With functional workouts and HIIT hot everywhere, circuit training has enjoyed a new resurgence. Circuit training basically consists of about 6-12 stations that each have a different exercise, which can be cardio, strength or core work. You move through each station for a designated time period (like 30 seconds to 2 minutes), or by completing a specific number of reps, with little to no rest between stations. Depending on the length of the overall exercise session, you may repeat the entire circuit once or several times.
If you’re not doing circuit training, you should try it due to its many advantages, including:
- Ultra-efficient – can get a lot accomplished in a short time, with no time wasted
- Varied – can be cardio-strength, all cardio or all strength; can try new fitness accessories and machines, which eliminates boredom
- Motivating – short challenges throughout circuit heighten interest and effort
- Total-body – greater effectiveness
- High-intensity – can boost calorie burn and metabolism, and enhance results
- Customizable – can modify or progress exercises and intensity according to individual fitness level
- Results-oriented – variety of exercises and pace drive improvements in cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength and endurance
- Flexible – can do indoors or outside; with a group or on your own; at the gym or at home
Circuit Training at the Gym
Ready to get started? If you belong to a gym, check the class or training schedule for circuit training routines and sign up. If you’re reluctant to go alone, grab a workout buddy for additional support. Tell the instructor that you’re new so you can learn any helpful tips before the session begins. And ask about modifications or progressions to ensure that you are challenged at a safe, effective level.
Also, pay attention to instructions on proper form for each exercise. Because people move quickly in circuit sessions, form can be compromised. While a faster pace is good for extra intensity, correctly executing the exercises is important for safety and best results. It’s OK to slow down if necessary or use lighter resistance. First do the exercise right, and then increase pace or weight.
Finally, bring a water bottle and a towel – and a good attitude. Even if you’re out of your comfort zone, chances are that you will benefit from – and even like – circuit workouts. If you continue with group sessions, you’ll meet some other regulars and enjoy some camaraderie that keeps you coming back.
Home Circuit Training
There are lots of options for circuit training at home as well if you aren’t a health club member or just can’t get there at times. You can check out streaming workouts or use DVDs where the thinking is already done for you.
Or set up your own regimen. Choose an overall duration, number of stations and how long you’ll spend at each station. Routines can be simple if you only have limited fitness equipment; just use your imagination. Here are some recommendations:
- Cardio – Jog in place, do stairs, jump rope, high knees, butt kickers, jumping jacks, burpees, mountain climbers, lateral shuffles, hops; or any cardio machine such as a treadmill, elliptical, bike, rower, climber, etc.
- Strength – Using your body weight, dumbbells or resistance bands, do push-ups, lunges, squats, plies, overhead press, chest press, rows, bicep curls, triceps kickbacks, lateral or front raises and more
- Core – Planks, crunches, bicycles, leg drops, Russian twist, side bends, bridges, butterfly sit-ups, jackknife, tuck-extend, back extensions and more
Be sure to always do a simple warm-up first, then take a few minutes to stretch the major muscle groups after circuit training workouts. Good luck!