Circuit Training. Finding The Type You Should Be Doing

Circuit training is the perfect way to get a full body workout and cardiovascular exercise in a single session. This type of exercise helps you to lose weight, increase general fitness, and improve endurance. You can work with or without equipment and see results.

The top circuit training workouts include full-body movements and high-intensity intervals. These workouts help to combine cardiovascular exercise with strength training, weight loss, and muscle building. Circuit training sessions can be completed in thirty to forty-five minutes.

Here are the circuit training exercises you should be doing.

What is Circuit Training?

Circuit training is a type of workout that involves rotating through a circuit of up to ten different exercises all targeting different muscle groups in the body. The repetition timed, and reps circuits are the types of circuit training. A circuit does not involve the type of exercise, instead, it is the way a workout routine is structured.

In circuit training, you complete each set of exercises a certain number of times. Once you do this, you can start moving to another activity for the same number of repetitions with little rest in between exercises. Here is an example of a circuit training routine.

Exercise Reps Sets Rest

Chest Press 12-15 1-2 0-15 seconds

Dumbbell squat 12-15 1-2 0-15 seconds

Jump Squats 8-10 1-2 0-15 seconds

Standing cable rows 12-15 1-2 0-15 seconds

Step up with biceps curl 12-15 1-2 0-15 seconds

Mountain climber (hands-on step) 20-30 seconds 1-2 0-15 seconds

Ball crunch 12-15 1-2 0-15 seconds

Ball back extension 12-15 1-2 60 seconds

Since you do move through these exercises at a fast pace, an entire circuit training session can be completed in only thirty to forty-five minutes. Speak with your doctor before starting a circuit training session to know whether it is safe or not to increase your activity levels, especially if you have underlying health concerns.

Types of Circuit Training

These are the main types of circuit training you can try.

Repetition circuit

Repetition consists of performing each number of repetitions before you start moving on to another form of exercise. Each exercise in a circuit is usually performed ten to fifteen times before moving on to the next exercise.

Timed circuit

This type of circuit practice involves working during a set period for both rest and exercise intervals. Each circuit exercise is performed for thirty to ninety seconds before moving to the next exercise. The work/rest time ratio can be customized when performing a circuit.

Competition circuit

This competition is similar to a timed circuit but instead is completed for as many repetitions as possible within the certain amount of time that is set.

Sport-specific circuit

Each exercise is a drill to help you improve certain movements that are involved in a specific sport, such as jumps, kicks, turns, and tumbling skills often used in gymnastics.

The constant, quick-paced nature of circuit training puts a unique type of stress on the body. This type of stress is what makes circuit training different from other forms of exercise.

Circuit Training

Benefits of Circuit Training

Circuit training is a flexible and individualized form of exercise that is easy to adjust in various ways because of the simplicity of the training. You can vary your exercises depending on personal preference, exercise types, intensity, and duration.

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Since this exercise is customizable, it can make working out more enjoyable. There are also specific health benefits that come from doing circuit training. Here are the benefits of circuit exercise training.

Increases strength

An efficient circuit training workout incorporates upper and lower body exercises. This helps you to increase your strength overall.

Helps with weight loss

Circuit training also involves strength training and cardiovascular exercises such as rowing, running, or elliptical training. This helps to improve your body composition by building muscle and losing fat.

Time efficiency

Circuit training involves very little rest in between exercises; therefore, its fast-paced nature saves you time. This is the most beneficial to those who have a limited amount of time to exercise yet want to reach their goals from their workouts.

Improves heart health

With little to no rest in between exercises, circuit training helps to improve your heart health by enhancing your endurance while your heart has to pump harder to supply enough nutrients from your blood to your muscles.

Improves cardiovascular fitness

When doing circuit training, you are always working against the clock to get as many repetitions as possible before your time runs out at each station. Since the rest periods in between exercises are not long enough to fully recover, you stay elevated for longer periods.

Trains the whole body

During circuit training, you move through different stations where a new exercise is always introduced. You may be doing squats, overhead presses, lunges, bicep curls, triceps extensions, and sit-ups all in the same workout.

Helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol

Compared to other forms of exercise, circuit training is better at lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. After twelve weeks of doing circuit training, it shows that those who do circuit training have reported less cholesterol and diastolic blood pressure than others. The low-intensity circuit training groups show the greatest decrease in blood pressure.

Good for all age groups

Circuit training isn’t only performed by adults. Circuit training is also beneficial to children and the elderly. There have been significant improvements in balance, strength, and gait after training for twelve weeks in a group of elderly individuals. School-aged students have found improvements in their lateral jumps, sprints, and sit-ups.

These benefits outweigh the disadvantages of doing circuits. Everyone can find circuit training to be beneficial throughout all areas of their lives.

How To Create a Circuit Training Workout

You can create a circuit training workout for yourself, use one online, or get personal direction from a personal trainer or coach. Effective circuit training workouts include exercises that target cardiovascular fitness for upper and lower body strengthening.

Countless exercises are part of a great circuit, as well as several ways a circuit training is organized. Here are some tips for setting up the best circuit workout to match your specific fitness goals.

