Over the years, we've become quite a gym-obsessed nation. More people than ever before seem to be joining gyms although despite the surge in popularity, the truth is that you don't necessarily have to own a membership to make a difference to your body.
As the title to this guide may have indicated, we're all about making the most of your own body weight. This is something that you categorically don't have to own a gym membership for. Whether it's due to the cost, or the fact you just don't like the whole environment there, it's completely acceptable not to work out at a gym.
Therefore, in a bid to avoid the gym and make the most of what everyone has - here's a guide to body weight circuits.
What are the advantages of body weight circuits?
The main benefit of body weight circuits is the fact that every exercise which you do will use different muscle groups. This is in contrast to the majority of static exercises conducted in a normal session. The upshot is that your heart will be racing and subsequently, the calories will be racing off your body as well.
It's the latter point which has made body weight circuits so popular over recent times. Initially, interval training was thought as the best way to burn calories. However, studies have shown that circuits are able to burn significantly more than any type of steady cardio work.
What sort of warm up should you do before a body weight circuit?
Regardless of the type of training you will be doing, it goes without saying that the warm up is essential. With so many muscles poised to be used during the workout, its crucial to get them warm and also increase your heart rate.
The idea isn't to completely tire yourself out, but just get yourself into the "zone" so your body is prepared for the onslaught. For a typical body weight workout, exercises such as pushups, jogging up and down the stairs and just jumping over rope are sufficient to get you going.
Even if you don't have much time for your overall session, never cut the warm up short. In other words, just deduct time from the main section of the workout to get your timing right.
What's a good body weight circuit for beginners?
For beginners, the ideas for a basic body weight workout are endless. The following workout is comprised of six different exercises. The idea is that you complete them successively, doing each a total of three times.
- 20 body weight squats: Working on your quadriceps, adductors, calves, hamstrings and hip flexors, many people believe squats are one of the most advantageous exercises you can do. Starting with your feet shoulder width apart, flex your knees and make sure that you sit back with your hips. Continue to work down until your upper legs are as horizontal as your body allows, before reverting to the starting position. The form tip here revolves around keeping in balance, and resisting the urge to lean forward after completing the movement.
- 10 pushups: Little else needs to be said about pushups, they are one of the first exercises we are taught at school. They work on the deltoids, pectoralis and triceps - meaning that they cover a big area of the upper body. To perform a push up, get into the plank position, placing your hands on the ground, before lowering and raising your body.
- 20 walking lunges: Working on the likes of your glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps, walking lunges have a similar effect to squats. This time, you'll start with your hands on your hips, while your feet will be shoulder width apart. Using one leg, make a stride forward before flexing your knees so they are level with your hips. Your rear knee will be almost touching the floor, before you rise and subsequently work on the opposite leg. The only form tip is to make sure that you keep your eyes looking ahead, while your upper body remains completely vertical.
- 10 dumbbell rows: This time, you'll need some sort of surface to work on, such as a chair or table. Placing your right leg on top of the surface, bend over so your upper body is parallel to the floor. Pick the dumbbell up with your left hand, raising it to the side of your chest before returning to the starting position. This should be repeated for both sides and will work the mid-back muscles, the upper lats, deltoids and biceps.
- Plank (15 seconds): With your body parallel to the floor, make sure your elbows are bent and the weight is concentrated on the forearms. This exercise will work the majority of your core muscles including the abs, hip and back.
- 30 Jumping Jacks: Starting with your feet together, jump outwards and throw your arms above your head. Then, return to the starting position via a jump. This exercise is explosive and will focus on a large number of muscles including the glutes, deltoids, calves and lats.
There are a few important points to note with the above workout. Firstly, there are slight deviations if you are not quite ready to tackle some of the exercises completely. For example, for the body squats and lunges you could use a support to help with balance. Or, in the case of pushups, there's a basic version which involves starting with your knees bent on the floor. Regardless of the type of exercise you do, the trick is to keep the form and do it properly. If you need a bit of time to recompose yourself, take it, rather than rushing and doing the exercise incorrectly.
Additionally, we've assumed that you do have access to dumbbells with some of the exercises. In truth, you don't really need anything quite as specific and as long as an item is heavy enough and has a suitable grip, it will work. For example, you could even use a milk jug. And, strangely enough, this jug doesn’t necessarily have to contain milk. While this is a good starting point, if you were to fill it up with sand it would become even heavier – which is food for thought as you develop your exercises.
After starting with a warm up, let's also point out that you need to conclude this workout with a cooldown. This will involve basic stretching, in a bid to avoid injury.
How often should you do the workout?
For a beginner, it's recommended to complete this workout two to three times per week. While some people might be tempted to attempt it on consecutive days, let's point out that this isn't going to be a viable method to build muscle. Your rest days are hugely important when it comes to building muscle and if you're exercising, they just won't have time to rebuild.
If you do have the urge to put your body through its paces more frequently, simply alternate with interval training. This time, you'll be giving your muscles sufficient time to recover so they can rebuild accordingly.
How can the workout be taken further?
Like any workout, doing the above for the next year isn't going to do you much good at all. While it might be effective initially, over time your body will be able to cope with it and it won't become a challenge.
Again, just because you don't have access to a gym, doesn't mean to say that you aren't able to take a workout to the next level.
Admittedly, over time, you will be looking to chop and change the exercises. However, in terms of basic changes, simply look to either add more weights, more reps or even another round of circuits. It's all about seeing how your body reacts, and responding accordingly.
Let's also add a point about taking body weight circuits even further. We've made no secret about the fact that this workout is for beginners. However, don't be under the impression that once you reach a certain point, you have to turn to the free weights and machines that are mainly available at the gym. On the contrary, these body weight workouts can be made significantly more advanced - there are umpteen exercises you can do which can take even the most advanced body to the limit.
A summary on body weight workouts
As the above has highlighted, gym memberships can be redundant if you put your mind to it. Working with your own body can be just as effective, particularly if you turn to a concept such as body weight circuits.
Of course, as well as all of the tips that have been mentioned so far, you also have to do the basics right. This largely involves eating the appropriate meals including lots of lean meats, vegetables and fruits. Doing this, in combination with a proven workout such as the above, means that you can finally cast gyms to the back of your mind and just concentrate on taking advantage of your own body.