Circuits vs Cardio

Yesterday I was interviewed by Men’s Health magazine, and they were looking for workouts that could replace cardio. In my opinion, doing bodyweight or kettlebell circuits is a much better replacement for cardio.

I think bodyweight circuits or kettlebell-bodyweight circuits are the best replacement for cardio.

Now of course you’re not going to run a sub 3-hour marathon just by doing these circuits, but I guarantee you’ll sculpt a better body and burn fat with circuit training than you ever will by just doing cardio. Plus, these circuits, even if done up to 5 times, will still be a shorter workout than doing an hour of cardio.

Take it easy the first time through each circuit and use that as a warmup, and then go through another 2-4 times for your workout.

Here are some sample circuit training workouts:

Crazy-8 Bodyweight Circuit
1) 60 Jumping Jacks: Done as fast as possible, but make sure you do full jumping jacks.
2) 20 Spiderman Pushups or regular pushups:
3) Walking Lunges: 30 steps total
4) Spiderman Climb: 10 per side
5) Bodyweight Squat – 20 reps cardio workout
6) Mountain Climbers – 20 reps
7) Burpees – 5 reps
8]  High Knees: Done as fast as possible. Do 50 total.

With that program,  you can literally do that circuit anytime, anywhere, without having to rely on a single piece of equipment. After all, that’s the biggest concern of most people these days…they need to workout in a hotel room, or at home, or in a park where they don’t have kettlebells, or dumbbells, etc. So that’s the workout you can use.

Next up is a circuit that you can do in a tiny amount of space in your home. And frankly, you can do it anywhere that you have access to a kettlebell and stability ball, so YES, you can do this one in a park, too.

Kettlebell and Bodyweight Exercise Circuit
1) KB Swing – 20 reps (1-0-1)
2) Pushup – 20 reps (2-0-1)
3) Stability Ball Back Extension – 10 reps (2-0-1)
4) Stability Ball Pike – 8 reps (2-0-1)
5) KB 1-Arm Swing – 10 reps per side (1-0-1) cb-10mkw-ebook2-4
6) Pushup – 20 reps (2-0-1)
7) Stability Ball Leg Curl – 20 reps (1-0-1)
8] Ab Wheel or Stability Ball Rollout – 8 reps (2-0-1)
9) Sprint or Burpee – 20 seconds or 8 reps

If that’s not hard enough for you, you can add more kettlebell swings or snatches. And if its too hard for you, then you can do this circuit instead (make sure to move through it as fast as possible)…

Beginner Bodyweight Exercise and Kettlebell Circuit Workout
1) KB Squats or 2-Arm Swings – 10 reps
2) Beginner Pushups – 10 reps
3) Stability Ball Leg Curls – 10 reps
4) KB Squats or 2-Arm Swing – 10 reps
5) KB Rows – 10 reps per side
6) Bodyweight Split Squats – 10 reps per side
7) Beginner Close-Grip Pushups – 10 reps
8] 20-second run

Those are bodyweight exercise and kettlebell circuit workouts that you can do with little equipment, and you should be able to do them at home. The equipment might cost you 50 bucks (or more if you need a heavy kettlebell).

Helping you burn fat without cardio,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Author, Turbulence Training

PS – Check out all of the Turbulence Training Circuit Programs here.

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  • Craig,

    I love these workouts. I always used to think that bodyweight workouts were geared towards the needs of couch potatoes and meant low impact, low effort, low intensity and NO RESULTS.

    Your 4 week body weight program completely changed my point of view on this – and actually I’ve started combining more of the exercises from that program into circuits of four different exercises rather than supersets of only two exercises. The sheer variety of exercises you put in the book allow you to do that with ease.

    I now think back to the time I used to spend in the gym in my early twenties when I’d go heavy with one exercise, and then just sit on the bench for a minute or more waiting to start the next set. Such a waste of time!

    Thanks for massively increasing the efficiency of my workouts.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Great to hear from you, and thanks for the feedback!

  • nj

    I went through JUST 1 set of the crazy-8 bodyweight circuit and I feel dizzy even after around 10 minutes of rest. I stuck to the number of reps and I did them at near maximum intensity. Does that mean I have to stop (I did stop), or is it okay to go on, or do I have to wait for the dizziness to go away? I’m 155lbs., 5’7″, 20 years old, and I’ve been doing weight training for almost 4 years already. This dizziness also happens when I really do weighted squats quickly. Nice circuit workout by the way, its like interval sprinting with additional strength workouts…


    • Craig Ballantyne

      Please consult with a doctor.

    • David

      Please, consult your doctor as Craig said. Read on Vestibular Hypofunction and mention it to your doctor.

  • I have been doing workouts such as these with clients for years, and continue to do them in my Boot Camps. It is funny, new people will come to the Boot Camps and think they are not getting enough “cardio”…what they really mean is “running”. When you do this sort of cardio, it is really tough and the “complainers” don’t work hard enough to get the effect. I do Fitness Testing at the beginning and end of every Boot Camp and the improvement in the 1km run times can be amazing…with next to no running, other than a bit of a warm up jog, interspersed with body weight warm up activities!

  • Craig , great workouts , I totally agree with some of the other comments in relation to improvements in “running ” times , we also see running time gains with – minimal running , just good old fashioned H.I.I.T .

    I think its finally starting to get out there that body shaping and fat reduction are not best achieved by steady state running or meduim intensity “cardio” , its well known within the industry , however the general public have been fed a diet of “aerobics” sessions & 5km runs as the way to go for so long , that its top of mind

    Keep up the great work !

  • Jim

    I like your Depletion workout A as a conditioning workout, substituting burpees in place of push ups. I do one round in 3 minutes, rest 30 seconds, then repeat until I hit 20 minutes total. Good stuff.

  • wolverine

    Craig, which one do you think is more effective as an interval circuit, sprinting intervals or bodyweight intervals? thanks

  • ramesh

    your workouts are awesome,now i am fan ofbody weight workout and interval training instead of cardio,thank you for your support

    • Kieran

      I tried the ‘Crazy 8’ circuit 3 times a week for 3 weeks and it made me feel a little ‘pumped’ (excessive muscle. I am fairly short 5’5,) whereas I found running (which is what I did before) kept me more ‘slimmed down’. Should I just persevere with bodyweight cardio or do normal steady state runs on the days in between to ‘balance things out’? But wouldn’t Crazy 8 and 30 minute runs every other day mean burnout? I DO like Crazy 8 though! It’s tough! Thanks for any replies.