Beginner Body Weight Workout: Burn Fat, Build Muscle

So you want to get in shape, but you have no gym membership.

That’s fine, screw gyms!

They’re loaded with chumps, meatheads, pushy salesmen, and people who suck at working out.  (If you DO go to a gym, here’s how to make sure you DON’T suck at working out).  Luckily, you can burn fat, build muscle, and get a great workout using just your body weight.  Learn why cardio is one of the least efficient methods of burning calories, and how you can get a lot done in a little bit of time.  By doing body weight circuits, where you complete one exercise right after the other without stopping, you’re both building muscle and getting a cardiovascular workout.

Why Body Weight Circuits Kick Ass

What makes body weight circuits work so well? Every exercise involved utilizes multiple muscle groups, gets your heart rate pumping, and burns tons of calories.  Check out this interview from Jason Ferruggia and Alwyn Cosgrove, two fitness gurus whose opinions and research I highly respect.  Essentially, circuit weight training burns more calories than interval training, which burns WAY more calories than steady cardio.  Essentially, if you’re trying to lose weight, spending hours doing cardio on a treadmill is a really crappy use of your time.

I’m going to take you through a basic workout today that can be completed in your house, apartment, out at a park, in your parents’ basement, wherever.  As always, make sure you are cleared by your personal physician for physical activity before attempting these exercises.    Proceed at your own risk!

Beginner Body Weight Workout

This is a basic body weight circuit. In a circuit routine, you’ll do each exercise in succession without a break in between (if you’re able).  Once you’ve finished all exercises in the circuit, you do it again.  If you’re still able after the 2nd run through, go for a third.  Because all of these exercises come one after another, you’re bound to get tired.  It’s better to stop and take a break than to do an exercise incorrectly.  If you can’t do all three circuits without stopping, that gives you something to build towards.

Before you start, WARM UP – Never ever ever ever forget to warm up.  Make sure to get your heart rate pumping and get your muscles warm or you’re just asking for injury.  If you’re strapped for time, cut short your workout, not your warm up.  You can run in place, jump rope, do a few push ups, pedal on a stationary bike, jog up and down your stairs, etc.  Don’t wear yourself out completely, but get your heart rate elevated and little bit of sweat never hurt anybody.  After the warm up, here is exactly what you need to do:

Beginner Body Weight Circuit Video

And so you can write it down, here is the write up for the exercise routine.

  • 20 body weight squats
  • 10 push ups
  • 20 walking lunges
  • 10 dumbbell rows (using a gallon milk jug)
  • 15 second plank
  • 30 Jumping Jacks

After you’ve completed your workout, make sure you stretch. All of your muscles have been contracted from lifting and need to be stretched back out and rebuilt.

For either the body weight squats or lunges, if you can’t do them properly yet, it’s okay to put your hand on a support to keep your balance.

For the body weight squats, think of it like sitting back into a chair. If you can sit down onto a chair, and then stand immediately right back up without having to lean forward, you are in balance.

For the lunges, keep your eyes ahead and your upper body completely vertical. I had a slight bend at times in the video due to trying to exercise and explain at the same time.

I used a milk jug for my dumbbell, but you can use whatever is heavy enough for you. Find something that is challenging to lift 10 times in a row.

Do this routine 2-3 times a week, but never on consecutive days.  You don’t build muscle when you’re exercising, you build muscle when you’re resting.  Generally I follow a pattern of strength training on one day, then 20 minutes of interval training on the next, then strength training, then interval training, and so on.  You never want to do a strength routine two days straight (of the same muscle groups), as your muscles haven’t had time to recover.

Along with this routine, you need to make sure you’re eating properly! A good workout and crappy diet will not get you anywhere.  Lots of real foods (fruits, vegetables, lean meat, nuts, etc.).  Eat natural, whole foods whenever possible, and leave the soda, candy, and junk food out of your system.  Your diet is at least 80% of your success or failure.

Help Me Help You

Leave a comment and let me know how it was for you, and your fitness level (total n00b, beginner, some experience, etc.). If you can get through all three circuits, let me know how long it took you.

