Today I want to discuss the topic of circuit programs. When you think of a circuit program, what do you think of? Most people think of the person meandering around the gym from machine to machine doing random exercises with no real plan or purpose. When asked later what they did at the gym, that same person may reply “Oh I just did a circuit of exercises”. Don’t be that person who arrives at the gym without a plan. Show up with a program that fits you and will help you to reach your fitness goals.
When I think of a circuit program I think of a high intensity workout. I often use circuits with my clients to challenge their endurance and to help them break through a plateau, but it can be used for a host of other reasons. A good circuit program can challenge your aerobic and anaerobic conditioning, your strength, stamina, and endurance.
When designing your own circuit program there are a few things you will need to consider. First of all, what is your reason for wanting to do one? If you are training to put on muscle, you will want to lower your reps and increase your weight, if you are looking to tone up and focus more on losing weight you will want to lighten up the weights and increase the reps, if its conditioning you are after you can go for higher reps and lighter weights with less rest in between each exercise. Secondly, you want to choose exercises appropriate to your fitness goals and level. You should limit your choices to 8 to 10 exercises per program as well. There is an endless combination of exercises you can group together to create your own program, so be creative. Keep in mind the idea behind a circuit program is to give minimal to no rest between exercises. Depending on your fitness level you can start by going through the circuit once and progress to multiple times through as you become more comfortable.
Here is a sample circuit program that I have used with my clients:
Bench Step up with shoulder press
Chest press on swiss ball
1 arm dumbbell row
Crunch with a twist
Squat bench jump
Heels to sky
This circuit can be performed for time or desired number of reps. If completing for time, perform each exercise for 45-60 seconds and rest no more than 30 seconds between exercises. If completing for reps, perform 10-12 per exercise and rest no more than 10 seconds between exercises. The suggested rest times between exercises are intended for people who have been exercising regularly for a minimum of 6 months. If new to exercise, you may need longer rest breaks. At the end of the first circuit, rest for 3 minutes before continuing. Depending on your current fitness level you can complete 3-4 circuits before cooling down and stretching.
Please Note: Before beginning any exercise program, consult with your physician to see what level of exercise is right for you. If you experience shortness of breath, dizziness or become light-headed during exercise, stop exercising and consult your physician.
Circuit programs are for anyone who wants to enhance their fitness level, lose weight, build muscle, or develop cardiovascular fitness. One of the benefits of doing a circuit program is the amount of time you spend in the gym. Because the exercises are performed with little to no rest, your workout time is shortened, which leaves more time to enjoy outdoor activities.
Have fun creating your own circuit programs. Insert them into your regular routine from time to time and see noticeable improvements in your conditioning.