The following is a guest post by Nancy Biber. Nancy is a certified personal trainer and is the Quality Assurance Specialist for Trig.
As George Washington once said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good at anything else.”
For 20+ years I worked in a gym, so I really had no excuse not to get my workouts in. Since joining the “desk job” work force, I’ve had to get a little more creative. I don’t always have time to get to the gym, and I definitely don’t have all day to work out. That’s why I’ve started doing circuit training. It’s easy to find 30 minutes in my day to work out, and these short workouts pack a punch. Now I lead circuit training classes at the Trig office at least twice a week and fill in other workouts with running, Zumba class and/or Yoga.
Circuit training is a form of high-intensity interval training that combines multiple small workouts into one comprehensive session. The combination of weight training and cardiovascular effort makes circuit training a beneficial type of cross-training and a great way to burn calories. You’ll gain muscle through the resistance training, and you’ll increase your cardiovascular endurance through the elevated heart rate that you maintain throughout the program. You’ll also burn lots of calories during the high exertion periods of your sets - on average, a person weighing 150 pounds will burn about 10 calories per minute. For a 30-minute circuit training workout, that’s 300 calories burned!
I’ve listed two of my favorite 30-minute circuit training workouts below. The great thing about these workouts (in addition to being short) is that you can do them at home! You don’t have to have a gym membership or much equipment to do these exercises.
Workout #1: Ladder Training
The idea of ladder training is to gradually increase the amount of reps you do up to a certain number, and then count back down again to 1. For this workout, start by doing one rep of each exercise listed below, then do two reps of each exercise, then three, and so on until you reach 10 reps per exercise. Then count back down to 9 reps per exercise, 8 reps, and so on all the way back down to 1.
Refer to the photos and their corresponding descriptions below.
- Two-legged squat: Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down as if you’re sitting on an invisible chair – move the hips back and bend the knees and hips to 90 degrees, then return to the upright position. Keep your back straight.
- Push-ups: You can do these on the floor (regular, or modified with your knees touching the ground), against the wall (stand facing the wall and push against the wall), on an elevated platform (such as a desk) or using an exercise ball (with your legs balanced on the ball and your hands on the floor). The standard floor push-up is the most challenging of these.
- Abdominal crunch: To isolate your abdominal muscles, lie on your back with your knees slightly bent. Make sure your feet are planted firmly on the floor and about hip-width apart. Keep your knees comfortably apart. Fold your arms on your chest or cradle your head/neck and tighten your abdominal muscles. Raise your head and shoulders off of the floor. Hold for three seconds and lower yourself back down.
- Standing lunges: Step back into the lunge. Keep your back straight and keep your knees behind your toes as you lower to a 90 degree bend at your hips and knees. Alternate legs.
- Tricep dips: Start on all fours with your stomach facing up. Keep your back straight and your elbows in, finger tips facing forward. Lower yourself with your arms and then life back up. Make it easier or harder by placing your feet closer to your body (easier) or further from your body (harder).
- Single-leg squat: Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Completely lift one leg or raise one foot so just the toe touches the floor. Lower into squat position and keep the one leg/foot raised. Alternate legs.
- Burpee: Begin in a standing position. Drop down into a full squat with your hands touching the ground. Kick your feet back into plank position, keeping your elbows extended. Then jump your feet back to squat and jump back up into the standing position.
- Superman lifts: Lie face down on your stomach with arms and legs extended. Keep your neck in a neutral position. With your arms and legs straight (but not locked) and torso stationary, simultaneously lift all of your arms and legs up toward the ceiling to form an elongated “u” shape with your body — the back arches, and your arms and legs lift several inches off the floor. Hold for 2-5 seconds and lower back down.
- Side plank, each side: Lay on your side so that only your forearm and the side of your foot are touching the ground. Make your body into a straight line (side plank position). Bend at the waist and lower your hip towards the ground and then back up again. Repeat for the desired amount of repetitions and then switch sides.
Workout #2: 1-Minute Reps
For this routine, you will need a stop watch and a pair of dumbbells or soup cans. Perform each exercise for 1 minute. After you’ve finished all 9 exercises, do 1 minute of cardio – run in place, do jumping jacks or run up and down stairs. Repeat the entire set 2 more times for 30 minutes of activity.
Refer to the photos and their corresponding descriptions below.
- Plank: Hold yourself up in plank position with only your forearms and toes touching the mat. Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels (avoiding hip sag), and keep your abdominals tight for the duration.
- Plie squat jump: Stand with your legs about two feet apart, toes turned out. Bend your knees and squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Then jump off the ground, bringing your feet to hip-width apart and land softly on your toes.
- Rows: Hold one dumbbell in each hand. From standing position, bend over at the hips, keeping your back straight and parallel and a slight bend in your knees. Be sure your elbows stay at your sides as you raise your elbows to the ceiling and lower the weight back down.
- Bridge: Lay on your back with your hands by your sides, your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Make sure your feet are under your knees – you should be able to touch your heel with your fingers. Tighten your abdominal and butt muscles, and raise your hips up to create a straight line from your knees to shoulders. Squeeze your core and try to pull your belly button back toward your spine. The goal is to maintain a straight line from your shoulders to your knees and hold for 20-30 seconds.
- Mountain climbers: Begin in a push-up position on the hands and toes. Bring the right knee into the chest toward the left shoulder and resting the right foot on the floor. Jump up and switch feet in the air, bringing the left knee in and the right leg back. You can also run the knees in and out without touching the toes to the floor.
- Shoulder press with bicep curl: Hold a dumbbell in your right hand. Keep your back straight and your abdominals tight. Do a bicep curl and then raise the dumbbell to the ceiling for a shoulder press before lowering back down. Maintain a slight bend in your elbows at the top of each repetition, about 90 degrees when you lower the weight. Keep your elbows close to your body and turn your palm inward as you lower the weight toward the floor, then squeeze the biceps as you lift the weight back up and press overhead. After 30 seconds, switch to your left hand.
- Skater lunges: Cross your right leg behind your left leg as you bend your left knee into a half-squat position. Extend your left arm out to the side, and swing your right arm across your hips. Hop a few feet directly to the right, switching the position of your legs and arms, and bend down. Keep repeating side to side for 1 minute.
- Side bends: Hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides, arms straight and core engaged. Without twisting your upper body, slowly bend to the left as far as you can, lowering the weight toward your left knee. Pause, and then slowly return to an upright position. Repeat, bending to the right side.
- Wall sit with goal post arms: Squat with your back against a wall – form a right angle at your hips and your knees, your back flat against the wall and your heels on the ground. Extend your arms out to your sides at shoulder height, elbows bent 90 degrees, palms facing forward. The back of your arms should be touching the wall. To make this more challenging, slowly move your arms up the wall.
Remember: due to the lack of rest that circuit training demands, you will maintain elevated heart rates for the entire period of exercise. If you have a history or family history of heart issues, make sure you talk to your doctor before starting a new physical activity program.
Good luck, and happy exercising!