Circuit Training – Build Some Muscles, Burn Some Fat!

ist2_5614813-strong-manYesterday morning I did my first round of circuit training.

I’m in pretty good shape and have been lifting weights regularly for a few years, so I figured the routine would be a challenge but not too exhausting.  Fail. This thing kicked my ass.  For those of you looking to build lean muscle, cut some fat, and avoid boredom in the gym, here’s something that might catch your eye.  Want proof that it works?  Daniel Craig did two days of circuit training a week to prepare for Casino Royale.  Read about his full workout by clicking here.  My theory is this: if it’s good enough for 007, it’s good enough for me.

Sounds good right?  Alright, now let’s find out exactly what circuit training involves: essentially you’ll be doing one exercise per body part, in order, without stopping.  Then, once you’re all the way through a cycle, you do it again.  And then again.  3 full circuits without stopping.

This is what I did yesterday morning:

  • Squats – 12 reps
  • Lunges – 12 reps (if your legs are REALLY tired, doing squats and lunges could seriously hurt you if you’re not careful.  In this case I’d recommend doing some machine leg exercises (12 reps of leg extensions, 12 reps of leg curls, and 12 calf raises instead).
  • Incline Dumbbell Press – 12 reps
  • Assisted Pull Ups – 12 reps
  • Tricep Rope Pulldown – 12 reps
  • Barbell Bicep Curl – 12 reps
  • Lateral Shoulder Raise – 12 reps
  • Jump rope for 60 seconds or do 50 jumping jacks

And that’s 1 circuit. You will do each exercise, with perfect form, and then move onto the next exercise immediately.  You can only stop for water after you finish the circuit (after you jump rope or do your jumping jacks).  Now, I cut the amount of weight I can normally lift by 25%, and I still had to stop a few times to get through this loop of exercises 3 times.  If you can do it without stopping, you should be able to get through the routine in 30 minutes or less.

For Newbies: If you’re just starting out with fitness and trying to build muscle while losing fat, I’d recommend trying to get through one circuit, take a minute or two break, and then finish the rest of your routine normally.  So, you would go through the WHOLE circuit once, and then you’d do a set of squats, wait a minute, do another set of squats, then move onto a set of lunges, wait a minute, do another set of lunges, then onto the next exercise.  Build your way up to 3 full circuits, and work on getting through them without stopping.

Don’t have a gym membership? Try this modified circuit training routine using just your body weight  This is more of an aerobic workout compared to a strength building routine, but it get’s the job done if you don’t have any weights to use:

Circuit Training Video

The thing I love about circuit training is that there’s always room for improvement. You’re building muscles while also building up your stamina.  Circuits will help turn you into a MACHINE.  If you can do 3 circuits without stopping, add weight or try to do four circuits.  Either way, you should be able to walk out of that gym, in 30-40 minutes, drenched in sweat and exhausted.

A few tips and tricks:

  • If you’re going to do circuits, do them early in the morning or late at night.  Don’t be an ass and tie up every machine/bench in the gym when everybody is waiting to use them.
  • If you come back to a machine and somebody else is using it, don’t wait.  Pick a different exercise that works the same muscle!
  • Normally I recommend just free weights, but for circuits using certain machines is okay if you’re exhausted and worried about proper form.  When possible, stick with free weights though, you’ll get much more out of it.
  • Don’t do a full body circuit two days in a row.  I’d say start with doing it once a week (along with your normal weight training and exercise), but space them apart so you don’t work the same muscle two days straight.

Be like Bond, become a machine!

-Steve

Get The Rebel Starter Kit

Enter your email and we’ll send it right over.

  • The 15 mistakes you don’t want to make.
  • The most effective diet and why it works.
  • Complete your first workout today, no gym required.
  • These are the tools you need to start your quest.
  • Jordan

    So you’ve just started circuit training… I assume you were previously resting as much as needed between sets?

    This is the “cut” part of the “bulk and cut” cycle, right?

  • Jordan

    So you’ve just started circuit training… I assume you were previously resting as much as needed between sets?

