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How to Organize a Circuit Workout
By Laurie Batchelder   View more articles by this author
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January 27

As a personal trainer, it is my job to find ways to get people to adhere to their fitness program.  Whether they are home or on the road, I try to show them creative ways to stay in shape.  Circuit training is a great way to do this.  It is both time efficient and fitness effective, combining cardiovascular and strength training into a workout session in less than one hour.  The great thing about circuit training is that it can be done anywhere with or without equipment.  From here, I will explain three ways to implement circuit training into your life, whether you are training at a health club, home, or outdoors.

Circuit training is organized into time segments of cardiovascular exercises followed by a number of strength training exercises.   These exercises are alternated in a constant order over a period of time.  For example, depending on time, you may choose to spend five minutes on cardio, followed by three to five strength exercises, repeating this order for a total of 45 minutes.  Below are examples of different types of circuit workouts.

The first option for circuit training is if you are training at a health club.  Determine which cardiovascular machine you would like to use.  This can get a little tricky especially if you are at the club during peak hours.  You may want to keep your options open, even if you are not fond of a particular piece of equipment. To start, get on your first cardio machine and begin with a warm-up for about three to five minutes, slowly increasing the intensity during the warm-up time period.  At the end of the warm-up you should be at your workout speed.  If you are walking briskly your speed should be between 4 and 5 mph.  If you are running your speed should be 5 mph and above.  Continue to workout at your desired intensity for five minutes (remember your first segment includes the warm-up making your initial segment eight to ten minutes in length).

Once you have completed your first segment, move to a mat for your abdominal routine.  When you are finished, go back to an available machine (stair -master, elliptical, or bicycle) for another five minute segment, however, this time you do not need to warm-up.  From this point on, you will be alternating upper body strength exercises and lower body strength exercises.  It doesn’t matter whether you start with back or chest, remember to work larger to smaller muscle groups as discussed in my strength training article.  If you choose to start with the back machines such as lat pull down or seated row, perform 8 to 20 repetitions of the exercise and then move to a leg exercise.  Your strength segment might include one set of lat pull down followed by one set of leg extension and then one set of seated row followed by one set of leg curl. 

Return to the cardio equipment for your third segment of five minutes and then head to the chest machines.  Perform one set of pec dec followed by a set of leg press.  Then go to chest press followed by one set of squats.  For your fourth and final segment complete another five minutes of a cardio machine, followed by two sets of bicep curl and one set of inner thigh.  Proceed by doing two sets of tricep extension followed by one set of outer thigh ending with two sets of deltoid exercises.  Return to the mat and end your session with a full body stretch.

A second option for circuit training can be done in your own home.  The organization of time remains the same unless you would like to alter the time by increasing or decreasing your session. Don’t worry if you do not have equipment at home.  If you have a step, you could choose to follow a recorded workout and stop the recording after five minutes so that you can do your strength training exercises.  You could even use the bottom step of your staircase and simply step up and down alternating your lead leg for five minutes.  Another option would be to follow a low impact dance recording or purchase a jump rope.  As for the strength exercises, your first segment would include your abdominal exercises followed by your back exercises which could be done with free weights and/or bands.  Push-ups as well as exercises with free weights and bands, work well for the chest muscles.  Finish your strength routine with bicep, tricep, and deltoid exercises using free weights and bands or even a pull-up bar works nicely. End your workout with a full body stretch.

Exercising outdoors is always a great third option.  Many parks have a circuit training path which can be followed or you can create your own circuit by alternating walking and/or running segments with abdominal exercises, push-ups, lunges, squats, or dips (using a park bench).  You always have a traveling gym with you at all times.  If you walk or run and do sets of crunches, squats or lunges, and push-ups you will cover every major muscle group in the body to keep your self fit while on the road.  Remember to stretch at the end of every session.  Enjoy and Stay healthy!

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Comment by Truthwielder
18 Nov 2011 10:02 AM
Thanks for this information, very helpful,encouraging for if traveling too that don't have to find a gym to use and can circuit train anywhere with a bit of initiative and know how!
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