Short circuit training

Set aside 20 minutes and follow these circuits to build total-body strength, increase muscle endurance, or rev up your metabolism.

February’s short days, erratic weather, and bitter temperatures can sap motivation— even for dedicated lifters who consider the gym a second home. And with willpower compromised, the idea of climbing under a Slanket and settling in for a Netflix binge can seem far more appealing than battling soul-sucking cold en route to and from the gym. If you’ve spent the past few months logging marathon workouts on the regular, we say enjoy the additional R & R and the first two seasons of Daredevil. Otherwise, it might be time for a major shakeup because it’s probably more than the weather that’s affecting your motivation.

Whether your routine has grown stale and predictable, it has remained too intense (or merciful) for too long, or you’re simply looking to keep things short and sweet until the weather turns, try tagging in any of these 10 quick-hitting circuits from trainer Don Saladino the next time you consider playing hooky. Saladino, owner of Drive495 health club in New York City, has experience training high-profile clients such as Hugh Jackman, Ryan Reynolds, and other celebrities who operate on a strict time budget. In other words, his circuits will use a limited time frame to extract maximum results. All you need is a willingness to work hard for 20 solid minutes.

So the next time your backyard looks like Hoth and you tell yourself it’s too cold to train, keep the No. 20 in mind. Because if you’re unwilling to put in 20 measly minutes now, once it gets too hot to wear a shirt, you’ll be the guy thinking twice about removing his.

1. High-volume Circuit

Rounds: 3

Trap-bar Deadlift  40   15
Dumbbell Bench Press  40   15
Lat Pulldown  40   15
 Rear Delt Flye (Machine)  40   15
 Military Press  40   15
 Machine Row  40   15
 Plank  40   15
 Barbell Biceps Curl  40   15
 Triceps Pushdown  40  15

*In seconds; rest 1 minute between rounds.

SALADINO SAYS: “Work for the full 40 seconds on each exercise. Use light to moderate weight and make sure the last round is very difficult to complete.”

Keep your core tight and maintain a slight arch in your lower back—but do not raise your butt off of the bench—as you press the dumbbells up over your chest.

TUT (Time Under Tension) Circuit
Rounds: 5

Front Squat 5 5010** 30
Bench Press 5 5010 30
Pullup 5 5010 30
Dip 5 5010 30

*In seconds; rest 30 seconds between rounds.

**5010: Five seconds on the eccentric (lowering) phase, no pause at the midpoint, one second on the concentric (lifting) phase, and no pause at the top.

SALADINO SAYS: “When your time in the gym is limited and your goal is to develop muscularity and strength, employ this routine and its strict 5010 tempo.”

An alternative to the cross-arm grip is a “clean” grip, where you grasp a racked barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart and allow it to rest on your fingertips. With either grip, keep the elbows pointed up to better balance the bar.

Keep your elbows pointed upward; lower the dumbbells until you feel a stretch in your tri’s.

2. Lower-body Circuit

Rounds: 4

Split Squat 10 15
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift 10 15
Lateral Lunge 10** 15
Lying Leg Curl 10 15
Leg Extension 10 15
Leg Press 10 15


*Rest 1 minute between rounds.
**Per leg.

SALADINO SAYS: “Expect to shock the lower body and get a lot of blood into your legs without the heavy pounding of maximal weights.”

3. Upper-body Circuit



Rounds: 3

Chest-supported Dumbbell Row 10 15
Alternating Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 10 15
Alternating Lat Pulldown 10** 15
Hammer Curl 10 15
Dumbbell Lying Triceps Extension 10 15


*In seconds; rest 40 seconds between rounds.
**Per leg.

SALADINO SAYS: “If you’re tired, back off of the intensity and focus on getting blood into the muscle.”

4. Chest Circuit

Rounds: 3

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 8 4010 40
Incline Dumbbell Flye 8 4010 40
Dip 8 4010 40
Machine Press 8 4010 40

*In seconds; rest up to 40 seconds between rounds.

SALADINO SAYS: “The lack of rest between sets will help get a tremendous amount of blood into the muscle while giving your joints a break. Throw this circuit in right after you get off an intense program.”

5. Back Circuit


Rounds: 3-4

Deadlift 8 4010 40
Assisted Pullup 8 4010 40
Hammer Row 8 4010 40
Close-grip Hammer Pulldown 8 4010 40
Chest-supported T-bar Row 8 4010 40


*In seconds; rest 40 seconds between rounds.SALADINO SAYS: “It’s effective for

SALADINO SAYS: “It’s effective for limited time and for getting maximal pump in the back. I have developed the wings of many superheroes using these principles.”

Avoid clanging the weights together at the apex of the movement to increase time under tension. Maintain a slight bend in the elbows throughout the rep.

6. Shoulder Circuit

Rounds: 4

Side Lateral Raise 8 4010 40
Dumbbell Front Raise 8 4010 40
Seated Bentover Dumbbell Raise 8 4010 40


*In seconds; rest 30 seconds between rounds.

SALADINO SAYS: “If you’re having trouble adding size to your shoulders, I’d suggest giving this routine a try.”

7. Bi’s & Tri’s Antagonist Circuit

Time: 20 minutes*

Barbell Curl 8-10
Close-grip Bench Press 8-10
High-pulley Cable Curl 8-10
Rope Pushdown 8-10


*Take minimal rest between exercises.

SALADINO SAYS: “If you’re able to keep moving for 20 straight minutes without rest you’ll get a tremendous pump.”

Abs Circuit
Rounds: 4-5*

Hanging Leg Raise 10
Ab Wheel 10
Landmine 10
Cable Crunch 10


*No rest between exercises; rest 15 seconds between rounds.

SALADINO SAYS: “Aim to keep going until you hit the 15- to 20-minute mark.”

8. Metabolic Circuit

Rounds: 5*

Battling Ropes 20 sec. on / 20 sec. off
Sled Push 50 yards / 20 sec. off
Airdyne Bike 20 sec. on / 20 sec. off
Sprint 20 sec. on / 20 sec. off
Bear Craw 20 sec. on / 20 sec. off


*Rest 1 minute between rounds.

SALADINO SAYS: “Perform each movement at about 85%. Along with torching fat, these exercises get you moving the way the human body was meant to move.”

Don’t use momentum by adding a bounce at the bottom of a rep. Instead, execute each rep with your arms straight and elbows fully extended. When the dumbbells reach shoulder height, return them to the start position.

Hold a rope in each hand and sink into a squat position. Alternate moving one arm to your shoulder and the other toward your knee—or move both arms simultaneously—as quickly as possible for the prescribed time.

Kneel on the floor, place the ab wheel handles, and slowly roll it away from you until your upper body is parallel with the floor (or as far as possible). At full extension, reverse course.

Keep your upper body and elbows in a fixed position as you curl the handles toward your ears; hold for a one count, and then reverse course until your body makes a T shape.