Weight Loss Circuit Workout

UK Fitness Pro
UK Fitness Pro
· 11 min read
Man completing a weight loss circuit workout.

What is a Weight Loss Circuit Workout?

Before getting to the 10-exercise, equipment-free weight loss circuit workout, let’s take a quick look at what circuit training is. (If you already have a good idea, feel free to just scroll on down to the Weight Loss Circuit Workout heading below!)

Circuit training was developed by researchers at the University of Leeds in the 1950s. A circuit workout simply involves completing a “circuit” or sequence of exercises, usually between 8 and 12, one after the other until the circuit is complete. Then, depending on certain constraints, such as time and fitness, the circuit can be completed again any number of times as desired. 

Man doing push ups as part of a weight loss circuit workout.

Each exercise in the circuit workout is undertaken for a specific duration, often about 30 seconds, then is followed by a rest period before the next exercise is started. Like the durations for exercises, rest periods vary in length, though are typically about 30 seconds too. Traditionally, participants move between stations when completing a circuit workout (e.g., cones arranged in a large circle), but the exercises can be completed in one place if the space isn’t available.  

A weight loss circuit workout, therefore, is just a circuit workout with a particular emphasis on weight loss. How is this achieved? Well, it really comes down to basic physics. Moving big objects requires a lot of energy, so a weight loss circuit training workout focuses on exercises that involve moving your biggest muscles and on moving multiple muscles at once. 

Such exercises increase the likelihood that you’ll enter a “caloric deficit” (i.e., the amount of energy you’ve consumed is less than the energy you’ve used), which is when weight loss occurs. 

What Are the Benefits of a Weight Loss Circuit Workout?

According to research published in the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), circuit training entails a wide range of benefits, including the following:

  • By incorporating anaerobic and aerobic exercises, circuit training improves both strength and cardiovascular fitness.
  • Circuit training can assist with weight loss, not only because the exercises themselves burn calories at the time, but because they can increase your metabolic rate for up to 72 hours after. The result is that you burn more calories than you normally would long after completing the workout.
  • As circuit training workouts can be completed without any equipment and as they’re relatively quick, the barriers to entry are very low, and people are often able to make circuit training a regular part of their routine.
  • Circuit training has been linked to decreases in insulin resistance, so may help to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.

OK, now we know what weight loss circuit training is and what the benefits are, let’s get to the structure of the workout and the exercises!

When you first attempt this workout, just aim to complete the circuit once and aim to complete each exercise for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest. This way, the circuit, which contains a 2-minute warm up, will take about 12 minutes. 

If you find that that’s too easy, try to complete the circuit two or three times. If you find that it’s too challenging, try 1-minute rest periods instead. Unlike high-intensity interval training workouts, which are very short and very intense, the ACSM suggests that circuit training workouts should be completed at 40–80% intensity. 

Man doing incline push ups as part of a weight loss circuit workout.

Below, some alternative exercises are provided if you want to increase or decrease how challenging the workout is. 

You’ll see that the exercises are ordered to avoid having two similar exercises next to each other. For example, squats (Exercise 2) and lunges (Exercise 6) both work the legs and are both quite taxing on the lungs, so there are several exercises between them. This way, muscle groups have time to recover to ensure that you’re able to continue performing the exercises with good form. 

Weight Loss Circuit Workout

Warm Up

Before starting, prepare yourself for the weight loss circuit by completing a simple warm up. First, complete a 1-minute gentle jog on the spot, then a minute of jumping jacks (described below if you’re not familiar with them). These exercises engage many of the body’s major muscle groups, so are ideal preparation for a weight loss circuit workout.

Weight Loss Circuit Workout Exercise 1 – Push Ups

Emphasising the chest and triceps while also engaging the core, the simple push up is a great exercise to incorporate into a weight loss circuit workout. 

Man doing push ups on the ground as part of a weight loss circuit workout.

In its most basic form, the push up is performed with hands a little wider than the shoulders. However, if you want to emphasise the triceps and want to make this exercise a little more challenging, you could opt for narrower hand placement (e.g., shoulder width or narrower). 

Too easy or hard?

If regular push ups are too easy for you, how about clap push ups? 

If you don’t yet have the strength or fitness to complete push ups for 30 seconds, try do them on your knees instead. Then, after you’ve been training for a few weeks or months, see if you can transition to regular push ups. 

