Don’t mistake circuit training as being an easy round of a few exercises on machines sitting in a circle. That may be one way a “circuit” is set up, but more commonly, a circuit training workout will get your heart rate up and it will stay up the whole workout as you move quickly from one exercise to the other. Circuit training workouts are great strength training workouts with cardiovascular benefits and fit well into busy lifestyles.
A “circuit” is a “round” or 1 “set” of several exercises completed at a high intensity, one right after the other. The rest time is often short, if any is given, between exercises. The circuit typically includes exercises for the entire body including major muscle groups, core, arms and cardio movements. Once a “circuit” is complete, a short rest may be taken before completing another round of the same circuit. It’s common to do a circuit 2-4 times in one workout depending on the number of exercises present.
Setting up a circuit training workout is simple to do, but keep in mind a few things. First, the order of exercises is important so that you can rest one muscle group while working another. For example, if you do lunges with bicep curls in the first exercise of the circuit, the next exercise shouldn’t include those muscles. The second exercise could be a burpee with a push-up. Second, the amount of weight chosen and the amount of time doing each exercise is important. Choose a weight that will be challenging after performing 20-30 repetitions or doing that exercise for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Having a couple options for weight selection is good so that you can adjust as you go and continually challenge yourself while staying in good form.
Circuit training is not only time efficient, but it’s incredibly effective for those who have goals of increasing their cardiovascular endurance and their muscular endurance. If losing body fat and toning the body is a goal, incorporating circuit training would be a great way to reach that goal if done 2-3 times per week.
Here is a circuit training workout you could do in the gym or at home if you have dumbbells.
Demonstrations for these exercises can be found here. Most of them are located under the exercise tab. I’ll describe the exercises not demonstrated below.
- Squat with Overhead Press (Legs, Butt and Shoulders): Sit back through the hips dropping your butt down to just above knee level. Keep your abs pulled in to protect your back. As you stand, press the dumbbells overhead. (Overhead shoulder press and a squat are individually demonstrated on the website linked above.)
- Tricep Dip (Triceps- Arms): Sit on the edge of a chair with your hands placed beside your hips and fingertips facing forward. Come off of the edge of the chair and bend elbows so that you dip your hips towards the ground. Extend your arms and press yourself back up. Make sure shoulders stay down and the elbows point behind you through the movement.
- Lunge with Bicep Curl (Legs, Butt and Arms): Alternate your lunges and curl dumbbells towards shoulders as you lunge down. Extend the arm back down as you push off and return to standing. Repeat on the other leg. Make sure your front knee stays behind your toes to protect your knees. (Lunge and bicep curl are individually demonstrated on the website linked above.)
- Step up with Side Lateral Raise (Legs, Butt and Shoulders): The side lateral raise is demonstrated on the website, but pair it with a step up. Find any step or bench and place your whole foot on top. Keeping your body upright step to the top of the stair or bench then return to the floor. Alternate legs. Lift arms as you step up. Lower arms as you step down.
- Side Lunge with Front Raise (Legs, Butt and Shoulders): Step right foot directly to the right setting your legs up wide. Bend right knee, sit hips back and lunge to the right while extending your left arm straight forward to chest level. Push off and return to center standing. Repeat with the left leg and right arm. Keep your spine long, chin lifted and belly braced. Keep the lunging knee behind the toes. Non-lunging leg stays straight.