    This is the “cut” part of the “bulk and cut” cycle, right?

  • https://www.nerdfitness.com/ Steve

    Hey Jordan,

    Actually, I was keeping my rest down to about 60 seconds between sets, so it was still an aerobic workout as much as it was strength building…just not as rapid as this.

    I still do the regular strength training, because doing three consecutive sets exhausts each muscle more than in a circuit, but the circuit will help be cut the body fat % down faster.

    I’ll be doing a combination of the three (Strength Training, Olympic Lifting, and Circuits) each week to kick my ass.

    Right, now that I’ve hit my target weight of 185, I’m going to work on getting stronger while maintaining the weight and cutting the body fat.

    Working on Steve 2.0!

    -Steve

  • https://www.nerdfitness.com Steve

    Hey Jordan,

    Actually, I was keeping my rest down to about 60 seconds between sets, so it was still an aerobic workout as much as it was strength building…just not as rapid as this.

    I still do the regular strength training, because doing three consecutive sets exhausts each muscle more than in a circuit, but the circuit will help be cut the body fat % down faster.

    I’ll be doing a combination of the three (Strength Training, Olympic Lifting, and Circuits) each week to kick my ass.

    Right, now that I’ve hit my target weight of 185, I’m going to work on getting stronger while maintaining the weight and cutting the body fat.

    Working on Steve 2.0!

    -Steve

  • Pingback: Look like Jamie Bamber in Battlestar Galactica | Nerd Fitness()

  • Nina

    Hi there,

    This looks like a good plan. I’m trying to lose weight, and build some lean muscle at the same time.
    I’m wondering, if i do tricep extensions, bicep curls with 8 lb dumb bells, and squats and lunges daily . with 3 sets of 20 reps of each exercise..

    how long before i see results?

    I would like to lose weight, and tone up every where. I’m also doing an hour of brisk walking on the treadmill.

    Is this workout enough, or should i go on a stricter diet as well? Currently I’m a vegan.

    Will I see some definition in my arms/legs within a month?

    Thank you

  • Nina

    Hi there,

    This looks like a good plan. I’m trying to lose weight, and build some lean muscle at the same time.
    I’m wondering, if i do tricep extensions, bicep curls with 8 lb dumb bells, and squats and lunges daily . with 3 sets of 20 reps of each exercise..

    how long before i see results?

    I would like to lose weight, and tone up every where. I’m also doing an hour of brisk walking on the treadmill.

    Is this workout enough, or should i go on a stricter diet as well? Currently I’m a vegan.

    Will I see some definition in my arms/legs within a month?

    Thank you

  • https://www.nerdfitness.com/ Steve

    Hey Nina!

    Thanks for the comment. Although you’re doing those exercises with a low amount of weight, I wouldn’t recommend doing them every single day. You want to give yourself an extra day off between working them so that your muscles have time to regrow.

    Instead of an hour on the treadmill, try 30 minutes of interval training! 90 seconds of slower pace, and 30 seconds of sprints. 90 seconds of slower pace, and 30 seconds of sprints. Repeat until you get to 30 minutes.

    I’m going to email you about your diet, and we can see what we can do. You might already have the muscles you’re looking for, they’re just buried under a little bit of fat. Once you get that body fat percentage down to a low number you’ll really start to see that definition. To see definition, you simply have to find a way to burn more calories than you consume on a daily basis.

    -Steve

  • https://www.nerdfitness.com Steve

    Hey Nina!

    Thanks for the comment. Although you’re doing those exercises with a low amount of weight, I wouldn’t recommend doing them every single day. You want to give yourself an extra day off between working them so that your muscles have time to regrow.

    Instead of an hour on the treadmill, try 30 minutes of interval training! 90 seconds of slower pace, and 30 seconds of sprints. 90 seconds of slower pace, and 30 seconds of sprints. Repeat until you get to 30 minutes.