Weight Loss Circuit Workout Exercise 2 – Squats

Working the largest muscles in the body, squats are another excellent exercise for a weight loss circuit workout. 

Standing straight up, start with your feet about shoulder width and angled slightly outwards. Then, keeping your back straight, push your hips back and bend your legs until your thighs are parallel to the ground, then contract your hamstrings (back of the legs), quads (front of the legs), and glutes (bum) to return to the start position. 

Woman doing squats as part of a weight loss circuit workout.

If your mobility is limited, go down as far as you can without having to bend your back. 

Also, note that we all have different biomechanics, so feel free to experiment with your stance to increase the comfort of the movement. For instance, you might prefer to turn your feet in or out more, to use a wider or narrower stance, or to use something to raise your heels slightly (which will place more emphasis on your quads). 

Too easy or hard?

Of course, if regular squats are too easy for you, you could put a barbell and some weights on your shoulders. Or, to keep this an equipment-free workout, you could do jump squats instead. 

If you’re not quite ready for squats, you could try calf raises instead. Just alternate between standing on tip toes and standing normally. You’ll probably feel your calves burning, but calf raises are much kinder on the lungs than squats. 

Weight Loss Circuit Workout Exercise 3 – Leg Raises

OK, enough standing, time to get back on the ground. 

Woman doing leg raises as part of a weight loss circuit workout.

For this exercise, lie on your back with your palms facing down beside your hips, then, keeping your legs straight, raise your feet until your legs are 90 degrees to the ground. Slowly lower your feet back to the starting position but try not to cheat by resting your heels on the ground between repetitions. 

Too easy or hard?

If this is too easy for you, you could try strap on some ankle weights or you could hold a medicine ball between your ankles. (It’s possible to do this with a dumbbell, but then there’s the risk of dropping it on your face!)

If performing leg raises with straight legs is too hard, you can substantially decrease the resistance by instead doing the movement with bent legs. 

Weight Loss Circuit Workout Exercise 4 – Jumping Jacks

OK, back to your feet. This time for jumping jacks (aka star jumps). 

Woman doing jumping jacks as part of a weight loss circuit workout.

Start by standing up straight with your feet at shoulder width and hands by your side, then jump and spread your feet so that they’re about a metre apart. At the same time as the jump, raise your arms, keeping them straight, so that they’re parallel to the ground. Jump to return to the start position. 

Too easy or hard?

This is one of the easier exercises in the circuit (which is why it’s also part of the warmup), but it’ll feel substantially harder if you previously put the ankle weights on for the leg raises and haven’t taken them off!

If jumping jacks feel a little too challenging, you could take the “jumping” out of them. Instead, just step to the side with one foot, then in the other direction with the other, then raise the arms as usual. Next, return to the start position, one foot at a time, then repeat. 

Weight Loss Circuit Workout Exercise 5 – Mountain Climbers

Here’s another core-focused exercise. 

Start in a high plank position – the top position when you do push ups. Next, take one foot just off of the ground and bring the corresponding knee towards your chest. As you return this leg to its start position, bring the other knee to your chest. 

Man doing mountain climbers as part of a weight loss circuit workout.

If you do this quickly, it’ll feel a bit like running – a bit like you’re pushing a car and you’ve picked up a lot of speed!

Too easy or hard?

If you’re struggling at this point, you could just hold the high plank position for 30 seconds instead. This is still a great exercise for the abdominal and lower back muscles. 

Again, if this is too easy, the aforementioned ankle weights would make it a lot more challenging. 

Weight Loss Circuit Workout Exercise 6 – Alternating Lunges

The next exercise in this weight loss circuit workout is another leg burner – alternating lunges. 

Woman doing lunges as part of a weight loss circuit workout.

Start standing straight, then take a big step forward with one leg and lower yourself down until your knee almost touches the ground. Next, push with your front leg to return to the start position, then repeat with the other leg.

Throughout, keep your shoulders back and your back straight. 

Too easy or hard?

If regular, bodyweight lunges aren’t challenging enough for you, you could hold a dumbbell in each hand, put a barbell on your shoulders, or do jumping lunges instead. 

The range of motion can make a big difference to the difficulty of this exercise. If you’re finding full lunges tough, try just taking smaller steps forward and not lowering yourself down as far. 

