Circuit-Training Workout for Beginners

Maximize Your Workout with a Program That Combines Strength Training and Cardio

Whether you're short on time or you want something a little more interesting in your workouts, circuit training—where you combine both cardio and strength training in the same workout—is a great choice. 

This allows you to work on multiple areas of fitness rather than having separate workouts, making it an ideal way to squeeze in exercise if you have a busy schedule.

The idea behind these types of workouts is that you go from one exercise to the next with minimal to no rest between the moves. Because it incorporates very little rest time, the workout moves more quickly and efficiently than a regular workout.

All that effort really pays off, though, with research showing improved benefits over other forms of training—a plus for beginners who are anxious to see the fruits of their labor. The key to getting the most benefits is to work as hard as you can for the suggested reps or time.

About This Circuit Training Workout

There are a number of ways to do circuit training. Some workouts focus on only cardio, some only on strength, and others combine both. In this workout, you'll be alternating a strength move with a cardio exercise.

For the strength exercises, use heavy enough weights that the last rep feels very challenging. For the cardio exercises, try to get your heart rate somewhere between a level 6 and a level 8 or 9 on the perceived exertion scale.

Using the talk test, that's somewhere between "I can still talk but I'm slightly breathless" (level 6) and "I can only keep this pace for a short period and having a conversation is out of the question" (level 9). 

Beginners should complete Circuit 1 once using moderate weights or no weight at all if you're completely new to exercise. Intermediates can complete both circuits once or twice. Advanced exercisers can complete both circuits three or more times. 

Equipment You'll Need

Precautions

See your health care practitioner if you have any sort of medical condition or injury to be sure it's safe for you to exercise. Circuit training can be intense, so watch for signs that you are overdoing it such as not being able to catch your breath, feeling dizzy, nauseous, or weak.

Never push past pain and stop exercising at once if you feel any unusual pain or straining sensations or cramping. It's vital to ensure your form is correct to prevent injuries, so take your time to make sure your form does not suffer as you work through circuits.

Circuit Training How-Tos

Warm-up with at least 5 minutes of light cardio activity, such as marching in place or walking around the block or up and down the stairs. You can practice some active and dynamic movements that mimic the upcoming exercises such as bodyweight squats.

This workout has two circuits, each with six alternating strength and cardio exercises that are performed one after the other. Do each exercise for the specified amount of time (or as long as you safely can) and then move on to the next exercise. Once you complete all exercises, that's considered one circuit.

The times included are suggestions only and you should modify them according to your fitness level and perceived exertion. It's essential to go at your own pace and be sure your form is correct.

Circuit One

Plyo Lunges

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

This circuit will challenge your entire body with lower and upper body strength movements interspersed with cardio and agility work. You'll be performing ball squats, jumping rope, lunges, marching in place, pushups, and squat kicks.

Ball Squats

Ball squats will work your glutes, quads, calves, and hamstrings. If you have knee problems or this is too challenging, only go down as far as possible. For added intensity, hold hand weights.

  • Place an exercise ball behind your back and against the wall with your feet hip-width apart, abs in, and torso straight.
  • Walk your feet out so that you're leaning against the ball. Hold onto a wall or do the exercise without the ball if this feels shaky.
  • Bend your knees and lower them until they are at 90 degrees.
  • Press into your heels to stand up. 
  • Repeat for 30 to 60 seconds.

Jumping Rope

For this cardio exercise, you'll need a jump rope. If you don't have one or don't have space for one, you can just jump up and down and move your arms in a similar motion. If you're new to jumping rope, try doing 10 jumps in a row and then march in place to rest. Keep doing that for the length of the exercise, going as long as you can each time.

  • Jump with both feet together, jumping only an inch or so off the floor.
  • Land on the balls of your feet with your knees soft.
  • Repeat for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Lunges

Stand in ​a split stance (with one leg about 3 feet in front of the other), right foot in front. Your feet should be far enough apart that if you bend both knees, your front knee will not drift too far over your toes. Lunges are excellent for challenging your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and core unilaterally, holding weights for intensity.

  • Holding weights for intensity, if desired, bend both knees and lower to the floor into a lunge.
  • Try going as low as you can or until your knees are at 90-degree angles. The back knee doesn't have to touch the floor.
  • Press into your front heel to stand up and repeat for 30 seconds.
  • Switch sides and repeat for 30 seconds. 

March or Jog in Place

For your next cardio move, you'll either march or jog in place. If you need something more low impact, stick with marching. Try circling your arms to add intensity or walk briskly around the house.

If you're okay with impact, try jogging in place and pressing your arms overhead. Every 15 seconds, switch so that you're jogging with high knees, meaning you're bringing your knees up to hip level if you can.

