When you don’t have a ton or time or any exercise equipment at your disposal, consider a bodyweight circuit that combines strength and cardio for a quick-yet-seriously challenging workout. We have a stellar example below that you can do in about 25 minutes or less!
Pairing strength and cardio together in a bodyweight circuit format can be effective since you don’t need to do it for too long before your body starts to feel it, certified personal trainer Francine Delgado-Lugo, CPT, movement and strength coach and cofounder of Form Fitness Brooklyn, tells SELF. This makes it a solid pick for busy exercisers.
This type of routine can also be a great choice for folks who don’t have access to a gym or weights, or who simply don’t like going to the gym, but still want to get functional strength work with bonus cardio thrown in.
“This is a way that you can challenge your body to move differently, and to work hard against gravity to build strength—but then also do movements that are really getting your heart rate up,” says Delgado-Lugo, who created the below five-move bodyweight routine for SELF.
To effectively combine strength and cardio in one circuit workout, you want to select challenging, full-body movements that you can perform with good form. You’ll want to do these moves quickly and for longer bouts of time, rather than focusing on just a handful of repetitions as you would do for normal strength training, explains Delgado-Lugo. That will ensure the routine gets you feeling breathy.
The below workout centers on five exercises performed in a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) format where you’ll alternate between 40-second work periods and 20-second rest periods. Get ready to challenge your muscles to the max, because these bodyweight moves are intense! There are three plank variations (inchworm, frogger, and plank up-down), which will seriously engage your core plus a bunch of other muscles throughout your body, as well as two exercises (jumping jack and skater hop to floor tap) that will get you dynamically moving side-to-side in the frontal or lateral plane of motion, which is important if your goal is well-rounded, functional strength.
Speaking of functional strength, this routine also incorporates unilateral exercises (moves where just one limb is doing most of the work, such as the skater hop and plank up-down), which help build the kind of strength needed for a lot of daily life activities, like climbing the stairs or holding a child with one side of your body. In short, this workout won’t just tax your muscles and leave you breathless—it will also help prep your body to move safely and effectively in day-to-day life.
You can do this circuit two to three times a week, says Delgado-Lugo. Because it’s full-body and pretty intense, be sure to give your muscles the downtime they need to recover between sessions. It’s “probably not something you want to do on back-to-back days,” says Delgado-Lugo, who recommends giving yourself a day or two break after doing this routine before trying it again.
However you slot in this routine, make sure to do a warm-up first so that your body is properly primed. Consider this five-move sequence designed to prep you for any workout.
What you need: Just your bodyweight! You may want an exercise mat for comfort.
Jumping jackInchwormSkater hop to floor tapFroggerPlank up-down
Perform reps of each move for 40 seconds, then rest 20 seconds before moving onto the next move in the circuit.Repeat the circuit for 3 or 4 total rounds, resting 1 to 2 minutes between each round.Make sure that you don’t compromise your form in order to move fast through the work periods, says Delgado-Lugo. If you find your form slipping, slow down and if needed, modify the movement.
Demoing the moves below are Landyn Pan (GIFs 1 and 4), an online fitness and nutrition coach; Francine Delgado-Lugo (GIF 2), cofounder of FORM Fitness Brooklyn; Heather Boddy (GIF 3), a group fitness instructor and creator of the Geeknasium workout program; and Keri Harvey (GIF 5), a Brooklyn-based NASM-certified personal trainer currently training at Form Fitness Brooklyn.