    I’m going to email you about your diet, and we can see what we can do. You might already have the muscles you’re looking for, they’re just buried under a little bit of fat. Once you get that body fat percentage down to a low number you’ll really start to see that definition. To see definition, you simply have to find a way to burn more calories than you consume on a daily basis.

    -Steve

  • Nina

    Hey Steve,

    Thank you so much for responding. For some reason, I didn’t get the email, do you mind sending it again please?

    I won’t do the same muscle group daily, as you suggested to let my muscles have time to regrow.

    Just out of curiousity, the last month that I worked out daily the same muscle groups, did they have any positive effect, or was it a waste or deterimental?

    My new plan of action is…
    -3 miles daily on treadmill: I usually alternate speeds. I will walk slowly for a minute, walk briskly for a few minutes, and then jog for a few minutes, etc.

    alternate days of 100 squats, 100 lunges
    with alternate days of 100 bicep curls/100 tricep extensions with 8 lb dumbbells

    Is this okay?
    Also, I’m going to use the weight watchers diet plan that includes a minimum of 8 cups of water, 5 fruit/veg servings, and protein in my diet.

    Thank you for taking the time out to read this and respond, i really appreciate it.

  • Nina

    Hey Steve,

    Thank you so much for responding. For some reason, I didn’t get the email, do you mind sending it again please?

    I won’t do the same muscle group daily, as you suggested to let my muscles have time to regrow.

    Just out of curiousity, the last month that I worked out daily the same muscle groups, did they have any positive effect, or was it a waste or deterimental?

    My new plan of action is…
    -3 miles daily on treadmill: I usually alternate speeds. I will walk slowly for a minute, walk briskly for a few minutes, and then jog for a few minutes, etc.

    alternate days of 100 squats, 100 lunges
    with alternate days of 100 bicep curls/100 tricep extensions with 8 lb dumbbells

    Is this okay?
    Also, I’m going to use the weight watchers diet plan that includes a minimum of 8 cups of water, 5 fruit/veg servings, and protein in my diet.

    Thank you for taking the time out to read this and respond, i really appreciate it.

  • Pingback: How to Exercise Every Muscle in Your Body in 15 Minutes | Nerd Fitness()

  • dzupiris

    Thanks for the insights. A huge circuit training and high intensity fan myself. Other fat burning, fitness and fighter training resources:

    How To Get A Fighter’s Body, Workout MMA Style, Burn Fat and Stay Lean
    How To Burn Fat Like An Infernal Blowtorch
    Bodyweight Training Program For Muscle Gain
    6 Tricks To Increase Muscle Growth Fast

  • dzupiris

    Thanks for the insights. A huge circuit training and high intensity fan myself. Other fat burning, fitness and fighter training resources:

    How To Get A Fighter’s Body, Workout MMA Style, Burn Fat and Stay Lean
    How To Burn Fat Like An Infernal Blowtorch
    Bodyweight Training Program For Muscle Gain
    6 Tricks To Increase Muscle Growth Fast

  • http://www.gainingweight.info/ David

    This is a great circuit for strength and stamina building. Would you mind if I share it on http://www.gainingweight.info/circuit-training-routine-to-build-muscle-and-burn-fat/ obviously giving credit to you for it?

  • http://www.gainingweight.info/ David

    This is a great circuit for strength and stamina building. Would you mind if I share it on http://www.gainingweight.info/circuit-training-routine-to-build-muscle-and-burn-fat/ obviously giving credit to you for it?

  • https://www.nerdfitness.com/ Steve

    Hey David,

    Sure man, go ahead. Thanks for spreading the word!

    -S

  • https://www.nerdfitness.com Steve

    Hey David,

    Sure man, go ahead. Thanks for spreading the word!

    -S

  • http://www.treadmilltrainer.net/ treadmill_trainer

    Just came and read, this is wow! I was seek from many blogs, but here is the best, I love it.

  • http://www.treadmilltrainer.net/ treadmill_trainer

    Just came and read, this is wow! I was seek from many blogs, but here is the best, I love it.

