The most effective way to burn fat is a sound diet.
The second way (and close in effectiveness) is circuit training. Circuit training will suck the fat right off your body… if you do it correctly.
During all of the years that I have been training, having a lean muscular physique has been very important to me. Which means I needed to have a low body fat percentage.
Even though the main reason behind my pursuit for lower fat was for aesthetics, as I started to become more and more lean I noticed some remarkable improvements in my health and mood as well.
As a result, I currently try to maintain a lower body fat for health reasons too.
So, even if you aren’t interested in aesthetics, I would certainly recommend you to train using Circuit Training for the health benefits that come with it.
Some of the health benefits of low body fat are:
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Decreased chance of Type 2 Diabetes
- Helps with sleeping problems and other health ailments
- Improves calisthenics performance since you have lower weight to move around.
In this post, I am going to share with you some simple and effective bodyweight circuits that are going to help you lose fat rapidly.
The 3 Types Of Fat Loss Circuit Training
During my research in the last couple of years, I came across 3 types of circuit training that are really effective for fat loss. These are:
- Workout Finishers
1. MRT (Metabolic Resistance Training)
The best definition for MRT that I have found comes from Eric Cressey. According to him MRT is:
any strength training session that employs a series of 4-8 exercises (which are predominantly multi-joint in nature), while utilizing little (i.e., under 30 seconds) to no rest between sets.
2. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
HIIT training is when you alternate between high intensity and low to moderate intensity intervals.
3. Workout Finishers
As the name suggests a Finisher is a circuit that you are going to perform at the end of your workout with the purpose to finish your workout in total exhaustion (or very close to).
Finishers can be planned or unplanned. If you do your normal workout and still feel like you have some gas in the tank, throw in a finisher.
MRT Vs HIIT Vs Finisher Circuits
This is too much Todd! Which one of them should I choose?
This depends mostly on your current training level and your training goals.
To help you understand better, let me go briefly over the differences between these 3 methods of circuit training.
The main difference between HIIT and MRT is that MRT is better suited for strength training while HIIT is better suited for conditioning purposes.
Other than that, HIIT and MRT are very similar and their boundaries are not well defined. For example, some of the workouts in the “Complete Guide To AMRAP Training” could be easily categorized in both categories.
The difference between Finishers and the other two methods (MRT and HIIT) is that Finishers are not necessarily a full workout by themselves. For a circuit to be considered a Finisher, it has to be performed after a regular workout. This is the main advantage of Finishers since you don’t have to change your current program to benefit from them.
Before going on, you should understand that all of these 3 methods of circuit training are very effective for fat loss and if this is your only concern, feel free to mix them up.
How To Warm Up Before A Circuit
Warming up is very important for both MRT and HIIT workouts, since you are going to be exerting yourself and moving in a fast pace.
You don’t have to perform a warm up prior to a finisher because you are already warm from the regular training session.
Your warm up should consist of very light exercises with the focus being on elevating your heart rate. Also, you should warm up your joints by performing mobility drills.
The way I like to perform my warm up prior to any kind of circuit is to sequence it like a circuit too.
So a circuit like warm up is going to look like this:
A1: 60s jump rope
A2: 20 shoulder cycles (both sides)
A3: 20 hip cycles
A4: 20 jumping jacks
- Move from A1 to A4 without rest between the exercises.
- Rest 30-60 secs between rounds.
- Repeat 2 rounds.
If you are going to train with an MRT workout that is strength focused, you can perform a mini circuit with easier progressions of the moves that you are going to practice in your workout.
For example, if your MRT circuit consists of one arm push ups, pistol squats, etc, you can perform this short circuit:
A1: 10 fingertip push ups
A2: 10 cossack squats
A3: 60s jump rope
- You can add more exercises based on your MRT circuit.
- Repeat for 3 rounds.
MRT Circuit Training
Below are some sample circuits that belong to the MRT category.
The circuits are divided based on their difficulty level (beginner, intermediate, advanced) and based on what physical quality they target (plyometric, maximal strength). The reason I haven’t included MRT workouts focused on endurance is because I consider HIIT workouts a more effective option for such a goal.
Beginner Level MRT Circuit Training
You shouldn’t expect much in terms of fat loss with the beginner versions. The main purpose of these circuits is to help you build a solid base so that you can train with the more advanced circuits later on. I would recommend you to do the circuit only once per week while the rest of your program consists of basic strength training. (You can find more workouts about that here.)
