And those cold, dark winter mornings make us even less motivated to throw on our leggings and get ourselves down to the gym. Well maybe you don’t need to! Maybe the answer is in fact much closer to home…literally.

Keeping active is so important, but managing to pop down the gym once a week isn’t really going to benefit us too much. To really do ourselves some good, we need to exercise regularly, and that’s at least 3-5 times per week. So that’s why we’ve put together this handy guide for some key high-intensity circuit exercises. And even better, you can do them at home, with no equipment. Just pop on some of your favourite tunes and have fun. Why not even invite a friend round so you can work out and reach your goals together?

High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

Unfortunately, many people feel that they don't have enough time to exercise. This is why high-intensity interval training, also known as HIIT, is a very efficient way to work out. One of the biggest advantages of HIIT is that you can get maximal health benefits in minimal time.

HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercise alternated with low-intensity recovery periods. Typically, a workout will range from 10 to 30 minutes, making it easier to fit into your daily routine. The specific amount of time you exercise and recover will vary based on the exercise you do and how intensely you are exercising. Not only does HIIT provide the benefits of longer-duration exercise in a much shorter amount of time, it may also provide some other unique health benefits:

  • It’s estimated that HIIT burns around 25-30% more calories than weight training, running and biking.
  • Due to the intensity of the workout, HIIT can elevate your metabolism for hours after exercise. This means you’ll keep on burning calories, even after you’ve finished exercising.
  • HIIT can improve oxygen consumption as much as traditional endurance training, and you only need to exercise for half as long.
  • HIIT can reduce blood pressure and heart rate, particularly in overweight individuals with high blood pressure. It can also help reduce blood sugar.
Set achievable goals to stay on track

First, it’s a good idea to set yourself some goals. What do you want to get out of your training? For some, it could be losing the few pounds they may have put on over Christmas. Or toning up for that upcoming holiday. You should always aim to lose weight gradually and set yourself ambitious but achievable weight loss goals so you stay motivated. Aim to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. That means you’ll need to burn around 500 - 1000 more calories than you consume each day, through a lower calorie diet and regular exercise.

Getting started with your HIIT circuit at home

We’re going to focus on high-intensity exercises which you can do at home, without the need for equipment. Although feel free to add some small weights to your routine as you advance.

Do the first exercise as fast as you can for 45 seconds, and then rest for 15 seconds. Repeat with each exercise until you’ve completed a full circuit of all 10 exercises. You can increase the number of circuits you do as you get fitter.

Exercise 1 - Plank Jacks
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Start in a high plank position. Keeping your core engaged, jump your feet out and in (a bit like a star jump). You can also do this on your forearms if you find it too tough on your wrists. Repeat as many times as you can in 45 seconds.

Don’t forget the all important 15 seconds rest before you move on to your next exercise.

Exercise 2 - Burpees

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and put your palms on the floor. Jump back in to a high plank position, keeping your core tight and hips in the air. Bend your elbows and do 1 push-up. Then jump and bring your feet to your hands. As you come up, jump as high as you can, bringing your arms overhead.

Exercise 3 - Mountain Climbers

Start in a high plank position and bring your right knee under your torso, keeping your toes off the ground. Return your right foot to starting position. Switch legs and bring your left knee under your chest. Repeat.

You can use balance equipment (as shown in the video) as you get more advanced.

Exercise 4 - Butt Kicks

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Kick your left heel up to your left glute (bum cheek). Then repeat with your right foot, alternating as quickly as you can for 45 seconds.

Exercise 5 - Lateral Plank Walks

Start in high plank with shoulders above your wrists and abs tight. Step right foot and right hand to right side, with your left side following. Take a few "steps" in one direction, then go back in the opposite direction.

Exercise 6 - Jump Squats
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Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Bend your knees and sit your bum back, whilst keeping your chest upright. Then jump as high as you can. Land softly and immediately lower in to your next rep.

You can introduce weights into your workout to increase the intensity.

Exercise 7 - Alternating Side Lunges

Stand with your feet together. Step your left foot out to the left, keeping your right leg straight and left knee bent. Go back to the start position, then repeat with your right foot.

Exercise 8 - Jumping Lunges
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Starting standing with feet shoulder-width apart, jump your left leg forward and your right leg back to land in a lunge position. Jump up and switch your legs in midair so that you land in a lunge with your right leg in front. Repeat.

Exercise 9 - V Ups

Lie on your back and extend your arms behind your head. Keep your feet together, toes pointed and make sure your back is in contact with the floor before you move. Keep your legs straight and lift them up as you simultaneously raise your upper body off the floor. Keep your core tight as you reach for your toes with your hands. Slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position and repeat.

Exercise 10 - Push Ups
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Position hands palms-down on the floor, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with your elbows pointed slightly outwards. Extend your legs out, similar to a high plank. Keeping your core tight, bend your elbows and lower your chest to the floor. Then push back up and repeat.

You can also use push up bar handles and other fitness accessories to mix up your routine as you advance.

Remember you’ll get out what you put in to your workouts, so work as hard as you can during those 45 seconds. That 15 second rest will be really important! If you’re finding that 45 seconds is too long to start with, start with 30 seconds of exercise and a 30 second rest. Just do what works for you. As long as you’re pushing yourself and getting your heart rate up, you’ll soon start seeing those pounds dropping off.