Ultimate Summer Strength Circuit

Outdoor workouts don't have to be limited to running or biking. Add a strength session to your summer workout with this routine.

When I was kid, I idolized Herschel Walker. Remember him? Aside from being a great running back, one who arguably should be in the NFL Hall of Fame, he also competed in mixed martial arts. In short, he was a great all-around athlete.

But, guess what? He didn't lift weights.

So, why am I mentioning him in a workout article?

Because he's a perfect example of how not lifting weights doesn't mean you're not working out. Herschel trained like a beast, but he focused on building a strong foundation with bodyweight exercises. Everyday he'd bang out 1,000 push-ups, 3,000 sit-ups, 1,000 bar dips, and 1,000 squats.

No wonder that today, at 52 years old, he still looks better than most 20-somethings.

Channel your inner Herschel Walker with this outdoor workout that proves you don't need iron to carve a killer physique. You'll start with a cardio warm-up, dive into a strength workout, get your heart rate back up with sprints, and keep it moving to the finish line with a barrage of exercises. You finish with one final sprint session.

This whole-body workout is one complete circuit that will help you build strength, lose fat, and improve conditioning. You should be able to complete both strength and HIIT components in less than 45 minutes.

While it's designed to be a stand-alone program, it can be done several ways:

  • If you're on vacation for a week, you can use this workout to help maintain your conditioning.
  • If you're already on a pretty strict lifting schedule, you can squeeze it in on the weekends to torch extra fat and increase lean-mass gains. When I'm trying to tighten up and drop a bit of stubborn body fat, I add this program on both Saturday and Sunday as a weekend complement to my Monday through Friday training regimen.
  • It can be done as little as three times per week or often as every day.

This circuit not only works all the major muscle groups in your body, but it also burns calories and torches fat. If this doesn't kick your ass, then you're a stud and it's time for you to step up to 1,000 push-ups, Herschel Walker style.

Summer Strength Circuit

CARDIO HIIT 1: I don't enjoy running long distances. It's just not my thing. I've always preferred going all out and pushing myself. Sprint intervals are a perfect way to incorporate that on-the-go mentality outdoors. For this workout, sprint as hard as you can for 100 yards, jog back, and then sprint for 100 yards and walk back. Repeat the sprint-jog-sprint-walk cycle five times.

STRENGTH CIRCUIT 1: No rest between these exercises. Keep it moving.

Wide-grip Pull-ups

HOW TO: Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping your elbows back, pull your chest to the bar. As you tire, keep going—even if you can only get partial reps. Aim for a minimum of 15 reps, and go to failure.

BODY PARTS TARGETED: Wide-grip pull-ups target your lats and engage the biceps as secondary muscles. You also strengthen your core and work on grip strength. Hello fuller forearms!


HOW TO: With your hands slightly wider than your shoulders, and your back straight, lower your body down until your chest touches the ground. Make sure your stomach is not the first thing to touch the floor. If it is, your posture is sagging. Check your form before continuing. Keep a nice smooth tempo—this isn't a race to do reps; you want to do them slower and under control. Continue until you reach failure. Shoot for 40-50 reps for the first few weeks.

BODY PARTS TARGETED: Hit your chest and triceps with this bodyweight exercise. Strengthening the pectoral muscles doesn't only spell increased overall strength, but also means shoulder stability for more momentum in sports.

Bodyweight Skullcrushers

HOW TO: Adapt this old prison-yard exercise and enjoy it out in the fresh air and warm sunshine. Find a bar that meets you at about waist height. Using a slightly narrower-than-shoulder-width grip, get into a position which mimics a push-up. Now, kick your feet a little farther back and extend your arms so the bar is out past your head. Bend at the elbow and dip your head under the bar. Extend your arms, flexing at the elbow. Then push back to the starting point. Don't worry if you're having a hard time visualizing this. Imagine a triceps bench press or skullcrusher. It's the exact same concept but, instead of the bar moving, you move under the bar.

