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 🙂

-Steve

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.

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picture: Joe Shlabotnik

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  • tdr

    OK, I’m really really a beginner. I can’t do any lunges without falling over, and I can’t do full sets of any of the other stuff. When increasing difficulty, is it better to increase circuits with fewer reps? Or work on getting up the prescribed number of reps in one circuit before adding a second circuit?

    And what do I do when the day after tomorrow I’m so sore I can’t do much?

    I’ve been doing the interval training and I love it!!

  • Alana

    Dear Lord, this was challenging. But doable! I am a 52 year old woman 5 foot five and weigh 269 rotten pounds. So many work outs out there –even beginner workouts–are just too hard for me and it’s so discouraging. I did as many of each as I could the first round, but then decided to do exactly half for the second and third rounds (though I did do all the dumbell rows with 5lb weights). It took me about 1/2 hour and wow, did I sweat! It was awesome. You are awesome. Thank you so much.

  • Juan Carlos Montalvo

    Thank you so much for this begginner workout. I’ve tried different workouts and they don’t work, because they are very advanced, and then the next day I can’t even walk or move. This workout is simple enought for begginers and for people who are broke *like me*

  • rodgerM

    I hear you, Larry…2 bad knees here, one from arthritis, one from motorcycle accident in 2013. Age 59 now, & I substitue my “side-jacks” for jumping jacks:
    It’s a 4-count exercise, starting position is same as jumping jacks
    1)step left foot out wide to the left, bringing hands/arms overhead
    2) return to starting position
    3) step right foot out wide to the right, arms up overhead
    4) return to start
    That’s one complete “rep”…repeat.

    Not as strenuous as good ol’ jumping jacks, but will still get your heart rate up!

    Hope this helps. RM

  • Chrissie

    Total n00b here, I could only get through one circuit (but I did complete it!) before I was nearly throwing up and almost hyperventilating… That is so embarrassing to admit. Anyway, I did an hour of aerobics after the one circuit to keep moving. Trying again today, hoping I can get through a complete circuit, plus squats of the next circuit. If I can do more, great, but I will do at least that! #alwaysimprove

  • Anulekha Chakraborty

    The workout is great am sweating a lot after doing it 3 times….I just have one question am in bodyweght level 3 workout…so could you help me with my workout schedule please…Should I do the circuit and the bodyweight level 3 abc workout on one gym schedule??? or is there a better way I want to reduce my fat percentage and build strong core visible abs….

  • Luong Le Pham
  • Kerstan

    How long should you rest between circuits? I’m definitely implementing this into my fitness routine (M, W, F – 3 to 5 sets ), as well as the interval jogging ( T, T – 5 to 10 sets ).

    Thanks so much for this!

  • SyUrie Aomori

    Just completed my day 1 of Beginner Body Weight Workout. I was only able to completed 1 circuit. My next day is Thursday, so I will try to complete two.

  • https://www.nerdfitness.com/level-up/my-epic-quest/ SyUrie Aomori

    Hey Chrissie! i just completed my Day 1 of the Beginner Body Weight Workout and I was only able to complete 1 circuit as well. Felt like I was able to die. Hopefully I can level up on Thursday by getting a 2 circuit in. #alwaysimproving #statbonus