high-intensity cardio (give yourself 10 seconds at the end of each interval before moving to the next activity). Perform the circuit twice, switching activities the second time through. To modify for beginners, stick with the lower-intensity activities; more advanced exercisers can do all high-intensity moves.
170-330 calories; 30 minutes

Low Side-Step

Targets: Butt, Legs

  • Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, arms at sides.
  • Step right foot a stride’s length to right side, then squat down, bending both knees and raising arms in front of chest.
  • Stand up, moving left foot toward right foot, hip-distance apart, and lower arms.
  • Continue side-stepping and squatting to right for 30 seconds, then side-step 30 seconds to left.



Kneeling Row

Targets: Back, Shoulders

  • Hold weight in right hand and kneel on right knee with left leg in front, left knee bent 90 degrees, foot flat on floor.
  • Lean forward from hips and extend right arm down, palm facing in (not shown).
  • Place left hand on top of left thigh.
  • Draw right elbow up toward ceiling, keeping arm close to right side.
  • After 30 seconds, switch leg and arm positions and repeat.


Static Lunge with a Twist

Targets: Butt, Legs, Core

  • Hold weight vertically in front of chest in both hands with elbows slightly bent, feet hip-distance apart.
  • Lunge forward with right leg, bending right knee 90 degrees (not shown).
  • Remain in lunge and twist to left.
  • Hold briefly, then twist to center.
  • Continue for 30 seconds.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

TIP: After each cardio move, rest for no more than 10 seconds between activities.


Plank Lift

Targets: Core, Legs, Chest

  • Begin facedown, balancing on elbows and toes with body in a straight line, abs tight.
  • Keeping legs straight, lift hips toward ceiling, forming an inverted V. Lower to start position. Continue lifting and lowering hips for 30 seconds, then hold the straight plank position for 30 seconds.


TIP: Organize all of your gear (weights, timer, jump rope if necessary) beforehand so you can move quickly from one exercise to the next.


Hand Walks

Targets: Chest, Shoulders, Arms, Core

  • Get into a full push-up position, abs tight, hands nearly touching.
  • Keeping arms straight but elbows relaxed, walk right hand 1 to 3 inches to right, then walk left hand 1 to 3 inches to left.
  • Bring right hand back to start, then left hand.
  • Continue walking hands to complete the set.

Advanced option: Walk your hands over a step bench while remaining in full push-up position.


Runner’s Squat

Targets: Butt, Legs, Shoulders

  • Holding 3- to 5-pound dumbbells, stand tall with feet hip-width apart.
  • Lift right heel behind you while bending elbows 90 degrees.
  • Bend left knee into a squat, raising right arm forward and left arm back. (To make it easier, touch back toes to floor.)
  • On the next rep, switch sides, lowering right leg.
  • Continue alternating legs as if you’re running in slow motion.



Cardio for Every Level

Low intensity, about 6 calories per minute

  • Walk, or march in place (3.0-3.5 mph; 0 percent incline)
  • Elliptical trainer (70-90 strides per minute; level 4-8)
  • Cycle (70-90 revolutions per minute; level 2-4)

Medium intensity, about 9 calories per minute

  • Walk (3.5-4.0 mph; 3-6 percent incline)
  • Jog (4.5-6.0 mph; 0 percent incline)
  • Climb up and down stairs at a moderate pace

High intensity, about 11 calories per minute

  • Jog/run (5.5-7.0 mph; 1-3 percent incline)
  • Elliptical (120-140 strides per minute; level 8-15)
  • Jump rope (100-120 revolutions per minute)