Caution: You shouldn’t train with the intermediate and advanced versions if you can’t complete the beginner versions without rest between the exercises.
Circuit #1: Beginner MRT #1
- A1: 10-20 knee push ups
- A2: 25-30 bodyweight squats
- A3: 5-8 body rows
- A4: 10-20 lunges both sides
- A5: 15-20 crunches
- A6: 15-20 supermans
Circuit #2: Beginner MRT #2
- A1: 10-20 Incline push ups
- A2: 20-30 Cossack squats
- A3: 10-20 Table Push ups
- A4: 10-20 hip bridges
- A5: 30s plank
- You are going to move from A1 to A5 (or A6) with 30 seconds rest in between each exercise. After the last exercise, you are going to rest 60 sec and then repeat the sequence 3 times.
- As you get more advanced you can decrease the resting time between exercises to about 30 seconds or less. When you can complete the circuits with not rest between exercises and 30 seconds of rest between rounds, you are ready to advance to a more demanding circuit.
Note that training with a beginner circuit alone isn’t going to help you reach the level required for the intermediate versions. For this reason, you need to follow a basic strength training program to help you progress with the exercises.
Intermediate Level MRT Circuit Training
The intermediate circuits is where the real fun begins. Unlike the beginner circuits, these ones are going to help you lose a lot of fat.
Strength Focused Circuit Training
Circuit #3: Strength Focused Intermediate Level #1
- A1: 15-20 push ups
- A2: 40-50 bodyweight squats
- A3: 5-10 pull ups
- A4: 15-20 single leg deadlifts (both sides)
- A5: 10-12 bridge rotations (beginner version)
Circuit #4: Strength Focused Intermediate Level #2
- A1: 10-25 diamond push ups
- A2: 15-20 Bulgarian split squats
- A3: 5-10 close pull ups
- A4: 10-15 single leg hip bridge (both sided)
- A5: 8-10 handstand wall walks
Plyometric Focused Circuit Training
Circuit #5: Plyometric #1
- A1: 10-15 plyometric push ups
- A2: 10-15 squat jumps
- A3: 10-15 explosive body rows
- A4: 10-15 crazy lunges
- Circuit #6: Plyometric #2
- A1: 10-15 clap push ups
- A2: 10-15 tornado jump lunge
- A3: 5-10 plyometric pull ups
- A4: 20-30 high knees (in fast pace)
As I stated previously, I haven’t included endurance focused MRT circuits. However, if you are interested in training endurance with MRT, all you have to do is to modify the strength focused circuits by adding more reps. Keep in mind that if you can do more than 60 reps of an exercise, your circuit is no longer an MRT circuits because the Resistance component will be missing.
Advanced MRT Level Circuit Training
If the intermediate circuits seem like a child’s play to you, then you will have to try the advanced circuits.
Strength Focused Circuits
Circuit #7: Calisthenics Master Wannabe
- A1: 8-12 uneven push ups (both sides)
- A2: 8-12 reverse lunge (both sides)
- A3: 5-8 archer pull ups (both sides)
- A4: 8-12 bridge push ups
- A5: 8-12 windshield wipers
Circuit #8: Calisthenics Master
- A1: 5-8 one arm push ups (both sides)
- A2: 5-8 pistol squats (both sides)
- A3: 5-8 ice cream makers
- A4: 5-8 bridge rotations (advanced)
- A5: 30s L-sit
Plyometric Focused MRT Circuit Training
Circuit #9: Explosive Beast #1
- A1: 8-12 superman push ups
- A2: 8-12 jump squats
- A3: 8-12 clapping pull ups
- A4: 8-12 windshield wipers
Circuit #10: Explosive Beast #2
- A1: 8-12 behind-the-back clap pull ups
- A2: 8-12 knee jumps
- A3: 5-8 muscle ups
- A4: 5-8 single leg jumps (both sides)
HIIT Circuit Training
Below you are going to find circuits that belong in the HIIT category. For some of these workouts you are going to need an interval timer.
Unlike MRT, I am not going to break HIIT circuits into categories because the intensity of HIIT workouts depends mostly on the effort you put into them.
For example, the intensity of a sprint depends on how close you are to your max speed. A sprint at 75% of your max doesn’t have the same intensity as a sprint in 80% of your max speed.
