Circuit-Training Programs for Weight Loss

Circuit training can make you sweat and help shed pounds.
i Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Given the broad array of exercise programs and diet plans available for losing weight, you may get the impression that shedding pounds is absurdly complicated. In reality, that is not the case. You can lose weight effectively with a comparatively simple plan such as circuit training if it's designed correctly. As effective and safe as many circuit-training routines are, you should still consult a doctor before starting a weight-loss program.

Circuit Training Explained

If you're accustomed to more traditional weight-training programs, circuit-training workouts might seem a bit challenging at first. Rather than working on one machine for a series of sets then moving on to another, you'll perform exercises for a set period of time, without resting between reps, then move on to another machine. And rather than moving between machines in no real hurry, you'll move to a new machine immediately, without pausing to get a drink or anything else. Once you have performed exercises on all of the machines in the circuit, you can take a brief break before repeating the circuit.

Benefits of Circuit Training

The unique characteristics of circuit training work well to promote weight loss. Take, for example, the resistance used. To sustain strength through an entire circuit, you'll need to use lighter weights than you would if you were performing just a few reps to test your maximal strength. According to research from the December 2009 issue of "Diabetes Care," workouts with lower resistance levels and short rest periods burned more calories than workouts that used heavier weights and longer rest periods. Additionally, short rest periods can help promote the secretion of growth hormone, which assists in fat burning.

Upper-Body Exercises

The more exercises you can perform, the more calories you'll burn on your circuit. Thus, you'll want to set yourself up for success on the circuit with a logical ordering of exercises. Try to organize your exercises around the basic movements of your upper-body muscles -- push and pull. Putting a push exercise, such as the chest press, closest to a pull exercise, such as the biceps curl, will allow your pushing muscles time to rest before you submit them to another push exercise, such as the overhead press. You may wish to separate "push" exercises, such as the triceps pushdown, skullcrusher and incline press, with "pull" exercises, such as the cable row, pullups and lat pulldowns.

Lower-Body Exercises

As with your upper body, it's important to organize your lower-body exercises for maximum success. Rather than push and pull motions, lower-body exercises for consideration in your circuit can be classified by the primary muscle group doing the work -- the quadriceps, hamstrings or calves. You may want to organize your circuit so you first perform a quad-dominant exercise, such as the squat, then a hamstring-dominant exercise, such as the leg curl, then a calf-dominant exercise, such as the standing calf raise. You'll be able to further separate the muscle groups in your circuit with the inclusion of upper-body exercises.

Cardio Exercises

Cardio training is a great way to burn calories, and these exercises can also help to give your muscles a break from resistance exercises in your circuit. Consider adding an activity such as jogging, cycling or rowing -- or all three -- to your circuit; try putting a cardio activity at the beginning, middle and end of your circuit to boost your calorie-burning potential.

Putting it All Together

If your aim is to burn calories efficiently, no circuit is a bad one. But a little organization may help you squeeze in more exercises without exhausting yourself prematurely. An effective circuit with each exercise performed for 90 seconds might look like this: treadmill run, chest press, leg curl, lat pulldown, leg press, overhead press, stationary cycling, cable row, squat, pushups.

the nest