Repeat for 30 to 60 seconds.

Pushups

Pushups are a basic bodyweight movement that builds strength and stability in your chest, back, arms, and abdominals. If you need a modification, try wall pushups.

  • Get into a pushup position. (This can be on your knees or your toes.) Make sure your hands are just wider than your shoulders.
  • With your back flat and abs braced, bend your elbows into a pushup.
  • Go as low as you can or until your chest hits the floor. Try not to lead with your chin.
  • Repeat for 30 seconds, rest briefly, and then try for another 30 seconds.

Squats with Front Kick

Squat kicks provide the benefits of squats for your lower body while also challenging your balance and introducing a cardiovascular element.

  • Stand with your feet together.
  • Bring your right knee up and extend your leg in a front kick, but don't lock your knee.
  • Lower down into a low squat, your knees behind your toes, and kick with your left leg.
  • Repeat (right kick, squat, left kick) for one to three minutes. 

End of Circuit One

This is the end of Circuit 1. If you are an intermediate or advanced exerciser, repeat this circuit one to three times.

Circuit Two

Tricep Dip

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

For this circuit, you will be performing side jumps, triceps dips, a lunge with bicep curls, marching bridges, jump rope, and a squat press. Your entire body and cardiovascular system will be hard at work.

Side-to-Side Jump

Side-to-side jumps are a plyometric athletic movement that helps build agility, increases your heart rate, and builds strength, stability, and coordination in your legs.

  • Place a small object that you can jump over on the floor. Make sure it's something that won't trip you up; a resistance band makes a good marker.
  • Stand on one side of the marker and then jump over it with both feet at the same time, landing with the knees soft.
  • Continue jumping over the band for 30 seconds.
  • Rest if you need to and continue for 30 more seconds.

If this is too challenging, try stepping over the band or jumping with just one foot at a time, which is easier.

Triceps Dips

Triceps dips are one of the most effective exercises for the triceps and require no equipment besides a platform to place your hands. They also build some core strength while holding your body in place.

  • Sit on a chair or bench with your hands just outside of your hips and your knees bent (easier) or your legs extended straight out (harder).
  • Slide your butt just off of the front of the chair.
  • Lift up onto your hands and, keeping your hips very close to the chair, bend your elbows, lowering them down until they're at about 90 degrees. 
  • Press back up and repeat for 60 seconds.

Rest halfway through the triceps dips if you need to.

Lunge with Biceps Curls

Lunges with biceps curls do double-duty as a lower and upper body exercise in one, but also add an element of balance training. As you curl, you must keep your body stable, making your core fire up to maintain your position.

  • Stand in a split stance with one leg in front and the other behind you.
  • Hold weights in each hand and bend your knees into a lunge.
  • As you lunge, curl the weights up into a biceps curl.
  • Stand, lower the weights, and repeat for 30 seconds on each side.

Marching Bridges

Marching bridges are a simple glute and back exercise with a bit of a core challenge. Be sure to squeeze your glutes at the top to effectively activate them and protect your lower back.

  • Lie on the floor face up with your knees bent, feet close to your glutes (butt).
  • Push up into a bridge position: Lift your hips toward the ceiling while squeezing your glutes, so that your body is in a straight line.
  • Hold that position and take one foot a few inches off the floor. 
  • Lower and repeat on the other side.
  • Continue marching for 30 to 60 seconds.

Jumping Rope

Get out your jump rope or, if you don't have one, pretend that you do.

Jump for 30 seconds to 1 minute 

Jump on one foot for half the time and switch legs for the remainder, jumping only an inch or so off the floor.

Squat With an Overhead Press

The squat with press is another upper/lower body double-duty movement. It is challenging to complete, so take your time and break the movements into two with a pause at the top if you need to. If you are more coordinated, try to create a smooth movement, pressing as you rise up.

You'll feel your entire body work to perform this movement, including your core which must provide balance during the shifts from squatting to pressing.

  • Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and hold weights just over your shoulders.
  • Bend your knees, sending your hips straight back into a squat. Go as low as you can and press through the heels to stand up.
  • As you stand up, press the weights overhead.
  • Lower the weights and repeat for 30 to 60 seconds. 

End of Circuit Two

This is the end of Circuit 2. If you are an intermediate or advanced exerciser, repeat this circuit one to three times.

Recover

Finish this circuit training workout by stretching for a few minutes to improve flexibility and promote relaxation and stress relief. The reclining spinal twist is one easy move that stretches your hips, spine, and chest.

To do it, while lying on your back, drop both of your bent knees over to the right and send your gaze over to the left. Hold for five to 10 breaths, then drop your knees to the left and send your gaze to the right for another five to 10 breaths.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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