Circuit training using weight machines can be tricky if you aren’t familiar with the machines, or if there are multiple people waiting to use the same machine at the same time. With a little planning, you’ll be able to create a helpful circuit-training routine to improve your strength, stamina, endurance and calorie burning capacity.
Weight machines come in a variety of forms, including large universal gyms found in fitness centers, smaller home gyms and single-exercise machines, usually found in commercial gyms or fitness centers. Some come with weight stacks attached to cables, while others have proprietary systems you’ll need to learn before you begin your workout. If you’re considering buying a home gym, ask if the machine uses constant or variable resistance. Variable resistance will be better for muscle building, while constant resistance might be easier to use for cardio workouts. Both types will let you create bodybuilding and cardio workouts.
Circuit training is a method of exercise that creates workouts consisting of repeated, short sets of exercises. Depending on your goals, you can used times sets or perform a set number of reps for each exercise. Depending on how much weight or resistance you are using and whether you are circuit training to improve muscular endurance or to burn calories, your breaks will last anywhere from 15 seconds to one minute.
If your goal is to increase muscular endurance, use enough resistance on the machine to fatigue your muscles each set, but not to failure. If you try to use circuit training for maximal muscle building, you’ll need to take breaks of several minutes after each set. Circuit training usually involves changing exercises each set, which is not optimal for muscle building. For an endurance workout, perform a set number of repetitions each exercise, followed by a 30-second recovery break. Alternate upper- and lower-body exercises to give your muscles additional rest.
If your goal is cardio fitness and calorie burning, use enough resistance to keep your heart rate high and allow you to continue reps for at least 60 seconds without fatigue to failure. You should be able to start your next exercise within 15 to 30 seconds so you can keep your heart rate elevated and in your target heart rate range. Alternate upper- and lower-body exercises each set. As with an endurance circuit, you can perform each exercise once, or repeat exercises two or three times throughout your workout, but not consecutively.
If you’re using a weight machine or weight machines in a gym or fitness center, you might have to vary your routine if someone else takes a station or machine you want to use next. Have an alternate exercise ready each time in case you have to wait. Consider adding calisthenics you can perform to prevent longs breaks in your routine. For example, if your next exercise was going to be flyes and someone else is using the machine, perform pushups. As a courtesy to other users and to make your circuit training more efficient, take time to thoroughly familiarize yourself with the machine before you start exercising so you can quickly move from exercise to exercise. This includes learning the exact weights or resistance settings for each exercise so you don’t start an exercise, stop to re-adjust the machine, then start the exercise again.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.