How to Design Circuit Training Exercises
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Circuit training involves several different stations of exercises with little to no rest between stations. Circuit training routines may be all cardio, all resistance exercises or a combination of both. Most routines incorporate timed intervals, while others use a specific number of repetitions. Participants complete a predetermined number of rotations through the circuit or perform this circuit for a given duration, such as 30 minutes. Circuit training routines which include resistance and aerobic exercises can increase your muscular strength and cardio-respiratory fitness.
Draw a floor plan of the exercise room. Make a skeleton drawing of the exercise space. Include empty spaces which you can use in your routine. An open gymnasium enables you to employ exercise bands, medicine balls, agility equipment, bodyweight exercises and running drills. A typical strength training area of a gym gives you the opportunity to include dumbbell, barbell and machines for resistance exercises.
Decide on the type of circuit you will have. A full body resistance and cardio circuit will have a minimum of 10 stations—seven resistance stations, one abdominal station and two cardio stations. A cardiovascular only circuit in a gym may have as few as six stations—a treadmill, a stationary bicycle, an elliptical, a jump rope station and a line drill down an open hall. A circuit training routine in the gymnasium may include push ups, jumping jacks, medicine ball passes, sit ups, lunges, triceps dips, lateral raise with an exercise band and pull ups.
Determine the intervals you will use for your circuit. The common work interval for circuits are 30 seconds, 45 or 60 seconds with 10 seconds rest between stations, just enough time to switch exercises. A digital watch and a whistle may be used to signal the beginning and end of an interval.
Calculate the entire duration of the circuit routine. For instance, you have 10 stations and you are using the 60-second interval with 10 seconds of rest between stations. It should take just over 11.5 minutes to complete one circuit. Three rounds of this circuit will take about 38 minutes with one minute of rest between each round.
Design several circuit training routines using the 30 second, 45 second and 60 second intervals. Use your skeleton floor plan to create different routines. Change the abdominal and cardio exercises you include between resistance exercises. Add several more stations to your circuit. Change the speed at which resistance exercises are done from a normal two-second count to a slow five-second count.
You may also use the exercise floor plan to design upper body/cardio circuits and lower body/cardio circuits. Occasionally, do a two-minute interval circuit to change up the routine.
Circuit training can be a very intense form of training because there is very little time to rest. Remind circuit participants that though they are moving from station to station, they may rest at any station instead of performing the exercise.
- Personal Trainer Manual; American Council on Exercise
- Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research; Physical Adaptations to Training; Michel Brentano et al.
- Strength and Conditioning Journal; The Manipulation of Rest Duration While Completing a Circuit Weight-Training Protocol; Raul Roetert, Ph.D.
- You may also use the exercise floor plan to design upper body/cardio circuits and lower body/cardio circuits. Occasionally, do a two-minute interval circuit to change up the routine.
- Circuit training can be a very intense form of training because there is very little time to rest. Remind circuit participants that though they are moving from station to station, they may rest at any station instead of performing the exercise.
Paula Quinene is an Expert/Talent, Writer and Content Evaluator for Demand Media, with more than 1,500 articles published primarily in health, fitness and nutrition. She has been an avid weight trainer and runner since 1988. She has worked in the fitness industry since 1990. She graduated with a Bachelor's in exercise science from the University of Oregon and continues to train clients as an ACSM-Certified Health Fitness Specialist.