If you’re looking for an enjoyable, convenient, and effective way to exercise, circuit training is something you might want to consider. Whether you’re new to working out or well-trained and just trying to overcome a plateau in your weight loss or fitness progress, circuit training is an excellent method for optimizing achievement of your goals.
What Is Circuit Training?
Traditionally used for enhancing muscle function, circuit training essentially involves going through a series of exercises with relatively brief rest periods (about 30 seconds) between each. The number of exercises can vary widely with as little as 4 to as much as 12 per workout session. Research shows that circuit training can significantly improve:
- Heart and blood vessel function in ways that improve circulation thereby reducing the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and other preventable chronic conditions; and
- Body composition (ratio of fat-to-lean mass) due to simultaneous reductions in body fat and increases in muscle, which’ll, in turn, boost fat-burning potential and support healthy weight control.
To build muscle strength and endurance a combination of free-weight and calisthenic exercises (push-ups, dips, squats, and pull-ups) can be incorporated with cardiovascular (cardio) exercises interspersed.
Circuit training can also be used for cardio exercise alone. For instance, you can perform 4-8 exercises for 1-5 minutes with 15-second rest periods between each. Ideally, the number of circuits should be equivalent to roughly 20-60 minutes of cardio depending on the number of exercises and general end goals (weight loss, weight control or health optimization).
Try Circuit Training!
I highly recommend circuit training as a supplement to any exercise program. In addition to its beneficial physical and physiological effects, this type of training is both stimulating and fun as it allows you to break away from the monotony associated with exercising on stationary machines day in and day out.
If you’re convinced and want to give circuit training a shot, I’ve put together a sample program for you that combines both free-weight and calisthenic exercises along with cardio for a complete, full body workout. You can implement this program at home or in a gym and it’ll only take you 30 minutes!
Begin by warming up your muscles with some light walking or jogging in place and then perform the following exercises, one after the other, allowing yourself 15-30 seconds of rest between each exercise.
Standard push up, modified push up (until exhausted) or dumbbell press (8-12 repetitions)
Two-arm dumbbell row (8-12 repetitions) and/or dumbbell pullover (8-12 repetitions)
Unweighted squat (until exhausted) or dumbbell squat (12-15 repetitions)
Jumping jacks or other cardio exercise (2-3 minutes)
Dumbbell shoulder press (8-12 repetitions) or barbell military press (8-12 repetitions)
Standing dumbbell curls (8-12 repetitions) and/or EZ bar preacher curls (8-12 repetitions)
Dips (until exhausted) and/or overhead extensions (8-12 repetitions)
Jogging/running in place or other cardio exercise (2-3 minutes)
Dumbbell travelling lunge and/or step-up (alternating legs for 12-15 repetitions) or unweighted walking lunge and/or step-up (alternating legs until exhausted)
Planks (1-2 minutes), vertical leg crunch (15-20 repetitions) and/or bicycle crunch (alternating sides for 15-20 repetitions)
And there you have it—Circuit training made simple! By implementing this program as outlined you can burn up to 400 calories in just 30 minutes. For improvements in muscle strength and endurance, try adding multiple exercises for each muscle group. For weight loss, consider performing this circuit twice in one session while varying the cardio.