Imagine a forceful workout routine that combines cardiovascular and strength training, has you in and out of the gym in 30 minutes, and leaves you eagerly anticipating your next workout. Sound too good to be true? It’s not — it’s called circuit training.
Circuit Training, Elucidated
Circuit training is a style of workout where you cycle through several exercises (usually five to 10) targeting distinct muscle groups with minimal rest in between each movement. The outcome is a workout that challenges your muscular strength and endurance as well as your cardiorespiratory system. You’ve likely experienced circuit training in boot camp-style classes and didn’t even realize it.
Advantages of Circuit Training
Circuit training workouts have a myriad of benefits. To begin with, it’s a great way to combat boredom. If you find yourself constantly watching the clock during your workout and counting down the seconds until it’s over, then circuit training is definitely worth a try. It’s a foolproof way to shake up your workout routine, since moving swiftly from one exercise to the next means your mind doesn’t have time to wander or zone out. Plus, there are endless ways to personalize, modify, and advance your circuit training workout to achieve your goals efficiently.
You’ll also burn calories more effectively. Your body undergoes a post-workout recovery period (referred to as the afterburn effect) that requires more energy when performing circuit training workouts than other methods — such as steady-state, moderate-intensity routines. Because of this, you can expect to burn 8 to 15 percent more calories when opting for high-intensity circuit training, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. And when your circuit training workout combines cardiovascular and strength exercises, you’ll also increase muscle mass — essentially, you can achieve multiple training objectives with this one workout.
How to Create a Circuit Training Workout
Deciphering how to establish an effective circuit training workout on your own can be quite intimidating initially. So to lend you a hand, here are six simple steps to assist you in constructing your perfect routine.
Step 1: Establish a Time Limit
Circuit training workouts revolve around a set number of “stations” that you repeat until your time runs out, so knowing how much time you have can help you determine how many circuits you’ll need to complete and how intense you’ll need to work. Anywhere from 10–45 minutes is ideal for circuit training — but the shorter the workout, the harder you should be pushing.
And since you’re alternating which body part you’re working during each move, there’s no need to rest between exercises.
Think of it in this manner: Your upper limbs receive respite during squats, and your lower limbs receive respite during push-ups.
Illustrative circuit training workout: A duration of one minute at five different stations. Repeat this pattern for six cycles, resulting in a 30-minute workout.
Step 2: Select an Upper-Body Exercise
The key to circuit training is utilizing whatever resources are available. If you are at a gym, you have numerous options at your disposal — but all you truly need is your own physique. (Here’s an outstanding at-home HIIT circuit training workout you can borrow.) For each round, you can either choose a distinct upper-body movement or simply repeat the same exercise each time to maintain simplicity. Depending on your preference, you can either rotate through all of these exercises or exclusively select your favorite.
Upper-Body Circuit Training Exercises:
Circuit 1: Overhead press
Circuit 2: Bent-over row
Circuit 3: Upright dumbbell curl
Circuit 4: Triceps dip
Circuit 5: Push-up
Circuit 6: Russian twist
Step 3: Choose a Lower-Body Exercise
Similar to the upper body, opt for exercises that target different areas of your lower body. You can vary the movements each round or maintain consistency by keeping them the same.
Lower-Body Circuit Training Exercises:
Circuit 1: Forward lunge or walking lunge
Circuit 2: Sumo squat
Circuit 3: Calf raise
Circuit 4: Hamstring curl on a Swiss ball
Circuit 5: Deadlift
Circuit 6: Superman
Step 4: Elect a Compound Exercise
While weight training is an excellent way to exercise, incorporating all-encompassing movements into your circuit training routine will significantly elevate your heart rate.
Once again, select one from the options provided below or alternate between all six of these actions.
Compound Circuit Training Exercises:
Circuit 1: Jumping lunge
Circuit 2: Mountain climbers
Circuit 3: Thruster (squat to shoulder press)
Circuit 4: Barbell clean
Circuit 5: Bench hop-over
Circuit 6: Single-arm kettlebell swing
Step 5: Add In One Minute of Max-Effort Cardio
Research demonstrates that participating in cardio regularly is an efficient way to enhance cardiorespiratory fitness. Choose your preferred form of cardio to include in your circuit training workout and give it your all for one minute.
Cardio Circuit Training Exercises:
Circuit 1: Running
Circuit 2: Jumping rope
Circuit 3: Rowing
Circuit 4: Cycling
Circuit 5: Uphill jogging
Circuit 6: Stair climbing
Step 6: Take a One-Minute Rest
You’ve deserved it. Allow your heart rate to decrease and then go through your circuit as many times as you desire for a complete workout.
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