Weight Loss Circuit Workout Exercise 7 – Russian Twists

It’s back on the ground for this exercise – another core burner. 

Unless you happen to have the right surface for your exercise room, you might be more comfortable doing Russian twists on a yoga mat. No problem if you don’t have one – something like a cushion would be fine too. 

Woman doing Russian twists as part of a weight loss circuit workout.

Start sitting with your legs, more or less straight, in front of you, and your feet about a foot off of the ground. With a straight back, lean back slightly, then, with your hands together in front of your chest, rotate your torso from one side to the other. 

Too easy or hard?

To increase the difficulty of this exercise, you could hold a dumbbell or small kettlebell as you perform the rotations. 

If you find this hard, you’ll be able to reduce the resistance by not leaning back as far. 

Weight Loss Circuit Workout Exercise 8 – Burpees

Love them or hate them, burpees work most of the major muscles in the body, so are perfect for a weight less circuit workout. 

Man doing burpees as part of a weight loss circuit workout.

Start standing up straight, then squat down and put your palms on the ground, a little wider than shoulder width. Next, put your weight on your hands and straighten your torso and legs behind you so that you end up in the push up starting position, then bring both feet back under you and stand up to return to the start position. Throughout, both legs should move in unison. 

Too easy or hard?

Burpees are notorious for being exhausting, but if you want an extra challenge, you could do a push up every time you bring your feet back under you.  

Burpees aren’t for everyone. An easier alternative is to get into the different positions (squatting down, push up position) by moving one leg at a time. This way, you avoid the jump-like movements that make burpees so tough. 

Weight Loss Circuit Workout Exercise 9 – Single-Leg Bodyweight Deadlift

This exercise is going to target the lower back and glutes and is also great for balance.  

Woman doing bodyweight deadlifts as part of a weight loss circuit workout.

Standing up, move one straight leg behind you as you lean forward with your torso, also straight. The aim is to get both your leg and torso parallel to the ground. Next, return to the start position and repeat with the other leg. 

Too easy or hard?

Again, if you’re wearing the ankle weights mentioned previously, these will make the exercise substantially harder. 

If these feel a bit too difficult, you could remove the leg-behind-you component of the exercise. Just lean forward with your torso straight, then return to the start position, repeating for 30 seconds. 

Weight Loss Circuit Workout Exercise 10 – Sit Ups

Just one more core exercise, then this weight loss circuit workout is done (at least if you’re only doing one circuit!).

Start by lying on the ground with your legs bent. I’m sure you’ve done sit ups before, so you probably know that it can be helpful to put your toes under something – a sofa or a barbell can be useful here. If you don’t have anything to hand, not to worry. 

Woman doing sit ups as part of a weight loss circuit workout.

With your forearms making an X across your chest and with your back straight, sit up so that your torso is about 90 degrees to the ground, then return slowly to the start position. 

Try not to completely let go at the bottom of the movement. If you instead barely touch the ground with your back, you’ll ensure that your abs are engaged the whole time. 

Too easy or hard?

If you’d like some extra resistance, try hold something like a medicine ball close to your chest as you perform the exercise. 

If sit ups feel too challenging, you could have a go at ankle taps. Start in the same position, but instead of sitting up stay with your back close to the ground and try to tap your ankles, one at a time, with your fingers. 

What Next?

If you’ve completed the circuit comfortably, how about trying to complete it two or three times in a row? Or with the harder alternatives suggested?

If you’ve tried it and found it difficult, don’t despair. Building strength and fitness takes time. Perhaps try increase the rest time from 30 seconds to 60 seconds or try some of the easier alternatives described above. 

If you feel that you’d benefit from the guidance of a qualified personal trainer, just head to the ukfitness.pro homepage, enter your location into the search box, then use the filter on the search results page to find a trainer that has the expertise you’re after. Once you’ve identified someone, just send them a quick message to find out how they can assist you on your health and fitness journey this year!

If you like this article, you might also like these articles on the benefits of high-intensity interval training and the workouts and diets of superheroes

About the Author

As well as BSc, MSc, and PhD degrees in life science subjects, James Roberts has over 10 years of experience in strength and endurance training. He loves to write in order to share his expertise in healthy eating, training, and supplementation. 

An expert in how to do weight loss circuit workouts.