Circuit training is one of my favourite training workouts, whether for myself personally, or for clients. I use circuit training as part of injury rehabilitation programs, for conditioning elite level athletes, or to help my clients lose weight. I use circuits for just about everything.
I was introduced to circuit training exercises and routines by an exceptional sports coach by the name of Col Stewart. Col is one of those rare coaches who can take just about any sport, and devise a specific training program that always produces outstanding improvements for his athletes.
Col's circuit training routines are largely responsible for the success of many of his world champion athletes. Including his son, Miles Stewart (World Champion Triathlete), Mick Doohan (World 500cc Motorcycle Champion), and countless others from sports as diverse as roller-skating, squash, and cycling.
Many other coaches are also impressed by circuit training and use it regularly. Brian Mackenzie from BrianMac.co.uk says, "Circuit training is an excellent way to simultaneously improve mobility, strength and stamina."
And WorkoutsForWomen.com state "circuit training is one of the best methods of exercising as it provides excellent all round fitness, tone, strength, and a reduction of weight and inches. In short, maximum results in minimum time."
For example, a simple circuit training routine might consist of push-ups, sit-ups, squats, chin-ups and lunges. The routine might be structured as follows, and could be continually repeated as many times as is necessary.
Do as many push-ups as you can in 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds.
Do as many squats as you can in 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds.
Do as many sit-ups as you can in 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds.
Do as many lunges as you can in 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds.
Do as many chin-ups as you can in 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds.
What makes Circuit Training so good?
The quick pace and constant changing nature of circuit training places a unique type of stress on the body, which differs from normal exercise activities, like weight training and aerobics.
The demands of circuit training tend to prepare the body in a very even, all-round manner. I have found circuit training to be an exceptional form of exercise to aid in the prevention of injury. Circuit training is one of the best ways I've found to condition your entire body (and mind).
There are many other reasons why circuit training is a fantastic form of exercise, and what most of these reasons come down to is flexibility. In other words, circuit training is totally customizable to your specific requirements.
The main types of Circuit Training
As mentioned before, circuit training can be totally customized, which means there are an unlimited number of different ways you can structure your circuit training routine. However, here are a few examples to give you some idea of the different types available.
Some Important Precautions
Circuit training is a fantastic form of exercise, however, the most common problem I find is that people tend to get over excited, because of the timed nature of the exercises, and push themselves harder than they normally would. This tends to result in sore muscles and joints, and an increased likelihood of injury. Below are a few precautions you need to take into consideration.
Firstly, your level of fitness. If you've never done any sort of circuit training before, even if you consider yourself quite fit, start off slowly. The nature of circuit training is quite different to any other form of exercise. It places different demand on the body and mind, and if you're not used to it, it will take a few sessions for your body to adapt to this new form of training. Be patient.
Secondly, you're warm-up and cool-down are crucial. Do not start a circuit training routine without a thorough warm-up that includes stretching. As I mentioned before, circuit training is very different from other forms of exercise. Your body must be prepared for circuit training before you start your session.
And lastly, you need to make stretching and flexibility training a regular part of your circuit training routines. The added intensity of circuits requires that your muscles and joints be flexible and supple.
While the recommendations on this page are a good starting point, you'll get a lot more benefit when you include a wider variety of exercises. So to improve your athletic ability, reduce injuries and really take advantage of all the stretching exercises on offer, grab a copy of the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility (Handbook, DVD & CD-ROM).
In total, they include 135 clear photographs and 44 video demonstrations of unique stretching exercises for every major muscle group in your body. Plus, over 80 printable stretching routines for 22 sports and 19 different muscle groups.
The DVD also includes 3 customized stretching routines (8 minutes each) for the Upper Body; the Lower Body; and the Neck, Back & Core, plus a bonus CD-ROM that allows you to print out over 80 stretching routines that you can take with you wherever you go.
The Handbook and DVD will show you, step-by-step, how to perform each stretch correctly. Plus, you'll also learn the 7 critical rules for safe stretching; the benefits of flexibility; and how to stretch properly. Check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility for yourself.
Sample Circuit Training Workouts
It's easy to design your own circuit training workouts and routines, and the best routine is usually the one you design yourself. The information in this article, along with the sample workouts below, and a little bit of imagination, will help you put together the perfect circuit training workout.
Make sure you warm up before attempting any of the circuit training workouts below and take extra care to follow the precautions in the section above.
#1 - Repetition Circuit: A Total Body Circuit Training Workout
This circuit can be done individually, or in a group, and should take about 10 minutes to finish. Beginners should take a 30 to 45 second rest after each exercise and a 3 to 5 minute rest after each circuit. Intermediate exercisers should not rest after each exercise but can rest 3 minutes after each circuit. While advanced exercisers should not rest until they have completed at least 2 circuits.
#2 - Running Circuit: An Outdoor Running Circuit Training Workout
This circuit is done outdoors on flat ground or on a track, and can be done individually or in a group. Mark out a distance of 200 metres, then complete 30 seconds of each exercise and walk or run 200 metres between each exercise until the rotation is completed.
Beginners can walk the 200 metres in between each exercise to catch their breath and prepare for the next exercise, while advanced exercisers should run the 200 metres.