Before I start I am a fully trained Personal trainer and have been doing circuits for over a decade. If you are not used to exercise or unsure, always consult a professional first or join a class
Circuits are one of the keys to training. Whether you are looking to lose weight, gain weight, sculpt, balance muscle groups, exercise pre-natal, post natal, sport specific or looking to rehabilitate from injury a circuit can fit into your training programme. They are fun to do, are hard work and can fit around any lifestyle or time constraint. It’s what most popular programmes are based on right now (see Crossfit, Body Rock tv etc- (short high intensity workouts to speed up results) and they work. Why- because they fatigue the muscles, they work across all 3 planes of motions and switch up cardio and strength to keep our body guessing.
Functional fitness is another buzz word- basically meaning fitness for specific function. So a squat though useful and done on a regular basis through normal daily movements- doing a squat with rotation is far more functional as it replicates most normal movements. For example a forward lunge is great to build quads however when running you need forward movement whilst rotating and also moving side to side- so a wide lunge with rotation is more of a functional movement, team that with making it a walking lunge and a foot roll and it basically replicates a runners perfect gait.
To design a circuit the world is your oyster- it totally depends;
- On what your goal is
- The exercises you chose
- The order you do them in ( one area of the body at a time or switching areas with each exercise)
- Which areas of the body you are targeting (upper body, lower body, back, core, cardio etc)
- Switching up cardio and strength
- How long you do each exercise
- How long you rest between each exercise or set of exercises (if you rest at all!)
- How many times you do each exercise or set of exercises (in one go or over the day)
- How intensely you do each (body weight or added weights/bands/kettle bells/ machines/ cables etc)
- On one plane of motion or alternating between all. (front to back, side to side and rotation)
- Using all push movements, or pull movements or alternating both
- Doing the exercises normal speed, holding poses, slow motion or quickly.
There’s no right or wrong way and there are so many options!
Here’s an example:
Standard circuit (lower body, upper body, core, cardio exercise)
Squat, push up, plank, burpee
Can be changed like this (there are so many multiples of this I will only give 4 ways of changing it)
1st option doing each exercise for a minute with no rest in between each exercise and repeating that 3-5 times
2nd option holding each exercise for a minute with a minute of burpees inbetween each one. Repeating that with a min rest between each set- to fatigue
3rd way do 3 sets of each exercise for one min with a 30 second rest in between each exercise (so do 1 min of squats with a 30 sec rest in between 3 times before moving onto 1 min of push ups with 30 sec rest 3 times and so on)
4th way- taking each exercise in all planes if motion- (so sumo squat, rotating squat and standard squat over the minute alternating plane with each squat) with 30 secs between each body area.
Even with 4 basic exercises and 4 different ways of doing them in a circuit you will have 4 very different body responses and results!
Try it with our favourite exercises write down your circuit and share it with us….
Most of all enjoy and have fun with it.
Examples of Exercises to use (by no means a conclusive list- any movement is an exercise) If in doubt always consult a professional before doing any exercise.
Press up- wide hands, narrow hands, one hand in front of the other, with rotation, tricep push ups, clapping push ups, one arm push ups, in box position, on knees, on toes, on one toe, on a ball, on a bench, against the wall, hands higher than feet, feet higher than hands, on a wobble board, held, staggered- ie halfway, down, half way up, slowly down- quick up and the reverse
Pull up- On a overhead bar, handles, horizontal pulling to the bar on the squat rack
Lat Pull down- with cable, band, dumbells
Over head press- with bar bell, band, dumbbells
Chest press-band, bar bell, dumbbell, uni laterally, bi laterlly, incline, decline, on a ball, on a bench, with rotation
Squat- Sumo (stepping out to the side), narrow, wide, with rotation, with one foot in fron of the other, half squat, quick drop squat, toes in toes out, holding a ball, weights, with a band, with kettle bells (squat swing)
Lunge- round the clack, side lunge, forwards, backwards, one foot higer, toe pinting in, toe pointing out, walking, lunge into leg balance, wide, narrow, with arms up, reaching forward, holding a ball. with a swing, slow up, slow down, jumping alternate leg.
Clean- with dumbbells, barbell
Deadlifts- wide, narrow, with rotation, half way, full, alternate arm, straight leg, with dummbells, with bar, with band.
Bridges- Heels on a ball, back on a ball, single leg, Heels on a bench, on a wobble board, against the wall
Plank- on knees, on toes, on ones toe, long arm, with rotation, on side, single arm, with knee rotation, reverse plank, with leg to the side, one arm one leg, bringing elbow to knee.
Vsit- explosive, with feet on floor with arms up, with legs straight, with rotation,moving, held,
leg cycles- armpit to knee, slow motion, quick quick fast, held to one side, with a ball, toes pointed, heels flexed, arms wide
Hops- on one leg, side to side, with foot rotation, in a circle, compass points, onto a step, forward and backwards, in a line, between cones
Shuttle runs forwards, backwards, sideways