Bodyweight Skullcrushers

BODY PARTS TARGETED: This exercise will light your triceps on fire, and doesn't have to be confined to a playground-style workout. I do these even when I'm in the gym.

Crunches (With Partial Reps)

HOW TO: Lying on your back, put your arms and hands above your head. Avoid the urge to place them behind your head—you don't need to hold your head or yank it off the ground. Having your hands overhead creates additional resistance and allows your weight and leverage to work against you for an added challenge. Crunch all the way up, then slowly lower yourself halfway down, then crunch up again, then go back to ground. That's one rep. Complete 20 reps, and make sure to breathe.


Bodyweight Overhead Squat

HOW TO: With your feet shoulder-width apart, place your arms straight above your head, like you would with an overhead squat. That's exactly what this is, minus the weight. Squat down—keeping your weight in your heels (not toes) —and drop your butt back. Keeping your hands above your head gives you a slight shoulder burn; it forces you to use good form and strengthens your core. Do 40 reps.

BODY PARTS TARGETED: This strength-building exercise focuses on the lower body strength, particular in the quads. Maintaining a stable position and bracing your body also activates your core and shoulders.

CARDIO HIIT 2: Sprint as hard as you can for 100 yards, and jog back. Then sprint for 100 yards and walk back. Repeat the sprint-jog-sprint-walk cycle five times.

STRENGTH CIRCUIT 2: No rest between each of these. Keep it moving.

Chest-To-Bar Pull-ups

HOW TO: With your palms facing you, use a shoulder-width grip on a high-bar. Pull your chest all the way up to the bar; the goal is to touch your chest to the bar. Go all the way to failure on these. Shoot for at least 15 reps.

BODY PARTS TARGETED: This exercise is great for building a barnyard back. It also targets your biceps more than traditional pull-ups because the range of motion is greater.

Decline Push-ups

HOW TO: With your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet elevated, do a push-up. Make sure the emphasis is on your upper chest, your shoulders, and triceps. The higher your feet are positioned, the more emphasis is put on your shoulders and the more difficult the movement. Keep your back straight and bring your chest all the way to the ground. These are harder than a regular push-up, so shoot for 25-30 reps.

Decline Push-Up

BODY PARTS TARGETED: To maintain a flat back, focus on keeping your core stable. The added resistance forces you to engage your shoulders, chest, and triceps to a greater extent.

Hanging Leg Raises

HOW TO: Head back to the high bar, but this time use a shoulder-width grip. Try to keep your upper body as stable as possible, and then raise your toes all the way up until they hit the bar. Return to your starting point. If you can't achieve a full range of motion, bring your legs parallel to the floor. If you're looking for an added challenge, bring your legs all the way up and then, as you lower them down, stop halfway, raise them back up, and then return to your starting position. That's one rep. Try to get anywhere from 12-15 reps.

BODY PARTS TARGETED: This exercise works both your abs and hip flexors.

Inverted Row

HOW TO: Facing upward, get under a low bar (waist or chest high) and hang from it with a flat back and braced core. Imagine mimicking the push-up position—while you're suspended from a bar instead of pushing off the ground. Using a shoulder-width grip, pull yourself up to the bar at roughly clavicle height. Squeeze at the top and lower yourself down to the starting point. Do this for 15-20 reps.

BODY PARTS TARGETED: Rear delts, traps, lats, and rhomboids. As with most pulling exercises, your biceps, forearms, and core will also get some work.

Waking Lunges

HOW TO: Make sure your lead knee doesn't extend past your toes when you step. Keep your other leg vertical. Make sure not to lean forward, and maintain an upright posture. Keep all the weight directly over your glutes. Do 35 steps per leg.

Walking Lunges

BODY PARTS TARGETED: This lower-body exercise works several muscle groups at once—mainly the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Your calves, abdominals, and back act as stabilizing muscles and all will feel the burn.

CARDIO HIIT 3: Sprint as hard as you can for 100 yards, and jog back. Then sprint for 100 yards and walk back. Repeat the sprint-jog-sprint-walk cycle five times.

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