If you have a YouTube account, you can subscribe to the NerdFitness channel, which will alert you any time I put out a new video.

If this routine is too easy for you, I have an Advanced Body Weight Circuit too.  You’ve been warned :)


PS: If you’re looking for a little more direction, high definition video demonstrations of each exercise, more than a dozen more workouts, and a full guide on how to eat properly, check out the Nerd Fitness Academy!  I’m really proud of what we’ve put together.


picture: Joe Shlabotnik

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  • Steve

    Back in 2008 I was my fittest. got down to about 8% bodyfat. Then I reached my best and just started eating crap and doing less exercise! Then was in denial for a few years before becoming obese! I still run, but just can’t stay motivated enough to get back into it and lose weight!! Any tips please?

  • Taylor Hood

    Hello there. I’m new to all this and I was wondering if you could give me some pointers. I’m 21 and have fairly low body fat and have developed some muscle as I work in a fairly active field, but I would like to get into weight lifting. I was thinking of buying the academy, but £60 is quite a lot. I realise it’s a life time membership though and it’d be the best investment there is. However, my main question is this: why would I need to buy the academy if I could just do this beginner and (later on) the advanced body weight work out? I know that the whole point of the academy is to make it fun, but the cost is putting me off unfortunately. I just don’t see the benefit, when I could just follow this free routine.

  • Adriana

    I did only one cycle and I was exhausted (sore for a few days later also) how much of a rest between cycles is too long? How about doing one cycle in the morning and one in the afternoon?

  • DarkApostle

    Is it effective? Has anyone managed to build abs or muscles using this workout or does this just make you lose weight

  • dmitri bogdanoch

    Awesome job, Steve. You’re a Tony Horton in the making. WooT.

    film streaming

  • Angie

    Awesome job, Steve! You look great! Losing weight doesn’t have to take long. If you’re looking for something that works to lose weight quickly and keep it off, I recently discovered The 3 Week Diet online (go to ) on our local news and it really helped me. I went from 195 pounds all the way to 145, so I’m glad I made the change to a healthier lifestyle. If I can do it, you can too! Get up off your butt and do something about your health and fitness! Three weeks from now you’ll wish you have started today… good luck and you can do this! I promise :)Text me if you need some help staying motivated! (706) 968-7729 – I might be a little slow at replying but I’ll do my best to be your free personal trainer. We can be here for each other :)xo,Angie

  • Tal

    Thank you so much for making this resource available! Started today, and plan to keep it up! Will check in again!

  • Jeremey Kowalski

    Is this message board still active? I just stumbled across this page. Did the circuit three times and the day of and after were hell for my glutes and leg adductors (insides of my legs). I just did it a second time (waited three days like I was told) and my glutes don’t feel it. Meanwhile I’ve upped the reps for the Dumbbell rows/pushups/jumping jacks and extended the time to 45s for the planks. I’ll probably add to the lunges/squats (or start goblet squats with 25lbs weights) if I don’t feel the burn the third time I do this.

  • Amanda

    My left arm has had 3 reconstructive surgeries due to a bone tumor. I can’t do push ups or lift more than 6 pounds with it because there just isn’t much bone left and my ligaments are no longer attached to the natural place. Ideas of what I could do in place od push ups, dumbell rows and planks?

  • cameil ramouche

    i found it easy so i had to use my resistance bands with the squats and the lungs other then that my workout was good thank you.

  • Hira Jibran

    I am a 25 years old height is 5.3 and weight is around 65kgs.. I dont want to build muscles at all ..i want to reduce my belly fat my thighs and hips and i want to reduce my biceps and triceps too.. Should i stick to daily interval training or i need some weight lifting too.. Again ..i don’t want to build muscles AT ALL.. Please provide the necessary guidance .. Plus do you think working out regularly will show positive results even if the person is having PCOS..

