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Circuit Training Routine for Kick Butt Results E-mail
Written by Jeff Behar, MS, MBA   

Circuit training is a type of interval training in which strength exercises are combined with aerobic exercises, thus giving you all the benefits of both a cardiovascular and strength training workout. The main purpose of circuit workouts are to give you more variety, keep your heart pumping and give you the best results in the shortest amount of time.


How Circuit Training Works

Circuit training combines 6-10 exercises that are completed one right after the other, with little or no rest in between.

One objective of circuit training is to go all ou, each rep, and through each exercice without slowing down or resting.

There are many variations of circuit training where exercises are completed for a specified time (like 1 minute). During circuit training to get optimal benefits the rest period should be no more than 30 seconds before moving on to the next exercise. Once you complete all exercises, that is considered one circuit.

The total number of circuits you complete can vary and will be determined by your level ogf fitness, as well as your desire.

For beginners, start with 30 seconds per exercise and increase the time as you get stronger. Another way to progress is to shorten your rest in between exercises and circuits.

Circuit Training is Great for Beginners

Circuit training is great for beginners just getting started. Why? Because it allows you to build some total body strength while also working on your endurance. This can be great for a number of sports as long as you perform exercises specifically for what you want to accomplish.  

Circuit Training Can Increase Cardio Endurance and Stimulate Weight Loss

This circuit workout is a great calorie-burner. Circuit training moves fast and can be designed to involves high intensity cardio (any activity of your choice) as well as combination strength moves involving both upper and lower body.

Circuit Training Can Break Plateaus 

By increasing the workload and shortening the workout time it increases intensity. Increasing intensity is a great way to make gains, get in shape quicker and it can help even the most seasoned person break plateaus.

Circuit Training Can Increase Interest 

Regardless of your goals, circuit training can be a great workout simply because of the variety. Running on a treadmill for 30 minutes or doing the same old machines can get boring over time. Incorporating variety can help renew your interest in training.

Planning is the key to Success

  1. Pick exercises to work each muscle group.
  2. Choose an order that works the primary and larger muscle group first (Back, before biceps, chest before triceps)
  3. Try to include exercises for agility and endurance (like jumping side-to-side over a phone book)for overall all fitness (muscle growth, muscle tone, balance and cardiovascular fitness)
  4. Incorporate speed too.
  5. Consider both eccentric and concentric movements.

Now, following this criteria, pick six to ten exercises, write them down on a piece of paper and then take a moment to figure out how you'll do your workout. This is an important step because once your begin a circuit training routine you want to complete the cicuit without slowing down.  Understanding this principle is key for optimum results. For this reason this type of training is often best done at times when the gym is empty and you have your pick of all the machines and all the weights and dumbbells (expecially for drop sets, as you are sure to get weaker as you complete additional circuits to failure).

Note: circuit training does NOT need to be done in a gym. You can do circuit training using basic exercises at home or even in a park; as many "fit camp Boot camps" often do.

What You Need to Get Started

  1. Doctor approval. It is important that your are physically ready to start circuit trainingm. It is important that you see your doctor before trying any new workout if you have any injuries, illnesses or other conditions.
  2. A good pair of shoes.
  3. Loose comfortable workout wear
  4. Your workout memorized
  5. Exercises pre set up with the correct weights/resistance (note this would not apply if you are just using non weighted exercises like situps, pushups. lunges, jumping jacks, etc.)
  6. A great attitude!

Starting Circuit Training

It is important to properly warm up and stretch. as a minimum:
  • Warm up 5/10 minutes
  • Stretch 5/10 minutes

Also make sure you cool down with a stretch!

Example of a Beginner Cardio-Strength Circuit Training Routine

Part 1

  1. Squats. This can be done with weights or by using a exercise ball. If you choose to use an exercise ball, place an exercise ball behind the back and against the wall with feet hip-width apart, abs in and torso straight.  Bend your knees and lower down until knees are at 90 degrees (don't go down as low if you have knee problems).  Repeat for 30-60 seconds and hold weights for added intensity.  (optional holding weights) - 20 reps
  2. Biceps curls - 10 -15 reps
  3. Tricep Kickbacks - In split  stance, bend over to 45 degrees, abs in and back flat.  Bend elbows, while keep elbows close to your side, straighten elbows, squeezing the triceps.  Repeat for 30-60 seconds.
  4. Abdominal crunches (on the floor or on Swiss ball)- 20/25
  • You can use weights that you'll feel comfortable with.
  • If you can do more than the target repetitions, increase the weight. 

