You don’t need weights to create effective circuit-training workouts for muscle building or weight loss. With or without any equipment, you can use high- and low-resistance exercises to build strength, improve cardio function, burn calories and get in shape for sports. Using common calisthenics, you can circuit train in the privacy of your own home.
Circuit training is a type of exercise format that consists of multiple, short sets of exercise. You may do the sets within in a certain amount of time or you may do a specific number of repetitions. Instead of stopping while you exercise, you take quick breaks between each exercise set to recover. Depending on your goals, you can use circuit training to increase muscle size, improve muscular endurance or burn calories by elevating your heart rate. Circuit training differs from interval training in that it incorporates exercise with less intensity and has shorter recovery periods between sets.
If your goal is to burn calories, rather than to build muscle, use low-resistance exercises, perform them longer and use quick repetitions. Low-resistance exercises include such options as jumping jacks, butt kicks, cross-body toe touches, burpees without a pushup, rope skipping, mountain climbers, running in place, squats, lunges, low box jumping, running stairs one at a time and high-step trunk rotations. Start with 30-second exercises if you’re a beginner, aiming for 60-second sets as you build strength. Sets that last longer than 60 seconds might require recovery periods of one minute or longer.
If your goal is to build muscle size with circuit training, perform high-resistance exercises and perform your repetitions slowly, using as much muscular effort as possible to perform the reps. Use an amount of intensity that doesn’t let you continue reps for more than 90 seconds, and keep track of the reps you perform each workout so you can increase your number each week as you build strength. Include pullups, chinups, pushups, chair and bench dips, burpees with a pushup, taking stairs two at time at a moderate speed, resistance band exercises and a variety of core exercises. Repeat each exercise three times during your workouts.
To improve your shape and target problem areas, you’ll need to burn fat and build muscle. Consider mixing a cardio and strength during one workout to achieve this. Alternate low- and high-resistance exercises to keep your heart rate high without taxing your muscles to the point where you need a long recovery after each exercise.
Consider simple, low-cost exercise equipment to increase your circuit training options. Effective choices include a jump rope, resistance bands, pullup bar, medicine or exercise ball, ab roller, rope ladder, plyo boxes and two chairs and a couch for dips. Before you start, lay out your equipment in such a way that you can pick up your next piece and move from exercise to exercise without having to take more than 30 seconds to start the next exercise.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.