This is a two-part article series that outlines four unique and challenging circuit training workouts for women. Each part will focus on two circuit workouts and each workout will be more challenging than the one before it. Note that this type of training is very demanding so make sure you start off easy and progress accordingly.
If circuit training has never been a part of your overall training routine, then you’re in for a ride.
Circuit training is an effective and versatile method for building a better body. If this is all new to you, take a second to first check what circuit training is all about.
Today I want to focus on two of the four circuit training workouts for women. Each circuit training workout outlined is composed of a number of exercises, all to be done in sequence with no rest in between exercises. This type of training has a great metabolic carryover, pushing your heart rate and EPOC levels through the roof and turning your body into a fat-melting furnace.
These circuit training workouts should be performed at least two times per week. I challenge you to push yourself with these workouts. Step outside of your comfort zone and prepare for some great results.
Let’s get to work.
1) Bodyweight Circuit Training Workout
The first circuit training workout focuses on bodyweight training and, therefore, no equipment is required. This is an excellent circuit to use if you’re just getting started with circuit training. Make sure that you move from exercise to exercise without any rest and you’ll see how quickly this gets your heart rate up and your lungs burning.
Exercise 1 – Prisoner Lunges
Focus: Hamstrings, Glutes
This is a bodyweight lunge where you hold your hands by your ears (kind of like you got your hands on your head, like a prisoner). Keeping your hands by your ears ensures you keep your back straight, chest up and you’re facing forwards. Make sure you step out long and keep your front knee directly above the ankle (to avoid excessive strain on your knee). Pause for half a second at the bottom of every repetition. Here’s a good video demonstration of a proper prisoner lunge.
Perform: 20 repetitions total (10 each leg)
Exercise 2 – Mountain Climbers
Focus: Cardiovascular System, Core
The mountain climbers are great for developing core strength, muscular endurance in your arms, and overall cardiovascular fitness. Get into an extended plank position (hands extended), keep your body fully aligned, tighten your core and begin bringing one knee towards your chest at a time at an increasing pace. For details (and video demonstration) on this movement, check out my post on the mountain climbers exercise.
Perform: 50 repetitions total (25 each leg) at a fast pace
Exercise 3 – Planks to Get Up
Focus: Shoulders, Arms, Core
This is an excellent exercise for developing muscular endurance in your shoulders and arms. It’s also excellent for strengthening your core. You’re going to start off in a regular plank position: up on your toes and forearms, body full aligned, core tight. Now you’re going to push yourself up, one arm at a time, into an arm-extend plank position. Then you will bring yourself back down to your forearms, one arm at a time. You will continue doing this for a set period of time. Make sure you alternate which hand you push yourself up with. Check out this video demonstration to see how I do this exercise.
Perform: 60 seconds
Exercise 4 – Prisoner Squats
Focus: Quads, Glutes
This is an excellent variation of the bodyweight squat where, just like in the prisoner lunge, you’re going to keep your hands by your ears. This is an excellent exercise for developing strong legs and a sexy butt. With your feet shoulder width apart and toes pointing slightly out, begin each repetition by hinging at your hips and sitting back into the squat. This will prevent your knees from riding too far over your toes which can cause excessive stress to be placed on your knees. Keep your chest up and head facing forwards. Here’s an excellent video demonstration of a prisoner squat (notice the squat depth).
Perform: 20 repetitions
Exercise 5 – Burpees
Focus: Cardiovascular System
I think we all have a love-hate relationship with burpees. We love them because they work, but we hate them because they are brutally hard!! This exercise is going to take forever to explain in words so, instead, I’m going to direct you to this video demonstration that shows you how to do a proper burpee.
Perform: 10 burpees
Perform: 3 circuits with 2-3 minutes of rest in between each circuit.
2) Resistance Band Circuit Training Workout
The second circuit training workout for women requires the use of a resistance band. This is one fitness tool that should be part of your fitness arsenal because it’s great for developing a functionally strong body. There are many different styles, colours and designs of resistance bands, so you have to be sure to choose the one that will challenge you most effectively. For this circuit workout, I suggest you get a resistance band with handles [here’s a picture of what I mean]. You’ll also need some sort of support beam that you can attach the resistance band to for a few of the exercises. You can usually find these in your basement if you’re doing the workout at home. Remember to move quickly from one exercise to another; don’t spend too much time setting up for the next exercise. The idea is to move swiftly from exercise to exercise with minimum rest.
