Circuit training is a great way to combine endurance and strength training in a single workout. A circuit is defined as a series of exercises that are either resistance based or aerobic in nature. Several circuits, typically comprised of 4-10 exercises each, may be accomplished in a single workout. Once all of the exercises in a circuit are completed, the entire circuit is often repeated. No rest is allowed in between exercise, but a rest period of no longer than one minute is usually taken between circuits.
In a circuit program you are able to keep your heart rate at an increased level throughout the workout because of the way the intervals, exercises, and rest periods are laid out. Active rest is simulated during the circuit by ensuring that consecutive exercises work opposing muscles or separate muscle groups. Because of this, you can achieve improvement in multiple areas of physical fitness in less time than you could in a traditional workout program.
Because the body is exposed to so many demands in this style of exercise, it increases your potential calorie burn for the workout. According to the "ACSM Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription," circuit training has been shown to burn up to 500 calories an hour or more depending on the level of intensity; this is equal to the calories burned from running five miles. Calories are also burned both during and post-workout, which is beneficial when attempting to lose weight and improve body composition.
The strength portion of the workout is designed to involve the use of either callisthenic movements such as sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, squat thrusts, and lunges or resistance exercise equipment (machines and free weights). Aerobic, or cardio, exercises are also frequently inserted into a circuit training workout. This is to make sure that a heart rate of 60-90% of maximum is being maintained throughout the workout. Mix up your equipment and modes of strength training to make your workouts enjoyable and balanced.
The active rest simulation is a design tactic to maximize your workout. Moving from one muscle group to another gives your muscles adequate time to recover without totally stopping the workout. Successive stations are arranged relatively close to one another so you can move from station to station in an orderly manner and so that in a class setting, large groups of people can work out simultaneously.
The number of stations, or circuits performed depends on your time constraints, your fitness goals, and your fitness level. Circuit weight training usually emphasizes smaller muscle mass exercises compared with priority training. Circuit training is not a great option for those trying to build significant muscle hypertrophy, or size, or muscle strength. It's better suited for those trying to tone or build muscle endurance. A gym membership or exercise equipment is not required and can be adapted for any environment. So no excuses, it’s time to get your circuits started!
Example of a Circuit Training Workout:
|Squat Press (photo Womenshealthmag.com|
Squat Jumps 3 sets of 15
Push-Ups 3 sets of 15
Dead Lift 3 sets of 15
Dumbbell Row 3 sets of 15
Jumping Lunges 3 sets of 15
Military Press 3 sets of 15
Squat Swings 3 sets of 15
Pike Crunches 3 sets of 15
Skaters 1 minute
Bench Dips 3 sets of 15
Squat Press 3 sets of 15
Concentration Curls 3 sets of 15
Before starting any exercise or fitness program it is important that you speak with your doctor. Start slow, make sure that you are listening to your body during a circuit workout and if things are too intense, slow the pace or increase the rest between exercises. Be sure to always warm up and cool down before and after any workout and allow for one day of rest between training days.
Guest Blogger Jennifer Bayliss, MSEd, ATC, CSCS, is Manager of Fitness for Everyday Health Calorie Counter
ACSM Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription Sixth Edition"; ACSM; 2009
Baechle, T, Earle, R. NSCA’s Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. 3rd edition. Champaign, IL. Human Kinetics. 2008