Southern Circuit

Get in and out of the gym faster — without sacrificing an ounce of productivity — with this intensive leg-training circuit routine.

The sound of waves crashing on the beach. The mouthwatering scent of a fired-up barbecue grill. The refreshing breeze and the warm sun on your face. Yeah, we know the feeling: Sometimes it’s hard to get your rear in the gym when the weather’s beautiful. But goals know no season, so taking a few months off certainly isn’t an option. That being said, there’s also no rule dictating exactly how long your training sessions have to be. So why not squeeze just as much workload into a shorter period, getting you in and out of the gym and back to enjoying summer sooner?

The lower-body regimen shown here does just that, condensing the typical high-intensity leg day into a fast-paced series of circuits that could be completed in a half-hour or less, providing all the growth stimulus you need along with a summer-conditioning boost. You may not end up moving the same total poundage, but your legs will be none the wiser; we assure you that your postworkout gait will be as staggered and gelatinous as ever.

After a traditional warm-up of extensions and leg curls, move to the power rack for a trifecta of barbell squats, sissy squats (using the power rack frame as your anchor point) and dumbbell step-ups on a flat bench or other platform of similar height.

The third mini-circuit is all about the leg press, adjusting your foot placement to take aim at different areas of the thigh: A narrow stance targets the outer sweep of the quadriceps while a wide stance fires up the muscles of the inner thighs (the teardrop). At the end of each leg-press pairing, stay put and do calf raises to full-range-of-motion failure. Your rep totals may climb rather high if your calves are particularly strong, but that’s OK; not changing the weight saves you from having to climb out of the seat partway through the circuit.

The final circuit of the day pairs two hamstrings exercises with a walking dumbbell lunge that zeroes in on your glute-ham tie-in. If you use this program for an extended length of time, to elicit balanced development between your quads and hams you may want to move Circuit 4 up to the second position every third week or so. In that case, swap the lunges and step-ups so the walking lunges are still your very last exercise of the day.

By the way, if you love to tinker with your workouts and happen to have the gym to yourself, you can combine either Circuits 2 and 3 or Circuits 3 and 4, whichever sets up better as far as equipment in your facility being within relatively close proximity. In addition to cranking up the intensity another notch by reducing rest periods, it gets you out the door that much faster.