Exercise 1 – Resistance Band Pushups
Focus: Chest, Triceps, Shoulders
This is an excellent variation of the regular pushup that will help you develop great arms and shoulders. Grab the resistance band and put it around your body so it sits right underneath your shoulder blades. As you get into a push up position, place your hands over the ends of the resistance band to pinch it to the ground and initiate the resistance. Now perform your pushups. As is true with any of the exercises in this circuit workout, the closer your hands are on the resistance band, the greater the resistance will be and the more challenging the repetitions will be.
Perform: 10 repetitions at a slow pace
Exercise 2 – Half Burpees
Focus: Cardiovascular System, Abdominals
You won’t need a resistance band for this one. As you finish your resistance band push ups, let go of the resistance band and immediately move to the half burpees. Half burpees are just that – half of a full burpee. Start off in the extended plank position with your arms fully extended and body completely aligned. Bring both feet explosively as close to your hands as you can. As soon as they land, explode back into the starting position plank position. It should all be one smooth motion. To help you out, here’s a somewhat decent video demonstration (it was hard to find).
Perform: 20 repetitions
Exercise 3 – Squat to Shoulder Press
Focus: Quads, Glutes, Shoulders
The squat to shoulder press is a very challenging exercise. As you can probably guess, it is a combination of two exercises: the squat and the shoulder press. Start by placing the resistance band under your feet as you stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the handles of the resistance band and bring your hands up to your shoulders. Your elbows should be tucked in, not flaring wide out. Start the movement by hinging your hips back and sitting into the squat. Explode back up and as you reach the top, press the resistance band up over your head. Bring your hands back down to your shoulders and proceed to the next squat repetition. Keep your chest up and head facing forwards at all times. Check out this video demonstration (go to the 2:01 min mark).
Perform: 10 repetitions
Exercise 4 – One-arm Rows
Focus: Back, Shoulders (posterior), Biceps
You’ll need to use your support beam for this one. This is an excellent exercise for developing you back. Place the resistance band around the support beam and grab the handles. Stand as far back from the support beam as you want noting that the farther you are, the higher the resistance will be. Bend your knees and sit back a bit. Your back should be fully straight, chest up and head up. Your arms should be straight out in front of you holding the handles. Now, one arm at a time, pull one end of the resistance band towards you. Don’t allow your body to twist – stay straight. Bring the arm back and do the same with the other arm. Check out this video demonstration (go to the 0:56 min mark).
Perform: 20 repetitions total (10 each arm)
Exercise 5 – One-arm Chest Presses
Focus: Chest, Triceps
As soon as you’re done with the one-arm rows, you’re going to move to the one-arm chest presses. This is how we incorporate muscular balance into the routine. The one-arm chest presses do a great job of developing your chest and triceps. By transferring the resistance band handles from one hand to the other, turn your body so you’re facing away from the support beam. Bring your handles to your chest, elbows flaring our wide (like you’re about to to a wide pushup in the air). One arm at a time, extend your arm in front of you as if you’re punching the air. Bring it back and do the same thing with the other arm. Check out this video demonstration (go to the 0:40 min mark).
Perform: 20 repetitions total (10 each arm)
Exercise 6 – Mountain Climbers
Focus: Cardiovascular System, Core
You’re going to put the resistance band down for a second as you perform the last exercise – the mountain climbers. As I mentioned earlier, this exercise is amazing for developing core strength, muscular endurance in your arms, and your overall cardiovascular fitness. Get into an extended plank position (hands extended), keep your body fully aligned, tighten your core and begin bringing one knee towards your chest at a time at an increasing pace. For details (and video demonstration) on this movement, check out my post on the mountain climbers exercise.
Perform: 50 repetitions total (25 each leg)
Perform: 3 circuits with 2-3 minutes of rest in between circuit
That’s all there is to it. Remember that circuit training is all about getting your heart rate up in unique ways and this is accomplished by moving quickly and effectively from one exercise to the next. If you’re just starting out and you need to rest between exercises, that’s completely fine – just make sure you keep it at a minimum. Eventually, you’ll want to work your way towards no rest between exercises.
Once you’ve given these circuit workouts a try, you can move on to Part 2 of this article series. In Part 2 I present two more workouts that are more challenging and require some equipment. I also have a downloadable PDF version for you to print out and take with you if needed.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comment section below!