20-Minute Circuit Workout

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Circuit training is a great way to work out.
Australian Army Warrant Officer 2 Barry Conroy pushes upward on his weights while performing on a circuit setup by Australian soldiers at Kirkush Military Training Base. (Spc. Lee Elder/133d Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

When the weather turns cold, I receive many emails discussing running in the cold weather or alternative exercises you can do in the weight room that will have a cardiovascular effect. Circuit training is one of the best ways to make a resistance and strength training workout that is challenging for your heart and lungs.

This 20-minute workout will take you to your maximum physical effort as well as your maximum heart rate. The object of this workout is not to rest between exercises. You will see that one minute of a particular exercise will burn out the targeted muscle group as well as increase your heart rate to a fat- and sugar-burning zone. Try the 20-minute workout below. If it is not challenging enough for you, try it again, totaling only 40 minutes of your time in the weight room.

20-Minute Circuit Workout

  1. Bench press* or push-ups -- max in 1:00
  2. Squats -- max in 1:00
  3. Pull-ups or pulldowns -- 1:00
  4. Bike or jog -- 3:00
  5. Military press* -- 1:00
  6. Lunges -- 1:00 each leg
  7. Biceps curls -- 1:00
  8. Bike or jog -- 3:00
  9. Triceps extensions -- 1:00
  10. Leg extensions -- 1:00 (requires leg machines -- or repeat squats with weights)
  11. Leg curls -- 1:00 (requires leg machines -- or repeat lunges with weights)
  12. Sit-ups -- 2:00
  13. Crunches -- 2:00
  14. Stretch

*Choose light weights for max reps

There is an unlimited number of ways to organize a circuit workout. The above workout is organized with upper-body, lower-body and cardiovascular exercises. By simply doing the above upper-body and lower-body exercises in such a way, you will be able to rest your upper-body muscles while you work out your lower-body muscles, but you never will rest your heart.

This is how you make the circuit workout challenging to your cardiovascular system as well as your major muscle groups. Studies have shown that mixing a resistance training regimen with a cardiovascular element will increase your metabolism, thereby burning fat and building muscle. The result is a decrease in body-fat percentage.

So if you are looking to lose inches and body fat, workouts like this -- coupled with 4-5 smaller meals and 3-4 quarts of water every day -- will help you achieve your goal. The best thing about this diet program is that you do not need a single dietary supplement, just good old fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and other lean meats. The key is to burn more calories than you take in, and this workout will help you with that.

Note: It's best to do this workout every other day.

For more ideas on circuit training programming, see Circuit Training 101.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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