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Choose your timing intervals

When it comes to using a circuit to reach your fitness goals, it is best to choose the right work-to-rest ratio. Whether you are trying to lose weight, improve cardiovascular fitness, or improve your V02 max. Proper timing of exercise combined with rest in between can lead you to great results in the long run. Here is a chart that shows how this exercise should be completed.

Type of Circuit Work Time Rest/Active Recovery Time Work: Rest Ratio Best For

Aerobic 1-5 minutes 1-5 minutes 1:1 Cardiovascular conditioning

Anaerobic (HIIT) 15-45 seconds 30-120 seconds 1:2-3 Metabolic conditioning/ EPOC

Tabata (advanced) 20 seconds 10 seconds 2:1 Improve VO2max

These circuits are made up of work for a certain number of times, directly followed by rest and active recovery time. This means if you are new to exercise, using an aerobic circuit is a safe way to introduce this kind of workout.

A work-to-rest ratio of 1:1 is the appropriate length of time for an aerobic circuit. This means that your work and recovery times are equal and at a steady state, compared to doing a high-intensity workout. During your workout, you will be doing an exercise for two minutes, with an active recovery time of two minutes. Here is the next step.

Choose the type of exercises

Circuit training can be used for both strength and cardiovascular training, which is perfect for those who don’t have a lot of time to work out. After you choose your time intervals based on your goals, select a few exercises to put together for one round of your circuit. This is typically four to eight exercises.

These exercises can be any combination of bodyweight movements, stationary cardiovascular machines, or free-weight resistance exercises. For your circuit to be successful, the exercises you choose to work on should be focused on your specific fitness goals.

For example, if your goal is to improve your leg strength, try adding a lunge exercise to your aerobic circuit. Regardless of the exercises you choose to perform with the type of equipment you use, make sure to have the correct form, especially when you get exhausted during the workout session.

Since the increased intensity of circuit training makes you feel tired, this is when it is easy to let your form slide away from your focus during training. This slack in your body can lead to an increased number of injuries. Here is the next option.

Choose the number of rounds

Circuit Training

Depending on the amount of time you have available and your current fitness level, it is important to choose how many rounds of your circuit to complete.

Say you only have thirty minutes to work out. After a five to ten-minute warm-up, use an aerobic circuit to subtract a few calories using a 1:3 work-to-rest ratio. This means working for fifteen seconds and rest for forty seconds.

Whatever timing intervals, exercise, and repetitions of rounds you choose, make sure to work hard during the work periods and rest during your recovery time. After a five to ten-minute warm-up that includes dynamic stretches and light foam rolling. Here are the best warmups.

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Pick an upper-body exercise

Circuit training is all about doing a variety of different exercises. You can either choose a different upper body exercise to perform each round or keep everything simple and pick one to repeat for the entire circuit.

Keep in mind what your training goals consist of. If you go to the gym, you will have more equipment to work with such as dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbels. If you work out at home, you may not have all of the equipment. Pick an upper body exercise you are capable of performing and the ones that will better target your weaker muscles.

These are a few examples of upper body exercises you can perform with or without equipment.

Shoulder press. This exercise targets your shoulders and upper back. It requires some equipment, either a long resistance band or free weights.

Pushups. This workout targets your chest muscles, deltoids, triceps, core, quadriceps, and hip flexors. This is a bodyweight exercise; therefore, no equipment is required.

Bent over rows. This targets your back muscles. It requires equipment, either a long resistance band or free weight.

Bicep curls. This exercise targets your biceps. It also requires a long resistance band or free weights.

Triceps dips. This exercise focuses on your triceps. No equipment is required, it can be performed on a stable surface or a triceps dip machine.

Pick a lower-body exercise

This is the same as picking up an upper body, but instead choosing a workout that is specialized for your lower body. You can change up the exercise each time through the circuit to keep them the same. Pick an exercise based on the equipment you have.

Here are some examples of the lower body exercises you can do with or without equipment.

Squats. This exercise targets your hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes. No equipment is required, but a resistance band or free weights can be added to increase the intensity of this workout.

Walking lunges. This exercise focuses on your quads and glutes. It doesn’t require any equipment, but free weights or a resistance band can increase intensity.

Deadlift. This workout targets both the upper and lower body. Your back muscles, hamstrings, upper thighs, and glutes are worked during this exercise. It requires either a dumbbell or a barbell to complete.

Glute bridge. The glute bridge focuses on both the glutes and your hamstrings. It doesn’t require equipment, but a resistance band or free weights can be added for intensity.

Step-ups. This exercise mostly targets your quads and glutes. No equipment is needed for this exercise, but it can be done using free weights.

Aerobic circuit

An aerobic circuit uses both strength and cardiovascular training to keep your heart rate high while improving your strength overall. For active rest, jog in place or run on a treadmill for one minute.

Using a 1:1 work-to-rest ratio, you can perform squats, lunges, pushups, dips, and plank walks. The goal is to complete as many repetitions as you can with good form. Repeat this round of exercises for seven minutes and thirty seconds two to three times.


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