Circuit training is a great way to get into the habit of exercising on a regular basis without making the gym your second home. Even the most devoted weight training gym rat needs to change up their routine now and then.

Whether you are just trying to shed those holiday pounds from all those Christmas goodies or you are just bored with your current routine, circuit training can provide the added incentive you need to enjoy working out!

Don’t expect to look like The Situation, unless you already have the killer abs and empty head look routine down.

Even if you are not looking to become a Photoshop-ready inspiration, you can still enjoy some of the health benefits of exercise by taking a circuit training approach to your workouts.

The Basics of Circuit Training

Circuit training combines strength training and aerobic exercises to provide a strength training workout and a cardiovascular workout in one workout session. It  typically involves resistance exercises combined with moderate weights and high repetitions.

Instead of calling it a day, this is followed up another exercise for a completely different muscle group or an excise that boosts your heart rate.

The structure of the workout is very similar to a full-body workout. All muscle groups are targeted. You can mix it up with circuit training and group upper-body circuits together and lower-body circuits together.

The “circuit” part comes from the fact that you are moving from one station to the next and performing a variety of exercises targeting different muscles with little rest in between. Think of it as Survivor on steroids.

Endless Ways to Mix It Up

Circuit training is perfect if you get bored easily! The circuit can be structured in several different ways to meet your needs and goals. You can perform one long circuit, hitting your selected muscle groups.

The series of exercises is then repeated 2-4 times. The beauty of circuit training is that there are no set rules. You can mix it up as much as you want. Since each exercise works a different muscle group, little to no rest is required between each exercise.

This way you can maintain a higher heart rate and train with intervals. Once you get bored with a certain set of routines, you know it’s time to change it up!

Stations can include:

  • Resistance equipment such as free weights and machines
  • Push-ups and sit-ups
  • Jumping jacks, jump rope and other aerobic activity

Workouts for Your Busy Life

Life can get busy, plus it’s hard to live at the gym when you are not being paid to be there. Circuit training allows you to have a life outside the gym and still get the results that give your ego a boost.

Workouts can spread out over the week as long as you focus on working as many muscle groups as possible to maximize the number of calories you burn. You can still work up a good sweat on your lunch break and be back at work before the boss gets back from his power lunch.

The beads of sweat may take some explaining though.

Circuit Training Without the Gym

You can create a workout that bypasses the need for gym time altogether. Running up some stadium stairs, pull-ups and push-ups, sprint training… the options are endless!

You can create a workout consisting of exercises that don’t require a gym, but still workout different muscle groups.

Benefits of Circuit Training

The goal is to combine compound and aerobic exercises that increase the number of calories you burn during and after your workout or exercise routine. This is the so-called after-burn. This provides a boost to your metabolism and GPP or general physical preparedness.

In order words, you are more ready to get down with whatever anytime, since circuit training can also provide a boost in speed, endurance and stamina.

Additional benefits of circuit training include:

  • Increased strength
  • Increased flexibility
  • Increased agility
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Increased overall energy
  • Reduced risk of muscle imbalance

No Specific Age Limit or Fitness Level Required

You do not have to be a buff college football player to reap the rewards of circuit training workouts. Routines can be designed for all ages and levels of fitness. Looking for some motivation to start working out?

Circuit training can be just the incentive you need to start toning up, losing weight and gaining confidence. You tend to be more likely to continue something if it is easy enough to do without being too structured.

Think of it as a workout routine for the average Joe. You still have to step away from the video games for a minute and take a break from updating your Facebook status. Some level of concentration is required.

Full Body Workouts and Circuit Training Workouts

Circuit training workouts can be easily incorporated into a full body workout. Full body workouts can be incorporated into your exercise routine 2-4 times per week. Again, this is not set in stone. You can modify the number of workouts to meet your fitness goals, budget and time.

Circuit training can be brought into the mix for those times you can’t get to a gym. If you are in serious workout mode though, you should give your body time to recovery between workouts.

Even walking or light cardio counts as circuit training on days when you can’t spend a lot of time working out or exercising.

Setting Up Circuit Training Workouts

Circuit training workouts can target each muscle group: back, chest, shoulders, arms, legs and abs. Use different exercises for each workout per week to mix it up a little more.

The goal with circuit training is to stay motivated and not get bored with your routines. Think of it as watching any show on MTV these days.

Incorporate compound exercises into your routine since they work multiple muscle groups at once to maximize efficiency. These include squats, push-ups, chin-ups and walking lunges.

Getting Started:

  1. Try to perform 2-3 sets or circuits per exercise.
  2. Reps should range from 12-15 per circuit.
  3. Target time intervals (30-60 seconds, 1-2 minutes, etc.) for aerobic exercises such as push-ups or jumping robe.
  4. Setup workouts based on a specific duration for each exercise (about 45-90 seconds) and the desired around of rest time (less is best) between circuits.
  5. Break workouts into two circuits, one with a focus on upper body exercises and the other on lower body exercises.

Ex.: Upper body circuit could include exercises (2 each) for back, chest and shoulders; exercises (1 each) for biceps and triceps.

Routines are not set in stone. Just alternate between major and minor muscle groups and throw in some aerobic exercises such as jumping rope or jumping jacks or any other light exercise into the circuit and you will be good.

Tips to Remember

Before each workout, start with a warm-up. This is usually some form of low to moderate cardiovascular exercise such as jogging or walking.

Circuit training workouts combined with full-body workouts help to develop aerobic endurance and burn more fat. Basically, you reap the rewards of regular exercise without the requirement of hitting the gym every chance you get.

The appeal of a circuit training workout is the ability to change the routine or substitute different exercises that produce the same benefits. Think of it as going to a restaurant and being able to substitute anything on the menu and ending up with the same number of calories.

If your goal is to build mass, the focus should be on a reduced number of reps and heavier weights. Serious bodybuilders should notice an increase in build, thickness, muscle tone and general muscularity when incorporating circuit training.

Here’s the kicker. Circuit training is equally beneficial for the weekend athlete or the accountant who likes to keep in shape when not crunching numbers. No matter what your skill level is, you can still enjoy the benefits of regular exercise from circuit training workouts!

Want to find out how you measure up? Fill out a FREE Fitness Report card, and see how much you have to work on!