Repeat this circuit 2 times in the order showed above 

3 minutes cardio interval on treadmill/elliptical cross training/stationary bike/stepper, or just jumping rope (your preference).
  • For the machines adjust the resistance above comfort zone
  • If jumping rope, jump with both feet together, jumping only an an inch or so off the floor.

Part 2 

  1. Pushups. On knees (beginners) or toes. In push up position (on knees or toes) bend elbows and slowly lower into push up until elbows are at 90 degrees, abs pulled in.  Push up to starting position.30 seconds to 1 minute  - 15/25 reps
  2. Seated back rows - 15 reps. This can also be performed without weights using an exercise ball. Lie face down on a ball on floor with the legs extended and hands behind the head or under the chin. Roll down over the ball and then squeeze the lower back to lift the chest off the ball in a straight line. Lower and repeat for 30-60 seconds.
  3. Walking Lunge with Overhead Press - Hold weights over the shoulders and step forward with the right foot into a lunge.  As you bring the left foot forward, press the weights overhead.  Lower the weights and lunge with the left foot with an overhead press.  Repeat for 1 minute.

Repeat this circuit 2 times in the order showed above 

3 minutes cardio interval on treadmill/elliptical cross training/stationary bike/stepper, or just jumping rope (your preference).
  • For the machines adjust the resistance above comfort zone
  • If jumping rope, jump with both feet together, jumping only an an inch or so off the floor. 

Part 3 

  1. Pushups. On knees (beginners) or toes. In push up position (on knees or toes) bend elbows and slowly lower into push up until elbows are at 90 degrees, abs pulled in.  Push up to starting position. 30 seconds to 1 minute  - 15/25 reps
  2. Bent Over Row with Tricep Kickbacks - In split stance, bend over to 45 degrees, abs in and back flat.  Bend elbows and bring weights towards the rib cage, then straighten elbows, squeezing the triceps.  Repeat for 1 minute.
  3. Narrow-Stance Squat with Lateral Raise - In narrow stance, lower into squat (knees behind toes) while lifting the arms straight out to shoulder level, elbows slightly bent, abdominals pulled in.  Repeat for 1 minute.
  4. Plie Squat with Tricep Extension - In wide stance, with toes out, lower into a plie squat (keeping knees behind toes), while bending arm to 90 degrees, weight directly behind the head.  Push through the heels to standing, while straightening the arm (but don't lock elbow!)  Repeat for 12 reps and then switch arms.

Repeat this circuit 2 times in the order showed above

3 minutes cardio interval on treadmill/elliptical cross training/stationary bike/stepper, or just jumping rope (your preference).
  • For the machines adjust the resistance above comfort zone
  • If jumping rope, jump with both feet together, jumping only an an inch or so off the floor. 

Done! 

Notes:

  • Adjust the weight making sure you are able to keep a good posture effecting the exercise.
  • Keep the break to a minimum keeping the heart rate elevated during the workout.
  • Allow 5/10 minutes at the end for cool down and stretching.
  • If you're feeling sick or dizzy please stop and seek some help.  
  • Making it easier:  Perform only one circuit, or do each exercise for 30 seconds instead of 1 minute
  • Making it harder:  Perform three circuits and/or use heavier weights

About Jeff Behar

Jeff Behar
Jeff Behar, MS, MBA
Jeff Behar, MS, MBA is a recognized health, fitness and nutrition expert, regularly writing about hot topics in the areas of health, fitness, disease prevention, nutrition, anti aging and alternative medicine. His work also often appears in several of the major health and fitness newsletters, health and fitness magazines, and on  major health, and fitness websites. Behar is also a well sought after personal trainer, motivational speaker, and weight loss expert.
 
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