The Details on Circuit Training and How to Do It

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You've probably heard of circuit training and, if you're old enough, maybe you even did some torturous version of circuit training in some ancient PE class or something. Yes, I remember those days and I don't have very many good memories of circuit training.

Cut to current times and circuit training is the method of training that everybody is doing. Why? For one thing, it rocks.

What Is Circuit Training

Circuit training is a technique that involves doing a series of exercises, either strength training exercises, cardio exercises or a mixture of the two, one after the other with no rests in between exercises.

What's the Point of Circuit Training?

So, why would we want to do our exercises one after the other instead of, say, straight sets of strength exercises or more steady state cardio? There are a variety of reasons, including:

  • You keep your heart rate elevated and burn more calories. Because you're moving quickly between exercises, you keep your heart rate up, which is exactly what you need to burn calories and lose weight
  • You have fun.  If you've ever spent way too much time on a "dreadmill," you know of what I speak. Circuit workouts tend to move more quickly, or at least feel that way, because you're only focusing on one move at a time. And when that move is over, you're done with it!
  • You train your body more functionally. In circuit training, you switch from one movement to another, just like you do in real life situations, something that will keep your body healthy, balanced and agile
  • It can help you avoid plateaus. Because they're so flexible, you can change your circuit workouts every 3-4 weeks to keep your workouts fresh, continue to challenge your body and avoid weight loss plateaus

How Do You Circuit Train?

The great thing about circuit training is that there are tons of ways to do it. You'll find there are already circuit training classes out there - Classes like CrossFit, for example, tend to follow that type of format. You can also check at your local gym for classes, or you can make your own. Here's how:

  1. Choose about 10-12 exercises. These can be all cardio, all strength or a mix. I like having a variety of moves but keeping the intensity steady. For example, a push-up is more likely to get your heart rate up more than a chest press, so you might choose that
  2. Start with a warm-up, of course, and then start with the first exercise, doing the move for about 30-60 seconds or a certain number of reps (if that's your thing)
  3. Continue going through all of the exercises, one after the other, with no rest in between (unless you absolutely have to)
  4. When you're done, you can repeat the circuit for as many times as you like or your body can handle

Sample Circuit Training Workouts

You'll see from the list below that I love, love, love circuit training. Give one or two a try and see how it goes!

By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."