If you are a beginner, I recommend you to train with a basic strength training program and include some basic aerobic activities in your training (like cardio). Even if you are fairly advanced, it is good to spend some time doing regular cardio and not jump straight into HIIT workouts. HIIT workouts require a basic conditioning level and shouldn’t be approached with carelessness.
With that said, let’s see the HIIT circuits…
Circuit #11: The Animal Circuit
- A1: 100m crab walk
Walk back in fast pace
- A2: 100m bear walk
Walk back in fast pace
- A3: 100m Duck Walk
Walk back in fast pace
- You should perform the exercises AFAP (as fast as possible) but not so fast that your form is suffering.
- Repeat 3-5 times without rest in between exercises other than the walking phase.
- If that circuit becomes too easy for you, while you are performing the exercises in AFAP mode, you can start replacing the exercises with more advanced animal walks.
Circuit #12: Tabata Burpee Madness
- 20s AMRAP Burpees
- 10s rest
- Repeat 8 times
- This is a regular Tabata circuit, where you have to perform in max intensity in every 20 second interval.
Circuit #13: The Great Hindu Challenge
- A1: 60 seconds AMRAP Hindu push ups
- A2: 60 seconds AMRAP Hindu squats
- A3: 30s static Bridge
- 30-60 rest
Repeat 3-5 times
- Go from A1 to A3 without rest between the exercises.
- If this become easy for you, you can replace Hindu push ups with divebombers and Hindu squats with jumping Hindu squats and increase the time under the bridge.
Circuit #14: Sprinting Delirium
- A1: Sprint 100 meters
- A2: 10-15 plyometric push ups
- Rest 30-60s
- A3: Sprint back
- A4: 10-15 diamond push ups
- Rest 30-60s
Repeat 3-5 times
Circuit #15: Hill Sprint Madness
- A1: Hill Sprint 100 meters (less if its a smaller hill)
- A2: 10 Hindu push ups
- A3: walk down in a fast pace
AMRAP in 10 minutes (go for 15 minutes if you are more advanced)
- The difficulty of this circuit depends largely on the steepness of the hill. So, if the current hill you are working at becomes easy, you can search for a steeper hill.
- If you don’t have access to a hill, you can replace hill sprinting with stair climbing.
Workout Finisher Circuit Training
Below you are going to find some sample workout finishers.
These circuits are not going to be categorized based on their difficulty, because the one you chose most of the times is based on how you feel after the workout.
For example, after a strength workout you might feel that your legs are really tired but your chest wasn’t worked enough and so you can choose a finisher that focuses mostly on your chest muscles.
Circuit #16: The Burpee Pyramid
In this finisher, you are going to perform a pyramid set.
Start with 1 burpee. In less than 10 seconds perform 2,etc. When you reach your max, start decreasing the reps.
An example might look like this:
1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 = 100 reps
Circuit #17: Push Ups Annihilation
- A1: Max reps floor push ups
- A2: Max reps floor knee push ups
- A3: Max reps incline push ups
- A4: Max reps incline push ups (with bigger elevation)
- A5: Max reps wall push ups
- Go from A1 to A5 without rest between the exercises.
- You should stop before your form breaks down.
- Perform the exercises in a fast pace.
- You perform only one round.
Circuit #18: Total Exhaustion Circuit
- Tabata Push ups
- 60 seconds rest
- Tabata Squats
- This finisher is for those of you who are on top shape and need something more extreme to squeeze everything that was left from the previous workout.
- If you are a beginner, don’t even think about it.
Circuit #19: The Century Workout
- A1: 40 squats
- A2: 30 push ups
- A3: 20 hanging leg raises
- A4: 10 pull ups
- Go from A1 to A4 without rest between the exercises.
- Perform only one round.
- I learned about this circuit from Al Kavadlo.
Circuit #20: Static Leg Killer
- A1: Static wall squat (90 degrees angle)
- A2: Static wall squat (100-110 degrees angle)
- A3: Static wall squat (120-130 degrees angle)
- A4: Static wall squat (140-150 degrees angle)
- In each phase, you are going to stay until or close to failure.
- Go from A1 to A4 without rest between the exercises. When you reach your limit at a certain position just push with your legs to increase the angle.
- If you find it difficult to calculate the degrees, just increase the height so that you can perform at least four phases.
- If this becomes easy, you can add more phases.
- Your hands shouldn’t be touching your legs.
How Can I Create My Own Workout Circuits, Todd?
