Circuit Training is the total-body workout to do when you don’t have a lot of time. You don’t need a lot of time to squeeze in a decent sweat session. High-intensity interval (HIIT) workouts that last for as little as 10 minutes are more effective than steady-state exercise that lasts an hour.
One popular way to incorporate HIIT into your routine is through circuit training. Many trainers love circuit training because it allows you to challenge different muscle groups and mix cardio with strength in a short amount of time.
Keep reading to learn more about what exactly circuit training is, what it can do for you, and how to design the perfect circuit training workout.
What is circuit training?
Circuit training is a style of workout performed with different stations or exercises at a high intensity with little to no rest between each station or exercise. If no recovery time sounds scary, don’t freak out. You can adjust your work and recovery ratio.
For example, do 30 seconds of work and then make an active recovery for another 30 seconds before you move onto the next exercise. And by active recovery, I mean making lower-intensity moves, like jogging in place or pretending you’re jumping rope, to help you catch your breath without completely stopping.
The beauty of circuit training is that it targets different muscle groups, working both agonist and antagonist muscles (aka muscles that work in pairs). So while one muscle contracts, the other one relaxes. For example, in a bicep curl, you’re contracting your biceps while your triceps relax. The opposite happens when you do a triceps press.
In general, the more exercises you have, the ‘easier’ the workout is since you will be working different muscle groups compared with just two exercises back-to-back that would fatigue those muscle groups pretty quickly.
What’s also great about circuit training is that you can combine cardio with strength. For example, you can do bicep curls and then mountain climbers. Changing up the intensity and the muscle group you’re working will prevent you from getting tired fast.
The benefits of circuit training
When it comes down to it, the benefits of circuit training are to burn fat and build muscle. In particular, circuit training is beneficial for building bone and muscle mass while losing body fat. Circuit training is also a great way to improve your muscular endurance and strength.
When people think of strength training, they often think only about how heavy they can lift, but having muscular endurance means you can perform exercises for an extended time. Circuit training helps with building muscular endurance because there aren’t any rests between exercises; you go from one move to the next. This form of training also conditions your body to use oxygen more efficiently, so you build the stamina to go harder, longer.
The benefits of circuit training hit a wide variety of variables, from strength and endurance to mobility and coordination to releasing endorphins and breaking down cortisol levels.
For example, if you’re prone to back pain and injury, circuit training can help fix those muscular imbalances and improve your range of motion by forcing you to work with different resistances and tempos. Accordingly, you can use a wide variety of tools, like dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, and yoga blocks.
How to design a workout
Now that you know what circuit training is all about and how your sports performance and weight-loss efforts can benefit from it, it’s time to design the perfect circuit training workout. But where do you begin? Start by putting some thought into what your current level of fitness is and what you’re overall goals are.
Think about what areas of weakness you want to improve, whether you want stronger glutes to run faster or a solid back to master pull-ups. Just because split jumps may be a good exercise for an advanced person to strengthen the legs and glutes while getting their heart rate up, a beginner may be best served by a basic squat or even a 1/4 squat.”
You’ll want to select your time limit, which can vary from 10, 15, 20 to 30 minutes. Then, pick five to 10 exercises that work for different muscle groups. Start by doing each exercise for one minute and then repeating the entire cycle in as much time as you have. You can swap exercises for each circuit to avoid boredom, too.
A sample workout
Here’s a sample circuit training workout that works your upper and lower body, as well as your core. Begin with brisk warm-up and then mix and match the exercises below to get a total-body workout. For example, your first circuit could be push-ups, squats, bicep curls, lateral lunges with front raise, and plank walks. Complete as many circuits as possible in the amount of time.
Equipment: 1 pair of medium-to-heavy dumbbells
Time: You choose your time limit; it can be 10, 15, 20, 30, or even 45 minutes
Reps: 8-12 or about 30 to 45 seconds of work for each exercise
- Bicep curls
- Tricep extensions
- Shoulder presses
- Hip thrusts
- Lateral lunge with front raise
- Sumo deadlift with high pull
- Alternating reverse lunge with T-pull apart
- Hammer curl to overhead press.
- Floor press with leg lift
- Lateral plank walk
Last but not least, take a 90-second cool-down at the end.
What is Circuit Training Summary
Circuit training is an excellent way to improve mobility, strength, and stamina. Each exercise is performed for a specified number of repetitions or for a set time before moving on to the next exercise. The exercises within each circuit are separated by a short rest period, and each circuit is separated by a longer rest period.
The total number of circuits performed during a training session may vary from two to six depending on your training level (beginner, intermediate, or advanced), your period of training (preparation or competition), and your training objective.
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