The goal of CIRCUITS is to get your heart rate higher than when doing SETS. Each CIRCUIT will take about 25 minutes to complete.
- Each CIRCUIT will consist of 5 exercises plus 5 stretches.
- Complete each round of 5 exercises 4X total (i.e. do exercises 1 through 5, then start over at exercise 1).
- Do each exercise for 45 seconds on, followed by 15 seconds “off” (active recovery) before moving to the next exercise. Make sure you still move during the 15 seconds of active recovery. I usually do a boxer’s shuffle, jog in place, or lift my knees.
- Your first round will be your warm-up.
- Completing the 4 rounds will take 20 minutes.
- If you want to fatigue the muscles — not just get your heart rate up — do 4 rounds of one exercise, then 4 rounds of the next exercise, etc.. By performing the same exercise 4x in a row, you’ll definitely feel the burn. If you do this version, make sure to add a short full body warm-up before starting the timer. For example, you can round through each exercise without equipment.
- After you complete the 4 rounds, move on to the stretches. You only need to do one round of the stretches. You don’t need to use a timer, but aim for roughly 30 seconds per stretch.
If you don’t have a smart phone, some people like the Gymboss.
The first round will be your warm-up. Therefore, do not use resistance bands or weights the first round. Slow down the exercises to make sure you warm up your muscles before going whole hog.
Read the descriptions AND watch the video before starting the CIRCUIT.
1. The Seagull
This is a lunge to lateral raise to front raise.
Regress the exercise by decreasing the resistance on the band or by making the standing lunge more shallow.
Progress the exercise by increasing the resistance and deepening the lunge. You can also use dumbbells.
I call it a Seagull because it makes me feel like a bird. As you’ve probably noticed, I sometimes give exercises weird names, mostly to help me remember.
Remember, round 1 is a warm-up, so do the exercise without the resistance band.
- Step on the band with one foot. Stagger your other foot behind you, palms facing the body and arms at your side.
- Perform a standing lunge by bending your knees, keeping your front knee in line with your ankle (approximately).
- At the same time, perform a lateral raise by lifting your arms to the side. Keep your elbows in line with your wrist throughout the movement, so only go as high as you can do this.
- Stand back up and lower your arms.
- Lunge again, this time raising your arms straight in front with palms facing down. Try to raise them to shoulder height, but don’t force it if you can’t.
- Stand back up and lower your arms.
- Alternate lateral raise and lunge with front raise and lunge. You can also change the movement by performing the raises while standing up from the lunge, rather than while lowering into the lunge (see video). Pick whichever version feels most comfortable, or mix it up between rounds.
You can do all 45 seconds with the right leg in front and then switch legs the next round, OR you can switch legs half-way into the interval.
If you need to rock the body back and forth to lift the band, this means the resistance is too strong. Find a lighter band or don’t use one at all.
2. Gorilla Deadlift
This is a great full body exercise that gives the small muscles in your shoulders some extra attention.
- Stand on the resistance band with both feet. Hold the band in each hand, palms facing your body.
- Perform a straight legged deadlift by bending forward at the waist, keeping the natural curves in your back. If you have pelvic floor disorder or tight hamstrings, feel free to bend the knees. Make sure you don’t turn this into a squat though. Think of a hinge at the hips.
- Raise your torso back up, using your back, leg, and butt muscles.
- After you stand up, bend your elbows about 45 degrees and shrug your shoulders (while still holding onto the resistance band).
- Start over.
3. Ski Jack
Jumping Jacks aren’t always appropriate for new moms or, frankly, for any moms who have weak pelvic floors. Plus, better alternatives exist. I’m partial to the ski jack, mostly because it’s fun.
- Stand with your legs almost touching.
- Point your hands overhead with straight arms, palms touching.
- Bend your knees and stick your butt out.
- At the same time, swing your arms underneath your bent knees and clap them together behind your legs. If you can’t squat deep enough to reach underneath your legs, simply touch the sides of your legs.
- Stand up and raise your arms overhead again. Aim for a fast pace.
If you have shoulder problems, lift your arms in front of you, rather than overhead.
4. Mountain Climber
Although a traditional floor mountain climber isn’t great for weak abs, it is easily modified. Simply find an incline that works for you. I like to use a chair. You can also start at a high countertop.
- Place your hands on your chosen surface and get into a push-up position. You can keep your arms mostly straight (but not locked), or you can bend them slightly if that is more comfortable on the incline.
- Make sure your body stays in neutral from your head to your toes. However, if you feel your lower back dipping, flatten your back by slightly tucking your pelvis.
- Lift your right knee toward your chest.
- Return your right knee and repeat with your left knee.
If you can’t maintain control of your abs, don’t lift your knee as high, or find a bigger incline. Similarly, if it is much too easy and you feel no work in your abs, lower the incline.
As always, make sure your pelvic floor comes along for the ride.
5. Bent Over Row
The row is one of my favorite exercises because my upper back muscles always need strengthening (too much time sitting and/or carrying a kid).
- Stand on a resistance band (can also use dumbbells) with feet shoulder width apart.
- Slightly bend your knees and hinge at the hip, keeping the natural curves in your spine. Let your arms hang down.
- On the exhale, pull your elbows back until they are in line with your torso or slightly behind.
- If it is too easy, grab the resistance band closer to your feet to increase the resistance. You want to feel your back muscles really working to pull the band. You also want your abdominal muscles to contract on the exhale.
- Inhale and release to starting.
5 stretches/mobilizations for approximately 30 seconds each:
Do these AFTER you have cycled through the previous 4 rounds. You only need to do each stretch once.
If you have diastasis recti, do not overstretch the abdomen. This might mean you don’t stretch as far as I do in the video and pictures.
1. Hip Hinge
Hold on to a counter or chair. Bend at the waist and hinge forward with arms straight. Feel the stretch in your shoulders, back, glutes, and hamstrings. You can make the stretch dynamic by standing back up and hinging forward over and over.
2. Squat Opener
Stand with feet wider than hip width. Reach your arms in between your legs while squatting forward. Then stand back up and reach the arms overhead, slightly arching your back.
3. Chest and Shoulder Stretch on Wall
Stand with your right side facing a wall. Lift your right arm behind you and put the palm of your hand against the wall, keeping the arm fairly straight. Step forward slightly to feel the stretch in your chest.
Next, keeping your arm in the same position, turn slightly away from the wall and feel the stretch in your shoulder and bicep.
4. Dynamic Warrior
Lunge with one foot forward and knee bent. Your other leg is straight behind you with the toes at a 45 degree angle. Stretch your arms overhead. Then, straighten your front knee and lift your arms behind you. Bend the knee again and return the arms to overhead. Repeat approximately 6x before switching sides.
5. Pelvic Lift and Lower
Perform the hip hinge, rest against a chair, or lie on the floor in child’s pose. Feel free to play around with different positions. Lift your pelvic floor in and up to perform a Kegel, then relax it completely, letting it melt away. Repeat.
Watch the Video
That’s it for CIRCUIT 1.