  • Pingback: How to Build Your Own Workout Routine | Nerd Fitness()

  • Pingback: How to Work Out Properly In a Commercial Gy | Nerd Fitness()

  • Pingback: Girls of Nerd Fitness | Nerd Fitness()

  • Pingback: Keeping Your Gym Routine Fresh and Fun | Nerd Fitness()

  • Pingback: Building Strength and Muscle: An Interview with Fitness Yoda Vic Magary | Nerd Fitness()

  • Pingback: How to Train With Deadly Precision: Lessons Learned From An Assassin | Nerd Fitness()

  • http://profiles.google.com/fizzbit Clara Leet

    This sounds like a really dumb question, but whenever a workout routine posts a limb exercise such as Lunges (12 reps) does that mean 6 reps per leg or 12 reps per leg?

  • http://www.stevekamb.com Steve Kamb

    12 each leg!

    -S

  • http://www.stevekamb.com Steve Kamb

    12 each leg!

    -S

  • Mel

    Hey!

    I’m new here to NerdFitness, but I’m so glad I found you guys because at first I was doing everything wrong. I am a pear-shaped girl, and I am considered ‘skinny fat’. If you have heard of the term. High body fat and very low muscle definition. I am a Ovo-Pescetarian and I was wondering if I could help change my diet to be more ‘clean’ while still getting adequate amounts of protein? I would love to start trying Circuit Training such as this to help me lower my body fat percentage and maybe gain some muscle. But I have a couple of questions regarding this training. How many days a week should I do this? 3 times a week? Should I incorporate any cardio during the week along with circuits; for example doing circuits on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and Cardio on Tuesday and Thursday? or should I incorporate Strength Training instead of Cardio on those days for my goals?

    Thanks so much! And I hope to get to where I want to be thanks to your forums and information. 

    – Mel

  • Pingback: Fat Loss Circuit Training()

  • AJ Jimenez

    Hey Steve, I just started this same exact plan today. I died midway through the 3rd set. Any tips if that happens again? Also do you have a weekly plan anywhere I can follow? I’m really looking to change my life and I know I can do it… I think some guidance will help. i will say that this workout today kicked my @$% but I feel great. Ive lost 25lbs by just running but I became very bored and fell off. Now I am trying to get back on and use weight training. I feel tottaly different after lifting.. I just get lost when it comes to recovery days and solid plan to follow.

  • Barbarossa77

    The only problem with circuits isTRYING to get to each station when the gym is busy , I try to stick to a barbell that i CAN HOG.

  • Matthew

    hey man, I’m starting circuit training and I need some more information on exactly what is the best way to perform circuit training to get the best fat burning results. So at the minute I circuit train on Tuesday evening and Saturday evening at the park with interval training on Thursdays to try and cut the fat even more! My circuit training consists of 10 exercises (upper, lower and full body). i exercise for 30 seconds (each exercise) and rest for 10 seconds. After each circuit set I rest for 3 minutes then on to the next circuit. Please could you give me feedback on this if possible of what to change or to keep going or whatever 🙂 (although the last comment was 5 years ago…)

  • Bryan Lopes

    Hey Steve. Thank you for the very informative article. I have a question I was hoping you can help with. I’ve finally started going back to the gym as of late, and I’m following your “How to build your own workout routine” system. I find everything you’ve written to be incredibly helpful. Now, in your opinion, would it be wise to include circuit training between my monday/wednesday/friday weight lifting sessions, or should it be used on days I fail to go to the gym?

  • Tge

    Any suggestions for modifying the workout to suit the equipment at the gym? Just replace with equipment that works the same muscles?

  • Jake

    Hi Steve,

    thanks for the great circuit tips. You mentioned strength training, olympic lifting and circuits, can you give a rough guide of when you will do each, like an average week?

    Im struggling to manage all three and know when is best to do each/

  • Linzi

    Circuit training, or at least my version of it, has become my favourite way to strength train. I was getting bored of my regular sets/reps lifting regime so I decided to place all my equipment – kettlebells, pull up bar, adjustable dumbells, sandbag, pushup bars and barbell into one area and just do what i felt like for about 30 mins. I interchange between using the equipment and bodyweight exercises.

