Beat the Holiday Bulge with Circuit Training

If your New Year’s resolution involves losing a few pounds, circuit training is a great way to burn fat and tone your whole body. Circuit workouts are not only great for strength training, but they also keep your heart rate up, which in turn helps burn up calories while building muscle.

This full-body circuit combines one minute cardio segments with one minute toning segments using free weights. It provides a complete arm workout while toning your legs, abs, and back—all without setting foot in a gym.

The Circuit Workout

Begin your workout with 3-5 minute warm-up that includes light stretching. For each of the following circuits, perform the exercise for a duration of one minute.

Plie Squat with Side Raise

Holding your weights at your sides, stand with your feet wide apart and your toes turned out. Slowly lower into a plié squat and lift your arms out to the side extending them to shoulder height. Make sure to keep a slight bend in your elbow and tuck your hips under as your lower into the squat.

Lift back to your starting position, pressing your heels into the floor as you lower your arms back to your sides. Repeat this move for one minute.


For this cardio segment, beginners should do a high knee march while swinging your arms to increase your heart rate. Experienced exercises can take this move to the next level by jogging in place or around the room for one minute.

Squat Reach with Overhead Press

Holding your weights at your sides, stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your toes pointing forward. Keep your chest lifted as you lower into a squat. Stick your tailbone out as you lower into a sitting position with your arms reaching toward the floor. Raise back up to your starting position and lift the weights into an overhead press keeping your palms facing forward.

Repeat this exercise for one minute.


Begin standing, then bend your knees and bring your hands to the floor just in front of your feet. Jump your feet back into a plank position, then jump or step back and return to a stand. Repeat this exercise for one minute.

Burpees are a killer exercise that works your whole body. If you are having trouble completing one minute of regular burpees, you can modify the exercise by walking your hands out into a plank position, hold for a few seconds and then walk back and return to a standing position.

Side Squat Pick-Up

Standing with your feet wide apart and your toes pointing forward, hold one heavy weight between your hands. Slowly lower into a squat to the right while bending your right leg and keeping your left leg straight. As you come down into your squat, place the weight on the floor next to your right foot. Return to a standing position and then squat again to the right and pick the weight back up. Repeat on the left side.

Remember to keep your tail bone pointing to the back of the room as you come down and keep your chest lifted and abdominals in tight.

Standing Elbow to Knee Lift

Holding your weights above your head with your palms facing in, lift your right knee up and bring your left elbow down toward the knee. It’s important to keep your abdominal muscles and focus on your core muscles while completing this exercise.

Repeat with alternating elbows and knees for one minute.

Jump Rope

Whether or not you have a jump rope, this exercise is great for raising your heart rate and getting the most out of a cardio segment. If you don’t have a jump rope, bring your arms out to the side and mimic the circular motion of swinging the rope with your arms.

You can either do quick, tiny jumps, or alternate feet as you hop. If the intensity of jumping rope gets too high, slow it down to a march until you catch your breath.

Back Lunge with Bicep Curls

Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and hold your weights with your palm facing in toward your body. Step back with your right foot into a lunge as you raise the weights into a bicep curl bringing your palms to your shoulders. Bring the right leg back in and lower the weights, returning to your starting position. Repeat this move alternating legs for one minute.

It’s important to maintain proper alignment during your back lunge. You want to step far enough back, so that when you lunge, your front knee remains over your ankle, and not out over your toe.

To lower the intensity of this move, keep your arms at your sides.


In a plank position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder distance apart and your feet about hip-distance apart, lower into a push-up bringing your chest down toward the floor. Repeat for 10 push-ups and then hold the plank position while contracting your abdominal muscles for a count of 10. Repeat the push-up and plank combination for one minute.

Jumping Jacks

Jumping Jacks are a high impact way to get your heart rate up and burn calories. Jump your feet out to a wide stance as you raise your arms over head, then jump back in return your arms to your side.

Beginners or anyone with knee issues, can do a lower impact version of a jumping jack by keeping one foot flat on the floor and stepping the opposite foot out to the side, then repeat the motion on each side for one minute.

Back to the Beginning

While beginners may want to start with one complete circuit, the goal of this workout is to repeat the circuits through three times for a 30 minute workout. By continuing these circuits for 30 minutes you will burn far more calories than a cardio workout alone, while also gaining muscle endurance and stability.

Additional Reading:

The Bottom Line: 5 Exercises to Tone and Firm Your Butt

5 Foods to Power You Through Your Workout – Organic

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