  • Hira Jibran

    I am a 25 years old height is 5.3 and weight is around 65kgs.. I dont want to build muscles at all ..i want to reduce my belly fat my thighs and hips and i want to reduce my biceps and triceps too.. Should i stick to daily interval training or i need some weight lifting too.. Again ..i don’t want to build muscles AT ALL.. Please provide the necessary guidance .. Plus do you think working out regularly will show positive results even if the person is having PCOS..

  • David Crossan

    Hi Guys ,

    Going to do a bodybuilding contents next year and i was told that i need to take it easy for the first 3 months as i am just getting back into BB. Would you guys suggest the above or would you do DUP training which has a workout There is so much different advice and info i dont know what the best path is .


  • David Crossan

    Hi Guys ,

    Going to do a bodybuilding contents next year and i was told that i need to take it easy for the first 3 months as i am just getting back into BB. Would you guys suggest the above or would you do DUP training which has a workout There is so much different advice and info i dont know what the best path is .


  • Amit Adi

    Hey Steve,
    Love reading here everything…but I am missing the idea of what should a warm up look like.
    Thank you for the patience :)

  • shaliza mardiana md jamal

    Hi nerdfitness! I am a female, 38yo I haven’t exercise for a very long time, will it be OK if I start doing your beginner workout + the warm up before? Will this work out be good enough for me (for a start) or do it need to do additional things like running, swimming etc?

  • kelly

    For the Beginner Body Weight Circuit, I have a sore lower back and can’t do planks or push ups at the moment. Are there alternatives for these 2 exercises?

  • Sammie

    Had this workout bookmarked for about 3 years; finally getting back around to body weight at-home workouts and decided to give it a try. Finally made it up to doing all 3 circuits over the past couple of weeks, so I decided to time myself: did all 3 in 11:28. Now I have a new goal to work towards in breaking that time! The Advanced Body Weight workout is still a little bit in my future haha. Thanks Steve!

  • nikki jayy

    Thanks so much for the share Evan made me feel soooo much less insecure about starting to workout!!!

  • Jenny

    The email for my workout didn’t get into my inbox somehow and I had to fish it out this morning when I realized I’d missed one. Now I’m a day late on the whole newsletter schedule. And I’m OCD so I can’t just do anything a day late, or decide to do things on the day I get the information, I need it a week in advance at least. I may have to do the workout on another day and just go to the next step.

  • Jen

    So, this blog post is 6 years old, but I just found it NOW! So maybe you’ll see this question…maybe you wont.

    How do you really “warm up” for this beginner workout? With the exception of the weights/milk jugs, the warm up you recommend ( incorporates a lot of the same things, and actually seems longer/more complicated than the beginner workout (compare them side by side – again, except for the weights).
    I want to make sure I warm up (i used to skip this, but youve convinced me) but right now I’m not seeing the difference between the warm up and this particular workout…


  • Marie J Allen

    Very effective post those who are beginners, want to lose weight and be fit. is also one of the best place to learn how to lose weight fast naturally. It is fast and guaranteed. I myself lose 25 pounds by following them.

  • Ezra

    Hi, Kelly! For push ups, you can always modify! Get on your knees, but make sure your back is straight. An alternative for planks are Quadropedal iso abs or the bird dog!

  • จรัญ จอมวงศ์

    i really want to burn fat but i’m very lazy i hate my self

    จีคลับ / บาคาร่า / gclub

  • Laurie

    Hi, Steve. I’ve been in shape and out. I did “Insanity” with a group of friends and got in the best shape ever, but have been dealing with knee issues for a while, so am kind of flabby, if you know what I mean. I’m 9 lbs over what I had gotten to doing Insanity and HIIT workouts. Now I’m kind of starting over. I had a meniscopathy (or something like that – arthroscopic fix of my meniscus) 6 days ago. I’m just walking normally again today, but will be doing your workouts as I can manage with the knee. I think you site is awesome! I’m trying (key word) to eat more “paleo-like” lately, so hopefully will start seeing results.

  • Teeradet Khaongam
  • April

    Hi do you have a diet plan for people with Hashimotos?

