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The simplicity of dumbbells and barbells does the trick.
Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images
Most of weight loss, or fat loss specifically, is about nutrition -- but your exercise habits can put some turbo boosters on the effects of your eating habits. Circuit training is an effective way to burn fat and build muscle, and even increase strength, simultaneously. You can start with body-weight movements; as you get stronger, you'll want to add more iron to your circuit game. Not only will you realize your physical goals with circuit training, but you'll do it in a quarter of the time you might with typical slow workout routines.
Down to the Cellular Level
It is obvious that lifting weights will help improve strength and muscle size, but lifting also helps you lose fat for reasons not so obvious. GLUT4 is a protein in both muscle and fat cells that brings glucose into the cell. If glucose is being consumed by muscle cells, then it isn't making it to fat cells. The act of lifting weights enforces glucose absorption by way of GLUT4 translocation in muscle cells and halts it in fat cells. The duration in which this mechanism is active is a product proportional to your workout intensity.
Intense Circuits Burn More Fat
During short, very intense training sessions, glycogen is the main source of fuel. Once the workout is over, there is a flip to fat oxidation. When doing circuit training, the harder and faster you work, the longer you'll be in a fat-burning state post-workout -- up to three hours. Compare that to endurance training where you might burn fat for 20 to 30 minutes post-workout. Ideally, your intense circuit workouts last no more than 45 minutes, 10 to 30 minutes being a prime window. If you work out too long at one time, your testosterone plummets while your cortisol and other stress hormones increase, which hurts health and anabolism.
The cool thing about circuit training at high intensities is you can actually build just as much strength as you would by doing a standard blocked-out strength workout. To build muscle through hypertrophy, the muscle has to be taken to failure typically in multiple sets in each workout. There are few better ways to repeatedly take muscles to failure than by fully fatiguing a muscle and moving immediately into another exercise instead of resting. In a circuit training session, you can work just as much muscle as a typical bodybuilding workout, in half the time.
Your Training Split
Because most of your circuits will involve complex movements, set up each day with tomorrow in mind. This does not mean that one day you take it easy so that the next day you can "kill" it. It means that today you blast a set group of muscles and tomorrow you blast another group of muscles, wash and repeat. For example, today you might do front squats, kettlebell swings, weighted lunges and burpees. Then tomorrow you can do push press, pull-ups, clapping pushups, bent over rows and toes-to-bar. These workouts are complex and athletic, but one day focuses on upper body while the other focuses on lower body so that you can work out every day if you so choose.
Proven Effective Circuits
Tabata, in which you perform 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest for eight consecutive rounds does the job. Pick four or five compound movements and do a Tabata for each of them consecutively. The entire workout would take 20 minutes for five exercises and, if done right, you'll be begging for mercy. Another system is the Fight Gone Bad, which consists of five exercises each done for one minute consecutively followed by one minute rest. You do this for three to five rounds. Imagination is key. You can do 30-second intervals, 60-second, two-minute, it's all fair game. Work until failure while maintaining perfect technique.