Lighten Up to Tighten Up Circuit

This routine proves that heavy lifting isn't the only way to shape up.
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Circuits are the triple threat of the workout scene. But rather than boasting singing, dancing and acting talents á la J.Lo, circuits can claim the three S’s: speed (small-time commitment), strength (increased muscle mass) and slim (greater calorie burn).

This seven-move routine uses a circuit format, a resistance band and your body weight to deliver dramatic physique changes. Follow the directions for each exercise, going right from one to the next. When you reach the end, rest for 60 seconds, then repeat twice from the top. Commit to this workout three to four times per week on alternating days and you’ll be on your way to a trimmer, slimmer body by the end of week three.

Bodyweight Bulgarian Split Squat

Stand with your back to a bench or couch and place one foot behind you on its surface, as shown. Bend your legs to lower your body towards the floor, stopping when your front thigh comes parallel to the ground. Extend your legs to stand, then repeat for a total of 12 reps. When you are through, switch sides and repeat.

Tip: Watch that front knee – if it goes beyond your toes, you need to move your standing foot further away from the bench.

Reverse Lunge

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Stand tall with your hands on your hips. Step one foot behind you and bend both knees to lunge. Pause at the bottom, then press through the heel of your front foot to return to the start. Complete 15 reps on each leg.

Tip: If you have enough room, perform walking lunges instead.

One-Arm Seated Band Row

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Secure the middle of a resistance band around a secure point about a foot off the ground. Hold one handle in each hand and sit facing the anchor point with your arms extended in front of you. Bend one arm to row, bringing your elbow behind you and keeping your upper arm close to your side. Extend your arm to return to the start, and repeat, alternating arms, for a total of 15 reps per side.

Tip: Reduce your overall workout time even further by performing these rows with both arms at once. (Bonus: The resistance will be greater!)

Bench Dip

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Sit on a bench or couch and grip the edge on either side of your hips. Straighten your legs and place your heels on the floor, then extend your arms to lift your glutes from the bench. Bend your arms to lower your glutes towards the floor as shown; stop when your upper arms are about parallel to the floor, then extend your arms to return to the start. Repeat for 12 to 15 reps in total.

Tip: If you need to work up to this straight-legged version, start by first mastering the dip with your legs bent and feet flat on the ground.

Band Raise

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Place the middle of a resistance band under one foot and step your opposite foot back to stagger your legs. Hold one handle in each hand as shown and raise your arms in front of you. Slowly lower to return to the starting position, and repeat for a total of 15 reps.

Tip: During your second circuit, lift your arms out to the sides to target your lateral delts. Work your rear delts in your last round by leaning forward from your hips and performing the same motion as in circuit two.

Push-up

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Lie on your stomach with your feet together and hands on the floor beside your shoulders. Extend your arms to come into your starting position. Keeping your back flat, bend your arms to lower your chest towards the floor. Stop when you’ve lowered as far as you can go, then push through your palms to return to the start. Repeat for 12 to 15 reps.

Tip: Place your hands on a couch or sturdy table to make your regular push-ups easier.

Side Plank

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Lie on your side with your legs stacked and your forearm on the floor, with your elbow below your shoulder. Lift your hips from the ground to bring your body into a straight line, supporting yourself on your forearm. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds, then repeat with your other arm on the floor.

Tip: Place one foot in front of the other on the floor for added stability.

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