Eat & move: Derval O'Rourke's full-body barbell circuit

Pictures: Miki Barlok

This week I’m sharing a full body barbell circuit, hopefully it gives you some inspiration for your training.

For my recipe, it’s my cucumber pickle plus a delicious peperonata, both great ways to brighten up midweek lunches.

From my own personal experience, and the people I chat to day to day, lots of us want to be a little bit fitter and stronger but very few of us have the time to be spending hours in the gym. My workouts are done and dusted in 35-40 minutes. When it comes to my training I try to focus on quality over quantity and remember that the intensity of your workout is much more important than its duration.

I believe that on the days you do make it to the gym, you should maximise your time there. My top tip for achieving this would be to plan your workout. I rarely hit the gym without the session planned out for myself; it’s the same when I’m coaching friends. I always take a few minutes to plan out the session.

It doesn’t have to be complicated just write down the exercises you want to include and how many sets and reps you want to achieve. Make sure you are familiar with the exercises you choose and know how to use correct form. If you are unsure, consider investing some money in a few 1-1 sessions with a good personal trainer and learn proper technique for your key lifts like squats, deadlifts and bench presses. It will pay dividends in the long run, trust me.

Circuits like this are great, it only uses one piece of equipment meaning you won’t be wasting valuable time queuing for machines or hunting down equipment, win-win! Aim for six reps of each exercise, repeated one after the other like a circuit, then rest and repeat for a total of five rounds

Romanian deadlifts

Grip the bar a bit wider than shoulder-width apart, hands outside your legs and deadlift it straight up into your starting position. When standing, the bar should be resting against your thighs. Bend your knees slightly and hinge forward from the hips, keeping your back straight. Keep your core tight throughout. Lower the weight towards the floor, keeping it close to your legs, and feel the pull down your hamstrings. Return to the starting position, squeezing your glutes at the top.

Bent over row

Grip the bar with an overhand grip, bend at the knees and bring your torso forward. Aim to keep your spine flat and head up. Lift the barbell towards you, keeping the elbows close. At the top, squeeze between the shoulder blades and hold for a brief pause (count to two) then slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position.

Front squat

Stand up tall with your feet slightly wider than shoulder with and toes turned out. Grip the bar with an overhand grip and rest it on top of the chest. Keep your head and chest up throughout. Slowly squat down until your thighs become parallel to the floor. The knees should be in line with your toes, if they go past this point you may be putting unnecessary pressure on them. Pause at the bottom of the squat (count to two) and then drive your hips back to the starting point, squeezing your glutes at the top.

Push press

Begin in the same position as your front squat, holding the barbell with an overhand grip a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Rest the weight onto your shoulders with arms bent. Keep your elbows high and close to your body. Keeping your chest up and core engaged, bend at the knees and lower down into a half squat position. As you drive up out of your squat press your arms above your head. Pause and slowly lower the bar back down to the starting position.

Reverse lunge

Place the barbell across your upper back/shoulders. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Step one leg behind you and allow both knees to bend so they are at right-angles. Keep your core engaged to maintain balance. Stand back up by pushing through the front heel. Complete all reps on one leg before switching to the other.

Mountain climbers

Begin in a high plank position, hands directly beneath your shoulders and resting on the barbell. Bend one leg and bring it forward towards your elbow then lower to starting position. Repeat with the other leg making sure to keep your core engaged and back straight.



Zanna is a personal trainer, blogger, vlogger and author. Her first book Strong is packed with advice on training and nutrition as well as lots of recipe inspiration. She is a co-founder of the Girl Gains and also co-hosts its Fit & Fearless podcast on BBC 5 radio.

If you are looking for a positive account to add to your feed, then definitely check her out! It’s packed with all things fitness, food, travel, mindfulness and lifestyle.

Cucumber pickle

This is gorgeous on sandwiches, alongside burgers, or served as a side dish with just about everything.

3 cucumbers, halved, seeds removed and finely sliced

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

200g stevia

150g white wine vinegar

Pinch of salt

Mustard seeds and fresh dill, optional

In a large bowl combine the cucumber and onion.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients until the stevia has dissolved.

Pour this mixture over the cucumber and onion, stirring well to combine. Cover with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least four hours and ideally overnight.

If stored in a sterilised jar, this will keep in the fridge for at least a month, otherwise, it’s best enjoyed within a few days.


This is delicious served with roasted meats or spooned onto slices of crusty bread. I love it stirred into pasta or served alongside some fish like sea bass or hake.

Olive oil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 red onions, finely sliced

Sprig of thyme leaves

1 tbs tomato puree

3 tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and roughly chopped

2 red bell peppers, deseeded and finely sliced

Pinch of saffron strands, optional

Pinch of ground cumin

1 tbs red wine/red wine vinegar

Heat 5-6tbs of olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic, onions and thyme and cook gently on a low heat for 10-15 minutes without colouring. Add the tomato puree and cook for 1-2 minutes.

Next, add the tomatoes and red peppers and cook gently for 25 minutes, until softened and the whole mixture is really stewed down.

Add the saffron and cumin and continue to cook for 5 minutes.

Finally, add the red wine or red wine vinegar to balance the sweetness. Enjoy!

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