When I started to workout I was very stubborn and I always tried to create my own programs. So, instead of following the circuits of other people, I tried to create my own based on my goals.
As it turned out this wasn’t a very good habit.
What’s wrong with creating your own circuits Todd? It sounds like the right thing to do!
Let me explain.
There is nothing wrong with creating your own programs and circuits.
The problem was that I was too inexperienced to create effective (and sometimes even doable) circuits by myself. As a results, I wasn’t able to achieve my fitness goals (build muscle and burn fat) at the timeframe I was aiming for.
For this reason, before starting to experiment with your own circuits, I suggest that you get some experience under your belt with the circuits I have outlined here or some other predesigned circuits.
With that said, let’s move on to the actual “How to”… in creating your own circuit workouts.
How To Create MRT Circuits
Based on the definition of MRT I shared with you at the beginning of the article, the basic principles are:
- The circuit should consist of 4-8 exercises (which are predominantly multi-joint in nature). This helps you increase the metabolic demand of the circuit.
- Rest 30 seconds or less between exercises.
Other than these two basic principles, you have to consider the number of reps, rounds and exercise selection.
What Exercises Should I Choose?
Since it’s called Metabolic RESISTANCE Training, the exercises you choose should be challenging. A challenging exercise is one that you have difficulty completing 30 reps. You can include higher rep exercise for the purpose of increasing your heart rate, but they should be limited to 1 or 2 exercises at most.
How Many Reps Should I Perform For Each Exercise?
This depends on what quality you are trying to focus on. For maximal strength the rep range should be 5-8 reps, for muscle gains 8-15 reps, for endurance 15-30 (or more) reps.
How Many Rounds?
The number of rounds depends on the structure of the circuit. If your circuits are very long, you should perform 3 rounds. If your circuit is short (like a strength focused circuit) you can perform 4 or 5 rounds.
How To Create HIIT Circuits
To create a HIIT circuit you will have to have intervals where the focus is on elevating your heart rate (high intensity) followed by intervals where the focus is on decreasing it (low to moderate intensity).
The key to achieving a high intensity interval is to move fast. So, all exercises with which you can perform more than 15 reps are a good fit for a high intensiy interval. Multi joint exercises are recommended.
A HIIT workout should take approximately 4-15 minutes.
How to Create Finisher Circuit Workouts
Finishers can be kind of tricky to create.
The key to creating good finishers is to understand what quality/muscle your are trying to hit.
For example if you feel that your chest muscles didn’t get enough of a workout, you can use Circuit #17. If it’s your legs that need more work, you can use Circuit #20 ,etc.
In the finishers’ section, I shared with you 5 circuit workouts. Two of them are for conditioning, one for the chest muscles, one for the legs and one general.
You can create finishers that target your core, your back, your glutes, etc.
Lastly, after a good finisher you shouldn’t feel like working out anymore for that day.
Helpful Circuit Training Resources
Sometimes it’s difficult to think of exercises to include in a circuit, so I made a list of some articles where you can find lot’s of exercises:
- Bodyweight Exercises – A Complete List
- A Complete List To Bodyweight Back Training
- 55 Bodyweight Leg Exercises To Help You Build Strength & Muscle
- 45 Bodyweight Arm Exercises To Help You Build Strength & Definition
- Bodyweight Exercise Alternatives For All Your Favorite Gym Exercises
How To Implement Circuit Training Into Your Current Program
The easiest of all the categories to implement are the workout finishers, which you can do at the end of each workout.
MRT and HIIT circuits require a day per week that is dedicated to them. Of course, you can practice skill work (e.g. handstand drills) during those days.
If you are already following a strength focused program, I suggest that you include a HIIT workout to improve your conditioning as well (along with fat loss). If you are not interested in conditioning, you can include a MRT workout for either strength, muscle gains or endurance.
If fat loss is a very important goal for you, you should have 2 days (per week) dedicated to MRT or HIIT or 1 day for each.
Conclusion On Circuit Training
This was a long article with lot’s of info to sink in.
This amount of information can easily lead to information overload and for this reason many of the people, who are going to read this information, are not going to implement what they have learned.
Don’t be one of them!
If you are serious about losing fat rapidly, choose one circuit workout from above that seems appropriate for your level and perform it ASAP.
What circuit are you going to perform? Let the SOA community know in the comment section below!
– Bodyweight Todd