  • Teeradet Khaongam
  • Project Fitness

    Its really good

  • AJ99

    hi steve, been following ur blog for sometime now. have to say it is surely one of the best out there. congrats, great job done! wanted ur opinion on a quick thing. am in the process of a body recomp, trying to cut fat & put on muscle at the same time. doing IF on 3 cutting days, eating below maintenance calories + natural proteins, adding a quick HIIT sprint routine.
    on 3 bulking days – doing a 14 hour IF instead of 16 hrs, no cardio, strength training, + eating above maintenance calories and proteins + some whey. focusing on compound movements in the strength training (low reps high weight). how does this look to you? the progress is painfully slow. extremely slow results. but 2 months into it now & can see fat getting cut and muscle getting added. what would u change in this?
    also been following Ali Kuoppala (another fine blog)
    – hence experimenting with herb cycling – ashwagandha, mucuna pruriens & shilajit

  • Sarantonio

    It was harder than I thought! I used to workout (running and strength) 4-5 days a week, 30-45 minutes, but fell out, so I have a bit of experience. I did 20-40 second planks and 60 jumping jacks at the end and it took me 15 minutes. Great quick AM routine! Thanks!

  • Shane

    I am currently doing a circuit exercise routine that I found but it has 30 seconds of rest between exercises and 90 seconds before starting over…I’m 48 and started when I weighed 265 (down from 278). It is kicking my butt. I do 4 rounds.

    Should my goal be to get it to were I don’t pause between exercises but do 2-3 rounds?

  • Navindhran Navin

    Hi, a question. So if you do circuits on alternate days, when do you lift weights? Is it during this breaks in between or that’s for another whole week?

  • Tanya Medhi

    Hey, I’ve joined gym since last 4months and now I wanna lift weights. How much weight shall I start from? I’m a girl, Btw. :)

  • Fawziah Alkhaldi

    Can you help me to design a program for an obese patient who has bad osteoarthritis of bilateral knees with limited mobility and will undergo bilateral knee replacement. To help him shape up for surgery. Lose weight and build muscle.

  • Teeradet Khaongam
  • Teeradet Khaongam
  • RiverTam

    I definitely like the idea of this as a way to get started but my one concern is the jumping jacks. My ACL in my left knee is only attached on one side due to being ambushed by a car some years ago. Jumping Jacks…they are not friendly to my knee at all. In all honesty, they are downright painful. Do you (or anyone here for that matter) know some good knee friendly alternatives?

  • Mr. Glembovski

    Could try jumprope if you’re able to do that. Still jumping, but there’s not as much knee strain with it. Medicine ball slams would be a good alternative too. I can’t think of anything that is purely body weight though.

  • pyrewoman

    Ok, so I just started the program and I completed 3 circuits without feeling like I was straining anything too much, but for 3 days afterwards I was a broken woman. I’m not in great shape, but I don’t have any conditions or injuries that would prevent me from working out normally (I can do 45 mins on a treadmill without collapsing but I don’t have any muscle definition if that helps clarify). My muscles were so sore…I don’t want to quit, so I’d like to know what the better option would be here-cut back on the circuits or increase the warm up and the stretching time or both?

  • Gary
  • Pingback: Can You Complete The Green Arrow Workout? Save Star City! | Nerd Fitness()

  • จมาพันธ์ ชูตา
  • Anirudh Pathak

    Thanks for this routine, Steve.

    But one thing I noticed. In one circuit, there are exercises from each of the 5 broad classes you mentioned in one of your previous posts ( except ‘Butt and Hamstrings’. Why did you leave that one?

  • Silver Raven

    Heya! ^u^ Someone recommended me this workout. I was wondering, how fast will this burn fat? Can I switch the gallon ((dumbbell? )) exercise with something else? And you said you shouldn’t do this too often. Should I just do this every other day? I’m more interested in fat burning than the muscle building. :3 Also, since I’m new to this site, are you a nerd or… an otaku? X3

  • Osmani

    I already have pretty big hips and I don’t desire to risk getting them any bigger, so what can I do to replace the squats and lunges with???