As the holiday season approaches, many of us will be spending time with family, eating more than we should, and not thinking much about workouts. But there’s no need to let your fitness fall to the wayside! You can get an early start on those new year’s resolutions before the end of the year and still have plenty of time to spend with your loved ones.
There’s a common misconception that building strength and fitness requires hours of work a day, multiple times. The truth is, you can do wonders for your fitness in under 20 minutes per day with circuit training. This type of training is intense but very time efficient and versatile, building both strength and cardiovascular fitness.
In theme with the 12 days of Christmas, I’ve put together a 12 exercise circuit that you can perform at home, anytime. It’s sure to help you built strength and burn off some of those extra holiday calories. If you’re unsure how to perform any of the exercises, I’ve included a detailed, how-to explanation for each. The diversity of exercises will ensure your upper and lower body are worked equally.
When it comes to circuit training, I always like to perform exercises for time, rather than reps. This builds better cardio fitness. Perform each of the following exercises for 30 seconds. After each exercise, though, take a 30-second rest. Depending on your fitness level, you may want to reduce the rest period to 20 or even 10 seconds eventually, but I find 30 seconds of rest to be a good starting point.
- Front plank
- Kettlebell Swings
- Jumping Lunges
- Lying Leg Raises
- Mountain Climbers
- Air Squats
- Kettlebell Halos
- Tricep Dips
- Glute Bridge
*30 seconds work on each exercise, then 30 seconds rest. After the rest, move on to the next exercise.
*Move through this circuit three times, taking 3 minutes rest between each set.
Now that you’ve seen the layout of this holiday circuit, I’ll give you an overview of each exercise, what muscle group it works, and why I like it so much.
One of the oldest exercises in the book, pushups work the triceps, shoulders, chest, and back muscles, all without any extra equipment. To perform these, hold yourself off the floor with your palm and toes. Slowly lower yourself down to the floor, bending your arms, and then explode back up. If you find you can’t complete regular pushups for the required 30 seconds, try resting your knees on the floor instead of your toes. This reduces the load significantly but still works the upper body in the same way.
One of my all-time favorite core exercises, front planks, can’t be beaten. They work abdominal stability and can be done anywhere you have a flat surface. With elbows bent, hold yourself with your toes and forearms flat on the floor. Make sure you’re maintaining a flat backside.
This is a great exercise for lower back, shoulder, and leg strength. Standing straight up, hold the kettlebell between your legs. Lift it up to shoulder height and then let it fall down. As it comes down, squat down with your legs and lift the kettlebell back up. If you don’t have a kettlebell at home, they’re fairly inexpensive online or at your local fitness store.
Jumping lunges are a great leg exercise, and they’re sure to get your heart pumping. Start standing, then drop one leg in front and one leg behind you, lowering the front leg. Jump off the front leg and then bring the back leg forward in the lunge position and repeat the exercise.
Lying Leg Raises
After the jumping lunges, you’ll certainly be feeling the burn, so this exercise gives you a little rest. With that said, it’s still great core work. Start by lying flat on the floor on your back. With your legs straight and together, raise them off the floor to 90 degrees and lower back down.
This is another great core exercise that will get your heart rate up again. Start on the floor as if you were going to perform a pushup, but don’t lower your arms. Instead, bring one leg up to your chest, then bring it back down again. As you’re bringing that leg down, bring the other leg up to the same position. This one can be a little tricky, so check out this instructional video if you’re having any problems:
This one is pretty straight forward but one of the best lower body exercises. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and bend your knees until your hips are below 90 degrees. Try and keep your back straight and feet flat on the floor.
Burpees are a great total body exercise. Start standing, then drop down into a pushup. When you’ve completed the pushup, immediately jump back up onto your feet and perform a jump squat. After 30 seconds, this one will have you feeling the burn.
You may not be familiar with this exercise, but that’s okay. It’s great for the shoulders, back, and chest. With your arms bent at 90 degrees, hold the kettlebell at face level. Rotate the kettlebell around your head. Make sure you alternate directions to ensure your body stays balanced. This one can seem a little complicated at first, so check out this video:
Tricep dips are one of the best lower body exercises out there. To perform, you’ll need an elevated piece of furniture like a bed or couch. Place your hands on the piece of furniture with your feet straight in front of you on the floor. Slowly bend your elbows and lower your butt towards the floor and then come back up.
As the name suggests, this is a great exercise for your lower body. Lie on your back, with your feet at hip-width and knees bent. Lift your hips off the floor using your glutes and hamstrings until your body is flat in the air and then come back down again.
I always like to end my circuits with a core burner, and situps are great for that. Lie flat on your back, and while keeping your legs on the ground, activate your core muscles and bring your upper body off the floor to a 90-degree angle and then come back down.
Happy holidays! Make sure you enjoy some tasty food and quality family time this season.
What did you think of this circuit? Let me know in the comments.