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UFC Fit: The Burn Circuit

Get lean in record time with this ultra-intense fat-melting workout, shown by UFC 159 light heavyweight Vinny Magalhaes.

Robert McMullin, owner of AMPD FitCamp, has done strength and conditioning regimens for athletes including Vinny Magalhaes, Sam Stout and Mark Hominick. He has also appeared on The Biggest Loser, training some of the worst-conditioned folks on the planet.

For both demographics, he feels that the key to burning fat and improving overall conditioning is the high-intensity circuit. “Some people can’t work out for hours, but you can burn a ton of calories doing circuits," he says.

The trade-off for the relatively short duration of a circuit workout is intensity, and intensity is the secret to melting fat. That’s because a lung-busting workout boosts something called EPOC, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, which refers to the increased oxygen intake that comes with intense exercise. The process of restoring the body to its rested state can boost the metabolism for hours after a hardcore workout. That means that even when you are sitting on your couch after training, your body is still burning calories at an accelerated rate.

For Magalhaes, the payoff  isn’t just single-digit body fat and a nearly bottomless gas tank. It is a relief from long boring workouts. “There is no way to be bored with this workout,” he says. “It is not like you do 12 reps and then sit down and check Facebook. It is intense.”

The Workout
McMullin, owner of AMPD FitCamp, created this circuit combination for anyone who is coming back from a long layoff or who just wants to change up their training.

“If someone is doing a regular ‘four sets of 10’ weight program, they can do this to kick-start their fat-burning progress,” McMullin says.

Perform the Total Body circuit, rest for one minute, and then perform the Core circuit. Rest for one minute and then repeat both circuits. McMullin recommends performing this circuit twice a week, but no more than three times in a seven-day span. After the first week, increase the work interval to 40 or 45 seconds. Remember, there is no rest between exercises. You must move immediately from one exercise to the next.

Cardio 10 min
Dynamic Movement (side shuffles, Cariocas, back pedals, jumping jacks)  5 min


Pull-Up 30 sec
Bodybuilder 30 sec
Plank Jacks 30 sec
Farmer’s Walk 30 sec
Lateral Lunge 30 sec

Crunch Punch 30 sec
Hanging Leg Raise 30 sec
Side Plank 3–5 sec/10 reps
Super Man 3–5 sec/10 reps
V-Sit 30 sec

Circuit 1: Pull-Ups

Grasp an overhead bar with a pronated grip (palms facing away from you.) From a dead-hang position, contract your lats and biceps to pull yourself up until your chin comes over the bar. Slowly descend until your elbows are completely straight. Do not swing back and forth or use momentum to get your chin over the bar. To regress this movement, tie a thick rubber band around the bar and step your foot or knee into it for added support. You can also practice the motion, holding the top position of the pull-up and then lowering very slowly.

Circuit 1: Bodybuilder
Grab a pair of relatively light dumbbells (20 to 30 pounds) and let them hang at your sides.  Stand in a clear space with your feet just wider than shoulder-width apart. To begin, drop into a deep squat so that the dumbbells rest on the floor. Kick your feet out behind you so that you are now at the top of a push-up position, with your hands holding the shafts of the dumbbells (shown). Lower your body into a full push-up and then come back up. Jump your feet back underneath your hips and come to standing. Curl the dumbbells up to your shoulders and then extend them overhead without using any drive from your legs. Slowly bring the weights back down to your sides. That is one complete rep.

Circuit 1: Plank Jacks
Get into a classic plank position, with your weight supported by your forearms and your toes. Your body should be in a straight line. Do not let your hips arch upward or cave in. Begin with your forearms and feet close together. Explosively jump your hands and feet away from each other while maintaining the plank posture. Hold that position for a beat and then jump them back together.

Circuit 1: Lateral Lunge with Dumbbell

Take a single dumbbell and hold it straight out in front of you with both hands. Begin with your feet close together and your head in a neutral position. Slowly step your left foot directly out to your left side. Come down as low as you can while keeping both heels on the floor. Push back up through your left heel to the starting position. Then, step to the right side. Continue to hold the dumbbell at arm’s length from your chest as you lunge from side to side.

Circuit 1: Farmer's Walk
Mark off two points that are
approximately 10 to15 yards away from each other. Grab a very heavy set
of dumbbells and hold them at your sides (shown above). Slowly walk from
one point to the other and back, weaving around the points in a
figure-eight formation. Keep your shoulders back and an erect posture
for the whole walk. If your grip is not close to giving out by the end
of the interval, use a heavier pair of dumbbells.

Circuit 2: Crunch Punch
Grab a pair of relatively light dumbbells (5 to 7 pounds) and lie on the floor in a classic crunch position with your feet in the air, knees bent 90 degrees and shoulder blades on the floor. Hold the weights above your front delts, with your elbows bent and tucked into your side. Contract your abs and crunch upward. As your torso curls up, shoot your right hand to the outside of your left knee, as if you are throwing a punch (shown). Come back down so your shoulder blades are flat on the mat. Now crunch up and shoot your left hand across your body to your right knee and return.

Circuit 2: Hanging Leg Raise
Hang from a pull-up bar with a palms-forward grip. Keeping your legs straight, slowly raise your feet as high as you can. To target the abdominals, the feet must come above the height of your hips. Lower your feet in a slow and controlled motion before starting the next rep. An easier, yet still highly effective, option is to bring your knees up as high as possible.

Circuit 2: Side Plank
Lie on your right side with your legs straight, your feet stacked on top of each other, and your weight supported by your right forearm. Your right shoulder should be at a 90-degree angle from your body while your left hand is resting on your left hip. Keep your right elbow directly under your right shoulder. Your legs and torso should form a straight line with no sagging in your hips. Drop your right hip and let it touch the floor. Pause for a beat and then contract your abdominals and push through your feet and forearm to come back to the starting position. Hold that pose for three to five seconds before performing dropping your hips again.

Circuit 2: Super Man
Lie facedown on the floor with your legs straight and your arms extended in front of you. Contract your spinal erectors and simultaneously lift your legs and torso off the floor. Hold your extremities off the floor as you balance on your pelvis for three to five seconds. Keep your neck and arms in line with your spine. Slowly lower down to the floor for a beat before coming back up. More advanced athletes can work up to holding the position for 60 seconds.

Circuit 2: V-Sit
Lie on the floor with your legs straight and your arms extended so your body forms a straight line. Contract your abs and bring your feet up, keeping your legs straight the whole time. As your feet rise, bring your straight arms over your head, lift your torso off the ground, and reach for your feet. At the top of the movement you should be balancing on your sit-bones with straight arms and legs and your body forming a V-shape. Come back down to the starting position with your heels, glutes, shoulder blades, and head all making contact with the floor.

These exercises originally appeared in issue 20 of UFC 360. Click here to subscribe to UFC 360, the official magazine of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, available now in print and digital editions. Photos by Josh Hedges