Lately and surprisingly, we have been getting quite a few questions about circuit training and what it is, the benefits, etc. This article is in answer to our readers. First of all, circuit training is not the best type of training to do for exercise. However, it will get you active and build a strong foundation to move to more difficult training as well as more intense and sport-specific training down the road for those who want to do Iron-Man contests, run marathons, and so forth.
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Circuit training means alternating between exercises with little to no rest between each exercise. In other words, you may do a leg curl machine and immediately move to the next exercise, which focuses on a different muscle group without stopping for rest between exercises. The reason for this is that while you worked legs on one exercise, you will likely be doing something like a incline-press machine on the next thus, you are working completely separate muscle groups, which allows one muscle group to recover while you work the next. In this manner, circuit training is a good and generally safe way to build your foundation and increase your intensity.
Therefore, in circuit training, you may alternate between various strength-training exercises or strength-training exercises and cardiovascular (‘cardio’) exercise. If you always do circuit training, make sure to start on different machines and go to machines not in order so that your body does not get too accustomed to the same workout routine and so that you do not get bored with it either. Generally, for the first couple of weeks it’s okay to go through the circuit as it is arranged. However, after two weeks, you need to mix it up such as go in reverse order and after that do the machines in randomized order. However, the latter may be difficult when the gym is crowded.
• Within a circuit, strength training exercises generally last 30 – 60 seconds (bear in mind these are anerobic exercises).
• They can be done using machines, resistance bands, your own body weight, free weights (dumbbells), etc.
• Within a circuit, cardiovascular exercises generally last from 30 seconds – 2 minutes (bear in mind these are aerobic exercises).
• They can include any exercise that noticeably increases both your breathing and heart rate. As an example, jogging in place, jumping jacks, jump rope, stationary bike, etc.
Sample upper body circuit (with cardio) – beginner:
• Bicep curls – dumbbells and bench
• 30 seconds jogging in place (high step or march if jogging is too much exertion for your fitness level)
• Chest press – dumbbells and bench
• 30 seconds of jumping jacks
• Shoulder raise – dumbbells or medicine ball
• 30 seconds jogging in place
• Overhead triceps extension– dumbbell and stability ball
• 30 seconds of jumping jacks.
• Single arm row – dumbbell and bench
• 30 seconds of body squats – no weight
You can create your own circuit at home or at the gym, or you can take a circuit training class. The latter is a fun group exercise and you’ll often make new friends. If you take a class, the exercises are typically set up as stations and you move to the next station when the instructor tells you.