A lot of people mistakenly believe that circuit training is good for nothing other than developing fitness and burning fat. However, the truth is that you can use circuit training to achieve almost any fitness goal – including building muscle and increasing your strength.
It all depends on how you apply this time-honored and proven training method.
This workout is designed to increase full-body strength using nothing but a barbell and your trusty Gymboss timer. It’s very time-efficient and uses an additional training method called Every Minute On the Minute (EMOM) sets to add even more benefits to what is already a fantastic workout.
So, grab your barbell, and let’s get started!
The Gymboss EMOM Barbell circuit
With EMOM sets, you start every set at the top of the minute and then rest for however long is left until next minute begins. For example, if it takes you 35 seconds to complete eight pull-ups, you get a 25-second rest before you go again. Simple!
But, with this workout, instead of doing several sets of the same exercise before moving on, you’re going to do the exercises in a circuit format, i.e., back to back. Don’t worry, we’ll provide you with an example so you can see exactly what we mean before you start.
Also, there are MANY ways to modify this workout to make it easier for beginners, simple scroll to the bottom if the post to see how.
The exercises in this circuit are:
- Deadlifts x 10
- Power cleans x 5
- Bent-over rows x 10
- Push-press x 5
- Zercher squats x 10
You’re going to do four laps, so this workout should take you 20 minutes. Because we’ve adjusted the reps per exercise, you should be able to use the same weight for each one. That means, between exercises, you can focus on catching your breath and won’t have to waste time or energy adding or removing plates from the bar. Just set your Gymboss timer to beep every 60 seconds and for 20 rounds.
So, here’s an example what the first lap of your workout might look like time wise:
- 10 deadlifts – took 40 seconds, so 20 seconds rest before the next exercise…
- 5 power cleans – took 25 seconds, so 35 seconds rest before the next exercise…
- 10 bent over rows – took 35 seconds, so 25 seconds rest before the next exercise…
- 5 Push-presses – took 20 seconds, so 40 seconds before the next exercise…
- 10 Zercher squats – took 45 seconds, so 15 seconds before the next exercise…
That’s one lap – repeat three more times for a 20 minute total body workout.
Get the most from this workout by doing each exercise with the best possible technique. That will ensure that each move is as beneficial as possible while reducing your risk of injury. Still unsure? Check out YouTube or ask your friendly neighborhood personal trainer for guidance.
The deadlift works your entire posterior chain, from your heels to the base of your skull. It’s also a powerful grip developer. As well as being such a productive exercise, deadlifts teach you how to lift heavy objects off the floor, using your legs and back in harmony.
How to do it:
- Place your barbell on the floor and stand in the middle with your feet hip-width apart and your toes beneath the bar. Squat down and grab the bar with a shoulder-width, overhand grip. Straighten your arms, drop your hips, arch your lower back, and brace your abs. This is your starting position.
- Without bending your arms, straighten your legs and stand up. Do not allow your lower back to round.
- Push your hips back, bend your legs, and lower the weight back to the floor.
- Reset your starting position and repeat.
- Power cleans
Power cleans are a full-body explosive power exercise. Power is your ability to generate force quickly. If you play sports, or just want to be able to run and jump reasonably well, power cleans will help.
How to do it:
- Adopt the start position of the deadlift, as described above.
- Stand up quickly and then pull hard with your arms, pulling the bar up the front of your body.
- Bend your knees slightly, drive your elbows forward and under the bar, and catch it across the front of your shoulders.
- Roll the bar down the front of your body and lower it to the floor.
- Do not allow your lower back to round out at any point during this exercise.
- Bent-over rows
Bent-over rows work your lats, which are the large, wing-shaped muscles on the side of your back. In addition, they work your posterior or rear deltoids, your middle trapezius, and rhomboids, and your legs and glutes also get in on the action. This is a very good exercise for better posture.
How to do it:
- Hold your barbell with an overhand, slightly wider than shoulder-width grip. Stand with your feet between shoulder and hip-width apart. Bend your knees slightly and then lean forward from your hips until your upper body is inclined to about 75 degrees.
- Bend your arms and pull the bar up and into your abdomen. Lead with your elbows, keep your upper arms tucked in close to your ribs, and pull your shoulders down and back. Do not round your lower back.
- Extend your arms and repeat.
The push-press is an explosive shoulder exercise. Unlike regular shoulder presses, with the push-press, you are actually required to use your legs to help you lift the weight. This is what makes the push-press a whole-body exercise.
How to do it:
- Hold a barbell in front of your shoulders using an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Step out and into a shoulder-width stance. Brace your abs.
- Push your hips back, bend your legs, and squat down into a quarter-depth squat.
- Stand up explosively and use this momentum to help you press the weight up and overhead.
- Lower the bar back to your shoulders and repeat.
- Zercher squats
Your final exercise in this sequence is the Zercher squat. Working your legs and upper body, this somewhat unusual exercise is an excellent alternative to front, back, and goblet squats. It might not be easy, but that’s what makes it so rewarding.
How to do it:
- Hold a barbell in the crook of your elbows. Clasp your hands together and pull them in close to your chest to secure the bar in place. Step out and into a shoulder-width stance, toes turned slightly outward. Brace your core for added stability.
- Push your hips back, bend your knees, and squat down until your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor. Do not round your lower back.
- Stand back up and repeat.
Modifications for beginners
There are several ways you can modify this workout to make it more manageable. Things to try include:
Use less weight – an average Olympic barbell weighs 20kg or 45lbs. That’s quite heavy! If 20kg sounds like too much for you, swap your bar for a lighter ¾ bar designed for Olympic lifting. Alternatively, just use a broomstick.
Do fewer reps – reduce the rep count to make this workout easier. This will not only shorten the work periods, but it will also extend the rest periods. This is a useful modification for less fit exercisers.
Use longer intervals – longer intervals make most workouts harder, but this one is the exception. Longer work intervals mean you’ll have longer to rest before you need to start your next exercise. Try going every 75 seconds, or even every 90 seconds. Then, as you get used to the workout, start cutting the time down by 5 seconds each week or so.
Do fewer laps – the workout calls for four laps to total 20 minutes. If that’s too much, why not just do three laps, or even two. You could also add a 1 to 2-minute rest between laps. Just remember to pause your Gymboss timer.
Strength training is often made out to be more complicated than it really is. In the simplest of terms, so long as you expose your muscles to sufficient stress, it really doesn’t matter which exercises you do or which training program you follow – everything works if you put the effort in.
That said, if you want a fast and furious workout that involves virtually every muscle in your body, including your heart and lungs, this one is for you. And all you need is a barbell and a Gymboss timer!