Circuit training is all the rage and quite honestly, an impatient girl’s best friend. Circuit training is basically a combination of strength and cardiovascular exercises designed to create an intense conditioning workout. I don’t want all the beginners out there to stop reading…circuits really can be for everyone because you can choose exercises based on your fitness level and goals.
Essentially a circuit is one round of specified exercises with minimal rest time in between. The nice thing about this is you have little time to think about how much you’d rather be on your couch – you just keep moving. Circuits usually alternate between cardiovascular exercises (the ones that get you breathing a bit harder) and strength exercises, giving you time to “rest” a particular area before you are challenged again. Although, there are many moves that can be a combination of cardio and strength to maximize your effort. The tempo is fast, there is usually music to match, and the momentum keeps you engaged in the activity. By design, this type of exercise keeps your heart rate up and your metabolism burning, which is why you can usually see good results with minimal time. Of course, there needs to be effort involved, but I find it more rewarding than going for a walk. As I’ve said before, the best exercise is the one that appeals to your personality. Circuits are great for those who like variety and a challenge.
You can certainly find circuit workouts available at your gym or other commercial exercise programs, but the beauty of circuits is that you can do them in your very own home with limited to no equipment. For my circuit training, I’ve developed the Work-it Circuit model. Red arrows represent cardio, green is upper body strength exercise, orange for core strengthening and blue for lower body exercise.
Work-it Circuit is designed to help you customize a workout that includes all areas of your body. You can choose to complete a circuit in minute intervals, meaning you determine a certain amount of minutes that you will perform each move. For instance, a beginner might start by doing one minute of each exercise in the circuit. As you advance, you can complete the entire circuit multiple times and/or increase the amount of time you spend on each move.
To get started, you’ll need to print your Work-it Circuit Planning Page. Next, you need to determine what exercises you want to plug into your circuit. You can collect clippings of exercises you like from magazines, fitness books, or through Pinterest. Personally, I like to categorize my favs on a push pin board in my home gym (ok, my garage).
You can also create a binder for the same utility with the benefit of portability, in case you want to take it to the gym or don’t want to hang a push pin board in your living room! Either way, it is important to track your exercise so you continue to improve, and you’ll know when it’s time to shake things up if you plateau. It’s also a great motivator to see what you are accomplishing. Feel free to print the DW Daily Health Tracker to make notes of your progress.
Here are some sample circuits; repeat as able with minimal rest time in between circuit sets:
Circuit #1 Circuit #2
|Cardio||Jog in place||Heel touch|
|Upper Body||Push ups||Chair dips|
|Cardio||Jumping jacks||Jump squats|
|Cardio||High knees||Lateral burpees|
|Lower Body||Deadlifts||Wall sit|
Using your Work-it Circuit Planner Page, build a circuit that meets your fitness level. Combination exercises, those that are a mix of cardio and strength, are awesome at boosting the burning potential of circuits. Just avoid a combination exercise adjacent to a strength exercise of the same muscle group – for instance, don’t put jump squats just before or after a set of lunges. Your legs will be burning and you likely won’t be able to complete both with full effort. Give your legs a chance to rest by sandwiching a core and upper body exercise around a combination cardio move like jump squats. You don’t have to be a Personal Trainer to know which muscles are working during a particular exercise! The point is to challenge yourself and keep the pace fast, but without compromising form. It helps to have a timer visible to keep you honest. Remember, you can do anything for a minute or two.
Give circuits a try and let me know what you think. I can’t wait to hear how it works for you!