Circuit training workouts are an efficient way to combine strength and cardio training for your entire body. They also offer the advantage of being customizable to your individual fitness goals. While all circuits work on the principle that you maintain a high heart rate by moving directly from one station to the next without resting, emphasize strength or cardiovascular intensity by fine-tuning your circuit.
Par Course or Fitness Trail Running
You can add intensity and strength training to a run by doing a fitness trail or par course workout. Many local parks have fitness trails organized as approximately 1-mile circuits with eight to 10 exercise stations spaced at regular intervals. You run at your normally training pace from station to station, and at each station do 10 to 15 repetitions of various exercises. You can create your own fitness trail by using a programmable pedometer or phone to alert you to stop every three minutes and do a set of calisthenics such as pushups, dips, lunges, squats, situps and jumping jacks.
Alternating Upper/Lower Body Strength Circuit
Choose a time at which your gym is relatively empty so that you can move directly from one machine to the next. Do one set of six to eight reps at each of eight stations, alternating upper and lower body. A typical sequence is chest press, hamstring curl, lat pull down, leg press, lateral dumbbell raises, calf raises, preacher curls, captain's chair bent leg raises and dumbbell triceps extensions. For extra intensity, use heavy weights and work to exhaustion or add 30 to 90 seconds of jumping jacks or skipping rope between stations. Complete at least three full circuits.
Alternating Push/Pull Strength Circuits
Do three full sets of push/pull circuits for an intense combination of strength and cardio training. Since the stabilizer muscles in the first exercise become the main muscles used in the next exercise and vice versa, these function in a manner similar to supersets. A typical push-pull circuit consists of leg press and leg curl; bench press and seated row; overhead press and lat pull down and triceps extension and biceps curl.
Advanced exercisers can set up a plyometric circuit for an intense athletic training workout. Organize stations for sets of plyometric exercises such as squat jumps, box jumps, pushups with claps, hops and split jumps. After a 10-minute moderate cardio warm-up, do one set of a plyometric exercise, then a 60- to 120-second moderate cardio recovery and move to your next plyometric exercise.
- BodyBuilding.com: Reaching Your Muscle-Building Gaols with a 15-Minute Circuit
- Brian Mac Sports Coach: Circuit Training
- ExRx.net: Weight Training Tips
- ExRx.net: Full Body Workouts: Alternating Upper / Lower
- ExRx.net: Full Body Workouts: Alternating Push / Pull
- American Council on Exercise FitFacts: Circuit Training Basics
- American Council on Exercise GetFit: Circuit Training
- American Council on Exercise : Think Outside the (Gym) Box: Creative Techniques for Taking Your Favorite Classes and Workouts Into the Great Outdoors
- Brian Mac Sports Coach: Plyometrics
Carol Poster began writing professionally in 1974. Her articles have appeared in "Outdoor Woman," "Paddler," "Ski Magazine," "Women's Sports & Fitness," "Dance News," "Show Business," "The Athenian," "PC Resource" and "Utah Holiday," among other publications. Poster holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Eastern Washington University, as well as a Ph.D. in English from the University of Missouri.