Circuit Training at the Gym

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Doing the same exercises each week at the gym can be as dull as eating the same kind of cereal every morning. Spice up your workout with circuit training for which you do a series of exercises and take minimal rest in between each exercise. Whether you choose to use weight machines, free weights, your body weight or a combination of different tools, the training modality should match your fitness level and goals.

Just as Good as Running

You don't have to spend an hour or more on a treadmill to get in shape. Circuit training can yield similar cardiovascular and caloric-burning benefits as traditional cardio exercises. In a study published in the August 2005 issue of "European Journal of Applied Physiology," researchers at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania found that women who performed circuit training had a significantly higher metabolic rate during the first 30 minutes of recovery than they did after doing treadmill exercise for the same amount of time and intensity.

Benefits Older Adults

Circuit training can be an effective way for older adults to maintain lean muscle mass while burning fat calories. It can also provide greater variety in movement patterns, which can help them move more easily and with less risk of injury when doing such things as lifting a heavy bag off the ground or climbing stairs. In a study that was published in the December 2012 issue of "Clinical Interventions in Aging," 70 women who were older than 60 years participated in an exercise and weight-loss study by researchers from various universities in Brazil. At the end of the 12-week study, overweight women who did 50 minutes of circuit training three times a week had a significantly higher percentage of fat loss and muscle gain than women who were already at an appropriate weight.

Sample Workout

A typical circuit training workout consists of five to 10 exercises. Each exercise trains different movement patterns, such as squatting, pushing, pulling, turning and stepping, to work one or more muscle groups. Perform six exercises in one set. Do each exercise at a moderate intensity for eight to 20 reps. Rest 15 to 60 seconds in between each exercise. You may manipulate these variables to adapt the workout to your fitness level. You could, for example, increase the workout intensity by using heavier weights or by decreasing the rest period in between each exercise.

Choose Your Level

Any type of exercise can be used in a circuit training workout. Since most gyms have exercise stations with machines, you may hop from one machine to the next to train specific body parts. If you prefer not to move from place to place to train and don't want to use typical gym equipment, you may perform free-weight and body-weight exercises instead. More advanced exercisers may incorporate power exercises, such as medicine ball throws and plyometrics, to increase the circuit training intensity and variety.