    I do as many reps as I can (without having a set rep standard). I make sure I get a good full body workout. I really like this method of training as I’m not constantly counting sets and reps and waiting for it to end. I’m interchanging lots of different exercises so my muscles are constantly adapting and I’m never bored. I listen to my body as far as this way of training is concerned, and my body seems to love it.

  • Konfused

    What’s ridiculous about this article is that he says Daniel Craig did circuit training two days a week to prepare for Casino Royale and provides a link. When you click on the link it says Daniel Craig was in the gym 5 days a week and did cardio on weekends! That destroys his whole argument about circuit training because he tried to give it all the credit for Daniel being in good shape. Nice try buddy.

  • จมาพันธ์ ชูตา
  • aGhostDream

    How about a suggested bunch of sets for women who don’t want to bulk up in the arms/upper torso? Ab incorporation? Could I replace an arm thing with some medicine ball twist crunches?

  • Shak

    Great article! However, can anyone advise on whether I am doing this right or not. This is my workout as below:

    Bench Press – 3x 10 reps

    Seated Row – 3x 10 reps

    Straight Bar for Arms – 3x 10 reps

    Tricep Rope – 3x 10 reps

    Shoulder Press using DB – 3x 10 reps

    DB Squats – 3x 10 reps

    I am doing the above twice a week at a heavy-ish weight for me and takes 20 mins to do the above then a 2-3minute rest and do the same again so in total i spend 40 mins on weights. Between each 10reps I have a 30 seconded rest and then do another 10. this is doen twice a week and 1 days cardio. is this a good workout or is ti too much??

  • Hnada

    How to build muscle as fast as humanly possible…That’s what we all want to know.Most of us don’t have the genetics of an NFL running back or pro bodybuilder.So it’s not all your fault.I was mixed-up until I got this plan,see my review of it:>bestfitnessandmusclebuilding(dot)com/ms2<

  • Jeff

    Hey man! I guess you truly are “Konfused”. If you really read the link you were talking about and what was said in this article, you would very much understand that Daniel Craig did “weight training” Monday through Friday, so five days a week, and that includes “circuit training (with weights or just body weight, thus, also considered weight training)” done on Mondays and Fridays, so twice a week. Tuesday to Thursday includes your typical strength/weight training. So he was in the gym five days a week, but did circuits only 2 out of those 5 days. Your comment would have been better if you just clarified what you understood than do otherwise.

  • จมาพันธ์ ชูตา

    i really love this article thank you

    —————————————-
    จีคลับ

    gclub

    บาคาร่า

  • Muscle chick training

    That’s kinda hard to do at a gym.

    I might have to superset it.

  • Marco

    My daughter tells me that jumping jacks might be to hard on her and my joints…..any thoughts on this or perhaps a substitute for jumping jacks in a circuit weight training?

  • J-joker

    what about the diet?
    caloric deficit or exess? so that i can build more muscle mass and cut at the same time.

  • Al Jacky Navales

    Hello im just new to circuit I followed 4 diff rounds,shall I do one round for 3 reps or do 1 to 4 rounds before repeat?im so confused..thanks u so much

  • Bruce Foster

    Hello here is my circuit please tell me what ya think. Very experienced with weights since 15 im 50 now… All at 65 to 75 % of my max…..10 to 15 reps on all routines 3 circuits. 1.Clean and press. 2.bent over row. 3. Close grip bench( shoulder width maybe tighter) 4. Skull crushers. 5. Bent over shoulder lateral raise. 6. Standing lateral raise…7. Hammer curls… 8. Deadlifts….9. Cable squats no weight(50 year old knees…lol…) rest 3 1/2 minutes…circuit lasts 4-5 minutes…..totally gassed out after every circuit…no rest between sets….low carbs for me… Under 80 grams a day……carb load 1 or 2 days on weekend….made this up myself ….